Promoting Your Music

Hi there, Randy here! I’m taking an intermission from A Guide To Band For Parents Blog Series with some simple tips on promoting your music. In the next blog about promotion, I go in depth about promoting on social media. 

I’ve played with many bands that play originals, and seen audiences that like originals, but the common man out there only listens to what is, or what was, on the radio. As musicians we need to appreciate the fact that some concepts can be lost on audiences. This is why it’s important to promote yourself as a musician first, and your act second. It will never hurt to cover a song, because it provides a familiarity to an audience an original won’t.

The 20th century gave birth to so many things from television to the hydrogen bomb. And in this fast-paced century, musical development exploded in creativity. Early television gave a visual to the canned hits of the time, and later modern television enhances a musical experience with music videos. Peter Tosh wrote a protest song about nuclear war, and some funny lookin’ dude sang a song about Nixon.

And don’t worry, the same guy sang one for Jimmy Carter too.

Without the advent of phonographs, radio, film, and television, music would have not taken all of the leaps it had. This was more than writing a love song, or a cute song for a musical. When the latter music was made in the 20th century, most audience factors came from technology. For example, the “Jimmy Carter Says Yes” TV ads were broadcasted at a specific time at specific locations because of audience characteristics.

But we’re way passed cable channels (and community based television) by now. Now we study what you shop for online, what films you watch, and other various data to target the right audience. It’s nothing new under the sun, people always had to figure out who to sell what to, but it wasn’t as precise as it can be now. Move over Neilson ratings.

Consequently, music of the 20th century is now purchased by people from the 21st century the same way. Web advertising driven towards specific demographics and interests, previous online purchases or searches can be saved inside your computer and with content hosting websites like YouTube, copyright owners and distributors make money off their tracks anytime anyone uploads one (so long as it’s authorized).

Obviously you’ll have to use social sites, even just to promote a website destination these days. People spend a lot of time on Facebook, and they give a lot of information about themselves too. From a promotional standpoint, this is really, really awesome. Now you have user submitted data about who to target for your advertising. So, if you have a band named Cat’s Cradle and somebody likes Kurt Vonnegut, they may stumble upon your ad via keywords you choose for your it.

So now that we’ve unpackaged the history, what can we do in the here and now? That’s a good question. The same thing we did then: innovate. Innovate to include audiences you are certain will enjoy your music or musical creation. For example, my music cover of “Tale As Old As Time” from Disney’s, “Beauty And The Beast”, found its audience through key words and nothing else. Once I saw it getting a lot of hits, I advertised it on a few promotional websites like Virool.

I had honestly posted it for Valentine’s day and thought, even though I put a lot of time into it, maybe the video would have a few hundred views in the end. But now it has a few hundred thousand. Although the song and majority of the video aren’t original, the arrangement of this song is. That’s the personal touch I added to this cover. I took what it was and changed it into something I’d play at a gig, while still keeping that familiar-song-relationship with the audience.

You have to have an ultimate goal for your promotional ads as well. Are you simply trying to draw people into a website or are you trying to get them to watch or listen to something? As you can see from this Facebook post on my Jazz Trio’s Facebook page, this particular post that I promoted got a lot of likes, however, the video on youtube still has a small amount of plays relatively speaking. That shows you that advertising on Facebook doesn’t necessarily translate into more YouTube views.

This video on Facebook, however, when I chose to advertise in both Brazil and the United States, went really well. Over 20k views, which isn’t bad for an artist on Facebook. This shows when advertising on certain sites, promote the content you have there. Sadly, this is the lower res and secondary version of this video. But even then I clearly got the point across.

In the end, it pays off to spread content around on multiple sites. I don’t have many photos on Google Plus of the band, but I have more on Facebook. What’s even better is at some gigs the audience takes photos of the band, like these from Judith Byman.

