Top 3 Ways to Promote Your Music If You Don't Perform Live

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What’s the last band you recall “making it” without touring?

Ummm…. Nilsson comes to mind (and that was in  the 1960’s).

The list of non-touring pop stars is probably not very long; but it IS possible to get national exposure without performing, especially now that so many social media tools are available to DIY musicians.

The world of viral video and sync licensing knows no prejudice when it comes to your band’s road miles or performance schedule. In fact, if you’re a musician who doesn’t play live (because of stage-fright, family commitments, technological constraints, unreceptive music markets, etc.), you’ll actually have more time to put into some of the other aspects of your music career–  aspects that are becoming just as important as your live show.

Here are a few ways you can promote your music career without having to lift an amplifier:

1) Create music videos worth sharing- A viral video can arguably do more for you than any tour. And the better your videos, the better chance you have of them going viral; the more time you spend on videos (time you might’ve spent rehearsing and performing), the better your videos will be. Check out The DIY Musician’s Complete Guide to YouTube for some advice on how to make the most of your video presence.

2) License your music- The industry has changed significantly over the past decade. The folks who choose the music for TV and film no longer care if the song is recognizable or has a big name attached to it. They want the song that best fits the scene, no matter who it’s by, and they want it cleared NOW!

Because indie musicians are more… accessible, they’re often more nimble in terms of approving their music’s use for sync licensing, and they’ve started to earn significant income from traditional licensing opportunities in film, TV, and video games. CD Baby can help you earn money from both traditional and onlin sync opportunities.

3) Stream your concert to the world- If you’re not touring because of logistical or financial concerns but you still have the jones to PLAY, consider streaming a concert from your living room. Check out Episode #65 of CD Baby’s DIY Musician Podcast, where we speak about live concert streaming with Matthew Ebel.

I’d love to hear from any of the musicians out there who do not perform live (or at least don’t tour); how do you promote your music? Why don’t you perform live? Have you explored alternate ways of connecting with “an audience?” Let us know in the comments section below.

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  • Damian Gaume

    Hi there. In my case I don't tour beacuse I am a solo artist, have recored my album myself, meaning have played all instruments, and because of the music genre I play , doesn't really make much sense to me touring and playing live with my computer, as it is more common with other genres other than Rock-Pop. I am promoting my album by making video clips and uploading them on youbue + Twitter + Facebook etc.

    • Great. Do you keep yourself on a production schedule or anything like that for YouTube clips?

  • How do you engage with those communities of DJs? Social media? Forums?

  • I do not perform live because I don't like all the energy that has to go into rehearsing a band, trying to get family and friends/supporters out to live events. Very frustrating when at the end of the night it has costed you to pay to play. Would prefer to invest valuable time and money on recording and connecting with people online (twitter, facebook, linkedin, youtube). Club owners and touring agents make it difficult for artists to sustain an income that makes it worth it to leave family and friends or a better paying job.

  • Daniel Dowd

    I do not perform live – due in part to time constraints (recently married and making sure I invest time in that) and in part to the nature of the music I compose. Electronic music requires only me and my laptop. While that may make for music to which people can easily groove or tap their feet – even dance if the mood strikes them – it does not make for a good stage presence.

    To date, my promotion takes the form of being active in the communities where the style of music I write is popular and getting the music into the hands of DJs who spin that style in clubs. I may not perform live, but the music can be played without me.

    • Most of what you said applies to classical composers as well. We depend on other people to perform our music unless we ourselves are also professional-level performers (I’m not….at least not anymore). But the high quality of orchestral sample libraries now makes it possible to upload perfectly serviceable recorded versions of our music using virtual instruments that, in most cases (and with a sufficient amount of attention to production details such as reverb, gain, etc.), only specialists like myself can distinguish from the real thing. The alternative is sitting around waiting for professionals to record the composition, or hiring them at great expense and not necessarily getting a recording that matches your idea of what the piece sounds like. So streaming recorded versions of our music is a particularly valuable promotional (and, frequently, sales) tool for classical composers, both traditional and electronic.

      • Piers Bellman

        For electronic music, maybe look into learning the launchpad or other various things you can use to “play it live”? I’ve also seen lots of electronic artists do just what you said (press play) but they dance and move from behind their equipment and hype the croud up through a mic so that they still have presence. (Sorry just realised I’m 5 years late)

  • We've been using Stageit to do online shows from our home town. The shows are informal and acoustic but that's what people seem to enjoy about them. We also dedicate each show to fans in a specific city. Tonight's show was dedicated to our Seattle area fans. Wednesday night is for Portland, OR. Anyone can watch these online at:

    • Cool idea. Do you have an IM feature that allows them to comment while you perform?

      • We do – actually Stageit does. People can leave messages during the performance, then we can respond in between songs. Stageit also let's you sell virtual tickets to your show, so you can make a little money back. The split is about 60% to the artist, 40% to Stageit. However, that split covers any licensing fee to play covers legally.

        When someone buys a ticket, they purchase essentially a block of credits the first time that they can use toward any show on their platform. Artists make as many tickets available to their show as they want and also set the credit price. Many set it at "pay what you can" with a one credit minimum. As you play, those watching with tickets can also tip you during your show out of their credits. Once the artist receives 250 credits (equivalent to $25), they can request their payment.

    • Hey RD – thanks for posting about your experience with StageIt. I’ve been thinking about webcasting some shows of mine, and have been weighing the relative advantages of doing a free show on Ustream or a paid show on StageIt. Are you guys doing paid shows, and do you have any insight on paid vs. free webcasts? Would love to hear anything else you have to share. Thanks!

