Behind-the-Scenes Online Marketing for Independent Musicians
A how to guide outlining marketing strategies for independent musicians
What is Behind-the-scenes marketing?
Here's the thing. A lot of articles on online marketing for musicians are missing the mark. Yes, you can choose to hire a PR firm if you have the funds. Alternatively, if you're willing to work at it, you can certainly generate a ton of press yourself. Let's go through a few methods rarely described elsewhere.
Be personal and/or stroke the ego.
Don't Always Go Through The Main Channels.
That could well be the most important sentence in this article. How do you get ahead in this world? Do you wait in line for everything? How about when the line is 1,000 people long? Some artists take longer than others to realize it but you must, and we'll repeat this often, BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. If someone knows nothing about you and you offer him or her nothing in return, there is about a 1/100 chance they will cover your music. That works fine if you want to send 1,000 emails to get potentially 10 reviews and burn a lot of bridges in the meantime.
Being personal means more than just copying and pasting the person's name into your pre-written email template. Of course, the press release or album information part of your email can be pre-written. The rest should be original and engaging. Anyone who runs a podcast or writes for a music publication is bombarded by bands looking for coverage on a very regular basis. You have the opportunity to make someone's day or aggravate them.
Ask yourself what typically makes your day as an independent musician? It could very well be that one email you get from a fan who appreciates your music. Maybe they have a particular favorite song and they tell you why. You think "This person actually listened to me". This is the same feeling you want the independent press to get when they read your emails.
If you write the typical "Check out my band" email, it's the equivalent of people posting their advertisements on your Myspace wall.
What can you do to build the relationship?
What we're trying to say is: If you are a metal band and you go to the Google listing of Top metal websites you may be tempted to immediately go to their contact sections and follow their submission policies verbatim. For some of these websites, that would certainly be the best route. We're going to go through this in great detail since it's critical and it seems nobody else covers the topic in too much depth.
Sometimes going by the rules doesn't pay. You may submit all of your CD's to a popular publication year after year and never get a review or any coverage at all.
This is when you change your tactic.
The media are not so intimidating. They are just groups of individuals! Therefore, when you can, contact them INDIVIDUALLY. This is how you get into 'the fortress'. When we say the fortress, we refer to a popular music website, magazine or publication.
Contact INDIVIDUALS. The media is a lot less scary when we realize that they are all just collectives of individuals. Independent music media is even easier to crack. Many of the reviewers don't get paid much (if at all) and they are music fans like yourself. How intimidating is that? That means they have something in common with you. Use that to your advantage.
Tactic 1) EMBRACE THE EGO:
Try looking up articles on YOUR favorite bands, or most importantly, bands that are similar in style to your own - and contact the person who wrote the piece. Reviews on niche bands give you something unique to talk about. You can relate to the writer about being one of the few people to discover the band. Even better, congratulate them on discovering the band in question!
Say something personal about the review/article - why you liked it, what you like about the band, etc. Be natural. Ask a question such as "Have you heard such-and-such a band? I think you'd love them." This gets a conversation started. Keep in mind these writers typically get no feedback from their reviews and articles so positive feedback or a pat on the back will get their attention. In the title of the email mention who the email is attention to and how you found them.
For example "Attn Sean - your Queens of the Stone Age review". Guaranteed that will get Sean's attention. It looks much better than "Attn reviews - Please review my band!" Count on those to go to the delete box more often than not.
In the SECOND paragraph, you mention your band. Don't be pushy. Provide a website link, or better yet, have a digital download of your album sent to their email address. (Bandzoogle and HostBaby should have this capability. Use it! It will save you money.)
Here is a template for you to get an idea. Keep in mind the idea is to be honest and actually communicate with this person. Change your wording every time! Try to genuinely relate to the writer.
HEADER: "Attn Sean - Your Queens of the Stone Age review"
BODY: "Hi Sean, This is James from the rock band Broken Jaw Dance Party. I found ________ Magazine through your rather excellent review of Queens of the Stone Age's album "Lullabies to Paralyse". I thought it was well done and agree with your favorite track choices (mine are "Little Sister" and "Burn the Witch" as well). I'm curious as to what you think of their latest release "Era Vulgaris". To me it's a stronger album. Also, have you heard (insert band name here)? Given your musical preferences you may get into them. Check them out and let me know what you think.
I've sent you a digital copy (email the digital copy of the album to Jame's email address. It should arrive as a free download that he can access easily) of Broken Jaw Dance Party's new album "Curbstomp Disco", as I think you'd enjoy it. Queens are a big influence of ours (give a short story of how you got into them, or keep it simple) and a review would be appreciated of course.
Thanks for your time and once again, great job on the review!
Broken Jaw Dance Party
(include email and phone number contact in signature)