Tips to make it happen online for your band
So you’ve written the songs, put the hours in practicing and carefully recorded your music the way you want it to be heard. Your live shows are generating a bit of buzz and you’re perhaps now looking at how to promote your music online. In the pre-internet days, this would have meant sending demo tapes to labels, hassling A&R men and generally hoping to catch a break. Of course, now things are different.
Self-publishing, whereby you take control of the promotion of your own music without label support, is becoming a viable option for fledgling artists. Recently we’ve seen the explosion into the nation’s consciousness of people like Stormzy and Ed Sheeran, who both made use of the open internet to raise their profiles and take their music to the people.
But how do you do it? If you’re not already ‘in’ that world, where on earth do you start? The good news is that you already, as a consumer, probably use plenty of the channels we’re going to talk about. There’s no dark arts or mad science at work here. What you will need is passion, dedication and a willingness to put the effort in. But you have all of those in spades already, or you wouldn’t be in the situation you are in. So let’s take a more detailed look at how to promote your music online.
The Big ‘F’. We all know Facebook. It’s the social network that got a bit awkward in 2010 when your mum joined. Regardless of its changing demographic, it’s also still the biggest, most widely used social media platform in the world.
The reason for this is that Facebook constantly finds ways to make itself useful. Whether it’s sub-groups, messenger chat, events or live-streaming, Facebook gives content creators (i.e. you) access to a huge, active audience who will give you feedback in real time over whatever it is you publish.
For musicians, there are some mandatory actions here. Like it or not, you’re going to need a band page. You’re going to need to populate it regularly with interesting content. You’ll also need to monitor it for questions, comments or engagements you get from people on your page.
Thankfully you don’t need to worry about constantly finding new things to say. There are plenty of free tools online to help you schedule posts in to publish at predefined times. Just make sure you keep an eye on any responses you may be getting.
Facebook Live is a newer addition to the line-up, and allows users to broadcast live video at any given time. Maybe you could stream a recording session, or do a Q&A. Whatever it is, follow the unwritten etiquette; don’t constantly spam people with event requests, and don’t constantly ask people to listen to your music. There’s more to being in a band than that; use Facebook to tell your story.
As the world’s second largest search engine (no, really) YouTube should also figure highly on your list of promotion channels. And don’t worry about running out of things to film; you can capture rehearsals, performances; even the minibus journey to your next show might offer something comical to give people an insight into the life of a working band.
Making video isn’t the scary big-budget world it once was either. Even using just a smartphone you can capture the essence of being in a band and publish it for the world to see.
Making sure you pay attention to tags when you upload your vids is important. Input your genre of music, location, even the instruments you use so that when people are searching they have every chance of finding you.
Despite having much smaller viewing figures than the big beast of YouTube, sites like Vimeo and Dailymotion make use of the smaller communities by offering a quicker way to gain visibility among your peers. Vimeo, in particular, tends to favour videos with higher production values while Dailymotion offers a more curated service which can be hugely beneficial if your films get noticed.
Another one you’ll have heard of; Instagram is the best known picture sharing service online, and offers bands and artists the chance to share pictures of what life is like in a band. Quicker and more immediate than Facebook – for pics at least – Instagram has its own communities and its own idiosyncrasies which make it ideal for certain users, but not so much for others.
Make use of the hashtags here to gain better visibility, and above all – keep it interesting!
Twitter is a slightly different proposition for bands. The veteran social media channel is more about immediacy than its competitors; you’re rewarded more on here for regular (even constant) activity. With Facebook you can get away with a couple of posts a week, but with Twitter you’re either all in or there’s no point.
Don’t discount it though. As a way of keeping in contact with people, participating in conversation and making contacts, Twitter is one of the best sites around. And, as with Instagram, Twitter’s hashtags allow users to associate themselves with the biggest stories in the world that day. It’s a place for opinions too, so don’t be shy to voice yours.
A good use for Twitter is the slow-build of relationships. Try picking a number of ‘influencers’ in your area; it might be journalists, or perhaps promoters. Don’t jump in straight away with requests to listen to your band. You have to behave more as you would in real life. Post replies to prominent users, contribute to hashtags and you may just do something which piques the interest of someone who could help you on your journey.
Blogs sometimes seem quite a nebulous concept to those who aren’t familiar. Put simply, you can think of a blog as a magazine which you contribute to, edit and publish, all under your own steam.
Blogs provide a great opportunity to covertly lay out your band’s manifesto. Here, you have more room to express yourselves graphically than you do on one of the traditional social media channels. You can post songs, videos, articles; whatever creatively comes into your head.
