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The other day I got a message to my YouTube account that perfectly summed up how NOT to promote yourself. It went like this:

Give back to your subs…
I love your creative / crazy take on music and technology… not to mention, how much did your setup cost? Wow!
If you don’t mind… I am trying to get a new book out and am giving away the first 5000 copies! If you would review it… even mention it and your opinion of it in a video, I would love to give you 5 copies to give away to your viewers! See my website or my channel.
I love original music, and yours is really wild… Thanks.

I don’t want to go into depth on all the problems with this message, because I hope it’s pretty apparent. The subject immediately tries to make me feel guilty, which is always the wrong way to start out an interaction with anyone. But the thing that’s most apparent is that this person really only cares about one thing: my subscribers. I’ve got something this person wants, and they don’t even seem to care that a book plug would be completely out of place in one of my videos. In a word, this is just lazy. Find someone with a little bit of influence and just try to use them. This is the wrong way to do it. And bands/artists do it all the time.

So what’s the right way to do it? Well, I can only speak from my experience and my (very) modest success. As with anything like this there isn’t a formula, and it’s going to look different for each person. But I can say that promoting yourself well almost never involves soliciting yourself to people you don’t have a relationship with and asking them for access to their resources.

Let me step back a little bit. I wanted to write this post because I’ve had a few people ask me lately about “how I promote myself”. My first thought when I first got the question was “…I don’t think I really do”. And that’s kind of true, really. I’ve never really focused that much on promoting myself as much I have just making music.

But let me take ANOTHER step back. More often than not, I’m on the other end of the aforementioned question and am curious about how other people have gotten to where they are. There’s a part of me that hopes that whenever I’m reading an interview with someone I admire that they’ll reveal some secret to their success that I’ll be able to directly apply to my life, which will in turn bring me the same level of success that they have. But that never happens. Usually the question of “how did you get to where you are today” does come up, but the answer seems to always be something like “well, it just kind of happened”. In a lot of cases, people’s success seems to be directly connected to certain specific relationships they may have with other successful people or things like that. Basically their story, as interesting as it probably was, never usually gives me any practical tips that I can apply to my own situation.

Or does it? I started to think about a lot of the stories I’ve read and there is one common thread between all of them: the people being interviewed worked hard. They kept working at it because they loved doing whatever they do. Their goal wasn’t necessarily to “get successful”, it was just to get better at what they do. And guess what happens when you do that? You start making connections. Opportunities start falling into your lap simply because you’re out there doing what you want to do.

So here’s how you promote yourself: create. Figure out your passion and do it. And don’t quit after a month because things haven’t picked up the way you wanted them to. I’ve been doing these Ambient Songs for about 3 years now, and I can say that in my case a large part of any success I have is due to those. I didn’t start because I knew they would help in that area, I started because it was/is fun and a good writing exercise. I love doing them.

So promote your art by doing your art. You’ll get better at what you do, and eventually people will start to notice. Work hard at it, and then you might find yourself in the right place at the right time to make it work. Don’t waste time spamming people and trying to use them. Don’t try to guilt people into supporting you. Get good at what you do, and do it a lot. Unfortunately that’s the only real piece of advice I can give on promoting yourself, but fortunately I do think it’s the best way to do it.

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  • Anonymous

    I must admit Andy I found your music from the ambient songs and instantly thought they were amazing, I’d maybe argue that you should promote your music more because I think more people such as me would enjoy it and it was purely by chance that I heard it. Anyway keep up the good work and I look forward to hearing more songs :)

  • Noah

    I think another thing people should keep in mind is that if they post something on the internet to tag it. I’m sure someone who loves post-rock would love to hear whatever post-rock someone is crafting, but if you don’t tag it as post-rock, how would they ever find it?

    • http://www.andyothling.com/ Andy Othling

      Sure, but I’d consider that more housekeeping stuff. This was meant to be more a “big picture” idea.

  • Nathaniel James

    Hi Andy, this is a great article, please can you promote me to all your subscribers? 
    Haha. Seriously though I really agree with your take on this and I also feel quite empowered by reading it.
    Concentrating on my songwriting has what I have always done, and I’ve always felt a bit uncomfortable ‘networking’ or having to think about image etc. I’m sure we would both agree that these things are important, but nowhere near as important as your creative work. I think a lot of people in the industry stand only by the maxim “its who you know”, however you could know all of the industry people in the world but if your songs aren’t that good because you havn’t worked hard, you’re still not going to get very far. 
    If you’re a musician, performing live is what you should be doing as well. That always has been, and always will be the best way to connect with people. 

    Beautiful songs as well man.

    Nathaniel James

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  • Andi

    I’m starting a new YouTube project that starts in a couple days, and this is EXACTLY what I needed to read. Thanks! Also, I read this because Cobus tweeted this article, so now I’m going to go check out your work. Just another example about how you doing your own thing and making connections that way helps you out in the long run!

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