Written By Matt Heckler
One of the most difficult parts of starting out in the music business is figuring out how to get yourself out there and be promoting your music effectively. Starting from scratch is something practically every musician has to do, but it’s a daunting task to say the least. Learning how to maximize your exposure is absolutely key to getting out there and developing the fan base that you deserve. Here are five promotion tips for getting it off the ground:
1. Use every social media you can handle. It is absolutely a must for your band or music project to have a presence on every kind of social media. Use Twitter to remind people about shows and appearances, Facebook pages as a place for your fans to gather, and Instagram to post cool candid photos of you and your band at your shows. Live videos on YouTube can also be huge audience boosters; some artists have even found their fame that way. ON.com is a highly visual app and you can tag and target your photos for people who also have musical interests .
2. Have original music. If you play shows and do nothing but covers, chances are that people who are looking to find the next big thing aren’t going to take you seriously. There is some money in being a cover band, but you’d be playing dive bars your whole career with practically zero room for advancement. Make sure your style is the kind of music you enjoy to play, and make sure it’s your own voice. People can tell when you’re trying too hard to be something you’re not, and it makes it harder to connect with your audience. That doesn’t mean you can’t throw a cover or two into your set, because that does get people excited, but it’s important that your show be about your creativity first and foremost.
3. Open mics are like free shows. When you’re first starting out, finding open mics are key to getting your foot in the door. Depending on what style of music you’re playing, this may require you to adapt your songs into simpler, more acoustic renditions, as many open mics don’t take kindly to you bringing entire drum kits and amps for such a small timeslot. Open mics help you network with other musicians, get you new fans, and remind people of how awesome you are. If you have a show in a particular neighborhood lined up, try to do an open mic or two in the same week and see how that affects your draw. It’s definitely going to help you in the long run to be out and playing as much as possible.
4. Use good ol’ fashioned face-to-face promotion. If you have a show or recently recorded some new material, get your butt out on the street and pass out as many flyers as you can stand. If you have the money, you can even print cheap CD-Rs with a few songs for additional promotion, as this is a great way to get people to know your band exists. If you live in the kind of area where there seem to be hundreds of bands, it sets you apart from the lazy ones that don’t do enough to get their names out there.
5. Network like crazy. Meeting other musicians and getting friendly with them is one of the most important parts of playing when you start out. If you meet other musicians and make a good impression, it will almost definitely lead to more shows coming your way, sometimes without even having to seek them out yourself. It is important to reciprocate, though, so if you’re playing a show that needs another band, make sure you think about who has helped you out in the past first. This kind of musical camaraderie is important not just for you as an individual musician but it helps to grow your local music scene as a whole.
Social media communities and apps like ON.com are a way for you to meet people all over the world and build relationships with people. It is a limitless opportunity for networking on such a huge scale. If you are able to get your music in front of a producer or influential artist and for example they retweet it to their followers your music has just been exposed to an exponential audience with exponential opportunities. The more people you talk to the more ears you are going to expose your music to. The more people you build relationships with the more people are going to care about your music and want to help you.
If you’re ready to try to get your music out there, there are a handful of venues we can recommend in big cities in the United States for open mic nights. In Chicago, singer/songwriters should check out the legendary open mic night at Gallery Cabaret. If you’re going for a different kind of music, Elbo Room is a popular spot and a great place for all kinds of musicians just starting out. In Los Angeles, there’s an eclectic mix of styles at Tuesday Night Café Project and Bliss Art House Café, both of which cater to all kinds of performers, and not just musicians. Because New York City is just so big, you’ll have to look for places specific to the borough you’re in. If you’re in Brooklyn, you can try Vox Pop Coffeehouse, which caters mostly to folk singers. In the East Village, you’ll want Sidewalk Café, a massive open mic that goes from 8 PM until as late as 3 AM, and is often cited as one of the best open mics in the city. Just a little bit of digging online can find you all sorts of places to play, but the most important thing is to be confident in what you do and love doing it! The music business is definitely a marathon and not a sprint, so you’re going to have to be in it for the long haul.