      • Hi Mike,

        Sorry for the late response. I completely hear where you’re coming from on the paid vs. free webcast. Most of Relevant Discord work is me (Nick) performing on my own. With Stageit, I set the price at pay what you can. The tough part is that everyone has to buy at least an initial $5.00 worth of credits. It’s totally a bargain for what you get; however, that does scare people off. However, doing a completely free show on Ustream rarely garners many more viewers.

        Personally, I find its better to do the regular shows on a platform where you are getting something back on your investment. Nothing wrong with doing a free one as a promo for the others. Call me unpopular, but if we as musicians give everything away for free, were not going to be able to continue doing what we love. A give-away needs to be returned to the mindset of something “valuable, generous, etc” instead of what it’s become – “expected and disposable”.

        • Hey Nick: finally discovered your reply. Thanks so much for the first-hand perspective. I like the idea of doing a free show as a promo for paid ones. That’s great, and probably what I’ll do going forward. See you on StageIt!

  • Haiku

    Thanks for your post
    I am constantly told by others how big a mistake I am making when not touring.
    But my health after a severe traffic accident is not fit for touring, so I don´t have a choice.
    And yes, I find it very difficult promoting music without that possibility.
    kind regards

  • Like the other two commenters here, I’m the only one in my band. Since I do all the production and instrumentation myself, I have yet to figure out how to put together a live show that would satisfy me as a concert goer. I know I wouldn’t want to just watch someone push the “play” button on a laptop. Even if that is how a lot of electronic music gets “performed”, I’d be bored stiff at a show like that. But there’s not much getting around prerecorded tracks when you’re a one-person mostly-instrumental electronic rock outfit, is there?

    For me, sync licensing and simply getting my music onto every single channel I can find helps get the word out, as does doing things that interest people (like the fact that I cut one of my keyboards in half and built a custom wooden case for it — check my site for details! ). CD Baby and Magnatune have both been good to me in getting out in front of listeners, some of whom have turned into fans and customers.

    Even so, I’ve recently gotten a copy of Ableton Live, and I’m playing around with the idea of taking Psycliq on the road a bit. I figure that a laptop with enough controls tied to it, a live synth or two, a guitar, and a mic, and I’d be able to put on a decent show. With small kids and a day job I can’t exactly tour the world, but I definitely want to explore the possibility of getting out there. And if I do manage to figure out a live set, I like the idea of a “live on the internet” concert, too.

  • I've seen some decent shows with solo performers using Ableton. Also, that Boss loop station allows you to set and trigger multiple loops at once. Start and stop specific ones, bring them back later, etc. Plus recorded samples are storable too. Way better than the normal looping stuff when you're just limited to piling more stuff on top of what's already recorded.

    • Yeah, after a few days of playing with Ableton, I think there’s definitely some promise there, but I’m still a ways away from where I’d really want to be. I’m inspired by the live shows that Celldweller, Hunz, and Battles put on, with a mix of live instrumentation, live remixing, recorded tracks, and sync’d video clips.

    • LiLi

      Yep, I’ve used that Boss station, you can see me using it here:
      That was a complicated set-up, with a live keyboard and beats separate.
      On the other hand, for live instruments I can’t see how that would look good. I don’t see myself having a bass on one pedal and guitars on other pedals and trigering them myself- I think that would look too “Unreal”, like someone playing on a pre-recorded track, and then it could be like “is she singing live or not?”- you know what I mean?

  • Nice post…But as far as doing videos in place of touring, a LOT of artists aren't really putting in a lot of effort with videos. The majority simply have access to a Cannon DSLR and don't have any vision for a great video. It always comes down to the discipline and hard work the artist chooses to put in…whether they hit the road, shoot videos, or make music!

    • Completely agree. Though videos don't always have to be big budget to be successful, it helps if there's a great concept.

      • This is a great article and you’re both right, a lot of artists are just having their friends shoot videos for them, which doesn’t always pay off. Having music videos and live concert videos has now become the most effective form of marketing because it gives fans more ways to share through social networks. So it makes sense to get on board. But how do you get your videos to stand out? Simple; have professional videos. YouTube is overrun by poor amateur videos that just result in a lot of great artists being mis-represented as amateurs. It doesn’t cost as much as you might think to have a company shoot and edit together a video for you… and you won’t regret it.
        I know this as it is actually the area that my own company specializes in, we work with both major and unsigned artists and cater the budget’s to work with you.
        You can find us online at:

  • Hey RD – thanks for posting about your experience with StageIt. I've been thinking about webcasting some shows of mine, and have been weighing the relative advantages of doing a free show on Ustream or a paid show on StageIt. Are you guys doing paid shows, and do you have any insight on paid vs. free webcasts? Would love to hear anything else you have to share. Thanks!

  • After 20 years of performing “live” we desided to stop. The area we live in (Niagara) doesn’t have the any places to perform our style of music. The scene totally collapst and now it’s just a bunch of dumps and “kiddie” venues.

    We started in the late 80’s when people wer’t as distracted by gadgets (cell phone/texting) as the are today. Live music did draw crowds. We performed to mostly strangers.

    We’re in our 40’s now, have health issues and business commitments. Music has become a very cool hobbie.

    About a year ago we saw things wernt getting any better so we desided to use the internet to promote our music, and connect with people in other countries who are interested in this style of music. The reactions are always positive.

    Listen to our music when ever you want, how ever you want… not just when we’re in town.

    We still enjoy gigs in Toronto when we get the chance. … Toronto is cool and very inspiring for an older musician. Unfortunatly, it’s just a bit too far away.

    Randy Shook Music Entertainment

    The Wares

  • Great. Glad to hear you're getting some attention that way. What streaming service do you use?

