Stay out of the scene
Conventional wisdom in the music business has it that you should send promo copies of new releases to music publications and music radio. This, of course, makes perfect sense. People who are reading about music are likely to be interested in the music that you make, as long as it’s within the ballpark of the music that they came to the periodical or the broadcaster for.
The logical extension of this idea — that you should send promotions to the online equivalent of music broadcasters and publications — also makes perfect sense. Therefore, one of the most clearly sensible things to do would be to locate MP3 blogs to have much in common with the kind of music that you promote.
Here’s a good place to start looking:
MonkeyFilter’s MP3 blog listing
MP3 blogs are written by enthusiasts who have become opinion leaders in their field. They provide MP3 use of songs that they recommend to their readership. This differs from a music publications in the sense that every review is therefore necessarily a positive one. So by extension, if you send them your music and they choose to talk about it on a blog they are doing so as an opinion leader with their implicit approval.
Of course you have to content worth the idea that your music is now being given away for free to potential customers. However as we have discussed, and will no doubt discussed further at great length, this should not concern you. At any rate, MP3 blogs typically leave music up online for only a week or so, so that bandwidth costs do not become excessive.
Since it costs nothing, or next to nothing, to send promos via MP3, it does make sense to cast the net more widely than you might if you were posting physical CDs. With that in mind, I would like to propose a further lateral step beyond the logical MP3 blog approach.
People who write blogs with large readerships, but which are not about music, also probably quite like music.
That is to say, enthusiasts and opinion leaders in the area of politics, popular culture, technology — even accountancy — could still form part of your potential constituency, even if they are not readers of music publications. In fact, it’s probably fair to say that the vast majority of music buyers do not read music publications.
It’s probably also true that most of these opinion leaders are never sent promotional copies of music. The chances of an MP3 blogger choosing to promote your music on their blog is probably slimmer than the chances of a political blogger promoting your music on their blog… simply because being sent a promotional disc is nothing new to people in the music business — but quite a novelty outside of it.
So picking me a bunch of blogs that you have some affinity for (other than musical affinity) and locating the authors via e-mail might actually be a very good way to expose your music to a readership that isn’t looking in the places you might ordinarily expect.
You may find you want to do this more thematically. For instance, readers of blogs about wine, food, expensive cars, or right-wing politics may not be the ideal audience of your angry indie protest band.
However, there’s nothing to say that readers of blogs about hi-fi equipment, surf boarding, alsatian breeding, or indeed someone’s personal life, might not have clear areas of intersection with your kind of music.
So, strategy: spend some time on the Internet having a look at a range of different blogs. Track down the ones with significant readership that may have things in common with the kind of people you might expect to listen to your music.
Put a couple of MP3s on your website somewhere that the authors of these blogs can access them (but which aren’t immediately obvious to the general public). Send the blogger of choice a polite e-mail saying that you enjoy their writing, and that you would very much like for them to listen to your music. If they like it, you’d be very pleased for them to give it away as an exclusive gift to their readership.
For most recipients, this will most likely be a first. The sheer novelty of it will at least get you past the first hurdle. It will get listened to. However, I’d suggest you politely request that if they are going to go ahead and give it to their fellow alsation-fanciers, that they host the MP3’s on their own server. That way, they’re not just giving out a free link to your music to all and sundry but are instead valuing the promotional gifts to their own constituency and managing its distribution.
As a PR strategy, this strikes me as an incredibly effective ploy, and one I haven’t seen put in practice as yet. It gets your music in front of a whole new crowd of people that you might ordinarily never have had access to simply because they are not the people who read the music publications or listen to the radio stations you imagine they might.
In other words, it’ll get you talked about in the vast majority of scenes untouched by the rest of the music industry. Which strikes me as potentially of some value.