Social Media And Artists – A Natural Fit

I used to be into the DJ thing in my college days, prior to finding my passions of web marketing and writing original music. The other day, however, I was pondering the things I did as a DJ to promote myself to gain a following and gigs. It was mostly in-person networking and building connections with people in the right places. That was the obvious (and effective) way to do things.

I actually didn’t do a half bad job at both marketing myself and DJ’ing – I opened for globally renowned artists like James Zabiela, I held a residency at (the now defunct) Vibe Nightclub in Gainesville, I played at the legendary Club Space in Miami. It was pretty fun when I was really into it, and taught me some wonderful networking (and beat-matching) skills.

In retrospect, however, in the days when I actually was trying to promote myself as an artist, there are a lot of things I could have done that would have been both more effective, and scalable to reach mass audiences directly with my music.

Over the years, I’ve thought of some creative, online marketing methods I could potentially have used to promote my own art that I feel may benefit some other artists. These ideas I’m going to present should work for not only DJs, but for all types of artists.

This was inspired by something I read from Kevin Kelly last week. The importance of this is for artists who seek to perhaps one day make a living purely from their art. You can do it, it is feasible. And I’d love to even inspire one person to try this.

Summary of Kevin Kelly’s marketing riff on 1,000 True Fans:
What is a True Fan?

“Someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can’t wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”

Why does this matter? Say you have 1000 True Fans:

“Assume conservatively that your True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do. That “one-day-wage” is an average, because of course your truest fans will spend a lot more than that. Let’s peg that per diem each True Fan spends at $100 per year. If you have 1,000 fans that sums up to $100,000 per year, which minus some modest expenses, is a living for most folks.

One thousand is a feasible number. You could count to 1,000. If you added one fan a day, it would take only three years. True Fanship is doable. Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate.”

Kevin makes a great argument, you should definitely read the whole column if you have a chance. I’d like to however go through just a few creative ideas I’ve had about even getting to that point of building 1,000 True Fans.

First, let’s go through what I do not recommend you do:

  • Friend thousands of people on MySpace and Facebook, then spam them
  • Post relentlessly on thousands of message boards about yourself and your art
  • Ask people to vote for you in The Dj List or similar competitions

Everyone is doing these things, and that’s exactly why they will never work. They don’t break the mold, and thus you end up blending in. Think if it like yelling in a crowded, noisy room – no one is going to hear you in the places everyone else is marketing. But you should definitely do some of the basic web marketing strategies for artists that are working.

Here’s some of the obvious stuff you should do:

  • Build a list of trade publications, blogs, freelance writers, etc. who might cover the kind of art you make. When you have news, organize it into a clean document for them with images and samples, and present it to them in a personal, direct and professional manner. Publications are always looking for new stories and people to write on, you’d be surprised how responsive they’ll be for an excited, up-and-coming artist who is pitching them in a respectful manner.
  • Build an opt-in an email database for people to subscribe to receive the latest about your art, create a blog with an RSS feed for people to receive updates on your art directly, and create a homepage on the web you can direct traffic to through social networks.
  • Go ahead and create profiles of yourself for your art on all the social networks, just be sure you’re clearly driving people to your website, your personal RSS feed, etc. You’ll want to have these contacts in an up-to-date list for when you have a new album out or news about your gigs. Don’t ever spam them.
  • Keep a Google Alert for your name as an artist so you can keep track of when people mention you on their blog, their MySpace page, etc. When they do, post a thank you and connect with them. They’ll really appreciate the personal effort.

Why am I mentioning the obvious?
You probably know all these basic strategies (and more) you should be using to organize your fans on the web. The web offers unprecedented ways to make yourself and your music easily findable, advantages artists of years past did not have. I’m mentioning the obvious because you’ll need this basic stuff in place before you can get to the creative/viral marketing. It’s important because once you create demand for yourself and your art, you’ll want fans to be able to find it.

For example, if one of the viral ideas listed next takes off for you – tons of people may start Google-ing your name. You’ll want them to find your social network page, your homepage or an article about you so they can find out how to connect with you. It’s vital to convert them into subscribers for your art. SEO for an artist cannot be ignored, as if people can’t find you, nothing will ever happen.

Additionally, these methods of promoting will get your art out there to new people. That is important, as I see many artists promoting themselves on web forums or social sites where they are essentially preaching to the converted. If you want big results, you have to go where the competition isn’t and where new fans live.

5 Viral ways to promote your art

1) Use Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, etc. to your advantage
I’m a big fan of social networking news sites. I’m also surprised more artists haven’t caught on to using these pages to create a massive buzz for their art. A front page story on easily sends tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of unique visitors to a page. And the communities of these sites love creativity, it is such a natural fit. If you can get your art into the hot sections of these sites, you win. Here are a few examples of artists that made page one of Digg:

Music using ONLY sounds from Windows XP and 98

DJ Set Tutorial: Mixing 6 Turntables

Hip Hop Violin

How you create something unique and compelling enough to become popular on social news sites I leave to you, the artist. The only advice I can give is to become active on them and really see what makes them tick. Then see what you’ve done that you think is a fit, and go for it.

2) Use video
If you checked out the Digg links, you probably noticed the first one takes you to a video of the song on YouTube. You’ll notice that video had 1.6+ million views. When was the last time a message forum post you created hit that many views? Exactly my point…break out of the niche sites and get some of your content onto the hot areas of the web such as video sharing sites.

Have you heard of Tay Zonday?

[youtube EwTZ2xpQwpA]

15 million people on YouTube have…

3) If a label won’t sign you, do it yourself:
Chris Anderson over at The Long Tail has a great example of the power of this – and it even led to the band getting signed with a real label. The tools exist to put out your own music without needing an external agency. I did it with the release of my latest album and found it an incredible enjoyable and simple process. Additionally, now I know exactly who purchased and how I can follow-up with them for my next release. Note that I never spammed any of them, nor used advertisements to sell copies – all 100% organic.

4) Connect with another type of artist or content creator.
I already posted on the runaway success of Brazilian band CSS due to Nick Haley’s use of one of theirs songs in his Apple iPod commercial. The commercial was actually written by Haley just for fun, but was so effective Apple’s marketing people just had to pick it up and use it as a TV spot. Here’s the commercial once again, which was entirely user generated content:

[youtube KKQUZPqDZb0]

The two ways to get your song in a place like this would be to either

A) Team up with someone creating high quality user generated content – one way to do this is by sending a nice email with your song attached to popular YouTube content creators asking them to consider using some of your original, unheard of music in one of their videos. If you’re completely unheard of, they may even be more open to using your content because they once came from (or are still in) the same place.

B) Pick one or two of your songs, and just give them out free – encourage people to copy/share them, spread them on p2p and social media. You can never get used in viral videos unless your music is actually out there!

5) Give some out free
I just hinted at this in my last point, but it is important to at least give some of your content out there free. It’s such a great tactic, even for a no-name artist. Yes, Trent Reznor and Radiohead get a firestorm of press for it, but it is something that works for everyone. Use the file sharing tools and networks to your advantage. You can’t sell any albums or get booked at any events without demand for your music. And there is no demand for music and artists no one has even heard of. Even if you’re making music in a niche genre, you still need to reach your niche. Get some of your art out there!

Of course…this is all for not if your music isn’t remarkable in the first place. That needs to be step one in this entire process. There’s such a staggering amount of art out there that none of the viral promotions will work, at least long term, unless your content is truly exceptional. And the True Fans concept doesn’t work at all unless you have an incredible passion for your work. These two go hand in hand.