  • Brendan Shoreland

    I do regular live performances .. in a virtual world. I simply swing a voice mic in front of the computer screen, plug my guitar into a small mixer and off we go! I’ve been doing around five or six one hour performances each week – a mix of covers and original material. Average attendance is around 20 people (avatars) at each performance. I’m in south west England and around 70% of my audience is in the USA; that’s cool! If the audience likes what they hear they can pay me. I won’t pretend it keeps the roof over my head, but I’m able to regularly transfer a useful amount to my bank account.

    Virtual World performance is very different to live performance and I wouldn’t suggest anyone gives up live performance if they still get a buzz from seeing a sea of friendly faces. But virtual performance works for me; I get to choose how many performances I do and what time of day I do them. It can work for musicians with physical impairments. It can work for solo performers who’d need to create backing tracks.

    I use my display material to guide the audience towards CD Baby. They can complete the purchase process during my performance! If there’s something preventing you from getting out onto the road, you might want to think about alternative ways of getting your stuff out there.

  • I used to play live 5 to 7 nights a week. It was my job full time to tour and perform. Then I stepped back to a couple of shows a week, then a few a month… But always pulling good crowds. They bought records (real records not downloading from a cloud) and we signed them. Fun times.

    Now my main stream is licensing. I perform live rarely. It doesn't make the difference for me that it used to since while you play people more distracted now. They will video with their phone, send the video, message what they are doing… watch a few minutes, check their messages, then video some more. They used to watch and get involved with the music.

    Although I will be out there live again this year I know that licensing will again be my main money stream this year and drive 99% of my sales.

    In 2012 here is how you greet a crowd…"Welcome everybody and thank you for coming to the show. Now who all has a smart phone, Win phone or any kind of app phone? (Everyone holds up a phone). Now what I would like you to do is check your apps for the one that says 'turn me the **** off and watch the show' and please download that one… thank you very much".

    • Simon

      My sentiments exactly. All venues, stages, restaurants and dinner tables should have phone scramblers installed so no device will work within 30ft of them. I miss conversations and being in the moment with people…..

    • Nick Tumi

      I recently heard Dallas Green say this at his show. I agree, never did get why people record that shitty quality video and most importantly, shitty audio.

  • Matt

    We've found that it's hard to focus on more than one thing at a time. Video is a great way to keep your audience engaged if you're too busy to play out. Right now we're recording a new album, one song per month, and posting a video of the song each month. Sort of a song-of-the-month club. So far we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from our fans, via Facebook, YouTube, and our newsletter.

  • You should get one of those MIDI foot controllers for a bass sound, or… the Moog Taurus pedals! Easier on the toes.

  • Mary, glad to motivate! I have some friends who've moved down "south" to Portland, Oregon from Alaska… where there was probably a similar limit to the live gig opportunities. 18 hours! That's up there, huh? But I'm glad to hear you can put some of that energy into live streaming.

  • Clinton Degan

    Acts that made it huge without touring in the year 2011: Lana del Rey. Major label deal and the works, essentially off of a single video.

  • Heck of a commute to band practice.

  • Wow. I'd love to hear more about some of those ways you're generating income from your music. What's your website URL?

  • Glad to help, T.

  • If I perform once a year live, that is a lot! I have been able to create a ton of awareness and support for my music using Social Media, particularly Twitter. I learned about and subsequently won the British Airways Face to Face Contest in 2011 for the music business pitch around my debut album “Night Flight to London” based on a well crafted video, which lead to flight to UK and Europe to promote my music, media and 6 months of inflight audio for my entire album on British Airways. And, it just keeps rolling in. Now, if only I’d schedule a concert! My last shows was February 2011 in London.

  • helenaustin

    I perform live locally in my small town, because I enjoy performing, but the pressure of getting people out to gigs and what Neel said about phones etc makes performing in big cities too stressful. The gig is fun, just not the stuff surrounding it.

    Like a lot of musicians, my main revenue is from licensing which was always my main goal, having family commitments etc. I find it great way to be creative musically while not having all the pressures of touring.

    I used to put out a lot of youtube videos which I really need to start doing again.

    Thanks for this article… nicely timed for my current LA trip.


    We’re just about to start not performing live so thanks for the tips!!!!
    When half the band live on a different continent it can be difficult!

  • I have done three live solo gigs in my life, I suffer from stage fright and I’m just not a confident performer. Despite this I have managed to build up a large fanbase through YouTube (80,000 subscribers, 15 million views). I have also managed to make music my full time job, through exploring other ways of promoting and earning such as commissions, advertising revenue and innovative campaigns (for instance I’m offering to make a new song featuring the names of everybody who buys the full version of my new single, and I’m getting swamped with responses). I think we should form some kind of network for musicians who don’t perform live to share their wisdom on how they’re managing.

    • Alan Taylor

      Hi Dan, I like your idea of forming some kind of network for non-performing musicians. I wonder if, in that network could pool our resources and support each other. I have 12 years experience with my protools studio and some video editing too. Alan

    • Kiyomi

      Wow Dan, sounds amazing. I would love to know more about how you did all this. I am a singer/songwriter that just released a cd and could use a little help in the promotion area!

