Connect With Us

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


« Frustration, Jealousy and the Often Forgotten- Consistency | Main | How To Get Bloggers To Write About You - Become a Reader & a Commenter »

Investing in Artists: Consider a Promotionless To Popular Strategy First

When people search for information about investing in the music industry, about investing in artists, and when they are looking for information on 360 deals, my blog posts often appear within the search results.  As a consequence, at least once a month, someone calls me about investing in the music industry or about investing in artists.  Although this post speaks to artists, I plan to use this post and the accompanying comments as a tool to make my conversations on this topic more efficient.

One Billion True Fans - It Won’t Happen.
Even with overlap, at one thousand fans per artist, one million artists cannot acquire one billion true fans.  All the music lovers in the world are never going to accept and process billions of artist-initiated emails, status updates and text messages.  Pushy self-promotion doesn’t scale.  If everyone is doing it, nobody is going to do it effectively; the same applies to fundraising; fans are going to tune these messages out.  Collectively, artists and their managers are running the risk of appearing like financial planners at a cookout…occasionally invited, but often avoided.  Moreover, the sum of all the effort and capital invested in music promotion generates such a negative return, that it makes investing heavily in time travel machines appear outright attractive.  Perhaps it’s time to consider jumping off of, or avoiding altogether, the self-promotion bandwagon.

In this post I am going to argue that given the career economics of the music industry, a Promotionless To Popular Strategy (theory) is a strategy that artists are compelled to pursue prior to attempting to climb the mass-exposure / fan-acquisition pyramid.

First, some history: back in the day, to record an album in a top residential recording studio with the help of a gold-record producer and his tuned team of unkempt engineers and star-struck interns, it was commonplace to spend a small fortune to make an album.  To afford a major-label dream team and a big-studio experience, you had to have an illegal drug business, a shaky investor, or a record deal.  The ticket price to recording in an expensive studio on somebody else’s dime was to have long, long lines outside and crazed fans at all of your live shows.  If you ask me, you should set the same bar for yourself when it comes to investing in self-promotion.  Unless lines are forming out the door, down the street and around the corner, consider improving your songs and your live performances prior to doing anything else.  Given the economics of the industry and what I am about to describe below, artists really don’t have many other options.

A weak online pulse equals an anemic act.
For the first time in history, if fans are impressed, you should be able to find, analyze and measure fan-generated content that features you on YouTube, on Flickr, within an expanding list of Google search results, within numerous Twitter tweets, on blogs, on file sharing networks, on music social networks, and all over Facebook.  If fans are not rating, mentioning and featuring you or your songs, if the pulse of your online buzz is weak, then the very real possibility exists that your songs and/or your performances are just not good enough yet.  (I do acknowledge that the behavior exhibited by fans will vary (today) from genre to genre.)

The online landscape is far different today than it was twenty-four months ago.  As I stated in my last post, 500,000,000 music fans have recently acquired the unprecedented capacity to capture, edit, annotate and promote for you.  The creative and promotional work done by fans will be, or already is, powerful enough to build a solid fanbase upon.

Fan-based ad creation and social promotion is already occurring across a broad spectrum of consumer products.  There isn’t a smart consumer-facing company today that is not motivating ‘fans’ (crowds) to assist in message creation and/or promotion.  Given the 24/7 news cycle, fierce competition and shrinking margins, reliance upon ‘fans’ is more than a passing fad, it’s becoming necessary to compete and survive within numerous industries.

The Promotionless To Popular Strategy (theory)
Theoretically speaking, if you are brave (promotion consultants will say foolish) and remarkable, you don’t really have do anything today but continually improve and consistently (weekly or monthly) show up at the same place(s) and play.  Fans can almost do everything else.  Give them permission and a way to capture a clean recording of your live performances, and there’s not much you can do…that fans can’t do faster, wider and better, and this includes motivating new fans (prospects) to attend your shows.

Even if you are semi-famous, operating at the lowest cost structure possible has never been more important.

The economics of a Promotionless To Popular Strategy
The cost to create studio-quality recordings has plummeted; the cost to distribute music is negligible; music is nearly free; and now the cost of promotion (including effort) is rapidly approaching zero.  Going forward, you will practice and improve; you will be paid for live performances; you will sell physical merchandise and digital stuff; the need for middlemen will continue to fall off; fans will play an integral part in your rise (more so than ever); and the rewards for reaching the apex of the industry will continue to be substantial.  A Promotionless To Popular Strategy is really the only promotion strategy that any unknown artist can economically justify now.

When to conclude a Promotionless To Popular Strategy
There’s a point where it makes strategic sense to invest in capitalizing on the momentum that fans have created for you; this timing would also coincide with the point where you have probably become…remarkable.  I would argue that this milestone (milestone one) has been reached when the amount of online touch points, mentions and impressions has climbed into the high hundreds of thousands to low millions. This is when it makes (more) sense to seek mass-exposure placements (radio, television, film, ads, large festivals etc.); prior to this point, you are just one of the many millions (soon to be tens of millions) seeking fame and fortune via the submit-to-the-lottery-and-pray model, combined with the who-you-know-and-take-out-to-dinner method.  Good luck.

