One of the best ways to grow is to look at what’s worked for other indie musicians and adapt it to your own career. Here are 5 great strategies with real examples to get you going. A lot of musicians think they can’t start making strategies to move their career forward until they’re making money, until they take some business classes, or until they get a manager. The coolest thing about these strategies is that you can start using them TODAY.
1. Make a Plan from the Start
Making a great plan is one of the best ways to get to that music success you deserve. Not only do concrete goals give you something to aim for, they also help you decide what your first step should be.
Try to make your goals as specific as possible. Instead of saying “I want to be rich and famous,” try something specific like “I want to be able to be a full time musician with a yearly salary of at least $75,000 and be able to tour outside my home state.” Break down your lofty goal into smaller tasks like “gather contact information for local venues,” “contact 5 venues this week,” and “connect with another band to share a gig.” Suddenly finding a way to reach that goal becomes more manageable.
NETWORKING! For most musicians, this is something that most know they should do but feel uncomfortable with or don’t know how to approach. However, it’s something that can open the doors to better shows, a record label, a new sponsor, or even more fans. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years about networking:
1. The Value You Bring to Others: Many networking events can feel like a shark tank, with people fighting to get business cards out and meeting the right people. It can often be inherently selfish, people seeing who can help them get what they want. However, networking is about building partnerships, so you can often stand out by finding ways to deliver value to other people, whether that is simply connecting other contacts to one another or helping someone solve their problem. That’s far more effective than finding ways to show off or impress others.
2. Ask Questions: Whether you are connecting in person or through email, the best thing you can do is open up communication by finding out what the other person needs. The better you understand them, the better you can build the relationship. That interaction matters more than the pitch you’ve carefully constructed about yourself.
3. The Pitch: That being said, find a way to accurately describe what you do in an interesting way in 15 seconds or less.
4. Be Intentional: Whether it is at an industry event or online, you don’t want to spam everyone about what you do. Instead, identify the people who are most relevant to what you do, what you offer, or what you need. Focus on them. It’s better to have one solid connection than 100 meaningless ones.
5. Stay Alert: This is one of the reasons why I don’t drink; acting tipsy in front of others can be a sign of weakness and lack of self-control. It’s also important to proofread emails before they are sent, both for spelling and grammar as well as content and length. All of these things reflect you and your work.
6. Think Outside the Box: Don’t always focus on record executives or promoters. Sometimes, it’s good to go outside of your industry and just focus on the general needs of your music career as a business. You’ll always need printing (business cards, download cards, posters, etc.), so why not connect with a printer?
7. Make Connections: The best way to meet people is to be the person that connects others. Offer to introduce someone to one of your contacts who can help them. If you’re known as a connector, people will be more willing to connect with you as well as return the favor.
8. Accept Rejection: Sometimes, people are too busy or they are uninterested. Don’t take it personally and don’t fire back some kind of hurtful email. Be careful about leaving bad reviews on sites like Sonicbids, you might be viewed as petty.
9. Get Your Hands Dirty: Remember, the payoff for networking comes when you help others. Offer to donate time or resources, volunteer, offer advice. Some of my strongest connections have come from volunteering for non-profit organizations and meeting contacts who believe in similar causes.
10. Follow Up: Following up is one of the most important parts of building relationships. Emails, text messages, and phone calls are often forgotten about. Everyone can get busy and need a reminder. Other times, it’s just good to check in. Make it a habit to follow up with an important contact every few weeks.
Whether you are heading to a music conference like CMJ or SXSW, or you are trying to connect with others via Linkedin, keep the above 10 tips in mind to help you stand out as a vital member of the community rather than someone who is only pursuing their own interests. Keep your communication short, to the point, and valuable to others!
Source: Music Think Tank (by Simon Tam)
Here is a very informative video from The Needle Drop which goes into great explanation of the basics of how to spread your music. This ten minute video can be a great reminder of some basics of what you may be missing in the promotion of your music, so take note!
Networking is the best way to get ahead in “the biz.” It isn’t all about sending your music to Pitchfork and blogs to hope it gets some airplay in the corners of the internet. It’s about talking to the people who matter most in your town to help each other out and to build a core fan base you can build from in the coming months.
