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The 3 Step No B.S. Guide To Marketing Your Music

I have a friend who markets his music by literally posting a song 5 times in a row with a “Please listen to this, you’ll like it :)” It kinda creeps me out to be honest, especially with that weird smiley face. Not only that, but it’s lazy. When people talk about marketing, you think of things like:

  • Post it on Facebook, that’ll work.
  • Just throw it up on Youtube and see what happens.
  • Maybe if I play my live shows naked, they’ll notice me.

But there’s something we’re completely missing that no one bothers to tell us.

Musicians blow up overnight and we go “Why can’t that be me? I need to do that.”

So, we tell our family and friends, we get really excited, get that perfect hit song, we throw it up on Youtube, play a few live shows with it, and what happens? We get about 20 likes, most of them being from family members and old friends.

Our friends come to our live shows, stick around and get drunk, then head out halfway through. We just can’t seem to get outside of our bubble and tap that pond of exposure that every other band seems to get. We start going…

Why can’t I blow up?

What’s wrong with my music?

Do they not like me?

Why can’t I grow my audience?

We play live, make a few sales, tell our audiences to “Make sure to like us on Facebook and retweet us”. Does that actually work?

Not really.

In the grand scheme of things, we’re missing the bigger picture. So after all of this, we get discouraged and our initial reaction is to spam even more out of insecurity and desperation.

We tell ourselves “They just don’t get it, I’m the next big thing…”

I did this same thing. I would post a link to one of my tracks on Facebook (God, I was so lazy. I actually considered this marketing.) with visions of it being shared by millions into oblivion as I became an overnight success complete with expensive champagne, my own personal exotic tiger, and hot women.

Looking back, I was doing it COMPLETELY wrong. How many people actually listened to it? Like 4 people.

What went wrong? Why can’t they see my brilliance?

Here’s the truth. They really do get it. They don’t care because you haven’t shown them how and why to care.

I study other musicians all the time. That’s why I have no life and very little social skills. I really should get out more. These are the most common headlines that make me scream like a little girl:

  • Buy Now!!!!! (Notice the exclamation points. That’ll get em’ for sure!)
  • Hey everyone, it’s Loser Larry here, when you possibly have a minute or two, would you please, please check out my track. I’ve been homeless and eating concrete to survive and my video has only 1,000 views and I really want 2,000 views. I’ve worked really, really hard on this and I would love your opinion. Even if you don’t give me your opinion, I just wanna change the world with my gift. Thank you so much blah blah blah (Can you feel the played up insecurity in this one?)
  • It’s done. It’s finally here. I present to you: X…. (Like it’s some secret magic trick that a magician is revealing behind the red curtains in front of a grand audience and it’ll blow your ass away if you only click this link.)

What we should embrace is the exact opposite.

Sticking only to social media is like building a house without a foundation.

You should spend all of your efforts outside of social media and instead, use social media as an automatic system that holds your viral plant like a vase.

When we focus on short term goals, we put all of our chips in one bag. You must play a totally different game.

While they’re busy spamming their grandmother on facebook, you’re out connecting with real people, finding different ways to position yourself, and using art to CREATE audiences and find the audiences who need to hear your talent.

We don’t promote our material, we show them our progress and people will gravitate towards us. This effect increases over time and before you know it, your tribes are doing all of your work, spreading it like a virus to their people.

With that being said, here is my 3 step process to actually market your music, increase your sales, and grow your fan base the honest, ethical, and tested way.

 Step 1 – Get Your Mind Right

Don’t Spam – People Don’t Care For A Reason. People don’t all of a sudden buy from you on your 5th re-post of your new single. When I see people post their tracks going “Check it Out!”, I see someone who’s desperate. They don’t really know what to say but they know you should listen to them. We do this because others do this and we think it’s the right way.

We play it safe by going “Hey, maybe check out my tracks, it would mean the world to me, sorta hopefully?.” It’s a very insecure method. This is a natural learning lesson, so don’t be discouraged. We just don’t want to get hurt, but by adding to this noise, we don’t separate ourselves. However, we must go deeper.

Instead, what we do is promote confidently, ethically, and slowly. We avoid seeking attention from using sob stories and ego boosters. They really don’t matter to our audience. We stay on our course and people will see our results and want to be apart of it. We don’t have to say anything, we show them. People like to be with winners and once you get bigger, people will spread the word for you and associate themselves with you automatically. Don’t ask others for help, show them your progress.