    • Lisa

      Hey Dan,
      Very cool to read this. I used to perform live but never really had the hunger for the spotlight. I prefer writing, recording, producing etc… I play all instruments myself and have been building a catalogue of songs which I’ve successful ‘sold’ (free of charge to build up the rep) to fairly reputable charity and campaign names. I also sing and have an album out. I left music for a few years.. usual story.. but it never really left me. I have had a song plucked from myspace as the theme for a U.S. soapie and have won some comps etc. Still don’t have the ‘stage’ vibe though.
      I’d love to talk with you more on your idea of a network for muso’s who don’t perform live. You can find my page at

  • Tjlasley

    In my opinion you are so right on! When I read this I felt like you wrote this for me! I’m not playing cause I have a great family I need to spend time with. I do the first two things you mentioned . I will dif try the 3rd! Thanks! I love it
    Tony Lasley

  • Chuck Kirkpatrick

    Yeah….would love to play out….if I could find – and pay – the guys I need to do it. Rehearsals, studio, pay the guys something….probably take 5 – 6 weeks to get it in shape ($2-3K) enough to perform….where? What clubs hire unknowns playing original songs?

  • Buffy Helmet

    My band (duo) has been around 35 years. We never performed live. Played a few one off shows at album release parties and stuff, but that’s it. We became VERY well known regardless because our music was unique and carried the day. We got tons of radio airplay with many of our songs over the years. We made 7 pretty well known videos, at the dawn of MTV time, starring some major stars who were NOT that well known at the time. (Hint! Do that!) We had those video’s on MTV, Saturday Night Live, Leno, Letterman, NBC specials and on and on. Made us a lot of money. We have about 12 albums out now, and produced some well known stuff (video’s included) by some major artists. We did it all OUR way. It’s been an interesting ride. Co-wrote & produced with many major artists of the 80’s, especially.

  • i have toured and have on stage performance and videos on you tube and on hundreds of sites online discover them at facebook,napster and the works i would like more fans to join my sites however my counts or views are never correct-i am the number 1 featured artist on several sites-i only get spam and someone tryin to make money off my success-i want my music in stores and selling and i want to make deals to music venus where peoples will be customers and start buying my music-online music is free and not payin the bills ok

  • Mike Strasser

    I play live very little anymore. Mostly it’s due to where I live — 45 minute north of Pgh. PA. where all the venues in this area are located that are amenable to the type of music I do. Acoustic singer-songwriter stuff.
    Plus I’m 63 yrs old and don’t have the energy anymore to work all day rush home then turn around go to a gig or practice with other musicians.

    So I write songs, record them on an old version of Cakewalk Sonar, add loops using ACID and sing the harmonies and additional voices myself.

    I do have one studio recorded CD that did get some airplay on folk/acoustic radio back in 2008 and 2009.

    The thing you mentioned in your article Chris that was a bit of a tease, I hope you don’t mind me saying, was Section 2. License your music.

    I’d love to do that and signed up for that service with CDBaby but I’d like additional outlets for that or make contact on a more personal level with someone or some agency that has that as one of their services.

    And, is that something one pays for or is it a service that gets paid once a song is placed.

    Thanks.for addressing the general issue of promotion w/out playing live.

    And yes, when I do play (mostly small coffee-house type venues) I always sell at least one or two CDs. Considering the size of the audiences I think that stacks up well.
    Mike Strasser

  • Chris: I have in the past done quite a lot of live performing in the contemporary jazz arena. I have been on labels with releases that charted commercial radio, featured in Billboard, but…I was also working more as a composer-arranger-orchestrator, mostly music albums by other artits, but also television-film. I also did recording sessions as a player (acoustic guitar specialist / conductor).
    I moved from S. Calif. to Arizona, then Texas where I have been now about 4 years to take a position teaching composition at a college and put my recording releases aside for a number of reasons. This past year I have started releasing recordings again (singles) and am enjoying it, but still not performing live mostly due to just not having the time due to many other responsibilities (all music).
    I appreciate your article a lot. I have always prefered being a bit more “behind the scenes” in my work anyway. Even when I got signed as an artist, to be honest, I kind of “fell into” the deal (another story, another time).
    Thank You.
    Ric Flauding

  • Marycaroline

    I live in a city (but really a town) of 20,000 in Canada’s far north. There is tons of great talent up here and its always fun playing at local venues, but logistically it is just WAY too expensive to tour. The closest city is Edmonton, and its and 18 hour drive or $500 return flight. I really like this article, and thinking outside the box of what it takes to be a successful musician. I’m just getting ready to release my second album and already I’m getting reach across canada from social media, and love the idea of streaming a big show over the internet! And I just love making music videos, so this article has motivated me to keep on top of that! thanks.

    Mary Caroline

  • Ignitemindz

    I spent my time on unemployment doing shows in my state and thinking of attention getting videos. So I learnedhow to play three instruments at once using all my limbs while doing a fast rap. U can check it here, but I’d really like some advice on how to get this vid more views.

    • jimmy the weed

      there are regular popular youtube posters that allow you to respond to their vid wit 1 of urs. this will get u a few views.

  • Hjortur Geirsson

    I have several reasons for not performing in public.Some of them are : I don’t trust other musicians and wouldn’t go with them on stage, I am in the danger that there would be a conspiracy on stage as they are more than jealous of me. —The same goes for those who manage the stage sound.I risk of conspiracy because of jealousy or competitors conspiracy. —The same goes for managers of concerts and so on.I’ve had a bit of experience in this.

    • Conspiracy?Really?

      Do you know who shot Kennedy?

      • Hjortur Geirsson

        Yes, conspiracy.That’s why I choose to work alone.Going on stage has a bit of a fascist theory to it ,to me.

  • Kamibambiraptor

    So many comments I should read!

