There is no shortage of artists, producers, singer-songwriters, DJs and bands who want to get their music heard. And if you’re reading this, you’re likely in a similar situation.
You might be working on an EP, building a remixing career or looking for a new musical collaborator, but, no matter the genre or specific musical role you’re drawn to, you’ve already decided that you have something new to say.
We’ve probably all heard music that made us go, “I could have done that.” But be wary of that feeling turning into, “I could do that.” It’s extremely seductive to feel that if an artist or producer has forged a successful career with a certain type of sound, you too could enjoy success with that sound.
It’s important to push that feeling aside.
When you play your tracks to someone, you don’t really want to hear “Oh okay, so you sound like…” or “I can really hear your influences” as their first responses. The audience you’re hoping to build will want to invest in you, to follow your journey and to feel a part of the story that you’re building with your music.
- Read More: Getting Exposure For Your Music
However, simply being original – and good at it – isn’t enough to earn you a sustainable life in music.
For a moment, forget that you’re at the start of that journey and think about an artist or band with a well-established reputation. The promotional campaigns around major label artists don’t ease off or back down when those artists reach the point at which they’re filling a stadium or selling multi-million copies of their records. Instead, they push harder, making ever more lavish videos, trying to get on even more prominent TV and radio slots, and generally pushing home the advantage of already being a household name.
Which can make it all the more intimidating for someone – like you – to begin that process. And yet what an adventure this can be. Let’s get it started.
Craft your story
The best piece of advice for anyone beginning the process of trying to get their music heard is to think about ‘story’. To understand this, look at your favorite artist and the piece of music of theirs you like the best.
- Is it enough simply to listen to that track over and over again?
- How was it made?
- Where it was made?
- What did it feel like to be in the studio while it was made?
- How were the lyrics written?
- What was the artist going through at the time?
- How do they step back from the sounds of the previous album in order to make the new one?
- What was that artist doing in the two-year gap since the previous record?
The answers to these questions and many others are that artist’s story. And it’s as essential to the promotional narrative as the music itself. Here’s why.
Paired with the answers to the ‘in the studio’ questions, photos and videos that you share on Instagram allow your fanbase to know what you’re up to in short bite-sized pieces – and leave them wanting more. For the lyrical content, a snapshot of the lyrics in progress, complete with annotations, or a photo with the topline writer you’re collaborating with tells a different story. If you’re collaborating, the fans of your collaborator will be attracted to your work, just as your work will help direct traffic to your co-writer’s work. The result: a larger fanbase for both of you.
You can begin to see how the shards of the story you’re building can be fed through to your audience and how social media can help you.
- Read More: A Musician’s Guide To Self-Promotion
Play live shows
Firstly, what type of music are you making? If your music can be played live, preparing for live shows should be your first priority.
Rehearse until you can play your songs in your sleep. One thing which will immediately mark you out as different is your ability to play live well. Practise your songs so that you find new things in them that can be emphasized when you’re playing to an audience, taking the opportunity to make the live performances of your tracks different from the recorded versions. That way, your audience has a reason to come and see you live, rather than just stay at home to play your records.
At your gigs, spread the word about forthcoming shows. Try to build a database of your fans. Encourage them to follow you on social media. Have several ways of letting people know about new shows and new music you’ve made. Make sure that when your set is finished, you’re available to your audience. Stick around, talk to people, get to know your fans, ask them questions. If you’re good to watch and you’re personable, not only will they come again next time, they’ll want their friends to feel connected to you, as they do.
But be careful with what you post online. It’s valuable to show the range of your interests and to offer an insight into your personality. However, sharing anything badly worded or poorly considered will cost you your fanbase very quickly. Don’t pick fights online – keep your messaging positive.
Build a narrative
As we’ve already discussed, the advantages of social media are clear. You get to build a narrative around your project with words, photos and videos over which you have complete control. The main problem with social media – especially with YouTube – is that most content consumers are restless.
Much as we would love our audiences to subscribe to our channels and watch our content from one video to the next, the reality is that the draw of related content on the same page makes it all too easy for someone to ‘click away’ from your content to something else.
One way around this is to build a website. Collate all of the content you’ve got on the web in one place, via services like Squarespace and Wix. Hosting a site needn’t cost the world. It needn’t be complicated, either. Many sites are now happy to run as ‘aggregators’, pulling your resources in from elsewhere, such as your SoundCloud, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook feeds.
- Read More: Connect Your Social Media On BandLab
That said, websites only work well if they’re regularly updated. There’s got to be a reason for your fans to come back and visit your site repeatedly. Your site’s audience will give up if there’s nothing new to see for weeks on end. Maybe try to update a site with a social media or ‘newsletter’-style post. Once a month, use your site to push your story with a new blog post or video. If your audience knows that they’re getting new content every couple of weeks, they’ll spread the word.
So what about trying to spread the net, to build new relationships, or to get your music heard by people not directly within your musical orbit?
We’ve already discussed the huge advantages that can come from musical collaboration. There’s no reason your collaborations should stop with like-minded musicians. Try to find other creatives who might benefit from knowing your music is out there.
One way would be to approach final-year film students on creative video courses. These guys may well need music for their end-of-year projects and there are obvious, mutually beneficial aspects to forming those relationships. You get a video for your music project and your collaborator gets the content they need for their folio. You both widen the exposure of your creative output.
Forming meaningful relationships with artists in all kinds of creative spheres is incredibly valuable. Catching people on the way up their own career ladders means you’re not trying to break into a working relationship that might already have been forged between established career professionals.
Getting your music heard takes time
To summarize, building a fanbase takes time, patience and skill. It starts with having great, original music and it develops from that point with you telling the story of how you make that music. Exactly how you do this depends on the type of music you make, but the media at your disposal are widely available. Through words, pictures and videos, you can create a compelling narrative that can build an ever-growing audience.
Widen the potential reach of your work by collaborating with others both in music and beyond. Begin to make a name for yourself in as many creative areas as possible. Identify those whose work you like and reach out to them – what’s the worst that can happen? Play your music live as much as possible and do this to the very best of your ability. Find ways to make your live set one people will flock to in ever-greater numbers.
Mostly, be an entrepreneur and think of as many creative ways as possible to get your music heard. You worked hard to build an original collection of tracks, so work similarly hard to get it the audience it deserves.
Read More: How To Brand Yourself As A Music Artist