Moving forward, once an artist has obtained 50,000,000 impressions (multiply listeners by spins to get impressions), it makes sense to me to invest in a support organization and the offline/online effort to capitalize on 1) your efforts to date, 2) the momentum fans have already generated, and 3) the risk mitigation that has resulted from mass-exposure placement(s).  Obtaining anything less than 50,000,000 impressions diminishes your organization’s chances at achieving sustainable profits.

Note: there are plenty of people, including labels that gamble on investing in artists prior to achieving either of the milestones just covered above.  However, artist investing is a business that nearly has a 100% failure rate.  My advice is to never invest in expensive album recording projects, and to never invest in paid advertising, paid placement, or paid promotion until an artist has achieved milestone one.

Building a team for a Promotionless To Popular Strategy
Different times call for new thinking when it comes to ringing up obligations (paying cash or sharing percentages) to the people that work with you.  Think about the YouTube videos that fans will create; the compelling images people will post on Facebook; and generally about what will be mentioned on the Internet.  Strategies such as running a great party (consider a professional event planner), ensuring that your live sound quality is dialed in (use an experienced sound engineer), and seeking proven professionals to work on a single song, are more important than traditional management, Internet interns, and radio promotion consultants.  You can’t afford (time and money) to keep attempting to promote yourself forward.  Surround yourself with people that can help you create an unforgettable song, stage an arresting party, and deliver a stunning performance; these are the things will make your online pulse strong. 

Promotionless To Popular does not equate to doing nothing!  Make it easy for fans to promote you, but don’t get worked up about investing time and money into promoting yourself. 

Question:  My live shows are packed and I am really good, but there’s very little measurable, fan-generated activity.  How come?
Response:  You are just not good enough, your niche is paper thin, or you have confined yourself to a sparsely populated area.  The Internet is packed with competing alternatives.  Try harder and/or move to a bigger city.

Question:  I have songs that would be great on a movie soundtrack.  Do I really need all those touch points, mentions and impressions to obtain a placement?
Response:  If I had a dime for every time an artist said they have great soundtrack songs…I would be rich.  No, perhaps you don’t need all those touch points and impressions, but they prove that your song is remarkable, and more and more song and talent buyers are using ‘remarkable’ filters to find songs and artists.  Good luck.

Question:  I can name artists that are doing it differently, and artists that are building businesses on top of aggressive promotion.  What do you say to that?
Response:  There are exceptions to everything.  It seems like some random artist dreams up a press-worthy promotion stunt every month.  Good luck with that.  Aggressive promotion costs time and money.  Are these promotion-heavy artists truly generating consistent, family-supporting incomes?

Question:  Does fan-generated content/messages have the same reach as artist-generated content/messages?
Response:  Consider the sea of friend-networks on Facebook, the ocean of hourly tweets on Twitter, billions of text/picture messages a day, fan videos, and remixes.  For any random artist, which entity generates more views, clicks, rates, mentions and re-mentions - the artist, or the sum total of his or her fans?

Question:  What about the 1,000 True Fans model?
Response:  Depending upon how you execute it (passively or aggressively), the 1,000 True Fans model is a subset of this model.  Nobody wants to artificially stop at 1,000 fans.  Keep going.  If you are really starting to ‘hear’ your online buzz, leaning on 1,000 true fans to propagate your message is a great next step. 

Question: Fan-generated content is not eye-popping enough.
Response: Fan-generated content is compelling enough to drive traffic and to create a measurable buzz.  Watch the example video below.  You be the judge.  This home video (notice the sound quality) was good enough for me (a fan) to promote it.  (LuxDeluxe on MySpace)


About Bruce Warila  and on Twitter

Reader Comments (49)

Great post. It's as if this conclusion has been brewing in the back of my head for weeks, unarticulated until now. For our promotional investment to date (time and money), my band's returns have been laughably small. We spent so much time promoting ourselves leading up to our first release this past June. We sent the EP to blogs. Newspapers. Contacted everyone we've ever known for help. Day of release? Week of release? Brick wall. Not a single review.

(Ironically I'm going to have to do some self-promoting here to support your theory.) But the day of release, I decided to post our EP to a social news site I've been reading for years and suddenly we've got a licensing deal, we're the #2 most popular rock release on Bandcamp, we doubled our Facebook fans, quadrupled our mailing list, we're on commercial radio, our songs are in short films.... Literally every single meaningful opportunity we got in the first month of release came from the work of our brand new fanbase (assisted by Bandcamp's "click here to share this on Twitter or Facebook" message that buyers receive after purchasing a download) and none of it from self-promotion.

Promotionless To Popular is a glorious and freeing concept. I cringe thinking of the time we wasted self-promoting, time that could've been spent getting the release out sooner or writing more songs.

