Music marketing intimidates many indie musicians. We don’t want to feel sales-y, spammy, or like we’re yelling at people. Fortunately, there’s a way to share your music authentically while being considerate of others.
How To Market Your Music a Different Way
Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby and multi-book author, presents a very interesting way of approaching music marketing. In his book Your Music And People, he offers very thoughtful, considerate, and authentic ways indie musicians can share their music with people.
It’s specific enough that it has concrete steps you can take but general enough that it’s timeless advice. Here’s what I got from the book…
Marketing your music is simply sharing something you made that you’re excited about. It’s an extension of your art. So if you’re really proud of your music, you’ll put time into being creative with your marketing. Spend as much time cooking up ways to share your songs as you did creating them.
Being considerate in your marketing means you think about what people actually want. You don’t spam them or “yell” at them. Ask yourself why someone should care about you and your music.
“Marketing,” writes Sivers, “means making it easy for people to notice you, relate to you, remember you, and tell their friends about you.”
Think of People
The phrase “it’s all about who you know” is actually true. Could you do everything yourself and then blow up on social media? Yes, but the chances of that are slim.
What’s more likely is that you build relationships with people who then help you succeed. Just be a good person. Think about how you can help others. It’s the right thing to do, and karma may actually be real.
Dive Into the Industry
We say “the music industry,” but the industry is just made up of people. So go meet those people. Get to know them. And don’t beg people for a leg up – show them you can succeed before asking for help.
Work with what you have. Keep your overhead low. Assume nobody will help you (even if they might). You are running a small business as an indie musician. So make a plan that will lead to a profitable career and keep going after it.
Describe and Define Yourself
If you’re going to be meeting people in the music industry, you need a way to quickly describe your music. A one-sentence or even 2-3-word description is best.
It should tell people what to expect (I tell people I make “nostalgic folk”). Or you can make people curious so they just have to listen (Sivers’ example: “a cross between James Brown and The Beatles”).
And try to avoid genres or what instruments you play, unless you play a super unique instrument like the Theremin. Use visceral words that describe the vibe and feeling of your songs.
Who To Target
Many people won’t like your music. Music is subjective. So you need to focus on finding the right listeners, not finding the most listeners. Aim for the edges. Find your people.
“Have the confidence to find your niche, define who you are,” writes Sivers. “Then declare it again and again and again and again.”
Keep a Database
Create a spreadsheet. Then store information on every single person in the music industry you meet. Sivers recommends tracking:
- Contact info
- Tags so you can find the right people (songwriter, publisher, manager, etc.)
- Notes on your last communication
- When you should contact them next
This will help you stay in touch with people instead of letting their emails fade into the ether of your inbox.
Making Money and Promoting
If your friends aren’t telling people about your music, then don’t promote it, Sivers says. If this is the case, you need to go back and keep improving your art until people can’t not share it.
He also recommends waiting to share your music until it’s out, which I wholeheartedly agree with. Do you know how many times I’ve seen an indie artist online saying, “My song comes out in two weeks” only for me to move on and forget about it? I’ve missed out on so much good music! And as a listener, pre-saving is annoying to me. Just put the song out and then promote it.
Adjust Your Mindset
Sivers points out that moving to a city with a vibrant music scene will help you. You’ll be able to meet musicians, network with industry people, and easily support local music. Remember, it’s about who you know. And it’s also about being available and ready for opportunities. Doors will open that you didn’t expect to, so keep your career goals broad enough so you have room for them.
Ultimately, Sivers says, follow your interests.
“Whatever excites you, go do it,” he says. “Whatever drains you, stop doing it.”
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*This is not a sponsored post. Derek Sivers did not ask me to write this. I just really enjoyed the book and wanted to share the big ideas it covers.