    I don’t have stage fright and I often do perform live, but I hate loud noise, crowds and traveling, so my appetite for bar gigs and touring is minimal. (I also don’t particularly enjoy playing restaurants.) I play for people almost every day, though, as I play my panpipes while I walk (I don’t drive & it gives me something to do while I walk & while I wait for buses. My first instrument is the piano, but it got hard carrying it down the street 😉 ). People appreciate the music & often wave, honk their horns, give me the thumbs up and even sometimes come out of their houses to thank me. I call myself Western Canada’s only All-Weather Periapatetic Panpiper (actually, probably the only one in Canada). 😉 I joke sometimes that eventually I will have played for the entire city of Winnipeg.

    YouTube has proven a good venue for me & this year my views have really started to take off; at the moment I am getting some 10,000 to 20,000 views a day & so far this month I’ve made some $1100 off my YouTube videos (by allowing ads to run with my most popular videos). I’ve toyed with the idea of doing live concert videos (I play a lot of classical on the piano & folk on the panpipes), but haven’t yet done that (though I’ve posted plenty of live videos of individual pieces).

    I should look into licensing, but with a full-time day job it takes me a while to get to some things.

    If you are curious, my (main) YouTube channel is under the name ‘Kamibambiraptor’ (a name which simultaneously is striking and yet hard to remember).

  • Junioranthonyhenry

    junioranthonyhenry..i am too SHY perform so i video tape and try to cell some cds …nervous ! smile

  • Taco Wizard

    This may be a little out of the norm for most artists, but my band made a feature length musical. We’ve sent it on the festival circuit and we don’t even have to show up. Just ensure a good sound system and a digital file or the DVD. It’s called Marty’s Magnificent Day-Glo Dream-a-thon. If your interested in checking it out.

  • I am a one woman band, just me and the keys…..So I don’t tour alot, plus I have children and a fulltime job but I do small events to showcase my music. I have found that Social Media is all you need to get your music out there to the world. I have music video’s that are being viewed in many countrys thanks to Utube, Twitter and Facebook! However is a goal of mine to grow my music which means I need to get out there and perform…But I work very hard in the studio, and on the laptop promoting my music….It’s my balance between my dream and my family! I love it!

  • Robert Caleb Potter

    I played with 70’s Country Rock Band ‘Free Beer’. That was a long time ago. Over the years I continued to write and fortunately I had a decent home studio and recorded most of my songs. The onset of Meneires Syndrome and Tinitus has shut down my ability to perform but I still had the old cassettes which I immediately converted to CD’s. I figured the internet could provide new opportunities so I built a web site. I have released a CD this past year, ‘Retro Expose’ but although I have traffic averaging over 1000 visits per month I am still not generating the CD sales I had hoped for. Marketing or I should say lack of it is definitely holding my sales down even though I am available at CD Baby and affiliates. Haven’t found a solution yet.

  • Spenayoung

    I love performance! I’ve played drums since I was a kid, and love to jam out on the congas in a band. Don’t tour right now because I’m seriously into composition, like the electronic opera I’m working on (all crowdsourced and virtual), and life has been a bit busy with family and moving (all the time, it seems!). Marketing has always been tricky since my music is usually a bit too “weird” for folks, but I found that my writing skills on music technology has helped with music promotion. So has my membership in music organizations and being an active member of a music community (even if it’s online!). Awesome article BTW!

  • Kathawren

    Love performing, but am recovering from more then one auto accident, more inspiration bt oess Toring. Hqve been offered two Record Lables, but have remained Indie.

  • I appreciate you writing about this topic, Chris. I used to love performing live, but eventually the struggle of keeping a band together and the seeming futility of consistently reproducing the sounds I heard in my head began to take the joy out of it, so I decided to go “solo” and concentrate on recording my own work. It’s incredibly rewarding – I can play my weird instruments – mountain dulcimer and kalimba, etc. – backed up by a rock rhythm section, or by stuff I sample “in the field,” and I don’t worry about them being drowned out in squeals of feedback while trying to amplify them so they can be heard above the din in a live setting. I don’t have to deal with sound men who, understandably, have no idea what to do with these odd instruments. And I’m not obligated by friendship to use only the musicians in my band. It’s so great – if I want xylophone on a song, I get a xylophone player, rather than saying, “Well, the keyboardist can do that part.” If I want a different approach on guitar, I get a different guitarist. I feel like my only limits are my imagination.

    But, as cool as this is, it’s pretty tough to sell CDs. It seems like playing live is the way to do that. I had an idea a while back to hold a video contest. The “entry fee” would be to buy my CD. After you did that, you could make a video for any song (or songs) and submit them to me, and I would post them on YouTube. I actually offered cash prizes and I did my best to publicize the contest, but I’ve gotten very few entries. (You can see my contest promo video on YouTube – do a search for Music Bucket Video Contest 001.) I sort of tried to gear the contest towards people who shoot and post videos all day long to YouTube anyway, but I guess I really don’t know how to reach them (I’m 60 and had never uploaded a video to YouTube before this).

    Ironically, the day I sent my first press release out about the contest was the day I got one of these email newsletters from CDBaby suggesting that us artists sign up for the YouTube deal and try holding a video contest ! So I knew it was a good idea, but apparently I could have found a better way to execute it.

    I’d like to hear if other people tried this and how it went for them. I think it may have been a better idea for me to make my own videos and post them, a song at a time, and see if I can build a following on YouTube, over time, instead of trying to turn the release of my new CD into a contest/event. Probably the best thing that came of this experiment is that I now have several ideas for videos and I’ll be making them and posting them in the near future.

    Wishing you all happiness, good health, freedom from distress, and peace. And good luck with your music.


