Specialist Media

In both new and old media channels (online/mobile vs. broadcast/physical) there will be brands specialising in different areas of music. If you’ve been sensible, and figured out who your fans are likely to be, then it makes sense to make those brands that cater to your likely fans a priority. If you’re in a j-pop outfit, don’t bother sending press releases to the editor of Kerrang! This might seem obvious, but in directing your promotional efforts efficiency is of cardinal importance.

If you have £40 sloshing about with nothing to do, get hold of a copy of the unsigned guide. This lovely little tome has got a list as long as your arm of magazine and radio contacts that are looking for your material.

Old Media

When reading the post on how to love, honour and cherish blogs, you may have noticed that there are some crossover brands that have blogs and physical magazines. A good relationship with the NME, CMJ or Rolling Stone blog gives you a massive lead on getting into the physical magazine, with all the legitimacy and endorsement that implies.

Online media are relatively easy to exploit compared to old media channels like TV, radio, magazines and newspapers, but you can’t ignore the old methods. College radion stations in the states, and local radio stations in the UK and Europe actively look for new acts to feature in their shows, especially from their own neighbourhoods. It’s worth making a similar effort to butter up DJ’s as you should be making with the bloggers – work with them; they need people like you feeding them content in order to do their jobs.

Figure out who is doing the new music or local music show on your local station, who is writing about music in your local paper, and get in touch with them directly. As with bloggers, it’s important to make yourself stand out a little to these guys. Make the contact personal and offer them something unusual, a reason to take an interest in you. Make the effort to read their articles or listen to their show – this will reveal to you their own biases, what their audience like, and are like, and it will give you ammunition for making that first contact impossible to ignore. Comment on their work – make suggestions about their show, anything to make it significant and personal. You’re asking them to invest time in you; show that you’re willing to do the same for them.

You ought also to be taking advantage of old media channels when you’re announcing gigs. Most local stations and publications will have a slot for publishing upcoming gigs in their area, get a mailing list of people that compile these gig listings together and mail them every time something comes up. If you use a webmail programme like Gmail, or a desktop one like Outlook it’s easy to create groups of people that you can mail in one shot with information like this.

If you do manage to strike up a positive association with a radio DJ or journalist, then your gig announcements will come with an endorsement every time you’re mentioned. Stick it in your scrapbook – you never know when a good quote will come in handy.

Bloggers: Uber Fans

If there’s one set of people that you want on your side whilst promoting yourself online, it’s the music bloggers. They’re out there, trawling the web and the venues for the next cool act, hoping they’ll stumble across a gem they can hold up to their readers, gleaming in its freshness and individuality, reflecting it’s glory and brilliance onto their own work.

Hyperbole aside, you need these guys on your team. Treat them right, make them a priority whenever you make a new video or record a new track, let them have it for a week or so before you put it out for general release. A good relationship with a music blogger is a perfect symbiosis – they want new, interesting music and content, and you want coverage and introductions to new potential fans.

Treat bloggers like royalty and they’ll reward you by putting up your press releases, tracks, videos, photos, gig reviews or whatever else you can get them. Put yourself in their shoes and think about what they’d like to be sent – sucking up with free merch will win you points, especially if they like your music.

Some of the most popular music blogs are listed here. Every one of them has a contact email onsite; there is no excuse for leaving them off your list when you’re mailing people about your new album. Mail them individually, build a relationship, they’re in control of a big, music loving audience that you need access to.

Gorilla vs. Bear

Drowned in Sound

Hypebot

Pretty Goes With Pretty

Aquarium Drunkard

Large Hearted Boy

Aurgasm

Soul Sides

NME

CMJ

Rolling Stone

Video Content

Really good video recordings from gigs or live sessions are great for getting your fans to do your promotion work for you. Videos get shared around on youtube and other sites, and can spark interest in people, driving them to your website or myspace.

For the wildly creative and highly ambitious there’s always the possibility of making a video with the intention of sending it viral. If you get it right it’ll be a massive boost, but getting the tone right, and having that brilliant idea that motivates people to send a clip on to their friends is tricky. For inspiration, look at things like OK GO’s treadmill video, the diet coke and mentos series, The Flight Of The Conchords entire body of work, and then go and do something entirely different.

