In my opinion, there are five subjects a performing songwriter should have at least a working knowledge in. They include: songwriting, stage performance, recording, theory (including knowing how to play your instrument) and marketing. The first four may seem fairly obvious, however music marketing is a topic often completely ignored by songwriters. In fact, it may be the most important piece of the puzzle. If you want to get anywhere as a songwriter or a performer, you have to learn how to market yourself and your music.
The problem is, occasionally a songwriter will get a “lucky break” with their music and score a lot of money and fame without having put in much effort. Then every other songwriter on the planet thinks that’s the way to make it happen. You just have to be lucky. I want to give you a few pointers on how you can be much more likely to achieve your songwriting goals, based on how you market yourself and your music.
1. Speak to One Person
Of course as a songwriter, you want to appeal to the masses. You want a ton of people hearing, sharing and loving your music. I get that. But one thing you have to realize when you’re marketing yourself is it’s best to address one person, to increase the odds of getting their attention.
For example, let’s say you signed up for a band’s email list at one of their shows. Which of the following opening lines would be more likely to grab your attention as a reader?
A. “Hey Guys – We wanted to thank you all for coming out to our last show. We appreciated you guys being there and hope you can make it out to our next show at…”
B. “Hey Bob – We wanted to thank you for coming out to our last show. We appreciated you being there and hope you can make it out to our next show at…”
Doesn’t the second one feel much more like it’s directed at you, specifically (well, assuming your name’s Bob)? The second one’s much more likely to get your reader’s attention. There’s a subconscious detachment that happens when we read phrases like “hey all you guys.” It makes us feel like just a face in a crowd, and we zone out. But when we’re spoken to directly, we’re much more likely to respond.
To get good at this technique, a great marketing approach is to create an avatar of your typical fan. Write out the name, age, gender, occupation, etc, of one of your fans. It can be someone made-up, who you feel represents your fan base appropriately, or it can be an actual fan of yours. Every time you write an email, tweet, or Facebook post, keep that person in mind. Pretend you’re writing to him only and not to everyone on the internet. It’ll help you keep your writings engaging for everyone who reads them, because while saying things like “Hello Cleveland” is kick-ass on-stage, it just doesn’t apply when you’re marketing yourself.
2. Give Value
Another big mistake a lot of songwriters make is they don’t make their promotions about their fans. They make them about themselves. They say things like “We would really appreciate it if you came out to our show. It would mean so much to us.” That’s inwardly focused. It may work on their mom and siblings, but it just won’t appeal to someone who’s a casual observer of the band. In fact, it’ll probably turn that casual observer off, because it’s such a self-serving statement.
Another phrase I see a lot of songwriter’s write when promoting their stuff is “hey check out my songs, and let me know what you think.” There are two reasons this phrase is a bad idea: 1. Again, it’s self-serving. It’s all about the artist who posted it, which means other people aren’t likely to care. And, 2. It’s disingenuous. They probably don’t really want to know what you think, UNLESS you love it. If you hate their music, they’re not going to want you posting that on their page. I recommend staying away from that phrase altogether in online postings. It does the exact opposite of giving value.
Instead, talk about the benefits they’ll have by coming out to a show or buying one of your albums. Let them know why it’ll be a positive experience for THEM. People respond to what makes them feel good, so make them feel good. Don’t just talk about yourself.
Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. Not someone else. Use that piece of information to your advantage when you’re inviting someone to a show or to buy your music.
3. Build Relationships
One of the best ways to market your music is to build relationships. This applies not only to people who can help advance your career, like club owners and bigger bands, but with your fans as well.
As far as building relationships with your fans, if you were in the crowd for a band’s show, wouldn’t you be much more likely to come to another show if the band members engaged you in some pleasant conversation afterwards? If you get your fans on your email list, you can continue the relationship, by offering them cool stuff in your emails.
And as far promoters, bigger bands, etc, who can help your career along, building relationships with them is key as well. You’ve heard the phrase “it’s all who you know.” Well start knowing people. But again, it’s about them. Don’t try to build relationships with people by seeing what they can do for you. No one will want to deal with you. Just be cool and get to know people. Later on down the line, you might able to ask for things, and it’ll be okay because you’ll have that relationship. But start out by just by getting to know them, and even see if there’s anything you can do for them. If people like you and get to know you, they’ll be much more likely to want to help you succeed.
The opposite of building relationships would be to spam people online. This includes sending emails to people who didn’t ask to receive them and posting your music on sites that weren’t looking for it to be posted there. Things like that will only aggravate people, and possibly even get you blocked from the sites you want to be on. You’re doing the opposite of building relationships.
The problem is, most songwriters think in numbers. They think “that Facebook page has 20,000 fans. If I post my music there, SOMEONE will hear it, and I’ll get famous.” What’s much more likely to happen, is you’re just going to annoy the owner of the page. Think about how you feel when random people you don’t know post their stuff to your page. Instead, try to develop a relationship with the owner of the page. Maybe he’ll eventually promote your music to his page, if it’s good. And if not, that’s fine too.
Marketing your music and yourself as an artist is crucial to your success as a songwriter. It’s just as important as understating songwriting, stage performance, recording and theory. Actually, it’s probably more important, if you want songwriting to be more than just your hobby.
Hopefully you got some good ideas here for promoting your music. Building a fan base can be a long and difficult process. Maybe this information will help you to avoid some unnecessary mistakes throughout your journey to success. Good luck.