Years ago, attempting to make it in music was a fairly straightforward process. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t incredibly difficult – it was, and always has been – but the idea of marketing your material was simple. It was essentially a grind, and a constant struggle to earn radio play, sell albums, play shows, and spread the word. But now common practices among emerging or up-and-coming artists are changing. There are new and different ways to expand your brand and improve your reputation and reach as an artist.
You’d likely find a lot of successful 21st century artists who would tell you that creativity and luck are the most important factors. This is definitely true to a degree. Here, however, I’ve laid out a few specific ways that you can get your music out in the modern marketing climate.
Master Social Media
This may be the most common recommendation for young artists today, and it’s almost certainly the most valuable. As another piece on music marketing said, reaching consumers is getting more difficult as traditional channels of advertising continue to fade. Even established artists, or at least the people who represent them, are having to figure out creative new ways to market content and attract listeners. In this regard, however, modern up-and-comers might have an inherent advantage. Younger generations are used to social media, and in many cases this represents the best alternative to traditional advertising.
Mastering social media doesn’t mean any one thing – but that’s sort of the beauty of it. As an aspiring musical artist, you should be active on several different channels, sharing new material, links to any website you may have, information about upcoming shows, and general news. You should also display some of your personality, posting occasional thoughts and updates that have nothing to do with your music. And if you really want to go the extra mile, you can even start to share videos or diary-style updates on your songwriting process. Social media allows fans to feel that they know and understand you as an artist. It all serves to make you more accessible to a broader base of potential fans.
This is a difficult but effective (and distinctly modern) marketing concept. The idea, for me, comes from a surprising source as well: a series of internet games based on classic and heavy metal rock groups. Motorhead is part of this series, which includes Jimi Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses also, and essentially consists of slot machine arcades accompanied by popular songs and pictures of band members. It’s an odd concept – but, when you think about it, probably a brilliant one. Slots and classic rock have virtually nothing to do with each other – but through this sort of partnership, the game designer gains attention from music fans, and the bands gain a new audience.
If you’re a young, independent artist you might not be able to pull this off. But you could probably do something similar on a smaller scale, if you’re able to connect with other creative types in your area. You need only blend media together and lend your sound to someone else’s project – be it a short film, a video game, a documentary, etc. You can benefit by gaining new fans through the exposure, and your partner can get music for a project without having to pay (or at least at a discount).
Keep Gigging (& Selling Merch)
Gigging is the oldest move in the book for any artist looking to gain a base of fans, and it’s something you should always be trying to do. Even if it means setting up an amplifier in a dusty corner of a little-used town bar, you have to start somewhere, and the more often you play, the more frequently people will hear you. No online tool can match the power of playing your music in front of people, as one writer stated.
Your gigs also give you an opportunity to sell merchandise, which acts as a great marketing tool on its own. If you can sell even a few shirts or hats at a given gig, people will see the name of your band (along with whatever information you put on the shirt) every time the customers wear them around. That can mean website visits and social media follows, which in turn means more business. In short: never play a gig without having some merch for sale!