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.

Advantages of digital distribution II

There are a few online music distribution companies out there, each professing it’s service and it’s model to be the cheapest and the best: what you need to do is figure out which of them is going to be the best for you. How many tracks can you reasonably expect to sell? What can you afford to outlay? Figure those things out and then decide which deal is best for you.

The basic models of distributor are:

Subscription – Keep your royalties, but pay a maintenance or subscription fee to keep your music online. Good if you’re going to be selling a lot of tracks. (CD Baby operate this model, also charging an upload fee)

Percentage – Don’t pay any fees, but pay for the service with a percentage of the royalties from sales (this is the model we use at RouteNote). Good if you don’t want to risk losing any money, or your sales aren’t likely to be massive just yet.

Upload fee – A flat fee for uploading your music, and then keep your royalties. Again, good if you’re hoping to sell a lot of tracks, but there’s no incentive for the distributor to promote your music, as they’ve already made their money, and can’t profit further from helping you out. (EmuBands do this)

Managed – The next best thing to being signed to a record label, some digital distribution companies will take labels and larger bands on, and for a larger cut of the royalties from sales, will make more of an effort to promote their music, or offer other benefits to their partners. It’s up to you to decide whether their efforts are likely to be worth the cut. (The Orchard operate this model)

Controlling your own output means that you don’t have to go with the same partner for multiple releases, you can pick and choose different partners for different releases. If you find that the music distribution deal you’re on with one company is working better for one release than another, you can change partners for the one that’s losing out.

Also consider that digital music sales increase your presence in the marketplace, and a record label will look at the level of your sales of both physical and digital music, and of your live gig audiences when they’re looking at signing you (if that’s what you’re after).

Advantages of Digital Distribution

You already know the advantages that the internet has to offer musicians, you wouldn’t be reading this site if you weren’t interested in exploiting them. You’re still unconvinced? Digital distribution, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

Your music reaches a bigger audience than ever before, more people than have ever been into Tower Records, HMV and Virgin Megastores combined have access to your music without either of you leaving home.

More than this, digital distribution costs nothing when compared to physical – you don’t need to press CD’s or LP’s, you don’t need to package them, warehouse them, ship them, you don’t need to take returns or manage stock, you can just put one copy of a track up with a digital distributor and have infinite copies of your music literally anywhere there’s a phone line.

Of course, there are many more ways for people to copy your music without paying for it on the web, but since the cost of getting your music out there is so much less, and a greater proportion of the profits goes to the artist having cut out so much of the bulky record company structure, you’ll probably end up making more money anyhow.You certainly keep a bigger proportion of the revenue from the sales you do make.

The truth is that the internet is inescapable as a medium for music; you just can’t afford to ignore it. Even if you think the internet lays your music too open to piracy, and stick with just releasing CD’s or vinyl, chances are some one of your dedicated fans will encode their copy and put it up on a torrent site anyway, so you might as well give people the option of buying it legally online…

Musician Self Promotion

We’re changing the look and content of our tools section to make it more useful to artists, and we’ll be posting a series of articles to go along with some of the tools we’re putting up.

Things we’re going to be introducing include:

  • An iTunes linkmaker tool, to get your fans straight to your music on iTunes
  • A widget building guide, to help you make professional looking applications for yourself and fans to post on their websites, myspace pages, etc.
  • Links to manufacturers of merchandise
  • Links to CD manufacturers
  • Guides to selling your own products

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to this blog via the RSS feed on the right, and get the goodness right to your reader (we’d recommend google’s reader if you don’t use one already…).

Yahoo Music Is The Most Used Music Site in Japan, Ahead of Sony Connect

A study by comScore revealed that nearly 40 percent of the Japanese online population visited an entertainment site in August. Yahoo! Music led as favorite with 7.3 million visitors, followed by Sony Connect with 3 million visitors, and Sony BMG Music Entertainment with 2.7 million visitors. Sonny Connect is expected to drop.

The Ocarina. Turn Your iPhone or iPod Touch Into A Wind Instrument

The Ocarina from Smule synthesizes sound in real-time based on your “wind input” (fancy talk for you blow on it), tilt, and finger placement over four graphic “holes” overlaid on the multi-touch pad.  Unlike some iPhone audio apps, the sound is not pre-compiled but is generated by the individual performer.  As a result, “it allows an iPhone user to explore and master the musical sounds of an entirely iPhone-native version of an ancient flute-like instrument.” Its available for $.99 at Apple’s AppStore. Here’s a demo and be sure to check out “Starway To Heaven” after the jump. You can purchase the Ocarina Application on iTunes here. Ocarina

Top 20 Digital Music Promotions From Oct 2008, ACDC, Pink and More!

The team over at MusicAlley have put together an amazing list of music promotions that happened in October. This is the first time I have come across their lists and it seems as though they do them every month. Enjoy!

