Most great indie artists have incredible art but experience challenges connecting to new fans because their marketing approach needs tweaking.
There is a healthy contingent of artists who are legitimately trying to market but are naively going about it the wrong way.
A keen understanding of marketing is exactly what will put the power in your hands and that power is more than you can imagine.
Yes, you the artist, can hold all the cards if you simply make a few tweaks in your philosophy of marketing.
I wanted to provide some clarity to indie music marketing with this article.
First, indie artists must understand, as basic as this is, the difference between distribution and marketing.
Putting your song up on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Bandzoogle, Bandcamp, Reverbnation, and YouTube, etc. is distribution.
Distribution is WHERE consumers will go to purchase or consume something.
Marketing is WHY the consumer is going there to purchase it.
For instance, most of you have probably made a purchase on Amazon. They are a distributor. But you didnâ€™t buy the product because it was on Amazon, did you? You werenâ€™t just randomly â€œshoppingâ€ by scrolling through Amazon web pages when you came across this shiny thing that made you pull out your credit card.
No, you were marketed to first. You were made aware of the product and somehow your buying decision was influenced enough to want to purchase it. Thatâ€™s marketing!
Then you chose to go to Amazon to get it. Thatâ€™s distribution.
I want you to think about marketing your music with that story in mind. What is going to get people excited enough to learn more about you and your music?
Putting your original songs up on YouTube is distribution. The only people who are going to experience that music are already aware of you as an artist. Think about that. This approach is not getting you into growth.
Marketing your music is not JUST about making sure your current fans are aware of any new releases.
Marketing for the indie artist is about finding new people to expose your music too.
The previous statement may sound ridiculously elementary to some of you, but youâ€™re not using the tools you currently have in the correct manner to grow your audience.
I know this because I see it every day with almost ALL indie artists as well as signed artists!!
One slight tweak in your approach on YouTube changes everything.
Post a video of you interpreting a cover song that is popular right now. This cover song will generate a ton of traffic and a small percentage of people who are looking for the original artistâ€™s video will stumble across your version and watch it.
That equals new people watching you as an artist. Thatâ€™s growth.
Not only are they experiencing your spin on a song they are already familiar with, but because they know the song, their subconscious focus is on your interpretation.
The information that is coming through as they watch is your artistry.
If youâ€™re good, people will respond. Not for nothing, often by doing this important work youâ€™ll find things that people respond to that you werenâ€™t aware you posessed.
If you ask them, theyâ€™ll subscribe.
If youâ€™re smart, youâ€™ll give them a free download in exchange for their email address so you own the information. More on that later.
If they learn to like YOU, the artist, then theyâ€™ll be far more likely to listen to your original music. When they do listen, theyâ€™ll have an open mind and an open heart because your cover rendition won their heart and theyâ€™re prepared to love you.
This is marketing on YouTube.
If you think about it, itâ€™s not that different from American Idol or The Voice, is it?
Itâ€™s important to note that in a situation like TV, old popular covers will be effective because the TV show is bringing the new people to see the artist. The TV show is providing the traffic but on YouTube the new songs are what is driving the traffic.
Always ask yourself, whereâ€™s the traffic coming from? This will influence your song choices.
Second, letâ€™s talk about social media.
Most indie artists copy their idolsâ€™ social media behaviors. They have posts doing this or that on stage or behind the scenes, etc.
This method is important but you need to recognize that it only supports the fans who are aware of you as an artist. Think about it, if they don’t know you, how are they going to see a post like that?
Donâ€™t get me wrong, this is an important piece of your social media strategy, but only for your current fans. This method does little if anything for expanding your audience.
To market on social media means getting your content in front of new people that arenâ€™t currently aware of you.
This requires a different thought process and execution strategy.
Take off your artist hat and put on your record label executive hat just for a second.
You just signed the greatest baby act in the world; YOU.
But nobody knows about this new artist so how are you going to get that artist in front of a new targeted group of people who will probably like your artistâ€™s music?
Well, letâ€™s say this new artist you signed (you) is a rap artist. In the interest of clear communication, letâ€™s give your new artist a name; MC X Factor.
Right off the bat, we have TONS of rap artists with faithful followers on all their social media accounts.
But letâ€™s drill down some more.
What kind of rap artist is MC X Factor, exactly?
If money and connections were no object, what rap artist would you put MC X Factor on tour with because the headlinerâ€™s audience would relate to MC X Factorâ€™s music?
Donâ€™t look now but you are in the process of defining your artistâ€™s audience.
Once you have determined exactly who they are, now you have to find where they hang out.
This is called targeting.
If MC X Factor would absolutely CRUSH it on tour with Lilâ€™ Wayne because his fans would love your artistâ€™s music, then start following people that follow Lilâ€™ Wayne on Twitter and Instagram.
Love them first. (See how itâ€™s always about them?)
Be the first to reach out, shake hands, and say â€œHelloâ€.
A decent percentage of these new people will follow you back and hang if you have interesting content.
Donâ€™t try and slam your mix tape down their throats immediately after they follow you back because they will unfollow you.
You would hate that too, right?
What if when they followed you back you asked a question about THEM? You already have common ground in that you both like in Lilâ€™ Wayne. Start there. Â Between current news, tracks heâ€™s featured on, lyrics, artistry, etc. you have a truck load of content to start a conversation.
What if you focused on at least the first exchange being about THEM and not you? That will forge a solid first impression.
This is creating a relationship with someone new. This is getting you into growth.
Yâ€™all are perfectly happy bitching about politics and your personal lives on your social media platforms to people who donâ€™t give a crap. I assure you this method is easier and far more effective because everyone is interested in talking about themselves.
Itâ€™s little steps. Baby steps.
But these little gains every day add up over time.
The bigger your social media grows and the more you engage with that audience, the more attractive you become to new potential fans and the industry.
Third, how about your live shows?
What are you doing to ensure that you OWN everyoneâ€™s contact info after theyâ€™ve experienced your live show?
You may have followers, but you DONâ€™T OWN your social media contacts so thatâ€™s not enough!
Iâ€™m going to repeat that because itâ€™s SO important. YOU DONâ€™T OWN YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA CONTACTS!
You could have 5 million followers on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter but you donâ€™t own them, the respective platforms do and it will cost you to contact all of them.
Social media and YouTube are amazing vehicles to target audiences and connect with them but you must take it a step further and convert them into a contact that you own.
Want to be a mogul? OWN THE INFORMATION.
Yâ€™all already know about Facebook and how few people see your posts unless you pay.
Get a squeeze page and work around that problem.
For live shows get a text capture technology. Itâ€™s super inexpensive.
Permission Marketing is simply the idea that the lifetime value of a fan is worth exponentially more than the .99 cents or $10.99 youâ€™re trying to shake them down for right now.
Youâ€™re supposed to be an entertainer of some sort. Entertain them on social media and get them to love you.
Find new people to entertain every day.
Then capture their info and deepen that relationship.
An artist with tens of thousands of engaged contacts is quite powerful to the industry, to brands, and to other artists.
Once you accept this as the one viable method to grow your brand and expose your artistry, youâ€™ll become discoverable and be on your way to making a living.
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