The Long Haul – Be The Tortoise. A common trend that even big labels use is buying your audience. At HTBAMS, we stay far away from this. We don’t use shiny tactics because we’re honest and we want actual sales. You can’t get sales off of fake fans.

Embrace your current stage and avoid acting bigger than you are; people will respect that. When you buy your audience, what that says about your business is that you are promoting for the sake of appearance and not value. That tells me that if I buy from you, it’ll probably be shit.

Think in the opposite direction. Sales are generated by providing immense value, not the appearance of value. Look at the bigger picture. In business, it takes 5 years before actual results come in. You must commit to this principle and realize that you’re in this for the long road, not instant results. The faster it comes in your hands, the faster you’ll lose it.

Celebrate The Small Wins – The Big Wins Are On Its Way. It’s easy to get overwhelmed. This is why we say “Ok, I just want 5 fans this week, not a 1,000,000”. We begin to think in terms of attainable, habitual processes. What we’re actually doing is setting ourselves up for long-term success.

Success is being in a better position than you were before. Gaining 1 fan is a win. If you get in the habit of expecting big results in the beginning, you will set yourself up for failure. We often compare ourselves to more successful people as a result. You’re missing the hard years of work that has led to that point. If you skip this mental framework, the big wins won’t happen. The big wins happen as a direct result of each small win accumulating over time. You create this pyramid that breaks the clouds.

Action Step:

1. Write down 5 sentences that demonstrate your commitment to ignore the promotional noise from others, respecting the process, and enjoying the fulfillment you get from going at a slow, methodical pace. Use this as a reference template.

Step 2 – Create Your Tribe

Establish Your Tribe – Become Their Leader. Aside from your family and other musicians, you should have at least 5 fans who’ve either bought your material or have shared your stuff. You want to focus on these select people because they’re your FIT’s, your first initial tribesmen. They have gone out of their way and have taken a chance on you.

What that tells us is that they are outspoken, fearless, and willing to take risks. Also, they need a leader. They are more likely to promote for you versus you doing it by yourself entirely. Find 5 of these fans and contact them. Show them your identity, vision, and goals. Explain your process and how they can help. In return, be creative and offer something of immense lasting value. People help if you ask them, but people clamor to be apart of the next big thing.

For example, people would’ve killed to have joined Google and Apple before they made it big. You present it in this same fashion. Your main goal is to create friendships and relationships, not to sell or promote. Once you have these FIT’s, promotion becomes an inevitable process. If you focus on creating personal relationships, people will see you as genuine. They will bend over backwards to help.

Establish Your Social Presence – Create An Automated Social Machine. In the beginning, stick to 4 main social outlets. You decide on these based on your audience demographics. I stick to Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and Youtube to help funnel and generate sales leads. If you do more than four, you will become overwhelmed. Take this simple core system and automate it using a social media collection site (I like HootSuite). You can expand later when you have a need to do so. Scarcity is a powerful selling tool that you must utilize.

Promote via targeted established relationships, not spray and pray. Connect with bloggers, internet personalities, media outlets, and establish friendships. Introduce yourself, ask if you can chat for a few minutes because you want to learn from them.

Research and find out what you can provide specifically for them as value and present it to them. If you provide great quality work, they’ll gladly share because it improves their status. Focus on where your customers find new music and you may realize different outlets not being taken advantage of.  Signing up for music finder sites (Pandora, Spotify etc) is great because people who go there are your actual audience AND looking for new music. These are the people who want what you can give.

Create Your Promotion Calendar – Break It Down. Break each step down to the smallest action and create your 7 day promotion plan. When you create this, think in terms of do-able actions. We set ourselves up for success by doing small, habitable actions. We set ourselves up for failure by doing too much at one time. For example: Week 1 – Find 5 new fans of your genre and where they hang out at. Week 2 – Contact them and show them your plan etc. By creating this system, the next steps are a piece of cake.

Action Steps:

1. Reach out to 5 new fans in your genre and show them your model. Research who is on what site, what part of your audience hangs out around, and ways to reach them.  Find 5 internet personalities, media outlets, and bloggers who fit your style. Develop friendships with them and show them the value of joining your tribe. 

2. Determine the 4 main outlets you will use to promote your material outside of live performances. Create your social plant and water it twice a week with quality posts. Change it up and have fun with it. Don’t spam, don’t beg, and don’t ask. Show them your progress. 

