How’s it going, music entrepreneur?
Today’s guest post comes to us via Robert Lanterman, founder of Hidden Home Records.
Sure, there are plenty of articles out there on how to market your music. But there aren’t many talking about the don’ts. So, here’s Robert to fill us in!
So, you have a new band. Or a show coming up. Or some kind of musical endeavor that requires the support of your community. You must get the word out, of course. Right? Yes, absolutely.
Promotion is a good thing — but only when done right. That has to be qualified because sometimes people get the word out about their musical projects without leaving a good impression. Just because something gets your name out doesn’t mean people will want to support you.
Sometimes, musicians overstep their boundaries. I don’t know if it’s just that they’re super enthusiastic or that they literally have no social discernment, but the abrasiveness of certain types of “promotion” can be off putting.
There are a million articles about how to promote your music, so let this one serve as a guideline on how not to promote it. Note that this will serve for both in-person and digital communications. Ready? Let’s get started.
Disregard Social Etiquette
You know on dating apps when you get a message from somebody who is clearly not the person they say they are? Typically, it’s obvious. Maybe they’ll go straight to speaking deep sexual lingo, or maybe they’ll ask you to click on a link. Either way, you know that something’s up. Why? Because that’s not how humans talk. The same goes for promoting your music, especially so in the digital age.
Sure, sometimes there’s no way to be personal with a mass invite. So don’t. Just start with something like “hey guys,” or “hey folks,” rather than pretending that you’re texting/messaging that person directly.
If you’re flyering at a local show, think of it like a dating scenario — you wouldn’t interrupt somebody who looks like they’re having an incredibly serious conversation just to ask them out (and if you would … stop doing that).
Along the same lines, don’t go up to them at a show and interrupt something important to give them flyers or tell them about your band. Otherwise you’ll come off looking like Kevin from Hot Rod.
Social etiquette also involves knowing your audience. For instance, back in the day Facebook Ads promoting pages weren’t looked upon kindly in the punk community as much as Boosted Posts were (if you’re confused about the difference, here’s a nice little write up about the differences between Facebook Ads and Boosted Posts).
Page Ads just showed a band’s page and appeared spammy. Boosted posts, for whatever reason, weren’t looked upon unfavorably.
I’m not saying to only cater to your genre — some of those scene “rules” are stupid and elitist, no matter what community you belong to. But if something isn’t going to be accepted well by those you’re trying to reach, then why do it?
I feel like this one should be obvious, but I still see people doing it all the time. If you’re not aware of what harassment in this case means, let me give you a real-life example:
There is a guy in my music circles who adds people on Facebook and messages them asking about a band they like, like he just wants to have a conversation. He then would follow up with, “I was wondering what you think about this band?” and as Facebook research has shown, the new band he’s sending us is his own band.
If you don’t respond, or stop responding after you realize he’s only sending you a sales pitch, he follows up weeks later with a “hey, you there?” after which, he will send the same copy and paste follow up responses to a number of us.
And this goes on and on. Even after I and several others told him we don’t want to check out his band and many of us have told him he shouldn’t be approaching it this way, that hasn’t stopped him.
Screenshots got around in our Facebook groups because people were annoyed and realized that he was doing this to several of us.
Look, don’t be that guy, because he’s lost my interest in his band. Don’t invade people’s personal spaces who you don’t know to try to get them to listen to you. Respect their privacy.
Again, it’s quite similar to dating. Reminders are fine, but harassing people, annoying them in inappropriate ways, and invading their personal space is not.
Did you recently hear about this “Jered Threatin” guy from the appropriately named band Threatin? You may have seen it in the news: a guy completely faked a fan base to book a tour, and when nobody showed up, he became the laughing stock of the music world.
He had his wife pose as his manager, told his bandmates that they had sold out tickets, and shared doctored videos with the venues they were to play at. In this case, “fake it til you make it” did not make anything happen; instead, their shows were dropped because they hustled and cheated the people that were supposed to host them.
I think the moral of the story is that blatant, braggadocious, arrogant dishonesty does not pay off. Eventually, it will catch up with you.
There’s often a sense of respect between an artist and a listener, showgoer, or other kind of consumer. The right kind of promotion builds that respect, and the wrong kind squashes it. Not to mention, you’ll burn bridges with anyone who wants to work with them. Do not hustle.
So What SHOULD We Do?
Let me start by saying it’s not typically the means of promotion that are wrongly used; it’s how people use them.
Instagram has 75 million daily users. It’s a great way to connect with people. What’s not great is leaving random, copy-and-pasted ambiguous comments saying “nice picture!” to get more followers.
Similarly, there are good ways to promote yourself on Facebook, which have been covered on this website before, and bad ways. Do not message individuals you don’t know and ask them to check out your music, and don’t send them canned pitches.
In emails, include press releases when necessary, either with an actual press kit or without. I’d also argue that your local zines, newspapers, and flyer stations are still valid ways to promote your upcoming events!
Not only is print marketing making a comeback, but independent music fans like to support independent publications as well. I’ll never forget about the time I was promoting one of my first shows and decided to stick a flyer on the front of a bank building in my hometown of Boise, ID (this is illegal; I am not saying to do this).
Later at a show, I handed one to a friend who responded, “oh, I heard about this. I think I saw the flyer on the front of a bank.” It’s not that flyering doesn’t work, but you must flyer in places that people will see it.
So, as you can see, there are good ways to go out and market yourself — you just have to work hard for it. But don’t use promotion as an excuse to overstep boundaries, and know your audience.
By doing so, you’ll have a better chance of getting your music in front of people in a way that they’ll respect, not that they’ll be upset about. Is there anything you’d like to comment on? Disagree with me? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @Robolitious!
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