The whole purpose of networking is to establish relationships with people who can mutually benefit by helping you out. Or, you helping them out. When you start talking to bands, bloggers, press, or super-fans in your town, the goal is to build a positive relationship with all of them so that you can help them get things like stories for the blogs/papers, more fans out to their shows, or free swag (for the fans). The only way to help your local scene grow is by being a part of it, not just expecting people to drop what they’re doing and flock to your new creative endeavor.
The first, and probably best, way to get more exposure locally is to talk to people at other bands’ shows.
Talk to the bands who are playing and congratulate them on the great job they did. Introduce yourself and ask if you can buy them a beer after the show. Just hang out. This isn’t about pushing your own shit, it’s about talking to other HUMAN BEINGS about the thing you love so much: music. Talk local music, albums, new artists, and life in general.
The goal here is to make your presence known and get to know other local bands on a personal level, not just from a distance. Knowing bands personally will open up many doors down the road.
There’s never a huge press presence at local shows unless there’s a festival going on. Nashville (the city I live in) has local music festivals a few times a year and all of the newspapers and local music magazines make a point to show up to take some photos and see who’s big at the moment.
Try to go to these festivals to at least say hey to the guys/gals that write for the magazines you’d like to get a spot in. Again, don’t pressure them when you first meet them. This stage is all about just saying hello and letting your presence be known.
The internet has done wonders for reaching out to people in a virtual world, but face-to-face communication is still the strongest way to get to know people. Make it a point to meet new people every time you’re at an event. The more people you know, the bigger your network becomes. As mentioned before, this isn’t about advertising yourself to everyone you meet. The goal is to simply meet people and as time goes on with your relationships, your own life will eventually come up.
Networking positively means talking to other people about THEMSELVES. People love to talk about their own lives, so help facilitate it and learn to be a good listener. You never know who you’ll meet!
Musicians: If you’ve ever attempted to hold a Q&A via Twitter, you know that it can be a bit of a sh to the it show. It’s hard to keep track of all the conversations going on, and folks in the need-to-know aren’t really interacting with each other. Well, the microblogging site is out with a tweak that makes the experience of interacting with a tweet more robust and streamlined: a new, overhauled conversation view.
Let’s say that you’re a social media-savvy band keen to get your fans’ feedback on a new album title. You tweet out the call to action, only to be flooded with at-replies. Now, Twitter has made it easier to sort through all those responses — and for your fans to interact with each other — by tucking all the responses under your tweet, allowing you to scroll through and respond to each and every one. See this feature in action on Jimmy Fallon’s page in response to the tweet below:
Now, a tweet has — in effect — a comments section, which is pretty neat and useful when you’re looking to poll your fandom as a whole.
In addition to the new conversation format, Twitter has also added some features that aim to enhance how users view media: 1). Now, when you click on a photo on someone’s profile you’ll be able to see a larger view without leaving the page, 2). Your photo gallery (on the left side of the page) will now include video content from Vimeo, YouTube and the newly launched Vine. Bands, this means that when you tweet your new music video, it will be stored right on your Twitter profile, making it easy for fans to find.
(We would think this holds for mobile, but it’s possible Twitter has more of a hold there than on the desktop.)
Elowitz’s takeaway from the data: “There’s now no question that ‘social’ means ‘Facebook.’” And if you want to be in front of consumers, you have to figure out a way to be in their Facebook news feed.
This is important for Facebook, since it just announced plans to insert ads into users news feeds. If publishers agree with Elowitz, then it could be the big revenue generator Facebook needs to sustain itself for the next ten years.
Article originally appeared on Business Insider (http://www.businessinsider.com) and was written by Jay Yarow.
Social media gives you the opportunity to create genuine relationships with the members of your growing fan base, helping to create more super fans and ultimately working to strengthen your fan base as a whole.
At first, this is the best possible situation: as you grow, your fans will demand more attention and more access from you, and thanks to social media, you can now supply them with it. And again, thanks to the level of transparency that social media offers, the experience of the artist/ fan relationship is more authentic and personal than ever before.
And this is all good. Both you and your fan are happy. You continue to grow and your fan continues to gain more access and attention in return for support.
