First and foremost, I always need to state that what is much more important than this or any other kind of self-promotion is making great music both live and in the studio.
It sounds so obvious, but look around you. Don’t you know someone who broke the bank on their first release that they made six months after picking up a guitar? Oh, mom likes your demos, and you want to get Facebook fans? Great, then you should put in more work and stop sucking.
I’m not sure I’d believe me either, but ask a Grammy-award-winning producer and band leader in this interview. Not yet though, because I want to
verbally smack most musicians upside the head with more hard truth give you some advice. Admit it, we (yes, me too, I’m a bass player) can’t defend ourselves when so many of our peers can’t seem to handle their business or even show up for it at all. God knows, when it comes to the group I play in (for fun) I am 100% worthless in any business capacity, so I share your pain. Hopefully you won’t see too much of yourself in this mirror, but I digress…
C’mon guys, you got this!
Recently I was approached by an artist through my website that wanted me to listen to his music. His pitch was that he had tens of thousands of real fans but just needed help “getting to the next level.” This triggered my bullshit detector. Why? If someone has that many engaged fans, they don’t need a consultant and wouldn’t have too much trouble getting a qualified manager/agent/label on board, if that’s what they wanted. So I did what
most people f*cking everyone doing research does: I turned to the web for answers.
A search for his band name yielded only a Facebook page and one reference on a blog that spoke about a bill they were on with a dozen other groups. I did get back to this guy, but then again, we provide services to musicians and are not in the business of finding artists to partner with (like a manager, agent, publisher etc). Had I been a manager, I would have gotten the email, tried to verify the story online and then proceed to be thoroughly annoyed.
His email reminded me of two things that are amazingly important for all artists to keep in mind these days about their presentation.
- Don’t bullshit, because in the digital age, you are going to get caught.
- Search engine results can be as important as your follower counts.
I don’t think I have to elaborate on thought number one. We allegedly all learn not to lie in kindergarten (in spite of forgetting it now and then). You sold 5,000 CDs out of the trunk of your car? Is this 1995? No one bothered to mention it online … anywhere? Sounds factual to me.
But let’s think about the second point: Your presence on search engines, is something you should work at building and maintaining. Taking control of the Google knowledge graph / knowledge panel for your music is a worthwhile first exercise. You know that box on the right hand side of search engine results when you search for a musician? Yes, that thing. Try setting up your Bandpage account. Since Bandpage’s acquisition by Google, the updating process seems much slower, but it should still work.
In the particular case of the guy who emailed me — really? Tens of thousands of fans and only one dude mentioned you or your band once in a blog post? No matter how small though, find someone to write about you, make sure your website shows up in website results and for f*ck’s sake, don’t name your band something that’s going to get lost in translation. Your band is called “sex”? Good luck with that. I’m sure nothing else will come up for that. Your real name is John Smith? Get an alias; harsh, but true. Are there six other artists with your stage name? Then, get used to people being confused, your own obscurity or being called something else.
I often interview music execs and musicians for this site who have self-promotion down in order to get their opinion on getting ahead in the music business. I ask them questions that pertain to their niche in the industry. Invariably these people all say the same thing: “What I do/what gets my attention is demonstrating that there is a following.” I know, you keep hearing it, but most still don’t think this through.
When hearing about a new artist, many people often start to look for signs of life through a search engine query. Click-throughs primarily happen for the top three results, but multiple references sure don’t hurt.
Next Stop — how many Facebook Likes or Twitter followers does the artist have? Let’s not forget about YouTube subscribers -these are important for marketing and your overall presentation. As executives/people in general/your mom are getting more sophisticated (welcome to 2006 mom, better late than never) they can tell if you’ve purchased all of your fans. Hey — don’t snicker at mom! She’s more likely to buy music than anyone you talk to. (You should call her, by the way.)
This is not to say that I’m not a fan of reasonable Facebook ad spends, as having 200 Facebook fans is probably worse than having no page at all. However, if you have a hundred thousand fans and two comments per post, you are probably worse off. Save the money.
Do you remind people that you are alive above and beyond asking them to buy / attend / look at whatever you are peddling that day? Do you blog or livestream? (Periscope and Facebook Live can be really powerful.) Why else would people interact with you? Give them some reason to talk to you. Has anyone written anything about the group or posted photos or video of you performing live? Do your website or profile pages have signs of life and provide concrete examples that you have a community that supports what you do or that you are still alive? That support point is key; pure volume of friends on the social networks can be manipulated. On the other hand, making sure your fans have a place to interact and behave like a supportive community can make all the difference in presenting well online.
Back to the beginning though: It all starts with what you tell the web to tell people about you. Every artist should have his/her/their own website. Yes, even today when everyone spends far more time on socials. Having your own website, even something inexpensive and incredibly basic is helpful. Here’s why:
- Your URL still helps with how you rank for the words in your web address, i.e., your band name (it is less important than it used to be for search results, but people also just type yourname.com).
- You appear much more professional/real. While not quantifiable, appearances go a long way.
- You usually add another search engine result, and it acts as a hub if people want to figure out your Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook links, etc.
Your website is the place to host the official press shots, the official bio and the most current news about what is going on with your music. Anyone who (hopefully) would write about you will be using your official page for reference materials, so it is your job to provide them with ammunition.
If you want a website you should bother Dave Cool – @Dave_cool. Tell him I said “hi,” or kick him in the shins, but get a website.
Regarding social networks. Yes, they are a required evil. Yes, you can have help doing it, but NO it does not excuse you from doing some of this work yourself. You do not have to be on every last one but find something. Pretend the web is a party. You want all eyes on you. so you stand in the corner saying nothing? I’m not very social, and doing this at the last party I attended didn’t work out so well for me.
[Inspirational parting quote here],