I bet this idea will be even more potent when music listeners become aware of just how important sharing is for an independent artist's lifespan. I don't think most of these fans realize how powerful they are.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterKeith Freund

Coming from the fan POV I agree with this post entirely. I've seen it in action for unsigned bands to major label bands. Fan recommendations/promotions are my primary source of finding new artists. Second to that is artists I like mentioning new (to me) artists. A distant third is songs I hear over and over on Music Choice that finally catch my attention. All other forms of promotion only work if they are in the right place at the right time and the artist being promoted has something that catches my very narrow interest.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterCalysta

Good article Bruce.

I like the reality check on the 1000 true fans/emails from artists etc. That's been on the back of my mind for a while and I've often (guiltily) hoped that others simply can't be bothered to make the effort involved in effective fan engagement.

My band is still very underground and my experience with active promotion has been that it has pretty much no impact.

The greatest spike in our impressions occured when I allowed various blogs to post our album for free download at the end of last year. plays rocketed, facebook fans increased and myspace adds all noticably increased.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

Great Post. A Lot of money is wasted before the talent is perfected. And you can't beat word of mouth promotion.

July 20 | Registered Commenterparker

"Even if you are semi-famous, operating at the lowest cost structure possible has never been more important."

Amen. I was depressed by how many music biz bloggers took Imogen Heap's recent touring experience to mean there's "no money in touring anymore" -- she just had Madonna-type overhead on a tour that couldn't support that. Her problem was bad budgeting but she blamed it on the music biz as a whole, and for the most part people agreed.

This article was really damn good, I hope you keep writing now that MTT maintenance is no longer on your plate every week.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland


If you were to collect your continuously sharp and thought provoking insights and publish them in book form I would buy a copy, and recommend it to every single musician and industry person that I know. Which equals a lot of people.

This isn't a compliment, but a request!


July 20 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy G

I know an artist for sure that could be a national hit but he doesn’t have the fanbase!

Don’t believe me?, and tell me you don’t agree with me! fanbase means allot!

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterBOBBY

Hey Bruce,

Thanks for the reality check. I recently did a guest post on another blog where I basically asked the question, why doesn't my shit just blow up on it's own? and the hard answer the vast majority of the time is that it just didn't do anything to move the people that heard it. That's it. Of course, I don't think you should take that to mean that self-promotion is a waste of time and not worth it. The people who are going to be spreading your stuff for you are going to have to hear it somehow, and if they hear it as a direct result of some connection you have personally made with them, i.e. self-promotion, they are more likely to want to spread the word about you.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Dunnigan

Thanks to all for the great comments!

Todd, personal connections (as you know) cease to be personal connections when you are broadcasting them... To begin with, throw a great party, and then throw another one, and another, etc. It's a great way to make personal connections. Sounds obvious - I know. Do people want to come to your parties (shows) as much as they want to hear your music? "Parties" is a great word; It implies much more than "show".. A tray of lasagna is more effective than a banner ad. Cheers.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

I can't resist a little brag, an "I told you so"... :)

About a year ago, in reply to a MTT post, I said that the FIRST STEP an artist must succeed at is:

1. Each gig attracts more people than the last, because excited audience members rave about it and drag their friends with them to you next gig.

If that is not happening, you are not on your way yet.

The problem is, the vast majority or musicians today bypass the first step and start creating a website, Bandcamp site, etc., and ACTING AS IF they already have the needed fan base...of thousands.

And the online music marketing services are only too happy to help them do that!

The big money in the "industry" today is in the support services: music marketing consultants, professional website creators, courses in web marketing, recording equipment, musical instruments, online music lessons, digital audio workstations and software... that's who is making money in the new Internet music world!

Like the businesspeople who sold shovels and food supplies to the gold miners during the California Gold Rush.

In my opinion.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

I should add, I. too, have a ReverbNation site. For my very, very modest number of fans.

But I am under no illusion that I am anywhere near able to make a living from my art. And probably will never be able to. I have another career as well for the living expenses. You have to, usually.

But I sure wouldn't significant money on marketing until the live show draws, as you so well said, lines down the block.

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

Enjoyed reading this, Bruce. You'll do yourself out of a job if you're not careful...

I would take small issue about PR outlay in the early days - the right PR person can persuade anyone from punters to TV producers that a particular artist jangles god's balls when all she's jangling is the small change in her purse.

But the genre must be right: 'authentic' sweaty rock and roll by men-in-beards benefits from apparently authentic PR, whereas a shiny shiny pop person shines ever brighter the more directly outrageously hyped they are.

PR by fans is very authentic PR.

And some artists won't benefit from being spitting range with their audience, whether because they aren't personable or because it just doesn't work without the small orchestra and backing singers. It would be a shame to lose the glamour and find ourselves stuck in a kind of pub rock hell of dues-paying dudes 'keeping it real'.

July 20 | Registered CommenterTim London

Nice to see that even though you're not managing things around these parts any longer, You're still taking us to school.

