7 Things I Learned About Promoting Music In The Past 5 Years

I started playing drums in my teens but I soon had a falling out with my drums in my late teens. I had reached a plateau. I was no longer making progress and stopped having as much fun. I thought I was done playing music when I moved to Arizona for my 3rd time in 2004. I was 21 at the time.

Fast forward several years and I found myself breaking past my plateau. I was playing in bands with some of my favorite local musicians, making music I actually liked. It’s been amazing!

Since then I’ve played in 3 bands here in the Phoenix area, and released 6 records with them. Now, when I say records I don’t mean they were all vinyl records. A couple were. Most were digital only releases. One was a cassette tape.

It’s been 5 years this month since I put out the first of the 6 records and so it got me reflecting on it all and what I learned. Without further ado, here are the 6 things I learned about promoting music after releasing 6 records:

#1. Put out a record

Put together a set of songs, record them, and release them as a digital only release if nothing else. Make sure you have artwork to go along with it. Just because it’s digital only doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have artwork. Come on!

Ideally, you want to have something physical to send to magazines for review, because most won’t review a digital only record, but I understand not every band has money for merch. With that said, it’s possible to put out a short run of cassette tapes, say 50 for just over $100. Cheaper if you find used cassette tapes at a 2nd hand store.

I’ve seen “bands” together for years without releasing anything but random songs that don’t belong to an album. They’re just floating out there on the Internet. Stop doing this, and put something out. People want an experience, not just a random song with no name.

Oh yea, and “pay what you want” pricing works best for digital downloads. BandCamp.com allows you to offer this pricing with just the check of a box.

#2. Stream is your friend

Don’t be scared of having your music up on services like Spotify. Seriously, removing your music from Spotify because of their paltry royalties is liken to cutting off the nose to spite the face. Would you rather go back to the days before the internet where you had to appease gatekeepers to get national attention? I don’t.

Besides streaming services like BandCamp.com and SoundCloud.com, checkout DistroKid.com for a cheap way to get your music on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play, etc.

#3. Make flyers promoting your records

Many bands will make flyers to promote shows and put them up all around town, but what about for their records? You can have little flyers made up like the one below so people know where to access your music in digital format, and throw them around town too!

#4. Music videos rule

Where would Nirvana have been if the “Teen Spirit” music video never came out. They’d probably still be playing small clubs.

Every band should make a music video as soon as possible. The earlier in the bands life the better. Make a few. Now that we’re all living in the age of YouTube, music videos are one of a band’s best tools for injecting personality, gaining attention and standing out.

Maybe wait and see which songs do well on BandCamp and Spotify before selecting which song you’ll make a video for.

To date, I have made the mistake of never making a real music video for my bands. Don’t make the same mistake.

#5. People like band shirts

A friend’s band that toured the U.S. told me they sold 3–4x more shirts than they did vinyl records. Let’s face it, these days most people find more value in a t-shirt than a copy of your bands 7-inch vinyl.

#6. Don’t play so many shows

If you play too many shows people will get burnt out. You want your shows to be a rare treat, this way more people are more likely to come check it out. Also, be more selective with the shows you play. Weekday night shows usually always suck unless there’s a good touring band in town.

Apps like BandsInTown and SongKick make it easier for bands and fans to stay connected so there’s never a show missed. Facebook isn’t so great for this anymore since only a small percentage of your fans on Facebook will even see your status updates.

#7. Have fun

There are so many bands these days, and it seems like everybody wants to be a rock star. The truth is, most bands take themselves way too seriously, and forget to have fun. In the end, that’s what it’s all about anyways.

Don’t want to do all the above yourself? Send me a tweet @stevelongoria and I might be able to take on your project.

Steve Longoria

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