5 Successful Ways to Promote Yourself as an Indie Artist
‘I’m Old School and I Make Lists’
Working as a musician in Berlin, I mostly perform in bars, cafes and theaters and I don’t normally play in large venues with the backing of industry promoters with vast promotional campaigns. I am quite old school when it comes to promoting my music. Simply, it is about putting in my best effort to tell as many people as possible that I am playing a show or releasing a new recording. I have hired promoters in the past only to realize that most of the work to be done, at my level of popularity, still came down to me spreading the word. Getting people to the show or to hear a new recording, mostly depends on the time, energy and resources I invest into it.
The more time you have before the event, the better it is to let people know right away to put the date on their calendar. The more energy and resources you have, the greater the possibility it will work, so get your friends and family to help. I find it imperative to make a variety of lists and keep them up to date. Lists of potential venues, radio stations, magazines, record stores, record labels, blogs, promoters etc. and most importantly the fan email list.
1.The Mailing List Book
My number one favorite resource for promoting my music is my Mailing List Book. I bring a blank sketch book every time I go to play anywhere and keep it open with a pen available in the spine. It’s there for people to leave their email addresses but at the same time a place where they can comment or draw etc. Fans love it and I have already filled up a few books with emails and great memories. I use the emails to send them a newsletter with a list of my shows and new releases once every few months.
I also use online email subscription services but I find my physical mailing list book has become essential. If you make your own book, don’t be surprised to get some odd messages, like love letters in languages you don’t understand or extremely immature doodles of various body parts, especially if you perform to a younger crowd. However, you will find that many people show their appreciation for you and your music by writing something special in your book and leaving you their email address.
Send your EPK and the info about your upcoming shows and recordings to music blogs, there are so many of them! Most music blog writers sincerely care about music and will probably be interested in yours and will write something about it. Be sure the blogs you send your music to make sense for you, for instance, don’t send a promotional email about your concert in Berlin to a blog in the UK, or don’t ask for a review of your folk album in a heavy metal blog. Do the online research and find the contact info to the blogs that make sense for you. You can also make a promotional video for each show, tour, release etc. for viewing on blogs and your social networks. Remember you should always have your event dates and music available online in as many places as possible so having your music up on blogs is a great way to spread the word.
3.Local Radio Stations and Magazines
Get in touch with your local radio stations and magazines. When I first moved to Berlin I went to the Radio Eins studio at Admiralspalast with my guitar and played some songs in the courtyard. The moderator actually came outside and listened to me play. She ended up offering me three half hour long live performances and interviews on her radio program over the next year. I was lucky but it would have never happened had I not literally gone and played in the courtyard! I’ve also written to journalists, such as at the taz. die tageszeitung here in Germany, and was fortunate to get a full page article and interview for my record release show. Getting in touch with local publications and DJ’s can be very helpful in expanding your fan base.
4.Posters, Flyers, Stickers
Do you ever see those street lamps or billboard walls nearly mummified in layers upon layers of weather-faded band posters? They seem like some kind of communal collage art that looks cool but I know for certain that I won’t remember any particular band or event the second I walk away. Still, I think it’s a worthwhile idea to use posters, flyers and stickers, but place them in surroundings that make them very noticeable. Obviously, put them in the venue where you’re performing, in the surrounding music shops, bars, cafe’s, train stations, and anywhere that makes common sense in order to get people to notice. I always have hand-crafted business cards with digital download codes made of boutique textured paper available in my wallet to give out to people. I appreciate the handmade element more than industry produced merch and sometimes I even make my own posters for my shows.
5.Get Out There!
Go out to Open Mics and concerts in your community. Where I live in Neukoelln, Berlin I feel very fortunate because there is an open mic event within walking distance from my house every night of the week. I go to open mics to promote my next concerts, try new material live on stage, and to network with all the other musicians. I find it is just as important for me to be involved with my local music culture and neighborhood communities as I am with the world online. The digital and physical worlds go hand in hand in the way I try to promote my music. For instance, I take photos of the concerts I’m playing or attending and share them online with my fans. I find that going out, meeting people, keeping lists and keeping in touch online are the long term promotional tactics that work best.
In conclusion, as a DIY musician, you can keep up a steady pace of self promotion by practicing these five tips: 1. Keep a mailing list and send out a newsletter once every month or two. 2. Send your EPK to music blogs and online magazines. 3. Send your EPK to the local radio and television stations, magazines and newspapers. 4. Always have posters, flyers, stickers or business cards available. 5. Go out to as many music events as possible and be involved with the local music scene.