Thanks man. I've been stuck trying to find a promo team/marketing team.

Finding a credible one that knows what to do with a hip hop/rock musician is about as easy as finding a Saint running for a seat in the senate.

I recently said to hell with it all man. I'm taking my songs, some promo materials and hitting every open mic and showcase I can get my hands on, and I'm passing out promo materials to all the folks who attend. I say let the people decide.

I believe in my work 300 percent and if it means putting my whole movement on my back and pushing forward then so be it.

Cheers Bruce.

Heron Demarco

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterHeronDemarco

-"Parties" is a great word; It implies much more than "show".. A tray of lasagna is more effective than a banner ad

Great freaking line. I tend to over think things so much that I miss the much subtler things....

Wonderful article!!!

This is a very inspiring post. It's like it gives artists permission to focus on developing our craft instead of our business chops. Thanks for the sound advice.

My question is. What if you've started a new project and have to build a fan base from scratch. Wouldn't one need a low cost self promotion strategy so that someone knows that the act exists before they can become a fan who champions your work?

At least in the city I live in most promotors at the decent venues require a bit of a track record before giving you a slot on a busy night to give you the opportunity to win over fans who are there seeing more established acts. So how does one get the opportunity to be exposed to potential fans without any promotion?

July 20 | Unregistered Commenternath


Your breadth of knowledge, and steady bearings give us a needed grounding point
in assessing the time that lay ahead. Think long and deep, and then put it out there for us.

And, sure, if you had a book, I'd buy it. -dale-

July 20 | Unregistered CommenterDale Morgan

What absolutely perfect timing for me to read this - thank you VERY much!

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Sampson

On the party thing. I think I was fifteen years into my career before I realized my job at a live show has nothing to do with my guitar playing. My job is not to entertain people for a few minutes while I'm on stage, my job is to give them a good time & memorable night. Hard to do of course, but it starts with the bartender & doorman & soundman & goes right on through to every person in the joint. Make them feel special. Not in a fake way, in a real way. They are all unique & special snowflakes just like you.

One thing I find interesting that this article reminds me of is the number of folks who keep changing their band name or forming nearly identical bands hoping for something to "work this time." I sometimes wonder if that's the best way to go. If your band develops from sucking to rocking, did you already alienate most of your potential fanbase in your region during your sucking time? When does the brand you have become a liability instead of an asset? Now there's an article we all need to read....

Reallly good post. The recent availability of home recording keeps on pushing me to record which takes me away from band formation and live playing/practicing.

If your really good then peoplewill promote you!

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterEvan


Yes indeed, the "throw a party" idea is terrific. A great insight. That's really what you have to do.

I think we artists can fall for the idea that it's all about *us*.

But it's really all about the audience and their experience.

Thanks for a great article.

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Galen

Keith (the first comment) hits a really good point. Most of the good stuff that happened came after posting their EP to a "social news site" he reads. Presumably this is not a music site. Being one of the only musicians who frequents and contributes to the 'underwater basket weaving' blog will do way more to build you real connections and fans than a big feature on Pitchfork, that is, as long as you're truly into underwater basket weaving. Great strategy, be the only musician in a non-musician group.

Chris (third comment) mentioned that he got a bunch of hits after he allowed a blog to post their stuff. Allowed? I'm curious about the choice of language, 'cause I'd love to get any love from any blog anywhere, there certainly wouldn't be a moment where I'd have to stop and wonder if I should allow them to do this. Why was there any hesitation? Are you getting that many requests from bloggers? If so, how?

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterTodd Dunnigan

Ok, the unfortunate truths of live shows. When playing the bar circuit, you are the back ground music for people to exercise their vices. The more alcohol, sex and drug friendly your music is and the less engaging, the better you will do on the small stage. The transition to the big stage however is much different, to be successful on a larger scale your music must connect with your audience and hold them. You can be awful for bars and small crowds yet have mass appeal which creates a paradox. You may seemingly be unsuccessful as your local bar crowd seems annoyed they can't talk over your music as easily as the reggae jam band everyone on the block loves. However that jam band's chance of ever having a radio hit, 0%.

I must agree with the article in that, spend your recourses on creating quality recordings. It is better to have one perfect recorded song than 15 hack ass demo songs.

Also I agree with the premise of the article, "Exposure" is only worth the money it makes you, PR is the seeking of exposure for your Brand. Most PR is also spam, people hate spam, so in fact your PR may be doing more harm than good. I must add though real fans beg for your attention, not the other way around, ok.

Also I agree with the poster that no one likes "a show", a show demands attention a party does not. Everyone loves a party, see; sex, drugs and alcohol above to determine if you are a good party band.

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

I think its very hard for most artists trying to get into the music industry to accept 2 things. First that it is hard work, it takes time and creative energy to put together quality music. Every one thinks of it as a get rich quick thing. The lottery model like you had spoke.