Every time somebody takes a video or photo of you and posts it on Facebook or Twitter, or wherever, it’s exposing you to a larger audience. Instead of just you or your page, someone else is tagging you and your page and both audiences will see it. That’s a double audience. This is, of course, why some of us on Facebook get tagged in a million pictures of folks we haven’t even spoken to.

One of my secrets is producing a steady stream of content, even if a majority of it isn’t advertised. As you can see on my YouTube Channel I utilize the playlists a lot because I’m categorizing my videos. As you may notice I even dabble in Mystery Science Theatre 3000 style comedy. I also produce other videos pertaining to critical thinking and occasionally politics. I have amassed over 200 videos. Mostly music, of course.

Promoting your own compositions can be challenging, even if it’s pop music. Establishing a fan base of internet followers will give more credence to your originals when you release them (or previews) online. I’ve been covering American Standards and jazz classics for a while now, and now when I release original music the same people are interested.

Despite appearances on Facebook, promotion means much more than having a snazzy photo of yourself or band. Now that you can live stream on Facebook with your phone, taking a good segment of the band playing or practicing will impress much more than a glossy photoshop photo. There are now phone mounts for tripods and you can pick and choose what you release. For example, I released full footage of this performance, but in a separate video I singled out the tune “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” , and gave it more visual attitude.

Another thing I’ve learned is never take yourself too seriously. You can get a laugh out of your audience!

You only have to be moderately picky about what you release if you’re very picky about what you advertise. On occasion I’ll go into my band social accounts and clean out media I’ve uploaded that I think is subpar, or that I feel doesn’t represent my act in that genre anymore.

Speaking of genres, remember, even if you’re a polka band, you’re still trying to relate to the modern world of cell phones and iPhones without a headphone jack. It’s always a great idea to latch on to either a popular cover, or incorporate something else into your act like I did with “Tale As Old As Time”. I thought this was a really cool cover of this song. It shows the musician’s style with something modern audiences are familiar with. Man bun and all.

Here’s a Latin Jazz cover of a Steely Dan tune– and it worked pretty well as you can see from the views and likes.

Artists and YouTuber’s alike famously (and sometimes infamously) parody popular songs. Of course there’s people like Weird Al, with “Tacky”. But then, sometimes the parody idea can backfire. This parody, although well produced in the A/V department, the concept isn’t very good, and honestly it feels like something my mother would write if she wrote a parody. No offense, mom.

There are free ways to promote yourself world wide but it can be time consuming. Following suit with Facebook, Google Plus has also created groups with common interests. However, Google Plus has not been completely spoiled with shameless self promotion as Facebook has. There are people on Google who go to those communities to find new music and artists.

In addition to the ever handy playlist on YouTube (which I share with potential clients), Google Plus now also has “collections”. Both are wonderful because it helps you organize your content for demos. Because who listens to CD’s these days unless they’re in their car? Demo CDs and even hard copy albums are becoming almost obsolete in the digital age. Let’s face it, what do you do when you buy a CD? Open it and sync it up to your devices. Your best bet is to pick and choose recordings to release on websites like SoundCloud (as come-ons to albums or previews) as these websites can easily be streamed on a phone. Same goes for video content. This way you maximize the amount of control you have over what your audience sees. In the end this is partly a propaganda game. For example, there are songs on albums I’ve made that I’m not a fan of and I feel they don’t represent my best potential, therefore they’re only published on the album itself.

This is a great example of why it’s good to pick media apart. Personally, if could pick this album order over again, it’d be “Vaporize This” first. I believe this is the only music on the internet containing the musings of the now defunct “Vaporizers”. I added a little musical humor twist here by playing the album to footage of “The Wizard of Oz” which as we all know is a common claim that Pink Floyd’s “Darkside of The Moon” somehow lines up to “Oz”. This album was made around 2009.

Above all, invest time in whatever content you produce.You always want to represent yourself sounding and looking your best! Utilize social media for your cause and try to have something new every so often.

Goodnight, and good luck.


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