The latest Bandcamp Friday has given me once again the opportunity to observe the variety of marketing techniques used by independent musicians to promote their work. And I have to say, a lot of what I’ve seen wasn’t pretty.
Bandcamp Fridays are shaping up to be a blessing for independent artists, as they offer a free marketing opportunity to promote their music during the pandemic, where live gigs have been scarce and often cancelled or postponed due to the changing situation across the world.
This situation is likely to continue for a while, because even though gigs are being booked again, several independent venues have closed down due to the effects of the pandemic. Furthermore, many venues have been already pre-booked for future gigs and tours by bigger artists, meaning that smaller artists are likely to continue suffering from a lack of gigs for a while.
How does Bandcamp Friday work? On the first Friday of every month, Bandcamp waives the fees they charge artists for their sales, giving them the opportunity to earn more per individual sale. Typically, artists pitch their music in emails and messages to their followers on that day.
Just like with Black Fridays marketing communications however, the platform is crowded as people are bombarded with messages from literally thousands of artists pitching their music. It is therefore advisable to stick out from the crowds, as well as to ensure that your messaging reaches the right people.
I am listing a few tips below that will ensure you maximize your chances of success. Whether you are a hobby artist or someone who is making a considerable income from your art, the key is to approach this in the same way any successful self-employed small business owner would approach their business: with a sound strategy and understanding for what works in terms of sales and marketing.
- Accept that you need to market your music. Too many independent artists show a misplaced pride in not engaging with any marketing activities. They reason that people will find their way to it if the music is good enough. I was literally told these words some time ago by a former guitar player! But let us be honest to ourselves, how many artists truly believe that their music is not good enough? We tend to have a positive bias towards what we create, so naturally we will feel that our music is good and that it deserves to be bought. The hard truth however is that no matter how good your music is, no one is going to engage with your music, let alone buy it, if they don’t know it exists in the first place. Music is about connection, so unless you connect with your audience, you will join the ranks of the thousands of unloved and underappreciated artists out there
- Understand that any activity related to sharing your music, or talking about your music in any shape or form, is a marketing activity. When artists distance themselves from the ‘sellouts’ who are marketing their music, they imply that they don’t do any marketing themselves. However the reality is that they are usually poor at marketing themselves, as they don’t understand its principles. The sooner you accept that marketing is an indispensable activity of your life as an independent artist, the sooner you will realize it isn’t the dirty word you think it is. It’s the tool which will help your ‘tribe’ discover your music. And isn’t this what we all want?
- Be generous. Too many artists I know guard their music in secrecy as if it’s the precious Ring of Power. New developments such as Non Fungible Tokens further encourage this worrying trend. If you are an unknown artist, increasing your visibility should be your main concern. Give away freebies and bandcamp codes; organize contests to give Cds and other merch away. Music supporters are generous by their own nature and when they get the opportunity, they will reward your generosity in turn. It is not unusual for Bandcamp buyers to pay well over the selling price of a merch item in order to support their favourite artists!
- Give out a personal message when you promote your music. People love stories. They want to identify with you, their hero, and get in your shoes! ‘Buy my album’ is not a personal story. Give them a reason to buy, by allowing them to get to know you better. Give proceeds to a charity your care about, talk to them about how their support keeps you going and creating awesome music, give them sneak peeks about your equipment and behind the scenes material…however always stay positive! Pity parties about how broke and unappreciated you are will not have the desired effect and are likely to contribute to you remaining a broke and unappreciated artist.
- Make marketing activities fun. A contest with a free giveaway engages people and helps you to spread the word in a pleasant way, and you can make of ‘spreading the word’ the call-to-action of your giveaway (share my post/like my page etc in order to get the chance to win)
- Engage people in a Facebook group. Your Facebook/Instagram artist pages are but the store front. Facebook groups help you engage your fans with fun stories, related to your music’s culture. This is where you get to know your fans and identify your superfans. Who are the first ones to respond to your posts, give you feedback, buy your music etc? Once you identified them, engage them in your Facebook group and get them in your email list. Once you have a sufficient number of these superfans, you can send them exclusive emails (most email clients help you segment your email list) to further increase engagement and make them feel special and unique
- Paid ads are a helpful way to gain new fans and grow your audience. However the word ‘grow’ is key! Facebook has been so effective at promoting its paid ads service, that it has given us the illusion that Facebook ads are the solution to all our marketing woes. In reality, they are only useful in helping grow what is already there. You will need to first plant the seed with your organic marketing. Once this is done, you will have a foundation to build on with paid ads
Doing a combination of the above will ensure that you steadily increase your visibility and with it, your chances to sell your music and your merch. For more detailed tips, download my free Marketing Guide For Solopreneurs , some of which are specifically written for artists!
What other marketing strategies have you found useful as an independent artist? Let me know in the comments below!