  • I play a lot locally (Rogue Valley in Southwest Oregon) but very rarely outside my immediate area. I hate traveling. I rely on youtube, social media and my website to “reach the world”. All my stuff (26, soon to be 27 albums) is available for downloading free or with a donation at my site ( All my albums are listed here on CD Baby as well. I have tons and tons of videos up…I take more of a shotgun approach than a sniper approach. I record and post pretty much everything I write. I’m not trying to be discovered or make it or get signed. I’m actually not really interested in that. I don’t want much to do with “the industry”…I’m more curious…If I do this exactly the way I want to, exactly the way that feels right to me, with my primary concern being to please myself…and then make it all as freely available as possible and give people a way to freely give back if they feel like it…what will come back? I’ve been patient…I’ve been doing it this way for about the last 6 years or so…but some really nice stuff has come back…some of my videos have done well…some people have made videos of my songs that have gotten lots of views, which has led to me getting more sales, donations and fans. I’ve gotten a few very sweet gigs…great comments from people worldwide…a few people have included my music in films…nothing huge but still very gratifying for an old-ish guy with a guitar playing folk music. Probably the single biggest thing was having a guy in Holland make a video of my song “Jump You F***ers” that has gotten over 150,000 views and there’s not even a cute girl or a kitten in the thumbnail! I don’t make a living from music and don’t hope to, but I do make enough to help me get by. I do see a time coming when music that isn’t danceable is just going to be considered annoying. I do mainly what I’d call “listening” music and people are listening less and less and less especially to music that isn’t on a glowing screen of some kind. So when that time comes, and I do see it coming…maybe within 5 years…I’ll switch to nothing but videos…But for now people listen or tolerate “live” acoustic music enough that it’s still worth performing, so I will continue…The internet is my tour bus!

  • Thanks for the great advice Chris! My band New Mystery Girl plays a couple of times a month but since I have a revolving cast for rhythm section it is hard to get a good rehearsal in and really make it a show so these other avenues would be very helpful in stretching my music out there. Cheers to you ; )

  • Cheers back.

  • Nice to hear from someone outside the pop/rock/folk/hip-hop world on this stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • Sounds like a major effort upfront, but saves you some energy later on.

  • You've definitely got your good 2-second description down: Western Canada's only All-Weather Peripatetic Panpiper! That is amazing.

  • I haven't actually been to too many prog/metal shows in the states, but from the ones I've attended it sounds pretty similar to your situation. Many of those bands in Portland do a good job of supporting each other and throwing little festivals that get a lot of metal fans under the same roof at once.

  • Not sure what the CD sales or payouts are for those festivals, though.

  • Thanks for your thoughts. There are certainly pluses and minuses to going it alone, and the "no obligations" thing is a big bonus. As for your YouTube contest, my suspicion is that the mandatory entry fee (of a CD purchase) might be keeping folks away. You could try it again and simply let people submit videos using your music. You could assume they purchased their favorite track from iTunes!

  • Then when they post those videos that use your music, you'll earn ad revenue through the sync program.

  • Nikita Merzlyakov

    I am from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. Band Hammerforce (Prog/Power Metal).
    I believe that live performances don’t have much sense as a promotion nowadays. People don’t go to bars and venues to discover new music anymore. They just surf social networks and specialized sites to find something to listen. Live performance is a good way to earn some money for already well-known band. Before you get famous you spend great amount of time and creativity on live performances, but get almost nothing for that. Probably situation in my city is very different from USA, I don’t know. But here we get 50 people coming to festivals where 3-4 bands with professionaly recorded albums are performing. And most you can get from that is probably 3 new fans and 1 CD sale. Need I say that we don’t get paid for live performances? I don’t think that it is worth of hours and days for rehearsing and organisation. Much better to spend your time on promotion on social networks and composing and recording new music. So we gave up lives in 2010…

  • Dddizzydee

    I don’t have stage fright, in fact, I’m itching to play live. It’s just where I live, there’s not a large outpour or musicians. It’s hard to find people who’ll commit!

  • solrac



  • I’m happy to see so many other solo artists like me out there. After wasting years in bands, I found recording at home under the name of PENTULTIMA has proven rewarding personally as I now have an album of just my music on Itunes called Peripheral Vision. Check it out sometime, there’s a song for everyone on there. Cheers, Luke

  • David P. Reinen

    I would love to play live again – I love the input and energy of good musicians – all working the best they can for creating a moment, a musical moment, that can affect not only their lives but the lives of those that are listening – its an amazing opportunity that I miss very much now that I’ve become part of the ‘other world’ and working in an office very unappreciated –
    I’m just not sure that a man, nearly 60, that writes his own stuff – from influences that cover all sorts of eras and genres – can find good players like I did years ago – that will dedicate themselves to the work – or find an audience open enough to accept my age – and my style of writing –
    But, still – I’m driven to write, compose and record in hopes that my music will be heard and appreciated and allow me to find the right players and play to the day I die –
    Having other artists record my music would let me know in a big way that it’s acceptable and help me to forge back into music where I feel I belong – not behind a desk where every day is filled with the frustration of being somewhere you don’t belong –

  • loe225

    I am relatively new to making music even though I have had a love for it since childhood. I am trying to navigate and learn how to promote via social networks and webpages. I have found it remarkably difficult to find a band that I get along with and better yet, enjoy playing and creating the same music. I decided to do it on my own and created 5 originals which I promote using the internet and word of mouth. I have a few shows lined up and because the promoters are enthusiastic about my music they don’t mind that I only have performance tracks to sing to. I really hate having to play against the tracks, but it’s more important that I get heard. I am asking musicians I have friended along the way to sub in for me. But at this point I am trying to network as much as possible to get into a more ideal situation. And as a songwriter I am working towards breaking into the industry that way as well. I am learning everything I can about the industry because I feel it’s important to be good at as much as I can. As I don’t play out…it’s the next best way to show I am legit.

