I started out in the music business in 1998 and decided to embrace the internet as my partner in leading me down the path of success. In many ways it has done just that. The Worldwide Web was a doorway to the unknown, and it still is, however it does allow you complete freedom to pick and choose what road you would like to travel. It takes years of hard work and a lot of trial and error to find what works sometimes but there is no excuse for ignorance nor is there a lack of information in these times to help you find your way.
I want to share some of my experiences working with artists and hopefully shed some light on the keys to being successful or a failure in marketing your music. I understand how much time and effort goes into making music and most folks that are in the indie music industry have day jobs just like me and the music is a sideline that you hope someday will become more than that.
The one aspect that is most important is how you use the time available to you. This is where many artists are spinning their wheels and getting absolutely nowhere. I cannot tell you how baffled I am at the blatant ignorance and arrogance people have. Artists seem to be allergic to reading what is right in front of them and following specific directions that are given to actually help them. That is not to say there is a minority out there that have their act together, have a plan, and then know how to use the tools available to get that plan into action. There should be a lot more people out there that operate this way. The excuse of not having the resources available or in some cases the capital, just does not cut it anymore. There is tons of free information out there and sites that let you create profiles and give you the ability to upload tracks including the most useful and popular ones such as Facebook and Twitter. Regardless of this plethora of choices some artists are stuck in a rut and cannot seem to get out, and this mind you is because they have not paid attention, taken good advice, made the wrong choices, were told they did and pushed ahead anyway without any direction thus ending up right back where they started every time.
The one thing people forget about is targeting the right audience and people in the media. I run different events online and I recently started a free event for artists to submit their tracks for consideration to be my Prog Rock Featured Artist on my blog dedicated to that genre. Within a matter of weeks I have close to 600 submittals and around 10 of them are actually progressive rock! I clearly stated PROGRESSIVE ROCK ONLY but yet the majority has decided to submit their tracks anyway and to totally ignore that guideline. I have rap, hip hop, blues, all kinds of genres and I am not going to waste my time and listen to any of the submissions. Some folks have even labeled their music prog-rock in hopes that I would listen. The mindset is “Why not submit, it’s free and maybe they will listen”. That could not be further from the truth, it just annoys the hell out of me and forced me to change the end date of the event prematurely. Even on events that I put a price tag on, people insist on submitting outside the targeted genres. So where does this get you? Nowhere. So now not only are you wasting your time, other people’s time, and worst yet wasting your hard earned cash. How ill-advised is that? And to top it off some of the artists react like children when they are rejected, just like a two year old that does not get their toy they want and goes stomping and screaming out of the store.
Here is my point, if you want to be taken seriously by industry professionals then act like one, fake it until you make it if you have to. Even if everything is smoke and mirrors for a while that can change once you stake your claim to your own slice of the pie in cyberspace, create a following and build a solid reputation. None of this can be accomplished by going at it half-baked and merely hoping for the best results.
One of the biggest mistakes I see artists making is not having their own website; they are opting for a Myspace page or something similar, which is becoming less and less relevant every day. Using Facebook for your homepage is a big mistake. It’s a social network and people want attention so they post things on your wall, how does that help people focus on your music? Use Facebook and Twitter for announcements, reviews, and anything else related to your music that is linked at your Homepage. This way the people who are really interested in your music will be clicking on the links and going to your site. It is likely that many of your so called “friends” are people that want to post on your wall and talk about themselves or could care less about you or your music! It is a great way to create a buzz about something but remember they are tools to get people to go to your website!
Social Networking needs to be part of your strategy to reach an audience, however it should be an add-on to your main site. Use Twitter, Facebook, Reverb Nation etc. to bring attention to your music and your home base, your own website, where everything can be found in one place by potential fans or industry professionals. Another thing that blows me away is how hard it is to find a simple email address or how to purchase music on an artist site. How are people supposed to communicate with you and offer you opportunities if you are making it impossible for them to find any basic information about you? These are simple no-brainer things that are being discarded or forgotten. How does that happen? We are living in a world of instant gratification and you will lose fans and professionals alike if you do not get your ducks in a row and implement these simple procedures to afford your music exposure and the right opportunities. Remember if a web surfer does not see what they want on your homepage they are gone in a matter of seconds, so make it obvious what you want them to pay attention to!
The entire point of this article is to help artists focus on the basic steps first. It is ok to look at the big picture but you have to hook up the horse to the cart before it moves. If you are genuinely serious about your music and want to go somewhere with it then you need a plan, discipline, and most of all an understanding of how the internet really works and what your audience wants.
By: Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck