Best Places to Promote Your Music Online Part One
The rise of the Internet age has, (and this can be said without hyperbole), had a huge and profound effect on the music industry.
The traditional structure of the music industry, whether we like it or not is akin to some formula regurgitating sauropod lumbering along watching as the great digital comet strikes the earth and pretty much blows up how the world does business (and pleasure) with those who make and distribute music.
There is of course and immediate and glaring downside, as we start to see creator rights and copy rights more or less thrown to the roadside, and artists being ripped off by both their record labels and their fans. A tough row to hoe indeed!
Yet, with the new digital age recording becomes immensely less expensive, and a lot more independent. An aspiring musician who once could only dream of recording and reaching any kind of a substantial audience beyond their own community now finds themselves able to self publish and to reach audiences of relatively unlimited potential.
There will still be winners and losers, and the fat cat players even in this leveled field will still have a leg up, but all of us, the very best to the very worst are now in the game.
This is exactly the position I find myself in, as I am trying to promote not my own music, but my partner's.
Right now we are in the early stages of promoting her CD which she just released a few weeks ago. I thought it might be both interesting and useful to other people also trying to get their music out there if I wrote a little of what we had been doing and our early impressions of them .
if there is any kind of interest in this article I would then write updated articles so people can get any idea of what to expect and along what timeline.
Trust on the internet and the value of social media
Of all the impediments to online commerce, whether it be music or running shoes is a matter of trust. Half of us on the Internet are fearful we wont get paid for the products and services we are providing and the other half a worried that they wont get the products and services that they paid for.
This makes vetting an extremely important and powerful aspect of Internet commerce. If people recognize you and see public affirmation of you, your product, your services then they will become much less resistant to giving you their business.
To overcome the trust hurdle larger companies and record labels rely on brand recognition and loyalty This is achieved through advertising exposure on a level that most individuals can't hope to match.
How then does an independent musician create trust between them and their potential customers?
Well, first of all cross your Ts and dot your Is. It is something that I personally am bad at, but something that just about any article (and common sense) will tell you on the subject. Proper presentation might not get you any sales, but bad presentation will certainly lose them for you.
At the end of the day, even if everything is beautifully and acuratley presented you are still going to have to bridge the trust gap. This is where social media comes in with things like facebook's 'like' button.
For those of us who don't have the resources to create familiarity with our brand, we can still create what is called 'social proof' through the use of social media voting systems. Social Proof, is basically a reflection on the tendency of human beings when presented with an unknown or ambiguous situation to naturally default to copying the behaviours of those around them.
The facebook likes also, in more practical terms imply that X number of people engaged that site and had at least up to that point a positive experience with it.
In music promotion terms this social proof provides further reassurance that not only is what is being offered reputable, but that there is some buzz surounding it and positive social inertia.
For the music promotion campaign I'm running I created a Facebook 'fan page' along with a twitter account and added 'like' and 'tweet' buttons to the artists primary website so that there are multiple places where a potential music buyers such as you yourself might be can see and be reassured that you are buying from a reliable source that others have approved of.
(You will see examples as we go through the article)
All Roads lead to Rome
Now that we have a means by which we can engender trust between ourselves and our potential buyers, as well as the implied Facebook fan page, twitter account and artists website the next stage I took with the promotional campaign was to try to increase the presence of the artist and her music on the web.
A part of doing this quite simply put takes a bit of leg work and might not show immediate results, but is very worth doing, which is being active and actively promoting the artist on the Internet, whether in social media or in places like forums and blog comments. This will do a lot to increase your overall presence, as well as create back links for you along the way, which is always a good thing if you want to be found on the search engines. The best word of advice on this though is to please make sure that you are engaged in what you are doing, and not simply being spammy or salesy. You are better off being a known and respected contributor in a handful of blogs or forums than to leave spammy salesy posts that just annoy people in a hundred. places.
You may also simply run into people who are obsessively hostile towards any kind of promotion being done. It can be a bit much sometimes but it's their site to run as they please, so just grin and bear it and move on. As long as you are active and participating and being part of whatever community you're involved in, most sites will condone, and if they like you, possibly even support you promoting yourself. As I said, to do it well is a lot of leg work but it is worth it for good bank links and quite often some excellent prospects and contacts.
I hope it need not be said that the last thing you want to do is to go to some sort of automated system and that is a practical as much as it is a moral judgement. If building back links is good, then let's say building back links and reputation is even better.
All of this of course is about establishing a presence for yourself and your music on the web and expanding the reach of your music and a large part of that is simply being in places where people who buy music are going to be. This I think requires a bit of a balancing act, as you want to be present in as many places as possible, but might want to be active and involved in a select handful.
Let's take a look at some of the sites used in this promotion as well as how they have been intergrated to work hand in hand with each other, and then finally we look at what the next steps might be in this campaign to set the stage for a future article and progress update.
