In the wake of all the business marketing, guerilla music marketing, and music management books I have read – I’ve taken away 5 main lessons.
I promise you, when practiced meticulously, ANYONE that plays an instrument will build a following with these.
1. Work on Your Songwriting
This is an item that I have RARELY seen in a music marketing book, yet it is THE most important piece of marketing you will ever do for your music career. It is also the gauge for which you can start to define your success; in the form of people singing along at your shows, quoting your lyrics online, sending email letting you know that your song helped them through a difficult time.
If your songs are great, people will spread your message for you. Read that part again because it is truer now than it ever has been with ability of social media to make things go viral to millions of people. Just work on writing good songs.
Some may tell you that songwriting is inherent. I couldn’t disagree more. Songwriting is a craft. And like any other craft it can be honed by studying other popular songs, practicing different chord shapes, reading lots of books, and getting better at capturing melody to get it from your head to the handy recorder.
2. Give Out FREE Music
I can’t say this enough: GIVE YOUR BEST SONGS AWAY. Corey Smith gives away the most popular songs on each of his records. You know what happens? Something like 7 out of 10 people come back to buy the rest of the record!
And what happens to the other 3? Welp, no one really knows for sure I guess. But, they have your music and chances are they are going to let someone else listen to it which is certainly going to translate into MORE PEOPLE AT YOUR SHOWS.
Some say giving your music away “Devalues the product.” DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE. Giving limited quantities of a product to a consumer for free is called sampling. EVERY type of successful business does this.
Why not more musicians?
And you know by now that more people at the shows means more cash from the venue, more merchandise sales, and more people on the mailing list.
3. They Are Not Your FANS, They Are Your FRIENDS
Ok, yea technically if someone likes your music then they are a “fan.” However, some artists completely miss the boat when they think in terms of fans…Yea, I know the huge mainstream artists can’t do this, but as an indie artist YOU CAN. And it gives you a distinct advantage.
Once I started thinking this way, not only did Jakob Freely’s following double, I ended up making some of the best friends of my life.
If someone sends you an email. WRITE THEM BACK. And be genuine. None of this two sentences/I don’t have time to get to know you crap…ask about them. REALLY get to know them.
Personally call/email/text to invite some of them to shows.
Play a free house show from time to time at an influential friends house.
Send genuine happy birthday notes. People say that they don’t care about their birthday. They’re lying to you.
Has someone showed up to your last 5-10 shows in a row? Give them a FREE merch pack that includes everything on your merch table. It will come back to you TEN FOLD. I promise.
You get the point I’m sure.
Basically, forget all the “Street Team” mumbo jumbo… your friends ARE YOUR street team. And they’re way more rock solid than any half witted crappy attempt to build one online through half-a** reward methods.
4. Build Your EMAIL List
Guess what? In a study that paired up Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and Email, It was found that people still share and view content via EMAIL more than any other medium (eMarketer.com).
What does that mean? It means you need to get a band mailing list and you need to do everything you can to fill it with relevant email addresses at every chance you get.
It means that the people who have signed up should only hear from you 1-2 a month.
Send one “Monthly Update” with plenty of new content like free acoustic demos, live tracks, photos, blog, overall show calendar and another “Market Specific” update to the people in the area you are about to visit for a show.
I’m dead serious when I say 1-2 of these a month only. The exception to this rule is if you set up a list of people that opt-in for more frequent mailings.
5. Help Cultivate the Local Scene
I know you want more “fans” than the next guy. I know you look at other bands Myspace plays and think “Ha, I had more plays today…”
Some healthy competition is totally fine. In fact, I guess competition all around is fine, but we all benefit when it is done in the spirit of competition rather than just selfishly trying to be the best.
So help out the next guy. If we all do that then everyone wins.
- Share your venue contacts with bands in need
- Play multi-band bills and PROMOTE THE SHOW not just your time slot
- Show trade with out of town bands and bring them to Chillicothe
- Throw a festival with mostly local acts
- Start an artist collective and pool money to help each other record and promote
The list can go on and on. Basically, the more active the Chillicothe music scene is – then the more people are going to be actively attending your shows and shouting your praises. Plus, you know…there is that whole karma thing.
Alrighty…that’s basically it. Sure, there is still a ton of other things you can do to build fans. But these are the roots to the whole shebang.
I promise you, follow #1-#5 and you’ll at least be playing packed shows in your hometown in the next couple of years, if not sooner.
I also posted this over at ChillicotheBands.com
You on Twitter? Look me up: @davemhuffman