How to promote your music and build a superfan with creative viral video content

[This lesson comes from Ben Sword, founder of Music Marketing Classroom…with an excerpt from the “Superfan Building” training module. Click here for the whole shebang.]

OK so recently you might have heard a lot of people saying that you need to be on social media “Engaging” with your fans…

…but the mission of this lesson is really to show what on earth that means, the practical steps of how you can do it each day, and the benefit it’s going to have for your music promotion.

First off…WHY should you even bother?

This is a question that was also bouncing in and out of my head for a while until I discovered “Check Move Theory.”

This concept tells us that the more positive interaction (or “Check Moves”) fans take with the artist, the closer the connection will be…

…and that will ultimately lead to more support, whether that be financial or just help with promotion, bringing in new fans by word of mouth.

I think this is an especially powerful idea for musicians because it means we don’t have to hammer the fanbase with slightly cheesy sales messages anymore, and can just focus on putting out super-duper stuff that they WANT to interact with.

It all starts with CAPTURE

Or in other words, get a smart phone and press record a lot…

…because often you can entertain your gang by just bringing them into your world, and making content based around what you’re already doing.

The way this might look for a band on the road is that each member would be documenting the wild ride from their own point of view and posting it to Dropbox, and then the social media dude edits all the best bits for posting.

(Of course if you’re on a budget the “social media dude” could simply be Bob the crazy drummer who likes playing with the computers).

But for some even that might seem like a little bit too much hard work, so in that case run a competition to have one of your die-hard fans come on the road with you to capture all the cool behind-the-scenes happenings.

For an amazing example of this check out Ozzy Osbourne’s Facebook Page.

Seeing your journey from a fan’s point of view will mean they’re in a great position to know what’s going to be interesting and relevant.

BOOYARR…you’ve just created a world class digital content strategy and it did not hurt one bit… here’s your lollypop…

So how on earth do you set up a “Check Move?”

The mission here is to remove all the head-scratching from your social media marketing by giving you a set of tried and tested posts that are ready-to-go.

1.Behind the music – let people in on your wild ride in the biz…first band, first song, first guitar, first love (ok maybe not), challenges and setbacks, magic moments and plans for the future.

To do this get a piece of paper and draw a picture of yourself as a just born baby on the left hand side, then draw a picture of yourself last week on the right. Now fill up the space in the middle with all the epic stuff that’s happened to you during that time.

…you don’t have to make a whole movie in one go. Bite-sized pieces will actually work better for holding interest.

2. Cribs – make a video to show folks around your home town and even your house if that don’t feel weird.

Travel to important landmarks in your career like where the band got together, or where you performed your first successful stage dive. If you can’t be bothered to actually leave your house you could do this using Google Street View ;-)

3. Interviews with every cool person you meet along the way – producers, managers, your crazy bassist, other bands, family, friends, fans, the sound man, tour manager and the driver who never seems to sleep.

WARNING: There is a 93% chance this video will make you laugh, so if you’re at work maybe watch it later!

4. In the studio during recording sessions – an awesome method of keeping fans in touch while you would normally be off the radar.

5. Video diary updates when you’re on tour – where you’re playing, how the shows are going, which band member is starting to make you crazy and reviews of the accommodation.

6. Backstage – dressing room shenanigans, the after-show party…and even that particularly tasty treat you got on the rider.

7. Live footage from your latest gigs – there is a cool tool called “Switch Cam” which will turn your whole crowd into one big massive film crew and then you can come back later and make a wicked movie using all those different viewpoints. It’s the future baby!

8. Sound check video – you might think that seems a little boring and honestly I would agree with you but they seem to get a ton of views so once you got your fanbase rocking there should be interested people who will appreciate it.

9. Show people around your gear and how you get your EPIC sounds.

10. Live from the merch booth meeting the fans.

11. Sneak peek clips of brand new tracks from the practice room.

12. Music from your past – dust off those demos you made when you were a kid or in an early band. I think it’s cool to show people how you got to where you are now musically. Don’t be bashful about it!