But as you and your fans go down this path together, you will inevitably run into the situation where you couldn’t possibly continue to manage all of the existing relationships that you’ve formed with your fans. No one can. Sorry.
Now don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty nice problem to have. By the time you’ve reached this point, your fan base should start to take a life of it’s own. But unfortunately, the fans don’t just want each other.
They want you!
At this point, many of your ‘original fans’, as many will call themselves, will feel as though they are apart of your success, and feel they now deserve your attention and acknowledgment. It is your job to find ways to keep the level of communication and transparency consistent enough where your fans don’t feel ‘left behind’.
Here are a few ideas to help you along the way:
Fans respect honesty, so this is something that you should be doing from day 1. Just look at Charlie Sheen or Kanye West - they are brutally honest and look at where it has gotten them.
But when you get to a point where you just can’t manage to keep up with all of your fans they way you or even they are used to, you need to be upfrotn and honest with them about the situation. Let them know that free time is becoming harder to come by, but that you will continue to be the face behind the updates, blog posts or tweets; not just someone else on your team ‘representing you’.
Addressing this head one will make it much easier for your fans to understand, and they will likely give you less of a hard time about being less present.
Do NOT, under any circumstance, lie to your fans about this. You have a certain voice, and by this time, your fans will know just from your use of words that it is you, or that it is someone posing to be you. This can have a very negative effect on the loyalty of your super fans.
Fans are a funny breed. They want nothing more but to support you, spread the word and be there with you as you grow. Unfortunately when you do, they hate the fact that the dynamic of their relationships has changed. It is your job to help keep them excited about the change, to help them see that change is actually a good, natural progression, and that THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE for it all.
Be it through Newsletter updates, blog posts, or even tweets, let your fans know how much they mean to you. This will help them continue to feel as though they are apart of something bigger then themselves or even you… they are apart of a movement.
Just because previous opportunities to engage with fans, say through Facebook or Twitter, are becoming harder to maintain, doesn’t mean that you can’t create NEW opportunities that are tailor-made to give your core fans the same experience and attention they desire.
Since you’re ‘original fans’ are simply afraid of being left behind, and are looking not only for attention, but acknowledgement, why not take it up a notch and actually give them some responsibilities? These ‘original fans’, or really, your super fans, are the perfect people to approach about spearheading an official street team. They are dedicated, understand your image and your target fans, and are seeking praise straight from you. What else could you ask for?
People get tired of the same old shtick. Its unfortunate, but true. And this becomes an even more cumbersome issue when combined with the fact that you don’t have the time to pay your fans the same attention they are used to. So, you’ll need to do something out of the ordinary to keep them happy, to make them remember why they fell in love with you in the first place; to stoke the flames of fandom.
This, action or activity, doesn’t need to cost a great deal of time or money. It just needs to be, in a word, epic. Here are a few quick ideas that I came up with, though understand that every fan base is different and not all of my ideas will satisfy your fans.
- A ‘VH1 Storytellers’ Event: No it doesn’t need to be in some fancy room with velvet draped on the walls and cameras all up in your face, but breaking it down to the most simple concept, this one is a winner. You could do one, exclusive event, or maybe multiple events, but the idea is to create an intimate setting, where you play and explain the meaning behind songs, and let your fans ask you questions, personal or otherwise. Talk about a memorable occasion that shows just how much you want to satisfy your fans!
- UStream Q&A: Similar to the idea above, this is all about giving your fans some personal attention. However, this could be a great way to give those fans who couldn’t possibly make it out to the ‘Storytellers’ events to still be able to get some personal time with you. Create a twitter hashtag and allow your fans to submit questions using the tag so that you can respond to them in real time. This is just more rewarding for everyone.
- Non-Music Networking Event: Think of this as a meet and greet on a large scale. I got this idea from MicControl member and friend Brian Franke, who set up a non-music event at a bar for his fans to come down, have a drink and just hang out with Brian. This is a phenomenal idea and is one of the best ways to create and/ or strengthen the REAL and long-lasting relationship with your fans, even if you don’t have the capacity to keep up with them on daily basis.
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and written by Jonathan Ostrow.