The album’s out, the release show is over, and now the promotional phase of the project begins. Just like anything else, promotion is vital to the success of a project and it’s a constant battle for attention. Everyone is screaming about their big ideas, their great projects, their beautiful music. How does a small-time musician from Charleston, South Carolina stand out from the noise?
As an inexperienced and unsuccessful musician, I can only speculate what the answer would be. However, I do think the theory for success in the music industry can be easily defined: work hard, be patient, and get lucky. Of course, the problem is that it’s difficult to execute. Getting lucky is probably the most important part, and it’s almost entirely out of your control. You have to put yourself in the right place at the right time with the right people.
What you can control, however, is working hard to improve and promote, and forcing yourself to have patience. Since I’ve been playing piano and singing for many years, I already have a decent plan in place for continuous improvement on the music front (maybe I’ll make a post about it one day). For now, I’m focusing on the latter two, and this post serves as a way for me to organize and outline my thoughts on those topics. Hopefully someone else will find value in what I have to say.
When I first started gigging about a year and a half ago, I wasn’t prepared for how slow progress would be. I wasn’t an idiot—I knew I wouldn’t be an overnight sensation—but I wasn’t prepared for just how much energy you had to expend for minimal gains. You send out demos every day, you make phone calls, emails, you play at open mics every day after work, you open for bands, and you might get a single gig after doing that for a month. It’s like you’re climbing a ladder with a hundred pounds of weight pulling you down—you tire out moving your arm up to the next rung, but you haven’t even moved anywhere. This teaches to to take a lot of satisfaction in every win, big or small, which helps keep your spirits up. But when there are no wins, you need something to come back to that will remind you of your goals and give you motivation when you need it. For me, this was a vision statement.
Vision Statement: To give beautiful music to the world.
It’s hokey, but it works. Through all the mess of trying to promote your music, it’s easy to lose sight of the target. The whole reason I’m going through all of this trouble is because I want to create beautiful music and share it with the world. That’s the whole point. It’s good to have something to remind you of that when it’s been buried by the chaos.
My promotion plan consists of three avenues of attack. These avenues are standard for promotion: gigs, media, and advertisements. You could certainly combine the last two, and you could maybe even split them even more. This was just how I organized it.
I’ve contacted many of the venues and booking agencies in my local area via email and phone. The good news is that some have been impressed enough to book us. The bad news, of course, is that most have not responded. While there will be folks who are genuinely uninterested in booking us, I’ve learned to accept that, most are just so inundated with similar emails our music gets lost. All I can do is continue to get in touch with them and hope that one day they’ll get a chance to listen to our music.
While this is a very general term, in this case it categorizes all forms of media that could provide opportunities to promote the album—social media, blogs, print, etc. It includes reaching out to fellow musicians in my area that I know, asking them to give the album a listen, and possibly a share, on their social media outlets. Most are eager to help because they’ve fought or are fighting the same battle.
This category also includes contacting websites, blogs, magazines, newspapers etc. As expected, this avenue has been the least fruitful. I’ve sent out tracks to more than a dozen blogs without a single response. Like venues, I’m sure these folks are swamped with people contacting them about their music. The only thing I can do is to continue to contact them, in addition to other websites. I think a bite from even a single blog or newspaper could make a big difference, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed.
This category is the most straightforward and probably takes the least amount of time. The trade-off is that it’s expensive. I plan to purchase ads on the standard social sites, in addition to standard music websites like Spotify, Pandora, etc, and these ads will point directly to my album’s listing on iTunes and Amazon. My wallet is going to take a hit, but the payoff could be worth it (not the literal payoff, of course, but payoff in terms of exposure).
With a vision statement and promotion plan, I at least have a small beam of light guiding me through the darkness. Hopefully, this will continue to move the project in the right direction. In the meantime, all I can do is continue to fight the good fight!
Anyway, it’s time for me to sign-off. I’ll be in my bed crying myself to sleep and reciting my vision statement.