The 2nd and more unfortunate thing is many people just don't realize that they music needs work. There is a good reasons no one is passing your music around the net. The biggest one is that it probably sucks. If you made it past the point of it sucking. Then maybe its just not interesting or remarkable.

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Weis

you can be the Greatest Act/songwriter/band/producer/singer etc.etc... Unless You are Promoted in a "Professional" way... you'll go Round & round on the Internet, make 2,000,000 friends (none will buy your "cd"), but talk your head off about non sense.....if you are serious about your Future treat it that way,,do promotion and also Find Good people and Promoters that have Ref (like i do!),,keep the faith do not be Cheap with your talent.....joseph nicoletti consulting/promotions 386 Laguna Beach california 92652 USA ph 949-715-7036 E-mail:

@Joseph, if you have a list of URL links to artists (music industry) that you have promoted to break-even+ status (including the time the artist invested), I would be happy to review and then possibly endorse your service. Cheers.

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila


This is CrowfeatheR

That lame old argument "your music just sucks" is an intellectually dishonest put down. I know of many incredible acts who couldn't sell out a phone booth. Check in Casey Desmond, you've never heard of her I know. She is amazing singer/songwriter/multi instrumentalist and if she came to your town and played she wouldn't sell one ticket in advance. Whereas nauseating talentless bilge like Rihanna sells millions of CD's and Tickets. Talent and skill have nothing, 0, nada to do with your success in Music Entertainment..... The monkeys, Milli Vanilli, Black Box, must I go on?

July 21 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

@ Bruce @ Joseph

Holy cow is that a nice come back! I don't know many people who've paid for promo & had any evidence of any significant money made back (notable exception my friends Irata got a couple good paying on campus gigs directly caused by a college radio campaign run by Planetary). Everybody & their brother has a promo company on the side these days (even me! soon my brother will start one too!), but I tell people up front what to expect for the money & not create an illusion that there is a definitive return on investment. If you really want to invest in your future, buy gold bars.

Brian, if you employ a national press person who can wangle reviews, mentions and photos then finding a gig in the first place is so much easier, unless you're happy to exist in the world CrowfeatheR describes.

If a PR company decide to get behind you then they can help you to a (I was going to say 'deal' but there isn't really a generic description for this) meeting with someone who can help, maybe manage, produce, release, publish, give money, if they're any good and it all fits together right.

No one thing you do can guarantee anything! PR won't work by itself, but neither will Bruce's solution - if nobody knows you're throwing the best party in town then, it won't be the best party in town. And if someone can get an article and a photo to go along with a listing, why not make the most of it?

July 22 | Registered CommenterTim London

BTW: The Monkees: brilliant pop group, so ahead in so many ways. Rhiana: her version of Umbrella and the video are classic pop moments. Black Box: incredible pop single fronted by the ultimate trans-karaoke experience.

It's the talent, skill, songs, looks, PR and bribes what work.

It's the luck, the connections, the personality, the volume, the venue, the lights, the bouncer, the fans and the right town what works.

July 22 | Registered CommenterTim London

@Todd Dunnigan

It's called the Sludge Swamp. A file sharing site dedicated to sludge, stoner, doom (very niche) and it's run by some of the most enthusiastic music fans I've ever met. Pretty extreme underground stuff. They post literally everything they can so I knew ours would end up there.

Our album leaked on a very low traffic fan blog 5 days after it was released so I mailed all the blogs I knew and asked that if they were gonna post it then could they use my link so I could track downloads. They did and we got 1000 downloads in a week.

I wet my pants.

1000 impressions like that is a massive amount for unknown bands in our genre.

July 22 | Unregistered CommenterChris West

@ Tim. Right you are. Sensitive dependence on initial conditions applies here. Depending on who you invite initially, the entire process (theoretically) could ride on the back of a single person, but that would depend on who that person is (the hottest girl in town, the local independent film guy, the galloping gourmet, the high school football hero, etc.). Those with social sway can make a big difference.

@ Chris. 1,000 downloads could equal 10,000 impressions, if each download was played ten times by each person (impressions = spins X listeners).

July 22 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Great article more hip hop artist need to read this post. This reminded me of artists on Myspace and how their promotional efforts made people feel like they were being spammed. As an artist it's hard to raise above all the noise at times.

Tye Banks

July 22 | Unregistered CommenterTye Banks

@ Tim

I love Black Box and it is great music and amazing vocals, but they fronted a model as the performer for Martha Walsh's incredible vocals. Rihanna has the best tits, ass and legs combo on the modern stage and plays a mean E chord on guitar, but the amount of auto tune needed on her studio tracks tells me she is probably tone deaf. The Ramones too, well, sucked, but their appeal was that they sucked so, my point was some people can "suck" or have no talent at all like the Monkeys and still be hugely successful given the right circumstance on the converse People like Casey Desmond can wallow in obscurity despite being the "best" female vocalist/ songwriter in the world.