13. Acoustic versions of popular songs.

14. Covers by you – interesting arrangements of music you love.

15. Covers by fans – post a little “guitar lesson” for one of your most popular songs and then challenge fans to come up with the BEST COVER.

16. Karaoke Version – so folks can blast it out at a party. (Undercover way to have people spread the word about what you’re doing)

17. The “Making of” your video directors commentary – like the extras on a DVD. This would basically be a couple of key players talking about how the whole thing came together.

18. Outtakes and Bloopers from your recording session and video shoot.

19. Go thrift shopping – for weird and wonderful stage clothes (or props) and document the whole adventure on video.

20. Keep a songwriting diary – ask for feedback and new ideas. Turns your fanbase into a giant musical mastermind group!

21. Song-meanings and inspiration – if that doesn’t feel too personal.

22. Say Thanks – make a real personal video to thank fans when you reach important milestones in your career. Jackie Chan did this when he got 50 million Facebook likes.

Just look at the way he pops up…CLASSIC!

23. Make a roundup video each week – of anything you see online that makes you laugh, cry or wet your knickers with joy. There is a killer tool called Feedly that will allow you to track all your favorite sites and people in one easy place. Thanks Feedly!

24. Host an “Ask Me Anything Event” (or online open mic session) using Google Hangout.

25. Chat To A Superfan

26. Use Screen R to show your recording and mixing process over the shoulder.

27. Bring a camera along anytime you’re doing something cool on radio or TV.

28. Low budget skits like Jackass – not for everyone but can be really cool “off-topic” stuff if you’ve got a hyperactive funny-bone.

29. Share your excitement when cool stuff happens – you get a killer show, amazing review, mention on twitter or massive radio spot…jump on video and share the joy!

Check out how fun the excitement of this kid is…

30. Handwritten Lyrics – the video below was created by a fan of the wonderful Imogen Heap, but you could dig out the lyrics from your original songbook and do the same. Imagine how cool it would be if your favourite muso did this.

31. Post a set of photos with a killer soundtrack – the dude below took a picture of himself everyday for 10 years!

But YOU could make a “Ten Years in the Music Business” video or even bug your Momma for a bunch of baby photos.

32. Every cool tune should have some kind of music video, even if it’s real simple – below you’ll find something I made with no budget in just a few hours.

Note: Moving forward I’ll be making mostly “fans create the footage” music videos because then the Check Move factor goes through the roof!

Here is your action step

OK so now we’re at the end of this lesson you’ve got two options:

The first is to close this page and think…

“Hmm…ain’t that Ben Sword a cool and sexy mofo? He gave me a ton of ideas that I really should use one day and I must buy him lots of beer next time he’s in town…[but then] ha ha ha look at those funny talking cats dancing on YouTube…what was I doing again?”

Now apart from the beer thing, that ain’t going to do you any good.

So the only option you should really consider is taking me up on the following challenge…

Just pick one thing from the list and do it right now, and give yourself an hour to complete it.

Often work will swell to the amount of time you allocate so setting a real short deadline like that means you’ll be really action-focused and proactive.

Then if you’re feeling brave, do the same thing tomorrow… and for the next 30 days until you got the habit locked in for the rest of your career.

Being that consistent will pretty much guarantee you find an audience at some point.

It’s like a law of nature or something.

Sure, what you produce at first might be crappy and that’s totally cool, in fact that’s what’s supposed to happen…

…but after a while making great stuff will be just like eating maple syrup and bacon pancakes with a thick Oreo cookie milkshake… EASY!

Or in other words… the sooner you start making a lot of stuff the sooner what you’re making will be EPIC. But if you only do one thing a year then you’ll be 123 years old before anything you do goes viral.

So good luck. I’m rootin for ya’ and please do contact me if you have questions because I’ll be making followup lessons.

Why not leave a comment and become my “New Favourite Person”! What kind of content is working well with your fanbase right now?


Ben Sword is the founder of the Music Marketing Classroom, on a mission to help musicians create sustainable careers with a simple four level marketing philosophy.

Learn more at

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