A couple of considerations here; try and almost second guess what your audience wants to take from your site and give it to them. Large brands go through an exercise called ‘persona profile building’ – effectively this means identifying the different types of blog users you are likely to attract – or want to attract – and making sure the content you publish somehow meets their needs.
It’s also important to make sure any blog you start is fully committed to. There’s nothing sadder than visiting the blog of your favourite artist to find the last post was uploaded four years ago. Blogs aren’t for everyone, but if you decide it is for you then make sure you give it the attention it needs.
7. Contribute to authority music blogs
As with having your own blog, any blogs in your area of interest have the same goals and the same motivations; to provide an outlet and a place for a community to share a passion. Spend some time finding the blogs relevant to you – look outside your immediate area of interest too.
It’s well known that members of the metal band Periphery were extremely active on blogs and forums relating to seven string guitars, so when they eventually did ‘make it’ they had already carved out reputations as authorities on subjects close to them. Find the communities close to your band’s areas of interest and make yourself known to them.
8. Music sharing sites
As a first destination for uploading and sharing music online, places like Soundcloud and Bandcamp are worth their weight in gold. On each of these services you can start a free profile, upload sound files, let people comment on what they’re hearing and (again using hashtags) enable listeners to almost stumble upon your music.
Bandcamp also offers users to sell merch direct from their profile, which can be a valuable revenue stream as your band increases its profile.
9. Create a website
Perhaps not as essential as it once was, thanks to the growth of the social media experience, having your own website can still be a powerful tool if used correctly. What it allows you to do is move beyond the ‘walled garden’ of places like Facebook and have a little corner of the internet which is designed exactly the way you want it.
You might use it to host sellable audio files or merch, or you might use it as a news feed to keep people up to date with your band’s activity. In truth, a lot of these activities can already be carried out much more efficiently using social media, but if it’s total control you want then a website will certainly give you that.
10. Reddit Music
Reddit pitches itself as the front page of the internet. If you’ve ever fallen down the rabbit hole of opening Reddit, you’ll know how easy it is to waste pure time on there.
The concept is pretty simple. Anyone with an account can post, and if other people deem that post to be interesting/useful/exciting/funny or otherwise, they ‘upvote’ it. This means when people land on a page like Reddit Music, the posts at or near the top are the posts other people have voted as being worth a few minutes of your life.
It is genuinely democratic, and gaining some traction on here can provide a massive boost to your band. Don’t limit it to yourself though; get involved with the community and you’ll find them more likely to vote positively with you in the future.
With the death of physical media, bands and artists now have to look to alternative revenue streams to pay their way. Live performance is obviously a huge driver of that, but another vital source of cash can be your merchandise offering.
You’ll need to put real time and thought into what your merch will be like. Dare we say it; the days of a single colour t-shirt with a sole band logo on the front are long gone. You’ll need to be much more creative if you want your gear to stand out.
Don’t limit yourself to t-shirts either. These days bands are branding all kinds of gear with their wares. Sites like Big Cartel and Merch Direct are great locations for you to sell your stuff, while places like Facebook offer a great shop window to let the world know what you’ve got for them.
12. Peer to peer
A very modern take on how to promote your music online takes the form of crowd-funding. Sites like Noisetrade and Pledge Music allow you to garner support from your existing fans in lieu of actually doing anything.
A hypothetical example; somehow you’ve grown a huge fanbase in an obscure part of the world. Let’s say Slovenia. Thanks to the promotional work you’ve done on Facebook, YouTube and the like, you’ve really tapped into a large and supportive group of like-minded souls over there. Be nice to go play a show, right? Using a service like Pledge Music you can float the idea to ascertain interest, and even pitch for financial support to make it happen.
Plenty of artists are using this kind of upfront recognition nowadays for everything from tours to t-shirt printing runs. Have a think if there’s any way you could make it work for you.
13. Online Radio
As mentioned, physical media is now largely a thing of the past. Online streaming has now overtaken even digital downloads as the preferred way to listen to music.
Clearly everyone wants a slice of the pie now, and through services like CD Baby and Tunecore you can do just that. They’ll take care of all rights and legalities, leaving you to sit back and watch the listens rack up. Obviously there’s more to it than that, but there is something undeniably cool about opening your Spotify app and seeing your own little band right there for the world to find.
As you can see from the list above, there are plenty of ways to to promote your brand and music online. With more opportunities to manage the process yourself, and better target the specific niches in which you operate, you stand a great chance of fulfilling your goals.