July 22 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

@ CrowfeatheR - I felt I had to defend the pop! Still love The Monkees - the soundtrack to Head is a classic, not much session playing going on there and I could go on about their voices.... The Ramones? Sucked? You must jest! Apart from practically inventing a genre, you try playing down strokes at that speed. Athletes of the wrist. And then those choruses... 'beat on the brat...' etc

But I understand your point about success and pretty much agree. BTW I'm checking out Casey Desmond - a bit heartfelt for me, I'm afraid. One person's singer songwriter is another's Davy Jones...

July 22 | Registered CommenterTim London

@ Tim about Promotion

I agree that promo is sometimes appropriate for a band & money well spent, but most of these promo companies act in a predatory manner to bands who cannot afford to go on tour & nationally support a release in the first place. Not to mention the fact that booking a tour is never easy in the first place & getting harder everyday ("We don't have live bands Monday - Wednesday because those are Guitar Hero, Karaoke, & ping pong nights," which isn't really anything to be mad about, they are trying to stay in business & if I can't draw more people in on a Wednesday in Lexington than ping pong, the club owner is doing the right thing). I think in all reality you should only hire a PR team in conjunction with an already existing tour with them targeting your record to those markets.

Of course my experience is jaded because my label is "big enough" that one of the bigger indie PR places offered to do the radio servicing on a record I put out for free hoping to secure me using them for future releases. I sent out 100 copies to radio that I normally do, got around 75% airplay (I'm pretty highly targeted on the radio for the music I put out) & they sent out 200 to stations I don't normally service & got 10 stations to give airplay. But at the same time if I was a band doing a release every two years instead of putting something out every three months I'm not sure that the time it takes to research all the contacts would be worth it.

I agree with a lot of this post but disagree with a lot also.

First of all I maintain you have to think like a major if you want people to respond to you like a major.
This means singles and radio singles at that. If the benchmark is getting a radio hit and then a download hit then you have really 2 strategies that you have to invest in.

1. Record a great single.
2. Promote the great single.

Upon these 2 everything else is built.

We have all invested in albums and recording lots of songs, including me, BUT the game has changed and now it's about returning to the singles model and then releasing a hit single before you think about an album. This sharpens focus and you're a lot more critical about your record but more important than that, it makes you look professional too.

If you revolve around a single every other month and you send it out to radio, and stick it on Youtube then you can build the rest.

THis is where i disagree with this article. You make the assumption that without any promotion people will hear about you ? This is just not true. Without any promotion NO ONE will hear about you.

My advice is simple and this comes out of years of hard work, research etc.

The most effective way to build a buzz is to run 2 things simultaneously.

Radio and Google.

Send your release to radio, if you need to form a collective to do so then so be it.
Don't waste your money on PR companies and pluggers. They will give you less than sticking it in the post and mailing it to the producer of the show will. Tom Robinson has an excellent post on this. Radio is a long shot but they need to have your record so that when you do step 2 and it works they can act.

Step to is upload it on Youtube complete with a cover and BUY some Youtube ads. The benchmark is about 1,000. If out of 1,000 views you don't get any tracktion chances are your single is not going to be a hit. You can up it to 10,000 which should cost you at least $100.

You could try using Jango as well though I haven't used it yet. With 10,000 bought Youtube views @ 1c a click you will know if you have any comments if you have a hit.

Of course, you should use Google to advertise your page and the video should play on your own site and you can monetise it and plough back the money you make into more promotion or cut your losses and record something new.

Online marketing is easy and affordable and cheap and you should use it to full effect.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterKehinde

although i like and agree with a lot of what you are saying here B, the fact of the matter is people are lazy and no matter how good an artist may be... a viral sensation will not emanate from an apathetic, bong smoking, sector of college kids -- unless there is some lightning striking near by... sorry to burst the bubs here -- but you are preaching a testimony that is warm and fuzzy -- but actually not true at all. don't think for a second that amanda marshall doesn't have a large team of professionals in her corner or the justin bieber wasn't a result of a master minded team of very monied professionals. as an artist -- you won't go anywhere w/out solid management, a motivated booking agent, a smart lawyer, a savy business manager, and a label that is told by their president to drop everything and work only on 1 (your) band... the problem here is -- that's very close to impossible to do as an unknown, baby band -- with little to no fan base....

July 24 | Unregistered Commenterahh

Of course it is very close to impossible for a band starting what do you propose - a noose or a gun?

Rather than giving up, a COMBINATION of Bruce's suggestion to get out and PLAY GREAT LIVE SHOWS and Kehinde's template of RELEASE SINGLES and promote thru GOOGLE, YOUTUBE and RADIO seems like a winner to me.

If you REALLY have a great live show, people will come and spread the word - if they aren't - well you just DON'T have a great live show. PERIOD. Time to go write and rehearse more - possibly hundeds or even thousands more hours.

And if your single doesn't gain traction from Google ads AND social networking push thru everyone you can get it to AND even college level radio isn't biting - well - time to go write and rehearse more - possoibly hundreds or even thousands more hours.