Once you’ve made your videos, make sure they’re spread over as many places as possible. This help search engines track you down, and it’s like scattering bait all over the internet, the more breadcrumbs you drop, the more people will follow the trail back to your website.

There are tools out there to make your life easier while distributing video content. The most important one to know about is TubeMogul.com. This site will automatically upload your content to all of it’s partners, YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, Revver, Yahoo! Video, and all the rest. This means that with one upload you can get your video to a load of sites, instead of slogging round with separate uploads.

We’ve done a few video sessions ourselves – they’re up on our website at https://routenote.com/blog, and on all the other places that TubeMogul can help you put yours, as well as Facebook, myspace… you get the idea.

Your Website

If you haven’t got one, why the hell not? You can buy a domain from Active24.co.uk for about £5 a year, a little more if you want some hosting space. And that’s all you’ll need to spend, in any case, this is not money spent. This is money invested. Set up a paypal sales account, sell two CDs through your website rather than someone else’s shop and you’re in profit.

There are a lot of different ways to go about creating content for your website – sites like Wix.com and WordPress.com offer simple solutions and templates for building content rich, good looking websites very easily. Shop around for a platform that offers you the features you’re looking for. You don’t need to be a graphic designer, there are skins up there for you to choose from. You don’t need to be particularly computer literate, there are guides to walk you through putting a site up on your domain, and you can post on forums for help, or call up your hosting company for tech assistance if you’re totally stuck.

There is no reason you can’t have a fully working site built and running over a weekend, and no excuse for trying to promote a band without one. A little initial effort will pay you back, and soon.

With reference to the maintaining a mailing list, your own site is an ideal place to put a google form to get information from your fans when they visit you. If you’re really slick you can even put one into a Sprout widget, and combine it with your band’s music, videos and pictures.

Research

You need to get ears hearing the brilliant music you’ve worked so hard on. you need people to love you, and more importantly, pay your rent. Who are these people? If you can identify them, figure out where they’re going to listen to music, how they buy it, what attracts them to a band, then you’ll find it much easier to make yourself available to them. Transmit on the channels they’re already receiving on and you’ll see the ranks of your fans grow much faster.

Getting to know your fans means doing some research. When someone befriends you on myspace, message them asking about how they found you. Keep a record and add to it. When someone buys a CD or a t-shirt off you after a gig, get them to give you some details about themselves.

Collect postcodes, mobile numbers, email addresses, anything that makes it easier for you to tell fans when you’re next playing, or what fabulous new bit of your merchandise they can buy. Don’t pester them, no-one wants to fill out a 10 page questionnaire when all they were after was a badge: there are some sheets on the tools page that you can use as templates.

Consider ways to get people to part with their contact information. Using mobile services like StarTxt.com to distribute mobile content means you can send people tracks or wallpaper in return for their mobile numbers (if you have a lot of 14 year old girls in your fan club, that is).

A great tool for collecting information is the google forms service. If you don’t have a google account, sign up for one online in about 30 seconds, and you’ll be able to use google documents for word processing and spreadsheets. Alongside these applications is the forms service, which lets you build questionnaires to embed into widgets (see the sproutbuilder guide on the tools page) websites, myspace pages and wherever else you can think of.

Key information you should be asking your fans to provide includes in order of decreasing importance:

Email:

Name:

Post/Zip code:

Postal address:

Country:

Mobile number:

You should also record the date and place you got people’s details, so you can be more personal when you contact them. Keep this list close to your heart. Nurture it and watch it grow, because it’s the most important possession you have on the road to fame and fortune.

Respect your mailing list. It represents real people, people that you’re asking to do things with you, and for you. Be regular with your mailouts and updates, so that people keep you in their minds, but don’t spam them. One contact per fortnight per method of communication is fine. More, and you’ll start to bug people.

