Bent Out of Shape: The Art of Self-Promotion for Independent Artists
Yesterday was a special day for the United States, and for me personally. I just voted for the first time in the presidential election.
As I was voting, I thought about each candidate's campaign and couldn't help but think about the similarities between running for office and releasing music as an independent artist. Whether you're running for office or releasing your own music, it all comes down to self-promotion.
Having just released my first album last month, I will guide you through the process I went through to promote my album and create a buzz. In Los Angeles, I see many bands self-financing their recordings and releasing them independently. The level of success achieved always depends on how much work and resources you put into promoting your release. Regardless of genre, I believe this is true for all forms of modern music.
So let's start at the beginning. You've just finished your album and want to release it for the world to hear. The first step is to set up distribution. Distribution is the method for how the general public will be able to purchase your music. Lately, most people prefer to just release their music digitally through iTunes other digital retailers. Companies like Tunecore and CD Baby will do this for you.
After you have your distribution and release date, it's time to promote! Start by deciding what resources are available to you; by that, I mean how much money you have to spend on your promotion. It would be nice if we had the same budget as Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, but realistically you probably are looking at a slim budget. For that reason, it is important to spend your money wisely and figure out the best way to maximize your exposure. Here are some brief tips on how to spend your money wisely:
• Unless you have at least $10k in your budget, don't spend money on print or online banner ads.
• Consider advertising on Facebook to promote your page for as little at $1 a day. That's not a bad way to spend your money, as you can specify, in detail, your target audience.
• Don't waste your time or money on sending promo CD's and press kits to huge lists of media contacts. Instead, identify a few select magazines, website and radio stations that are tailored toward your style of music and focus your resources on those.
• Focus on building relationships with writers so you can get reviewed or featured in magazines for free, and maintain those relationships for future releases.
• Make a video! If you are a tight budget, you can just make a lyric video, but get something on YouTube.
• Make sure your social media and website look professional and are up to date. If you can't do it yourself, consider paying a student to help you.
It would be impossible to discuss in detail all aspects of promoting a release, but use these tips to get you started. The most important thing is to plan and be creative. If you have any ideas, leave me a comment on this blog post for other users to see. You also can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or want to share ideas.
I was lucky enough to get signed to an indie label who helped me with promotion and financing for my release. In next week's blog post, I'm going to talk more about that and about how I got signed and how you should promote yourselves to record labels. Stay tuned!
Will Wallner is a guitarist from England now living in Los Angeles. He is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and in 2012 toured Japan, America and Canada. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features some of the most influential musicians from hard rock/heavy metal. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.