Knowing how to get your music heard is one thing.
BUT knowing how to do it without ripping hours away from your practice and creative time is something else entirely.
If you’ve been a DIY Musician for any amount of time, I’m sure you know first hand that it is really freakin time consuming to promote music online.
You gotta create an event for this weeks gigs…
Update 10 profiles… upload that new single everywhere… update those profiles again… Mail out that EPK…
Rinse and repeat.
Eventually you lose track of why your are even making music in the first place.
Usually the mistake I see musicians making – myself included – is that they are doing to much of the wrong things. Or they are trying to do things more popular artists are doing without realizing that those strategies do not apply to them.
They end up spreading themselves way too thin, burning themselves out and throwing pity parties on Reddit about how you can’t make money in music anymore.
Addition By Subtraction
All you need to do is to stop making all the time-sucking mistakes and spend quality time focusing on the few things that really matter.
I’ll get to the things that matter below but first…
Here the 9 time-sucking mistakes to avoid:
1. SPAMMING the crap out of your family and friends
Family and friends are not your ideal fans. Most of the time they are going to be biased in some way. Your mom is never going to tell you suck or ignore you – with the hope that you go away (because she thinks you suck).
The same with your friends. They will either be like mom and be nice about it to not hurt your feelings.
OR in some cases they may be overly critical because they fear you’ll succeed and they want you to stay just the way you are.
OR they aren’t somebody who likes your style of music anyway (so who cares what they think?).
Either way, not good.
Bottom line, when you are first starting out, there’s nothing wrong with inviting family and friends to a show or to an email list. In fact I recommend it. BUT after that, keep it to a minimum. If they want to know, they will ask.
What you should focus on is looking for people who already like the kind of music you are making. Then learning everything you can about them.
When you do that and you’ll know where to find them and what to say to them. Plus, your chances of turning them into a fan are way better because they like your stuff.
2. Hiring some expensive Music Promotion slash PR company to run a massive campaign.
This is crazy:
I’ve talked with more than one musician who has spent thousands… yes THOUSANDS… of dollars on a 30-60 day PR campaign and not get more than one or two fans (and they weren’t positive they came from the PR campaign).
Is one or two fans worth thousands of dollars?
Maybe, if they become your version of a Dead Head and come to hundreds of shows and buy anything and everything you put out. But, it is quite a gamble and there less expensive things you can do.
Don’t get me wrong, music promotion companies and PR campaigns are not bad. They do serve a purpose for more established artists (I doubt if you are reading this, you are one of them, right?).
BUT if you are going to do a PR campaign, or hire someone to promote your music, make sure you have an effective way to maximize the blast of exposure you’ll be getting first.
For instance, make sure you are directing them to web properties that you control and can track results on. Then you can offer them the chance to get them on your email list.
Once they are on your email list you can continue building a relationship with them and promote your new stuff to them over and Over and OVER for years to come.
After all, a Dead Head wasn’t built in a day. It takes time.
3. Buying radio airplay from a guy named Rod who is going to help break your song.
This one fall into pretty much the same category as the PR campaign so I won’t go into great detail.
I will say this:
Getting the right fan to hear your song, have them remember who you were and then go to look you up online is asking a lot. A lot of steps there.
Not only that but sometimes it takes 3, 4, 5+ listens to get that song in their heads. That’s asking a lot. Besides, there are more effective, free ways to get someone to listen to your stuff.
4. Joining sites like Reverbnation or Fandalism or join LinkedIn groups thinking you will find fans.
Can you say musician sausage party?
Sorry, there are very few fans on these sites. What few fans there are likely pretty battered from constant promotion (think raw t-bone that has been thrown into a cage with 50 hungry pit bulls).
These are great places for other things like networking with other musicians, sharing ideas, equipment talk or whatever but, 9.9 times out 10, not finding fans.
Going back to item number 1, take the time to learn about your ideals fans. When you do that you’ll know exactly where to find them.
5. Joining every social networking site known to man and spread yourself too thin, declare they have no time and give up.
Learn from my mistakes:
I am the freakin poster boy for this. There was I time I was trying to keep up appearances on over 10 social networks.
It gets old fast.
It’s like those dudes who are spinning plates on those skinning rods. Once you get beyond 3-4 plates… you’re screwed… and plates start falling.
