Bring The People To Your Music

Fynn Callum & Carolyn Bowick

The online music revolution has, undoubtedly, been a revelation for today’s producers wanting to be heard. Gone are the days of optimistically sending demo tapes, or spending a small fortune on getting a first run of vinyl pressed to try to build a following. Now, sites like Soundcloud make it easy to make your music available, and aggregators such as Tunecore and Rebeat allow you to go down the do it yourself route and get your music into digital stores.

Unfortunately, opening the industry up in this way has in some ways just moved the goalposts. Now, instead of the bottleneck for new entrants being recording and production, it’s the marketing; it’s far easier to get your music to the people, but with millions of others doing the same, it’s quite another to get them to listen.

It seems we’ve gone full circle: far from being liberated from the label system, artists now need to get signed, not only to benefit from the label’s promotional budget, but, as anyone can get a track on iTunes these days, to use the brand to add an air of ‘legitimacy’ to their product. Fortunately, hand in hand with the revolution of digital music distribution has come the age of social media, which offers the chance to pull your audience to your creations, rather than simply relying on pushing content out into the world and hoping for the best.

So, how can you use social media to build a following and start to get word of mouth working for you so that, when your release drops, there are people waiting to hear it?

1. Use SoundCloud and get a pro account. Soundcloud is perhaps the most popular forum for producers, djs and labels, combining cloud storage, streaming and download services, as well as the chance to interact and comment with other users. A pro account costs from 29 Euros a year and shows that you take what you do seriously, as well as giving you more music time and better analytics on your listeners and downloaders.

2. Use social media as a home for your news, and keep your name visible, but don’t sign up for every social media outlet that’s out there; keep it manageable so that you can keep each one regularly updated with good content. The big three are Twitter, Facebook and a blog: Twitter for regular ‘drip feed’ exposure, and Facebook or a blog for more developed, less transient, content. Also think about linking accounts where possible so that new Soundcloud uploads and favouritings and blog posts etc are announced through Twitter and updated on your other profiles. Just be careful that you don’t end up either spamming by accident, and don’t use this as an excuse to be lazy – it’s not enough to use links to save you putting the work into each one separately.

3. Keep it relevant. Don’t start following 5000 people who aren’t likely to be interested in you just to try and get a crowd of followers; keep things related to what you do, even if it’s just tangential, such as people in the same city etc. Investigate using Twitter lists to manage those you’re following, and check out the lists of people you follow to find new contacts.

4. Support your fellow emerging artists. Don’t ignore your peers and only follow big name artists: they represent a large demographic and if you respect them, they’ll respect you. Plus, rising stars who like what you do are more likely to share it. But do look for people with lots of relevant connections, what network analysis would call ‘hubs’ – if they share something you’ve done, it reaches a much larger group of people. But social media etiquette suggests that genuine relationship building and reciprocal sharing is better than begging for retweets.

5. Soundcloud groups provide a good way of identifying people with similar tastes and are often visited by major signed artists and labels. Join groups, follow people whose work you like, and contribute.

6. Be visible on Soundcloud, release free-to-download tracks occasionally (and not just the stuff you don’t think is good enough to send to labels) and add them to the relevant groups. Make sure and comment regularly on other tracks, and try to avoid asking people to listen to your latest in the comment!

7. Run some remix contests. Upload the stems or some sample packs of one of your tracks and give people the chance to remix them. Joining and posting on some of the music production forums can help here. You never know, you might get some submissions that allow you to get a good release together, and all the contributors will also be promoting it themselves…

8. Interaction is the key to social media. In order to be successful you have to give as well as take. Look for any opportunity to get your name seen, but without crossing the line into spamming or trolling. Join forums, post, comment, follow music blogs, post reviews of products on music store sites, enter remix competitions and generally keep your eye out for opportunities to increase your visibility. Investing the time in interacting with people also positions you as someone with a genuine interest and certain level of knowledge/expertise, and that’s important if you want to be taken seriously.

It seems as though, after spending hours playing with arrangements, and adjusting level, eq and compression settings, when you finally have that final render down and master, that the hard work should be done. These days though, it might only be just beginning; but, if you put the time in early, it might pay off in the long run. Just remember that you can only harvest what you sow.

Carolyn Bowick has applied her marketing experience in a number of fields from academia to industry, specialising in digital marketing and social media; you can follow her marketing blog at: carolynbowick.com

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