This Simple Video has Thousands of Views
Where To Put Your Music
There are many places to either sell or share your music on the Internet. For the purposes of this campaign I avoided those properties specifically geared towards sharing and instead opted for sites that sold music.
It is sometimes a difficult hurdle to get over, but earning money for making money is a wholly valid thing to do and has nothing to do with the the authenticity of the art or the artist whether successful or not. You do not need to give your music away.
That being said, it is really not advisable to keep your music under lock and key. Most of the music sites have the option for you to upload and allow your music to be streamed, with payment required for downloads or physical copies. I would also advise where possible to present high quality streams.
Yes that does mean that your music will be listened to many many times with you not directly benefiting , but it is also giving access to music for listeners to become fans, and fans become buyers.
So now let's look at the primary places to present your music for sale to the world. Let's see what those places are and then as we go look at how we are able to mesh them together to make a cross supporting and cohesive web presence.
YouTube, is perhaps the OG of viral social media and is a no brainer as a source of traffic. Ideally you will want to put out as high a quality an offering as possible, but as you can see from the example given that as long as the music plays at a reasonable level of quality that even a rudimentary video is easy to make and can gain a little traction. The YouTube videos also have the benefit of showing how many people approved of the video as well as the number of viewers overall, providing powerful social proof for the artists brand. Add the ease of shareability and YouTube is a clear choice.
For the purposes of promoting the artist Bandcamp was chosen as the preferred (but not only) place to direct people to purchase digital copies of both the songs and the album as a whole.
While Bandcamp doesn't have some of the bells and whistles of some sites, it is a comfortable place, that offers decent terms and provides customers with high quality samples and a wide variety of available download formats. They also allow you to set your own pricing including a setting where music buyers can set their own price. Add to this the ability to personalize your page along with strong SEO (tags etc.) and a community feel and you can't help but feel that you're with a site that is on its way up.
Here is the Bandcamp page we are using. Note the relatively clean as well as SEO friendly design
Reverb is one of many similar sites, and a few of them such as 'Purevolume' and MTV backed 'OurStage' we are using, it is Reverbnation that has stood out for providing a lot of tools with both their free and premium services. A more cluttered site than Bandcamp it can be a little harder to find your way around, but worth doing so. Great bells and whistles, as well as fairly easy integration with other sites and social media makes this our go to site for getting the word out.
At present we are on the verge of going with a broader digital distribution deal and were almost certain to go with Reverb.
Here is what the Reverbnation page for Rebecca Fox looks like.
As we have mentioned before, Facebook is an excellent means of providing social proof, but is also an excellent place overall to have a presence, as it is, right now at least where the people are. Facebook, Reverbnation and Bandcamp all integrate well together and with relative ease on a Facebook fan page.
Every time someone clicks 'like' your page is now posted for all their friends to see listed on their profile.
A Facebook fan isn't a destination, it is a doorway.As much as you want a good volume of likes, each enaged and involved fan opens up a world of possibilities.
Here is a look at the Facebook fan page.
As useful and indeed necessary as many of these sites and tools are, there is something to be said for having a presnece on the web that is not co-branded and exists soley for the inetreaction between the musician and her fans.
Just remember, and this is something I took a second or two to get, is that if the artist is relatively new to promoting themselves, then people are not likely to be looking for them. You are more likely to be able to bring people tp your website from facebook than you are to bring people to Facebook from your website.
That being said, once they are there it does act as a nice hub leading to all of your various properties. Having a registered .com address also adds an aditional layer of authenticity and trust.
To my mind a musician having their own website is their asertion that they are to be considered seriously or at least have put some level of effort in.
Final Thoughts and What's Next?
The world of music online as with the rest of the world is an extremely competitive place so expect frustrations, and learn to be both stubborn and patient.
It is also essential that you be a helper and supporter of your fellow musicians and engaged with your audience and fan base. It shows maturity and strength as an artist as supporting other musicians implies that you yourself are established and failing that it is just the classy thing to do and good karma.
As far as being engaged with your fan base, ask yourself a question, would you rather have 1,000 fans who felt a connection to you and that your music was a part of their life, or 150,000 fans who maybe vaguely remember clicking 'like'?
These are the lessons I have learned and am learning as this process unfolds.
At the time of writing this we are still in the very early stages of the campaign, but starting to show very definite signs of Rebecca's brand gaining traction and even a little momentum.
It is an approach toward critical mass.
The next step I am expecting to undertake is expanding Rebecca's presence through introducing various digital distribution channels such as Amazon and iTunes. There is a cost to this, and when you are promoting on a strict budget you need to pick and choose your expenditures.
I hope you will join me in the subsequent article as we see how well these choices have worked.
I also hope that this article has been useful and informative to you and would love to hear your comments and questions.
If it is helpful to you then please share it so it may be helpful to others.
I am no expert, but I have done a lot of research and am now going through some trial and error so that maybe some of you might have a clearer path.
See you all for the next installment!