I’ve been asked about this a few times, and I thought it would be worth typing up for anyone interested. After doing this whole mostly-online musician thing for a little while now, I’ve come up with some general guidelines and ideas that have worked decently well for me thus far.
But before I jump into anything, know that none of this works if you have a crappy product. While it is fun (at least to me) to spend some time doing these kinds of online things, the majority of your time needs to be spent making quality music (or whatever else you are trying to promote, but this is primarily geared toward musicians). It’s just common sense really; all the marketing in the world won’t help you be successful when you have a sub-par product.
That being said, there are two main things I try to do with this whole online thing. The first thing being that wherever possible, look as professional as you can. The second is to make your music and yourself easily accessible.
- Don’t have a Myspace page. If you have one, delete it. With all the ads and other things they’ve crammed into Myspace, I don’t think there’s a way to make it look good. And when people google “Lowercase Noises”, I don’t want a Myspace page to be one of the first hits (which it will be, even if you have one that you don’t use).
- Get a legit domain name and website. I have www.lowercasenoises.com. Having a website is really pretty cheap. I have mine through Dreamhost. Its $9 a month for pretty good hosting, and the domain name comes with it. At the very least, just put a simple page there that has links to your music, Facebook, whatever else. If you don’t feel comfortable with putting together a little page yourself, then I recommend installing WordPress (Dreamhost gives you the option of letting them install it for you, it’s really easy). If you don’t know already, WordPress is just a really nice blogging platform (it’s what I’m using right now).
- Once you have a domain name, use Google Apps to get an email address at your domain name. Mine is email@example.com. Dreamhost will help you set that up as well, and it’s free. This will help you look way more professional during email correspondence with anyone interested in your music.
- If you use Bandcamp to distribute your music (which I’d recommend, if you don’t already), look into making your Bandcamp page a subdomain from your original one. For instance, going to music.lowercasenoises.com brings you to my Bandcamp landing page. It looks nicer than lowercasenoises.bandcamp.com, but both will work. Go here for directions on how to do that.
- Make your internet URLs look nice. If you can, try to have them all be consistent. For instance, my Twitter username is @lowercasenoises. My Facebook URL is facebook.com/lowercasenoises. It just looks nicer when they’re all listed together. Plus, it makes it easier for people to remember. And about the Facebook page URL, if you are still using that long ugly one that they initially give you, go here to change it to something nicer.
- Make your site designs look nice. I’m no graphic designer, so I’m not trying to fool anyone. I just try to make things look as simple and clean as possible. Put a little time into it and take it seriously. If you do, people will be more apt to take you seriously, and that’s really what all this advice is about. If you want an easy way to spice things up a little bit, go to www.dafont.com and find a cool font to use for all your banners and things. Again, try to go for consistency, it just looks better.
- Look into getting a mailing list together. I use FanBridge, and it’s worked well for me. If you’re using Bandcamp already, export your addresses that you’re already collecting and put them in FanBridge or which ever tool you use. It’s nice to not have to manage subscriptions/unsubscriptions yourself. And they give you some nice stats on how many people are viewing and clicking on links in your emails. But be careful with mailing lists, don’t send out too much stuff.
It’s not really enough to just look professional. You actually have to act professional. Here are a few things on that:
- Don’t spam. Seriously. I have resolved to never ever be one of those bands who is constantly sending messages/comments out to check out their stuff. As I mentioned before, it’s all about your “product”. If you have a good product, you shouldn’t have to reduce yourself or the people you’re trying to attract to spamming and annoying them. It’s a huge turn off. And don’t do those veiled spam comments either, like “hey, love your stuff. Come check my music out!” or “hey what’s up? If anyone is interested in rapcore/folk/polka fusion come check us out!”. You know what I mean. It’s spamming, and you also come off as insincere. Let your music do the talking for you. Plus, people will be more willing to connect with you if they don’t feel like they’re forced into it.
- Try to respond to people as much as you can. And be nice.
- Don’t say negative things about yourself. Don’t say things like “Here’s a new song that probably no one will listen to”. You know. Like I said before, take yourself seriously and other people will too. Be confident in yourself and the music you put out. We all have insecurities about it, save those for more intimate conversations with people you trust. Same goes for live performances.
Making Your Music Easily Accessible
This is my other big thing. Make it as easy as you can for people to connect with you and to actually check out your music.
- Think about the most common landing places where people find you. Make sure that wherever that is, it’s as easy as possible for them to find more info on you. For me, it’s YouTube. On my ambient song videos, I make sure that there is a link to my Bandcamp page right at the beginning of the description, so it’s visible even in the little description preview (without expanding it). I just want to make it as easy as possible for some one to click right to my music.
- Use image maps wherever you can. An image map is essentially a link overlay on top of an image. It allows you to have an image with clickable portions that link to other pages. I use this online image map generator for my image maps. Bandcamp allows you to have one, and it’s the best way for people to get more info on you after they’ve checked out your music. On my Bandcamp page I have links to my blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc, basically anything someone listening might be interested in looking at. Again, it’s about making it as easy as possible for someone to connect with you. YouTube also lets you use image maps if you’re a part of their partner program.
- Make music available on your Facebook page somehow. A lot of people use the Reverbnation app which seems nice, I happen to use the Bandpage app and I like it a lot. The built in Facebook music player is pretty poor. And once you have a music app going, go into the settings on your page and make that app the default app that comes up when people visit your page for the first time. Don’t make it hard for people to find your music when they visit your Facebook page.
- Use the Facebook Like feature on Bandcamp.
- If you use Twitter, I find it helpful to make your weblink one that brings you right to some music. I have mine go right to my Bandcamp page. And from there, they can get to my website, blog, and Facebook via the image map. See how that works?
- I guess the general rule here is just to allow, as much as possible, all your various online places to be connected to each other as much as possible. Use the built in tools that are already there, especially the image maps.
Anyways, those are some basic and hopefully practical things to help you do this whole online thing. These things work pretty well for me, but each artist is different and should apply this to their own specific case.