3.  Set up your promotional calendar at its basic level. Break down each day into small, do-able steps. Monday – find 5 sites where my audience likes to hang out. Tuesday – Find 5 people who like similar styles, Wednesday – Develop your pitch email, Thursday – Draft your cold email, Friday – Send. 

Step 3 – Become Remarkable

Make a Splash with your Live Shows – The Ripple Effect. Guerilla Marketing and music work beautifully together. It grabs people’s attention in unorthodox ways at low costs. Your job as an artist is to redefine core principles previously unknown.

You do this by being remarkable. By creating fantastic quality and splashing in your pond, people will take notice. This could mean finding unique ways to grab people’s attention or communicating to others in different ways. This ripple effect will travel across different tribes and they will share it with others. 

A few examples of this include: creating an incredible scene in public, embracing street marketing concepts, or creating public works of amazing art.  One example that I remember was a business executive dressed as a homeless man who went up to a random stranger and gave them a secret code to decipher. This guy went home, posted it on Reddit, and it sent the internet into a frenzy. Turns out, it was a marketing scheme for a company. It worked.

Combine this with your live shows and integrate these same principles. Think of what stuck in your mind the most when you saw live shows. People will stop what they’re doing and observe you. You now have their attention and the overall value of your performance has increased ten-fold.

Jimi Hendrix lit a guitar on fire and Eric Sardinas smashes beer bottles and plays slide guitar with Bud Light shards (I saw this 7 years ago and I STILL remember. See how it works?). They will video tape you and show it to their friends.

Keep in mind, the action or work of art MUST relate to your art. Don’t burn down a building every live show you do. Don’t do something that would tarnish your reputation or product, but enhances it. Whatever is the case, use your imagination and have fun. Don’t limit yourself.

The Truth About Viral Marketing – The Iceberg Effect. When we see a successful marketing campaign happen, we think luck. However, it’s years and years of hard work and usually, really good. Malcom Gladwell explains this process beautifully and named it “The Tipping Point”.

For example, prior to the explosion of PSY’s Gangam Style, celebrities were approached by Scooter Braun to help promote it. They uploaded videos of them doing that funny dance and that shit exploded. The celebrities were enamored by the craftsmanship of PSY. Focus on your material by being objective. Can what I put out stand the test of time? Would this be enjoyed by people 100 years from now? 

Take off the shaded glasses and listen to your music without emotion. Does it spur something inside of you? Or does it go “Thats pretty good, I guess”. Spend all of your time on creating one amazing track, not 50 good tracks.

Test and Repeat – Consistency Equals Buzz, Repetition Equals Success. Take each of these previous steps and repeat. When something doesn’t go our way, we go “Ok, that’s fine. That wasn’t a failure, that was just a test.” In marketing, this is called A/B Testing. This is a method presenting the same thing but in two different ways. We then measure these results, find what works, and do more of that.

At HTBAMS, we do the same thing. Do people resonate directly with your words? Your fast music, or slow music? What about our funny quirks? Measure this by simply asking. Consistency is the core behind becoming a bigger business. Repetition ensures growth. By being consistently present, people reckon you as a bigger force. However, by testing what works and doesn’t work, you fine tune your branding message and identity until it starts building further momentum.

Action Steps:

1. Research other tactics of guerilla marketing and develop your promotional playbook. Figure out what fits in your model as an artist and think of 5 ways to implement creative promotional tools outside of the norm at the simplest level. 

2. Get feedback from 5 people who are not your family or friends on 1 track. Ask them questions like “What was your favorite part of the track?” “What didn’t you like?” What makes a good song to you? If their response is anything but “Hell Yeah this is AMAZING!”, then go back and revise.

3. Split test your material. Measure what works in live shows and what doesn’t work. Create two columns: marketing concepts that work for this group and marketing concepts that don’t work for this group. Measure the response and craft your campaigns around these small wins.

With this being said, what marketing tactics work best for you?

P.S. If you want to read more of my material, check out:

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Reader Comments (1)

What an excellent, insightful article!! The urban artists whom I consult that do this absolutely succeed. They need good music (good to their fans) and a strong work ethic, along with a realistic budget to market and promote!! Now....can you write an article about the 3 steps necessary to get artists to listen? LoL They seem to believe a feature, some World Star Hip Hop action, and connections or a co-sign from someone more establislished is the holy grail to success....which we all know isn't the case! Anyway, great article; you rock!

Wendy Day from Rap Coalition

April 25 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Day

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