  • Pro production can go a long way, for sure. It's necessary, especially if you're trying to capture a more traditional music video scenario (plot-driven piece, live performance footage, etc.). BUT I do think there are exceptions IF the concept is creative enough. I'll cite the oft-cited example, but those earlier OK Go videos were pretty lo-budget. They just had some quirky idea that was captivating, and a lot of time to choreograph themselves. But ideas THAT catchy are rare. Best to shoot for quality concept AND quality execution.

  • Yeah. Sounded good with that setup. But I realize the more equipment you have on stage, the more stress!

  • Dale Turner

    GREAT article!! Very inspiring 🙂

    I developed a couple health problems around the time of mixing my most recent CD (50% loss of functionality in fret-hand pinkie, spreading to ring finger, and a voice disorder); these still plague me, so I had to resort to promoting my MANNERISMS MAGNIFIED disc in ways other than performing.

    As for how I’ve marketed this music… After getting Mannerisms Magnified at all the common distribution hubs on the web, like iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby, Napster, eMusic, and Spotify, etc., and listed in the All Music Guide, I created my own marketing/promotional materials – business cards, letterhead, labeled folders, wrote bios, press releases, short song descriptions, and sheets of lyrics excerpts – and sent out press kits, trying to get reviews in indie rock, D.I.Y., European/UK art-rock publications, recording, and guitar magazines. Any press quotes would immediately find their way in my updated promo materials, and on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation, Sonicbids, and so on. Much of this press coverage led to interviews with other publications, podcast promotions, and other types of coverage. I also made some fun YouTube promo videos and got my album put on Pandora Internet Radio, as well as my own WikiPedia page. My song “Hiding Place” got placed on a compilation CD, which has gone to radio and Music Supervisors, and a recent “Acoustic Artists” endorsement with D’Addario strings has helped me gain more visibility in the guitar community. I also write an acoustic guitar column every month in Guitar World Magazine, and my album’s mention in my bio there spreads the word a bit. I’ve placed ads in a few magazines and entered numerous major songwriting contests as well. At the moment, I’m pursuing song-licensing opportunities, organizing a music video shoot for my song “She-Hab,” designing a T-shirt and other merchandise, gearing up for a heavy “satellite and terrestrial” radio promotions push, and looking forward to more performing, as soon as these health issues clear up.

    Dale Turner’s Mannerisms Magnified:
    GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE says: “Smart pop tunes that are crammed with interesting guitar parts and tones … Like what the Beach Boys might do if they were on an acid trip that was on the verge of getting out of control. Yeah!”

  • john paul

    These are all so true that’s why I’m so excited for I signed up about a month ago and got 3 months free when they launch in June. They are going to be all about promoting the independent musician for us musicians who don’t have the bankroll or time to be out there touring. I like how from what I read about them on their blog they will be doing monthly contests and a lot of helping us musicians with promoting through their site. We need all the exposure we can get through these social media sites.Check it out.

  • Great tips and we could help anyone wanting to do them. Any independent, unsigned artists get in touch with us on skype or email as we will record street sessions, feature you on the site, and just create an online presence for you. We don't charge either as helping you helps us…

  • Jo Ann

    Hello all of you musicians!!
    My name is Jo Ann and I have been writing lyrics all my life!! I have had a radio program when I was 14, sang in bands, opened for big name artist when I was 34, sang at Tootsies i Nashville–when it meant something and have given up long ago on the road travel!!
    I have had so many artists look at my lyrics and say I should do something with them!! Well when I was 34 I had a song stolen from me (though back then it was hard to prove) so I just quit everything!!
    Now here I am and have just released my first ever CD through CD Baby!! It is on my web site that I alone built from scratch!! Then on this past Thursday the 3rd of May 2012 I had an interview with a radio station here and they played my CD on the air!!! When it was over I cried as that was the first time in my life I ever heard a song of mine being played on the radio!! A dream of my lifetime and something I will never forget!! By the way I sold my FIRST ever CD today, May 4th!! Just 1 song on it but to me it is a 5 star gem!!
    God Bless all of you young people out there and never say never!! I started this endevor this past November the 11th when I turned 69. 11/11/2011!! What a date to remember!!
    If you want to take a look at my Web Page it is

    And may all your dreams come true!!

  • You said this better than I ever could have and this is EXACTLY how I feel. There is so much apathy towards new music (even good stuff) that it does take the fun out of it sometimes. I think people that are like, "you should make music for you" are full of it. The whole reason to create then share music is to feel the sense of energy. Playing live as a solo artist is VERY costly in time and money if you need a live band and electronics like I do. The shows are usually pretty good, but it really does amount to pay for play.

  • Jessica Quest

    I'd say online. Social networks all of the time, but only the useful ones – Twitter and

  • Melissa James

    I did do this relatively recently and it was a success. Such a good but simple idea. Did take a bit of faffing though, I must admit in trying to get everything to run smoothly technically. The key is make sure you assign someone else the task of looking after that side of things so that you, the artists, can concentrate purely on performing. Bizarrely, we also had lots of updates coming through from NASA or the like. Strange but very true. In spite of this it all went well. Used – good site. See it here: (Melissa James –

  • Thanks for the great info and links. I always heard that Nirvana never toured for "Nevermind", after it hit big they sort of broke up, then did the MTV unplugged gig like 5 or 6 months later!