1. AC/DC Excel video (above). Sony BMG turned the new video from the Aussie rockers into an ASCII-art video, embedded into an Excel spreadsheet. The idea: fans would be able to email it round workplaces without fear of getting carpeted by bosses. Watch It

2. Pink branded iPhone application. Sony released a free branded iPhone app for Pink’s new Funhouse album, with 30-second previews of tracks, as well as photos, news and a discography. Cleverly, it had direct links to buy the songs on the iTunes Store. Download It

3. Ben Folds The Sounds Of Last Night. Another wizard-wheeze from Folds, who’s one of the more digitally-savvy artists around. He’s recording one track a night on his US tour, and releasing it the next day on iTunes as a digital download. It’s a distro deal, then, but also a great way of promoting his music. More Info

4. A Cursive Memory cameraphone codes. Cameraphone (or ‘QR’) codes are popular in Japan, but pretty much unknown in the rest of the world. However, US band A Cursive Memory is using the technology through an app called ScanLife. Codes are placed on posters for the band’s new album, and when photographed using a ScanLife-equipped mobile, the user is taken to a WAP site to get free wallpapers, watch a video and buy ringtones. More Info

5. Dido Nectar compo. UK loyalty scheme Nectar has recently launched its own digital music store, and to promote it they’re holding a competition to win a trip to the US to Dido’s album-launch party. What Dido gets out of it is an enormous mail-shot to Nectar’s UK customers – and prime placement on their music store too. More Info

6. Zune artist podcasts. Microsoft is launching a series of artist-focused podcasts for its Zune player, branded as ‘The Green Room’ (isn’t that also the name of Nokia’s music TV show?). It’s kicking off with Common, Oasis, T.I, Dierks Bentley and Seun Kuti. More Info

7. Asylum Records online games. Hip-hop label Asylum Records teamed up with web games firm PopJax to launch a series of online games based on its artists. They take the form of customised quiz games with video and trivia questions, to be hosted on both companies’ websites, as well as on MySpace. More Info

8. Nick Harrison in The Secret World of Sam King. Universal Music Group has been breaking new artists in Bebo’s online TV drama The Secret World of Sam King – for example, singer/songwriter Nick Harrison, whose video fans of the show were invited to appear in. The show was getting 100,000 people tuning in a day at the height of its run. More Info

9. Tool getting creative with Guitar Hero World Tour. Rock band Tool didn’t just want to license tracks to the new Guitar Hero game – they asked if they could be involved creatively, and ended up designing a virtual venue based on their artwork and videos. More Info

10. Britney Spears joined Twitter. In fact, Britney’s post-insanity comeback is pretty Web 2.0 savvy on all fronts, but Twitter is the one that’s got most publicity. It started badly, with pure promotional messages, but has since evolved into a more conversational feed. You can laugh at the idea of signing up to updates on what Spears has been up to with the kids, but Britney’s people are clearly getting the hang of this new fan interaction thingy. Read Her Tweets

11. John Legend Spotify exclusive. We’ve been hearing pretty universal praise for new streaming service Spotify in recent weeks, but the company isn’t resting on its laurels. It bagged an exclusive pre-release stream of John Legend’s new album Evolver for its Swedish paying users, who got to listen to the album the weekend before its release. More Info

12. E-postcards from Ricky Martin. Nowadays, Livin’ La Vida Loca means paying $3.99 to send a personalised Ricky Martin video greeting to your friends over the internetweb. No, really. Ricky is the first celeb on board Postcards From The Stars, a Puerto Rican venture. He recorded greetings for 100 Spanish and 100 English names, 100 city names and 50 special occasions – and these are then strung together for the e-vid-cards. More Info

13. Nokia’s Comes With Music benches. How to promote your new Comes With Music service (apart from splurging on radio and TV ads, obviously)? If you’re Nokia, you send some colourful benches travelling around the country, which when sat on, allow people to listen to some of the UK’s favourite tunes. Nifty, even if one of those tunes – Hey Jude – isn’t actually available on Comes With Music). More Info

14. REPO soundtrack on BitTorrent. Less of a marketing scheme, more of a hopeful piracy deterrent, this. Film director Darren Bousman (of Saw fame) urged fans to upload fake versions of the soundtrack to his new film REPO to BitTorrent, to foil pirates. It probably won’t work, but drums up awareness of the film nicely. More Info

15. Christina Aguilera iLike video exclusive. Christina is the latest star to sign up for some exclusive marketing on music site iLike. In her case, she debuted the video for her new Keeps Gettin’ Better single on the site – and iLike said she was the first major artist to do so. We would say iLike is the new MTV, if there weren’t 18 other music sites also claiming to be the new MTV… More Info

16. Snow Patrol also get a branded iPhone app. It came out the same week as Pink’s, which in our book makes a HOT TREND. Anyway, Snow Patrol’s took a more arty approach, getting users to unfold coloured paper to discover lyrics and videos. It was free, and has apparently been going great guns on the App Store. Download It

17. Nokia’s N-Gage Dance Fabulous game. Okay, this doesn’t come out until next year, but it was announced in October, so counts. It’s a mobile game for phones with Nokia’s N-Gage platform on, and is a music rhythm game. However, the marketing angle is that it’ll feature a new artist, Cindy Gomez, whose songs will be in the game, as well as her avatar. Ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart brokered the deal, as part of his ambassadorial role with Nokia. More Info

18. Queen + Paul Rodgers’ virtual world listening party. You might think that artists doing stuff in virtual worlds is so 2007, but that didn’t stop Queen from commissioning a warehouse-themed virtual world to hold a listening party for their new album. Visiting fans could stream the album, watch archive videos and buy merchandise. More Info

19. Pepsi Maxcast on MySpace. Pepsi has rounded up a bunch of ‘tastemakers’ to curate collections of their favourite music, to be streamed to users via embedded players on MySpace. Among the initial batch of curators are indie frontman Carl Barat and dancebloke Sam Sparro. The site will also include interviews and video profiles of the curators, as well as a section for unsigned bands. Have A Look

20. Tap Tap Revenge: Nine Inch Nails version. iPhone game Tap Tap Revenge has been around for a while now as a free download, but there’s now a premium version featuring songs from the last two Nine Inch Nails albums for users to tap along to. It costs $4.99 in the US, and ties in with a competition for NIN gig tickets and a signed guitar. Download It