Plus, it affects how you interact with people. There are many times where I didn’t notice comments or replies from fans for days or even weeks. By the time I got back to them they were long gone or they didn’t care anymore.
It cost me a good conversation and/or a nice string of comments if I had been able to respond quicker.
I recommend that you pick 1 or 2 max where you think the highest concentration of your ideals fans are. Then get really good at posting stuff and engaging people. Then m-a-y-b-e… when it is under control… add another.
6. Using Sites like Facebook or Reverbnation as your home base.
You spend months or years building your fan base on some social network. Things are great. You have thousands of fans hanging out. they like your posts, comment and praise your work.
Every time you release something people are right there waiting to hear from you.
Then all of the sudden, the site goes down.
You have no way to reach all those fans you spent months (or years) finding and building a relationship with. No one to tell about your new stuff or this weeks show.
That may sound extreme but it is?
Remember MySpace? Or you about the death of organic reach on Facebook? (Now you have to pay to communicate with the community YOU BUILT).
In a perfect world you need your own website and a way to collect emails. If you do not have the funds for a website, you can get started with an email newsletter.
You can take email anywhere. You can download your list and keep it safe so that you can promote to your list forever.
7. Endlessly pitching… errr harassing… record label execs.
Data as in: Shazam searches, Instagram mentions or fast growing Twitter followings.
Do you want them to discover you? Learn how to grow and motivate a fan base. Then let the metric speak for you.
8. Sending out thousands of mix tapes and CD’s to “every” Tom, Dick and Harry hoping someone will play their stuff and discover you.
Have you ever spent hours stuff CD’s, mixtapes or USB sticks in envelopes? How much did that cost you in time, merch and postage?
Guess what, that piece of media is sitting in a GIANT pile of everyone else’s media or it has been thrown away. OUCH!
How do I know?
Once upon a time I produced a podcast here on Musicgoat. When the podcast started getting some traction, I was getting like 5-10 packages a day filled with CD’s and other stuff.
There were just too many to listen to. And I was just a small time podcast. Imagine what record labels, music execs and radio stations are getting.
Best chance any artist had with me was by either reaching out to me personally to ask it I wanted it, by them being somewhere I was going to notice them or by getting it recommended by a listener of the show (my favorite).
All goes back to focusing on the fan.
9. Entering every talent competition thinking that is the only way they can get anywhere.
OK, I admit:
Very few people know this but I tried out for The Voice. Part of me felt dirty but so many people were telling me I should, I figured I owed it to myself (and some of them) to give it a try.
Based on the experience and all of the conversations I had with people who have auditioned many times for many shows. It was like buying a lottery ticket. It was fun once but to do it again I think would be a waste of time.
To me, putting all your music career hopes into getting on these talent shows is the same as putting all of your financial hopes into the state lottery (except the talent show audition is more time consuming).
Keep trying if you’d like but you are better off investing your time and resources in understanding who your ideal fan is and building your fan base one by one.
Besides, how many of the all time great would’ve won any of these competitions? Do you think Dylan or Springsteen would’ve had a fighting chance? Hard to say.
How many of those mistakes have you made (or are still making)?
Yeah, well don’t sweat it.
You are not alone. Myself and thousands of musicians have made many or all of them.
You don’t know what you don’t right?
And besides you can now wear them like badges of honor. A purple heart in the war of art. Just payin your dues.
So what can you do going forward?
Focus on What Really Matters
Really the only things that matter are the thing that revolve around you ideal fans.
- take time to identify/define your ideal fan (so you know where to look, you to talk to them).
- get clear about your unique message (so you attract the ideal fans, instead of drown in the pool of other musicians pimping their stuff).
- put an email capture system in place to keep interested people around and build a relationship with them (so they want to hang out, keep tabs on you and support you).
- focus on the 1 or 2 social networks (not 10) where you know your ideal fans are hanging out (so you can get great at it and build some momentum, and be present)
I know, you want a bazillion people to just show up on your site and buy your stuff so you can start that dream tour or just be able lock yourself in your studio for hours. But you gotta build your audience 1 fan at a time.
Get to know you ideal fan better then he/she knows themselves.
Get great a few simple promotional tasks.
And get in the habit of doing that simple thing every single day.
Eventually you will get there without stressing your self out.
I Have A Questions For You
Which of these mistakes are you guilty off?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below.
If I missed anything or if you think I am out of line, let me know that too.