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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Six marketing and publicity tips for independent musicians

By Ted Slowik

Making music is easier than ever. Low-cost technology, easy access to free instruction and the availability of free distribution channels via the Internet means just about anyone can create and independently release music.

While this is great for you to get your music out there, it's also great for millions of others doing the same thing. In a sense, it's more difficult than ever to get people to listen to you. Regardless of how good or original you are, you're still challenged to be noticed beyond your circle of Facebook friends.

So here are six tips for marketing and publicizing your independent music:

1.) Be professional. You don't have to pay big bucks to get that professional look, but you do need to give it some thought. If your own skills are lacking in photography, graphic design, writing and other marketing areas, ask friends for help. Think visually and collaboratively. Ask others for opinions, and be receptive to their criticism. You may be strong in some musical areas and not even realize how much experience you lack in other areas of the profession.

2.) Get others to talk about you. There are millions of artists online promoting themselves on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, ReverbNation and tons of other channels. Potential fans see tons of these messages every day, and after a while you tune out the blatant self-promoters. What's interesting and more likely to get someone's attention is when someone encourages you to check out someone else!

3.) Talk about others. This may seem counter-intuitive, but one good way to get others to talk about you is to talk about others. It's like an advanced form of the follow-back principal on Twitter. If you encourage your Facebook friends to like another musician's fan page or subscribe to their YouTube channel, it's OK to ask others to do the same for you. Here's the key though: to be effective you need to do this on an individual basis. Don't post a mass message saying, "Hey peeps! Ask your friends to like me!" and expect huge returns.

4.) Consider the local press. Traditional media like local newspapers and radio still wield tremendous influence in reaching an audience. If you've got something newsworthy, like a big show coming up or a new recording you've independently released, find the email or phone number for an entertainment writer or editor with your local paper and let them know. Write a bio and press release, and have someone look it over and offer advice on making them better. Have one high-quality publicity photo. If you don't hear back, don't be discouraged. It's OK to try to follow up and ask why they passed on your story. Heed their advice, and apply their suggestions to how you promote your next effort.

5.) Leverage your mentions. Do you know why ads for movies often include quotes from critics? Because it's a proven, effective way to persuade people to want to see the film. If you do get a mention, find the key sound bite that best summarizes the positive reaction to your work and add that to your bio or work it into your rotation of social media posts. It goes back to the principal that others talking about you carries much more value and influence than you talking about yourself.

6. Be patient. The promotion efforts you make today may not produce an immediate splash but they may  pay dividends months or more down the road. Your name is a brand, and typically it takes time to build a brand's reputation and develop loyalty among fans. Marketing and publicity is a lot of work. It's time-consuming, requires critical attention to detail and often doesn't produce the hoped-for results. Often that says more about the level of interest in the actual content of the piece being promoted than the success of the campaign. So why you may be right in thinking your music is great and deserves to be heard, hopefully you also believe your next work will be even better and you experience continuous improvement in the quality of your art.

Ted Slowik has more than 20 years experience as a newspaper writer and editor and more than five years experience publicizing professional entertainers. Learn more at