Things you should be writing to your customers about are pretty obvious; let them know when you’re gigging near them (postcodes are useful here). Let them know when you’ve got new content on your website, blog, or myspace page, or you’re doing a magazine interview or radio session that they might be interested in. Definitely let them know when you’ve got something new that they might be interested in purchasing, be it music or merchandise.

Learn from your list. If you get loads of people signing up at a gig, or after a particular event, you’ve done something right. Do it more, and harder.

Image

Your music’s perfect? There’s nothing more to do? Then it’s time to start planning your explosive entrance onto the world scene. Think about who you are, what image your music projects, how you want to succeed? Do you want to be Bob Dylan or The Chemical Brothers? Both are massive superstar acts, but with totally different images and vibes. What’s yours?

Your music should go a long way to helping you get this central image focused in your mind, but get it right, because everything else in your arsenal of self promotion will take a lead from this primal idea. Of course it helps if you’re hugely outgoing with bulletproof confidence (because it will take shots, guaranteed), but there’s room for everyone.

Indie star Cat Power started out gigging with her back to the crowd because her stage fright was too bad to let her look at her audience. Recognise your strengths and capitalise upon them – it’s easier than pretending to be something you’re not.

A strong image will make people believe in you, want to buy into your look and associate themselves with you. A poor image makes you look uncool and unprofessional. Look at the hundreds of sloppy band websites and myspace pages out there – this is often your first contact with a new listener, if you want them to like you it’s worth making the effort. Care about that first impression, it shows you care about yourself and your fans.

We can’t really help you dream up your image, but there are some things on the RouteNote tools page that should help you actuate it: sites to help you build a good looking myspace profile, guides to setting up your own website and to building widgets to put on your own and your fans myspace pages and websites, places to get t-shirts made.

Self Promotion II:

Two words you should think hard about. Music. Business. If you’re just having fun playing jam nights and amazing your friends with your mad guitar skillz then that’s cool, and we’d love to help you put out a release if you record anything you’re happy with, but to take music forward as a career you’ve got to accept that it needs to be a business. This means effort, people!

First of all, get your music right. This is the first and most important step in your career as a musician. It’s also the fun part. Regardless of anything else, fans will come to you for this reason first and foremost, and if you’ve got a great sound, the battle is half won. The other half of the fight is a dirty slog through the trenches, getting your music in everyone’s ears, making yourself impossible to ignore.

Self Promotion I:

The web has made it far easier to promote and profit from music. So much so that it’s now possible for bands to succeed in a big way without having the big finances and professional experience of a record label behind them. This is great news for bands starting up in the music business, but it doesn’t mean that success is going to happen by itself, overnight.

The reasons that record labels have lost ground over the last few years are many: most important was their unwillingness to embrace digital as the future of music retail, but the fact that online media also made it easier for musicians to look after the business of running their career for themselves.

Not having people from a label looking after promotion, gig booking, logistics, merchandising and the many other things that go together to make a band successful does mean that you don’t have to pay for that work, but it does mean that you’ve got to do it yourself.

Don’t be put off – the rewards are there, and they’re greater and closer than ever before. It’s just that to get to them you’ve got to be creative, dedicated, willing and most of all, more smart and cunning than the lovechild of Machiavelli and a fox with a master’s in cunning from Oxford university of Cunning.

Advantages of Digital Distribution III:

Perversely, focussing on digital music sales can make the physical products you release more desireable. Think about Radiohead: In Rainbows. They put it out basically free over the net, and sold lush, limited edition vinyl and cd box sets, which sold 100,000 copies, and is currently changing hands for about $200 on ebay.

CD sales have taken a nosedive since music went digital, but LP and EP sales on vinyl have levelled out: according to the RIAA they even increased by 46% between 2006 and 2007, to 1.3 million units in 2007. The industry opinion is that this is because the real fans want a piece of their favourite band; a lovely artefact to hold and stroke and show off… Make the most of it! If your digital sales are good, that means there’s an opportunity to make a premium on really well produced physical material. If you can give your fans something special, that also has a premium because of its scarcity, then they’ll happily pay you for it.