Long gone are the days when paper fliers and word-of-mouth served as a band or solo musician’s primary marketing tools. But with the over-saturation of social media platforms, how can you make technology work for you on a promotional level, without relying on a record label?
Changing your mindset from creative to promotional, as well as keeping up with technological trends, are key elements to expanding your reach and acquiring more fans. You need to think like an entrepreneur — successful promoters have a deep understanding of how to best use technology and social media to their advantage.
Musicians sometimes feel challenged by promotion, and it can be difficult to balance creativity with marketing. Don’t let marketing-heavy phrasing scare you from breaking away from your comfort zone, and avoid adopting a negative moniker such as “sellout.”
DIY Promotion Starts with Goal Setting
No matter if you’re a singer-songwriter or MC in an urban hip-hop trio, your first order of business is to consider your goals and craft a clear-cut mission plan. Do you want to expand your reach to more music fans? Are you seeking financial compensation for your efforts? Are you ready to take your music in a new direction?
Some artists achieve notoriety solely based on their musical talent; for others, success emerges from a collaboration of sound and personality. The rock band OK Go is a prime example of this phenomenon: since exploding onto the alternative rock scene in 2005, the band has become just as famous for its fun, creative videos as it has for its music. (Coincidentally, YouTube was also launched in 2005.)
OK Go was one of the first success stories of the new, modern age of music videos. Their first video release in 2006 featured the single “A Million Ways” from the band’s sophomore album. It was a viral sensation, becoming the most downloaded music video of all time as of August 2006. The video also served as a re-invention of sorts for the band; prior to “A Million Ways,” OK Go had never released a video, and now the medium is an intrinsic part of their brand image.
The more than 9 million downloads of “A Million Ways” is a paltry number compared to the most-watched video as of mid-2018, however. Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” repeatedly made history — it was the first video to reach 4 billion views on YouTube and has now surpassed 5.37 billion.
While the sensational numbers enjoyed by OK Go and Luis Fonsi may seem infinitely out of reach to DIY promoters, it perfectly exemplifies how technological advances can forever alter the music industry. In just a dozen years, music videos evolved from a near-dead, almost gimmicky state, into the most popular form of music consumption, by a wide margin.
Turn Your Band into a B(r)and
Branding plays an integral role within a lucrative marketing campaign. And make no mistake — your band or individual stage persona is indeed a “brand” as well as a creative force.
On its blog, the University of Alabama’s Collat School of Business recommends that a likeable, trustworthy brand have the following elements:
- Achievements and qualifications
Those elements certainly apply to your musical persona as well. But there’s no need to worry if you don’t have many achievements under your belt — personality and relevance can speak volumes in lieu of a lengthy musical resume. And if DIY sensation The Weeknd is any indication, an air of mystery may help cultivate your promotional enterprise.
The hip-hop phenom is the quintessential example of the awesome power that social media can bring to a marketing campaign. Canadian musician Abel Tesfaye launched his career in 2011 with help from YouTube, independently releasing his debut mixtape, House of Balloons, under the stage name The Weeknd. Fans were intrigued by the mysterious nature of The Weeknd, who initially refused to do interviews and communicated solely via Twitter.
Seven years after his first video appeared on YouTube, The Weeknd has 9.47 million Twitter followers and an estimated net worth of $57 million. He’s also a three-time Grammy recipient.
Reinvent Yourself, and Let the World Know
The majority of musicians find their niche and stick with it. For others, like the rockers OK Go, a branding overhaul becomes the breakout idea that expands your reach to a wider audience. And always remember that reinvention plus promotion does not equate selling out. In fact, DIY music success may in fact hinge on your adaptability and technological prowess, at least where social media and marketing are concerned.