  • Mirembe

    Hi,i will make 50 on 29. Nov .2012. i am an artist. i sing Gospel, actually, whenever i perform., people get touched and they don't remain in their seats BUT i ve tried to take my music on radio stations , they reject it due to the starndard of the studio. i use the cheaper ones because i dont have money.please, please, may you promote me? i am on FB . and i can send some of my songs if you dont mind. thank you so much

  • I've been trying to figure out how to promote myself with this video: – is it working?

  • Ryan Morawski

    I’ve been writing songs since 1999 over 200 recorded and got incredible talent but being poor i just can’t seem to get my music to take off…If you listen to cant back down for example that songs a hit,after all the time and effort i spent i deserve to be heard at least

  • Hi Chris,

    I've read your article about alternatives to performing live with interest. I have sporadic performances of my pieces on keyboard eg in a local covered market (for free) and more recently in a local music forum open mike night. During the latter I received good applause and it encouraged me Unfortunately, this was also unpaid, though I was again glad that someone might like my music.

    I'm not in a position to go touring or regular work in clubs ( oh maybe that) as I am my wife's main carer.

    I have tried getting radio stations interested – my music is a mixture, a lot of it having classical influence so I thought, 'yes! classic fm'.. Unfortunately, they are part of a huge big business and no one answers my emails. I think 'is it me' and ' these people do not care' and worse.

    Anthony M Spencer, Darlington, County Durham, UK

  • Paris Reese

    hi this is 2brezy from p.s krew , we have our own clothing line at the mall we rap and people buy our sweaters and shirts, but the thing is. even with all of that it seems we still havent got noticed for our true talent for rapping , we have been to different sites to get us known as well , if you guyes can help please email me

  • Dave

    Register and Upload EVERYWHERE. Create a Buzz.
    Look for every site, community, location, resource, etc., INCLUDING the usual (iTunes and all the others), and

  • Paul
  • yo mama
  • Damien Sons

    Hi there,

    My name is Damien and I have been rapping for about 3 years. I don’t perform LIVE but It would be great if I could license some of my TUNES out. I generally buy beats from beat sites and rap over it. I’ve done a few mixes before as well. My Lyrical content is right on PAR. Check out my Youtube UR…..

  • Damien Sons

    if anyone can help me get my music licensed, it’d be great. I’ve made several songs but it’s just not being heard. I need some extra income to. any help is much appreciated.


  • Rique Pagan

    Hi: Really want to be a part of the future network. I've played and traveled and toured some. I'm 55 and I'd do it still but my girlfriend,(who sings much better than I) can not dig that kind of life. In fact, really doesn't want to leave our rather remote Northern California home. I'm going to stop pointing out the obvious lack of musical opportunity here and focus on multi-camera discrete audio/video for upload.

  • Marc j

    Check out "Zone Music (produced by Aaron Wess)" by Marc J –

  • The Next Edition

    We do one large concert and then turn it into a live action webseries

  • cat mario online

    Very interesting and very well done. I take exception to only one point: that “anything that returns a positive ROI is worthwhile”. Perhaps it’s true when selling a virtual product and the cost of adding one new user is close to zero, but for real world, brick and mortar
    businesses, where the cost of each product sold is typically 33 to 50% of the sale, a business really needs to reap a 5 to 1 ROI and the email example is close enough to call it a success.

    You are to be commended for this insightful article and all that went into it. Very few businesses will take the time to evaluate where they spend their time and money and hopefully business owners will see this and look for ways to evaluate their own marketing investments

    cat mario online

  • cat mario online

    Great article! I just wanted to say this post is right on the money.
    Apps are difficult to market, and games specifically have there own
    challenges. Video is definitely one of the best tools to get started
    with, and search engines love video. Most apps need explanation with a
    voice over, but most games dont, so you really need to present the game
    play in an enticing way and keep it short. You can make one yourself
    easily with your developer tool and a decent screen recorder. It takes
    some time but its well
    worth it. You could also just pay somebody to
    do it. I personally have used blue fortress media to make mine, but I
    know there are other good ones like appvj, wyzowl, and demo fuck. Either
    way good luck to you! And once again great article.
    catmario online thankss

  • Jasmy Stewart

    There are so many unsigned artists who couldn’t be perform publicly. One of my friend is a kind of this, he play his instruments himself and a damn lover of music. However, there are so many website who give opportunity to people like these. One can upload their solo performance on the website and get chance to be famous.

  • Richard McCargar

    There are too few venues for all the artists who would like to play out. In my case, in 2004, I had two strokes and a heart-attack that made playing impossible for years, much less touring.

    It’s only been since late 2011 that I was able to restart learning to play and sing. As my memory still hasn’t fully recovered from the strokes, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever play live again.

    Just this week, I put out an album of originals: . Please check it out. I’ll be putting it on cdbaby this weekend for distribution.

  • Tiffany Daniels

    With the exception of experiencing the outside world, I’d say the internet has all but made live shows redundant. From a fan’s point of view you can often watch a musician’s performance on Youtube, or even Google Hangouts and Skype, for free. From a musician’s point of view, tours are costly ways to get your merch – the real money spinner – out there when there’s Facebook to use instead…


    Hottest out now! “Rhymes over raw beats”

  • Hi, I’m trying to compose some music on accordion. If You want to listen, it is one of my composed music. Very sorry if i can not share this link here. If i can not, please admin to delete my post.

  • Richard Kemp

    I have played live gigs since I was 14 until recently (I am now 38) commitments have prevented me playing so I now record and upload my music to every free site possible.

  • Peter

    I would recommend you to submit your video to

    They have a big community which can bring many views!

  • Robin Adams

    Being chronically ill I’ve had to give up touring.

  • ApathyNihilism

    There are other successful artists who never toured. Enigma, for example….and lack of live performance did not prevent them from selling millions of albums.

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