Promoting your band used to be relatively straightforward. You’d cut an album, book some tour dates, print up some flyers, put them in the hands of your ever faithful street team, and hope that people showed up to your shows to jam out and buy some merch. Then you’d pack up and do the same thing one town over.
Now, bands have the opportunity to do a lot more promoting on their own. It’s also easier than ever to create and sell products and music. It’s no longer necessary to be signed to a label or tour across the country to make a decent living in the music industry. All you need is 1,000 true fans.
Why you should promote your band
Sure, music is art. Ideally, people would organically come in contact with your stuff. Realistically, music is still a product that needs to be marketed and promoted in order for someone to see it and have a chance to connect with it.
It doesn’t have to be as difficult as you think. You don’t need to sell out amphitheaters to be successful in the music world. Take a look at Matthew Ebel, who claims to have made over 25% of his income from 40 super fans a few years ago.
Many people agree with Kevin Kelly that artists, musicians, performers, and other creative types really only need to find 1,000 true fans to make a comfortable living. True fans are the ones who will buy everything you sell. They’ll own every t-shirt, be at every show, and have multiple copies of all your albums. If you sell small quantities of lots of different merchandise, records, and tickets, you can still be quite successful.
Once you have your 1,000 true fans, promoting and selling your stuff is relatively easy. So how do you promote to win those 1,000 fans in the first place?
Lay the groundwork
When someone comes into contact with your music for the first time, they need to be able to easily find out more about you. That’s why it’s incredibly important to have a functioning and well-maintained webiste for your band. Also be ready with an EPK for promoters and venue managers.
Once your home base is established, you can start developing your channels for connection.
Establish your channels for connection
Social media is the obvious, cheapest, and easiest channel for promoting your music. The problem is, it’s also the least personal and most likely to get ignored. Make sure you have social profiles on a least a few of the platforms so that people can easily find your music, but don’t assume you have to be everywhere either.
In-person promotion is a great way to avoid the monotony of social media, and really stand out from the dozens of other bands in your area who aren’t putting in the same amount of effort. Remember, you’re looking for true fans, so be a part of your community. Make sure you’re on good terms with the other local bands, visit local venues on your night off, and play for free if there’s a good cause you can contribute your talent towards.
Target effectively and don’t rely too heavily on your friends
There’s no need to send a Facebook invite for a show you’re having in Utah to a guy who lives in California. There’s also no need to invest a ton of time in trying to win fans in a place where you hardly ever play. If you play the majority of your shows in one specific area, spend your time and efforts promoting within that space. The good news is that true fans will actually promote for you and expand your area organically.
Something that is unfortunately common is promoting music to friends and family on a consistent basis. Most likely, your friends support you wholeheartedly, but they can’t be at every show, and gunking up your personal Facebook page with nothing but announcements about your music career can be pretty annoying.
Maximize your use of your personal Facebook page when you are really trying to draw a crowd and would love to have your friends and family there. You’ve probably heard by now that Facebook page posts only reach about 16% of fans. Friends see a much higher percentage of posts on personal pages, so it’s important to make your personal posts really count.
Have something to give away
If you want people to get excited about your music, give them something to keep. Demo cds, stickers, business cards, or downloadable mp3s are a great way to ensure that someone doesn’t forget you as soon as they leave your show or website. Giving away a few songs in exchange for an email address is a great way to do this. Check out The Gibbonses, who do this extremely well.
Do something out of the ordinary
Now that bands have access to so many different tools, the promotion opportunities are endless. Consider Nine Inch Nails’ former drummer Josh Freese, who promoted his solo record using a tiered purchasing system. Fans could choose to spend anywhere from $7 – for the just the album itself – to $75,000 for a personalized EP about the buyer’s life, a trip on tour with Josh, flying trapeze lessons with Robin Finck, and one of Josh’s drum kits. No one took him up on the $75,000 offer, but his unordinary marketing strategy made news headlines across the country, stirring up plenty of buzz for “Since 1972.”
Hustle and be humble
It seems like almost everyday, a super wealthy musician is in the headlines for an arrogant comment. It’s almost enough to make a young artist believe that cockiness it the way to success. Typically, those wise cracking artists have about a million (not true) fans who will buy a song or t-shirt here and there. The large numbers of small purchases are enough to make the artist successful enough to not worry about losing a fan here and there due to arrogance.
True fans, the ones who will be your main source of income and promotion, appreciate humbleness and hustle. They don’t need multiple copies of your record, but they buy them because they know you work hard and want to support you. These are the types of people you want to target as you are promoting your music. These are the types of fans you’ll want to form a connection with, because these are the types of fans who will make your career.
Let us know your thoughts
Do you have 1,000 true fans? Can you share any techniques or stories as to how you got them? Please share this post with your network, and your stories and thoughts with us! You can find us across the web: