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Actually, I take that back. Annoying promotion does work. Just not in the way that you probably want. And not in the long term.

I read a news article a few years ago about a band called the Imperial Stars who decided it would be in their best interest to block rush hour traffic on a busy Los Angeles freeway and perform on the top of their truck. It ended just like you’d expect it would, with them getting arrested. I’m sure they knew they would get arrested, but they must have thought it would be a consequence worthy of the exposure and notoriety they would receive from the stunt.

And guess what? It worked! They got plenty of exposure. They got their music “out there” and gained some notoriety. But unfortunately for them, they’re not known for their music. They’re known for being annoying.

If you’re annoying with your promotion, that’s what you’ll be known for as well.

The biggest question you need to ask yourself during promotion is “Why should they?”. Say you post on Facebook asking people to like your music page. “Hey, I need more likes on my music page!” Let’s pretend for a minute that 1 Facebook like = 1 dollar. If that’s the case, then the former status reads like this: “Hey, I need you all to give me money!”. The obvious response to this (especially from people you may only be loosely acquainted with) is “why should I?”. I’m not going to give you a dollar. I barely know you, and I don’t even know why you want it.

So what’s a better way to ask for likes (dollars)? Well, usually when you ask someone for money you give them something in return. Perhaps your Facebook update needs to read more like this: “Hey friends! I’m getting ready to release some new music and put together this short promo video. I’d love if you watched it, and if you like the music I’d love if you liked my music page so I can keep you updated about the release.” This kind of promotion answers the question of “why should I?”. It’s saying “hey, if you like my page I’ll keep you updated on this music that you’ve shown an interest in.”

Hopefully that makes sense. And hopefully you can see how this applies to other types of promotion as well.

The Imperial Stars gave the people on the Los Angeles freeway that day absolutely no reason to continue following them or their music. If you spam people with your music without giving them any incentive or respect, then you will be noticed for being annoying and not for your music.

There’s one more lesson I want to take from the Imperial Stars. Check out this music video. This is the song they performed on the top of their truck.

[youtube id="rym7ctlNDcM"]

I’m not going to pass any judgement on the song. But I can’t help but notice that between their extravagantly painted truck, the ridiculousness of the music video and the song itself that the least amount of time and thought seems to have gone into the song. It’s as if the song was thrown together for the sole purpose of being able to make the music video and paint the truck.

If you want to be known for your music, then spend more of your time on your music. You will be known for the thing you spend the most of your time on. If you spend more time trying to get people to like your Facebook page than you do honing your songwriting skills and releasing new music, then people will quickly lose interest. Music is much more interesting than spam.

So don’t be like the Imperial Stars. Respect the people you’re promoting to. Give them reason and incentive to follow what you do. And spend your time on the thing you want to be known for, which I hope is your music. Focusing on these things will guarantee a dedicated and long term fan base who will appreciate the respect you’ve shown them and the quality music you’ve shared with them.

Question: what are some good ways to promote to potential listeners while respecting them and not annoying them?

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  • http://twitter.com/skyflyingby sky flying by

    i hate to be one of those people, but “this” cannot be stated hard enough for this piece. so many artists spend so much time and effort on “promoting” and just appearing to be desperate to get their music heard that well, there’s actually very little (in terms of substance) to hear. sfb has a what i call a 100% organic micro-audience. very little promotion happens, just the odd fb/twitter post letting whoever cares to know that things are happening. yeah using the term “micro-audience” is probably overstating it, maybe nano-audience? but it’s a good group of folks who, i believe, legitimately care about the music and what is going on. nope, not the most vocal bunch, but retention is very high.

    at the end of the day i don’t spend a lot of time worrying about numbers. to me this music thing is like, well, for me it goes something like this: some people like to play golf, i like to make records. it’s something i always will do, it serves a vital importance for me, and sharing it with others is just icing on the cake. so, i don’t spend a lot of time promoting. what happens will happen on its own.

    • http://stanmanx.com Matt Smyczynski

      Since we’re talking about promotion, I have to reply to this.

      I just followed you on Twitter and Facebook because your thoughtful, non-spammy comment made me curious about your music. I’m currently listening to stuff on your bandcamp page. I like it, but that’s not really the point here — you got my attention by engaging the post and relating it to your own experience, which made me willing to click through your profile to get to your site.

      I bring all this up because there’s a tendency among blog commenters (on other blogs, not this one!) to try and use the comment section as an advertising platform rather than as a place to have a discussion, as if the existence of your link makes people want to click it. I think having something worth saying is preferable to crafting perfect linkbait… kind of like how creating your best music is more effective than begging for likes on Facebook.

  • Anonymous

    I think a good way to promote oneself respectfully (and respectably) is to focus on sincerely sharing your content and allowing people to appreciate it and connect with it, rather than just trying to increase your number of Likes or followers.

    You’re totally right, Andy, about how little thought and passion seems to have gone into Imperial Stars’ actual music, relative to the flashy publicity stunt and music video. Not only did they make themselves known only for being annoying, they don’t seem to have any real substance to share with the people they “reached,” anyway.

    If I’m going to put any energy at all into promotion, I try to keep it focused on sharing the art that I’ve worked so hard on with people, so they have a chance to enjoy it, relate to it, and connect with it. If they do these things, they’re worth much more to me than just another Like or follow, because they’ll actually WANT to stay updated on my work and build a relationship with me. They’ll actually listen to my music and share it with their friends (and hopefully pay me for it!). Getting people to form this kind of sincere connection with my art seems much more effective and meaningful than trying to convince them to look at my page in order to make my social media statistics appear more positive. In truth, these kinds of relationships are what I’m after in the first place—they’re fulfilling to me as an artist and person.

  • Pingback: Annoying into Submission | leianajade

  • http://www.facebook.com/Fabianreynas Fabian Elias Reyna

    Thanks Andy, I appreciate all the advice. I don’t have much to say on this subject because Im just too busy with school, but I wanted to encourage you to keep writing this stuff.

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