Oh wait - I'm repeating myself...possibly from utter astonishment and frustration that at least 90% of artists are deluded and think their material/show is ready for prime time, when in fact most are somewher between sucking and average.

The wonderful thing about today's technology is that it really WILL show where you stand - of course, if USED EFFECTIVELY (which Bruce and Kehinde point out well - just that I think they are both right and a mix of both is the most powerful).

Ole Jack could have been talking to most artists when he shot with... "You can't handle the truth!!"

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

Ps. Not being ready isn't anything to be ashamed of...

when John Hammond "discovered" Count Basie and put them on tour they fizzled - they were rockin' KC but just didn't get the crowds MOVING everywhere else. So did they give up?

No - Hammond got them booked as resident band at a Harlem club (Famous Door?), and they soent every day rehearsing all afternoon there, then playing all night...for SIX MONTHS.

THEN they went back on tour - and this time they KILLED. Now remember, this was BASIE and his freaking alllstar lineup of already insanely talented players - and that's what it took.

The more things change, the more they stay the same...for sure in music. Deal with it.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

The discussion in the comments about playing live shows reminds me of the Kiss story of there first show. Get to be friends with two or three popular bands. Book a show with all of you playing. Put yourself in the prime slot of second to last.

On the Count Basie thing, granted I wasn't there, but from my experience, it takes a lot to get the kinks out of the stress of not being at home when you are on the road the first few time out & dealing with personalities. Though their in one location for six months, they weren't at home those six months & the adjustment period of everyone not being in the same city as their social/emotional support network had time to settle in.

ok DG... here we go.. i really don't want to sound like an a hole here but let's talk realism. of the over 100,000 records put out in any type of manifestation last year -- how many do you think sold over 5k?... well, not even 2k of them.

Of course it is very close to impossible for a band starting what do you propose - a noose or a gun?

gun is faster... depending on where you shoot, i suggest the throat pointing up to the brain...

Rather than giving up, a COMBINATION of Bruce's suggestion to get out and PLAY GREAT LIVE SHOWS and Kehinde's template of RELEASE SINGLES and promote thru GOOGLE, YOUTUBE and RADIO seems like a winner to me.

so many amazing artists play great live shows and no one will ever know about them... release singles? right... what radio station is going to play them w/out a pro indy (whio the pd has known for years) calling the pd at the exact same moment they do every week? promote on google? right, everything and everyone is on google -- how the hell is a band no one knows about going to mysteriously rise out of the billions of other bands on google. same w youtube. radio, as mentioned before - no unknown band will ever get spins on a radio station that matters.

If you REALLY have a great live show, people will come and spread the word - if they aren't - well you just DON'T have a great live show. PERIOD. Time to go write and rehearse more - possibly hundeds or even thousands more hours.

really? well unless you've been living under a rock the past 3 years, you'd know that the single hardest member of any band's team to secure these days is a good agent... even the crap agents are not only coveted -- but their rosters are way overloaded -- thereby making them even more crap as an agent.

And if your single doesn't gain traction from Google ads AND social networking push thru everyone you can get it to AND even college level radio isn't biting - well - time to go write and rehearse more - possoibly hundreds or even thousands more hours.


Oh wait - I'm repeating myself...possibly from utter astonishment and frustration that at least 90% of artists are deluded and think their material/show is ready for prime time, when in fact most are somewher between sucking and average.

disagree w you on this too.... try 99.9999999%

The wonderful thing about today's technology is that it really WILL show where you stand - of course, if USED EFFECTIVELY (which Bruce and Kehinde point out well - just that I think they are both right and a mix of both is the most powerful).

sorry -- mix all you want... did you load the gun yet?

Ole Jack could have been talking to most artists when he shot with... "You can't handle the truth!!"


July 24 | Dg.
Ps. Not being ready isn't anything to be ashamed of...


when John Hammond "discovered" Count Basie and put them on tour they fizzled - they were rockin' KC but just didn't get the crowds MOVING everywhere else. So did they give up?


No - Hammond got them booked as resident band at a Harlem club (Famous Door?), and they soent every day rehearsing all afternoon there, then playing all night...for SIX MONTHS.


THEN they went back on tour - and this time they KILLED. Now remember, this was BASIE and his freaking alllstar lineup of already insanely talented players - and that's what it took.

dg -- dude (presuming you are a guy and not a chick) let me shake you out of your uneducated and overly numb state. you are talking about a record biz that doesn't exist anymore. a record biz that supported their bands through 4, 5, 6 records before they developed a fan base. a record biz where the bands were fat and had lots of facial hair. dg, ol' buddy ol' pal -- those days went out when the blow and hookers that were carted into the radio stations went the way of vinyl...

The more things change, the more they stay the same...for sure in music. Deal with it.

wrong again dg... the more things change -- the more they change. deal with it...

