I love my local music scene.
Being a part of the Boise, Idaho, music scene for the past couple of years has been extremely rewarding. We are starting to grow our own music festival, the Treefort Music Festival; we’re seeing a huge emergence of new talent (Youth Lagoon, Hollow Wood, and Wolvserpent all call this place home); and we get to be the best rest stop for so many touring bands through the Northwest states.
We have so much potential. Yet, when I look at this town and its budding local musicians with a my honed marketer’s eye, I see a lot of wasted potential.
And I know that Boise is not the only city that suffers from this. Towns everywhere have their local favorites – their musical knights – and, despite their local fame, they are failing to really reach farther than the neighboring town. Some may prefer it this way, but those who don’t simply don’t know why their efforts are failing. For that second group, I wanted to write this article for you.
You have something unique, creative, and powerful; there are people all over the globe that want to hear it. Are you wondering why they haven’t found you yet?
My guess is a lack of proper and successful marketing endeavors. As a social media marketer, and as a friend to many DIY bands in my area, I would like to share some tips to properly grow your band’s marketing potential.
My Advice: Start Online
Every band has to start somewhere, and once you’ve found your calling I suggest building your online presence almost immediately. When it comes to online marketing, look at how entrepreneurs use social media and model that same process or improve your existing structure (yes, even creating a LinkedIn account can be beneficial to your band, not to mention your professional portfolio).
Each social media channel can reach your desired fan base in a different way. Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter are easily interconnected and posts can be shared across all platforms. YouTube can provide your fans with exclusive videos of live shows, demos of new material, or even clips of jam sessions with the band mates.
The options are limitless, and just because you’re modeling your marketing campaign after entrepreneurs doesn’t mean you have to lose your unique style. A great example of this is the band The Thermals with their ridiculous and (at times) nonsensical Twitter feed. Lead singer, Hutch Harris, is a marketing professional when it comes to using social media to promote his band, and his posts bleed Thermals’ aesthetic despite the posts rarely promoting their music directly.
Taking a note from Hutch’s book – or similarly from the book of “Weird Twitter” – could be the key to making a strong and impressionable impact on social media.
In the same vein, when modeling your online marketing strategy after entrepreneurs you don’t need to break the bank. The majority of social media is free to use, but at times you need to spend a little to really reach your audience. However, you can create a marketing campaign on a budget. By saving up before a show and spending a minimal amount on sponsoring your Facebook event, you can reach hundreds of people and garner a gaggle of potential new fans.
It’s also vital to keep your audience constantly engaged. Even if your band is on a bit of a ‘vacation’ or hiatus for the season, don’t forget to engage your fans regularly on the social webs. A simple picture of your weekly Indian take-out can remind them that you are still out there, culminating ideas, and not forgetting your loyal following.
But wait… there’s more
Not joining the online music-streaming community can mean life or death for musicians in this day and age. It’s not hard to imagine this scenario: you have a show, the audience loves you, and you have nothing to make them remember you beyond that night besides a blurry Instagram photo and inebriated memories. Spending the extra bit of money and time to get some of your demos online will spare you any missed opportunities. You can even go a step farther and get cards printed with download codes on them and links to your online content. The effort will pay for itself after a successful show.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of ‘Word of Mouth’
I’m lucky to know so many talented people in the Boise area, and one such individual is Rob Lanterman. Creator of a small indie label, Hidden Home Records, member of five bands, and with two projects – Rob has a unique perspective on different aspects of growing a band’s following.
I asked Rob what marketing strategies he’s seen play out successfully in the small DIY scene, and what advice he has for bands that are struggling. Here’s what he had to say:
“If I have to recommend one thing [to increase turnout], it would be push word of mouth as hard as you can and promote farther ahead of time. I know people [such as club owners from neighboring states] who have a lot of personal connections and draw people to shows that way. That’s worked the best for me as long as I promote in advance. So build relationships and connections, and support other local bands so people feel inclined to support yours. It’s the same as a small business mentality: “Buy local or bye bye local.” Likewise, do unto others as you would have done unto you.
Also, while playing [shows] a lot is good for exposure, you’ll probably get better turnouts if you space your shows out more in order to promote in advance as much as you can.”
I next asked Rob for some specific tips on growing a band’s marketing potential. Here’s his tips on the matter:
“Building relationships and connections is important. I would say find personal contacts at different blogs and websites, like specific writers. The last release I put out, by the band Wicked Bears; they play with this band in Salt Lake who’s blowing up right now. I found that one site in particular I had wanted to get Wicked Bears on had posted about this band, so I reached out to the specific writers who had talked about them and just said “hey, this band Wicked Bears I’m working with played [this band’s] release show and also have a record coming out soon. Would you check it out and consider posting about it?” And they liked it and did so. Now, they’re exclusive streaming my next release. So you just build relationships with specific people, and everyone helps each other out. They post our thing, we post their post of our thing, it’s a nice little circle of promoting each other for bigger exposure and hopefully someday a little bit of conversion.
Also, your job in online marketing for your band is to just get it anywhere possible that people might see it. Spamming [obviously, we don’t condone spamming, let’s just interpret this as ‘interact intensively with’! -RDM] Reddit is good and joining conversations on there helped me a lot. Networking with real people who work for [music] publications is most important, but just getting it seen anywhere and everywhere results in downloads and plays, and that ups a bands stats on sites like Bandcamp and pushes their popularity further. Every little bit counts.”
Reaching out to blogs to spread your music is a commonly overlooked tool that many artists should utilise. I’ve seen success with bands like Red Hands Black Feet in my area when they reached out through online blogs that are frequented by fans of the post rock genre. Post rock is extremely popular ‘across the pond,’ and by sharing online they saw a boost in international sales at their Bandcamp. Reaching out through online blogs is an extremely useful way to make a musical impact across the globe.
The TL;DR Version
For those that didn’t want to read through all the specifics, here the bullet point version on the matter of marketing your band:
- Create an online presence, model it after entrepreneurs (being a band is a business after all)
- Stay unique – even weird – in your online content (it will make you memorable to your audience)
- Market on a budget and sponsor online posts to reach more people
- Keep your audience engaged, even when the band is on a ‘vacation’ (your fans will appreciate it)
- Get on Bandcamp or Spotify! (Join the online music streaming network)
- Promote your shows well in advance and don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth
- Network and build relationships with people in the industry
- Share your music through online blogs (even spamming Reddit to really make an impact)
Marketing trends will continue to fluctuate every year, but these basic steps should help you create a platform to build your band’s following. Over a few months’ time, you should notice an increase in turnout and a dedicated online fan base. I hope these tips and advice will help your band or project reach its true marketing potential. Cheers!
About the author:
Katie McBeth is a Freelance writer and social media marketer based out of Boise, ID. She enjoys reading teen novels, eating mac ‘n cheese, attending indie concerts in small bars, and long walks on the beach. Her love for reading is only trumped by her love for cats, of which she has three. She also has a dog, and he helps keep her grounded. You can follow her animal and writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth.
Red Dog Music is the UK’s friendliest musical instrument and pro-audio dealer. Between our 5000 square foot Edinburgh shop filled with an incredible range of products, a spectacular shop in Leeds, and a London showroom in Clapham specialising in high-end instruments, dj and pro-audio, Red Dog Music has you covered from north to south and from performance to playback.
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