July 24 | Unregistered Commenterahh

@ ahh

Hmm...if your'e coming from a genaral troll perspective, i give you credit for some game (even laughed out loud a couple times), and it seems unlikely you actually believe all that - if so it's surprising that you would even bother reading music biz blogs.

But if you do walk your talk, then let me just say this:

If an artist is literally REMARKABLE, to use Bruce's exact term, that means people will, uh, REMARK about them. And we all know word of mouth is the most powerful form of promotion possible (if you don't agree with that at least, just ask the movie studios that spend tens of millions promoting a movie that goes nowhere after the first weekend).

And you say "many amazing artists have great live shows", but then "99.9%" of artists are between sucking and average (and I do agree I was too generous at 90%). That seems to be contradictory - where are you seeing the 1/10th of a percent unless you travel nonstop?

Personally, I almost NEVER experience what I consider to be a great live show, generally defined as making the vast majority of the audience either:

1. not only dance - but DANCE TIL THEY SWEAT. (as in, running makeup is a real issue for the woman and everyone's clothes are literally soaked thru)
2. either actually cries or has to strenously fight back tears (y'know being macho and all)
3. vents their pent-up frustration/anger/rage thru screaming, fist-pumping, mosh pit-flinging or other such expression
4. feel so inspired they can't sleep afterward thinking of all they want to now accomplish
5. get so aroused they go home (if they get that far), and fuck all night
6. hit sensory overload from some other emotion
not sure it's possible but - all of the above in one show.

If you don't think music can elicit those responses - then YOU have been the one living under a rock (your whole life).

And if a live show IS that remarkable, Bruce's suggestion that you could essentially start with ONE PERSON and do no other promotion is probably even possible.

WHY? Because you are talking about things changing EXTERNALLY. I am talking about HUMAN NATURE, which at its core doesn't change at all - good thing, too, since that means we really don't have to reach for the gun...just create shows/parties that accomplish the above - and same goes for releasing singles.

That sets the bar high - right where it SHOULD BE - and most artists should accept they just ain't cuttin' it anywhere near that level, so shouldn't be surprised or upset they aren't making it professionally - and stop the fucking complaining.

If you don't get that I have nothing else to say to you, ahh, and while I wouldn't then suggest a gun, but rather some treatment...shock to the frontal lobes, perhaps, it's faster. And definitely leaving music to those who want to lift and inspire.

July 26 | Unregistered CommenterDg.


i'm sure you are a nice person....

i have 1 question,,,

did you take a hit of acid tonight?

if you did. enjoy the trip...

July 26 | Unregistered Commenterahh

Brilliant post Bruce! You really struck a chord. This theory should stand right up there with 1,000 True Fans.

July 29 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Dolan

Interesting stuff! Fan engagement is now prevalent on mobile apps like Mobile Backstage. Do you think this has a place? If you're unaware of these apps see

August 4 | Unregistered CommenterRob

all haven been said it will take work! And substance in your songs, if it is good and connects with people , they will share! auto tune is making folks rich but substance still rules . Songs that take you in a different direction you know/

August 20 | Unregistered Commentercathy kennedy

So helpful to read this tonight as I sit thinking I should come up with the "magical marketing plan," ponder how to cut through the clutter, wonder how others who are successful are doing it, etc.--and hence spin around in circles. Thanks for the refocus.

September 11 | Unregistered CommenterJosie

Thought-provoking article. I might have to slightly disagree about some things though...

Assuming most readers here are guys, I'm gonna make an extended analogy about high school and females (bear with me here-- girls can switch the gender roles around).

Have you ever seen a girl you didn't find particularly attractive... and then she comes up in conversation amongst your peers, and you come to realize that your friends are ALL ABOUT HER? And then you go, "Holy shit, actually she's pretty attractive."

Alternatively, do you remember that girl in high school who didn't dress like a total slut, maybe wore wrinkled clothes and minimal makeup but was actually the most naturally beautiful girl in school? How you maybe dug her deep down, but the social environment had you second guessing yourself, and you ended up ignoring her?

I feel like this is how it works in music. You might be that "diamond in the rough" girl, with all the skill and amazing performance ability, but sometimes the lack of hype about it (especially from peers) makes someone not as interested as they should be. There simply isn't a direct relationship of popularity vs. "band awesomeness/talent"-- the packaging and delivering of products and content need to be just as amazing as the band itself, and ultimately a "tipping point" needs to be reached in which enough people are talking about it that a single flame has turned into wildfire that spreads on its own.

BEFORE I GET FLAMED (no pun intended), let me say that a small minority of the worlds population-- us musicians and general creative types-- recognize beauty and awesomeness when we see it, wrinkled shirts/sub par recordings and all. However, I feel like the analogy above holds for the general consuming population.

February 22 | Unregistered CommenterMW

I would like to receive all proposal from relevant and so called talented artist they need to prove as point. I `m ready financing promotion and album set up.
I am head of Ivory Records, a west African Based channel network who seeks promoting new talents and forwrd them with the associated label .

September 11 | Unregistered CommenterDuarte

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>