Music Promotion Tips from the Self-Publishing World

Lessons from the publishing industry can help you sell music!

CD Baby/BookBaby president Brian Felsen recently gave a talk at the London Book Fair on how self-published authors can promote themselves amidst the noise of an overcrowded marketplace. Not only are writers (and musicians) expected to shoulder most of the promotion burden now, but you’re competing with an ever-increasing list of alternative books, movies, songs, games, apps, and YouTube clips. Your audience’s attention is scarce. Here is some of the advice Brian shared on how to best position yourself to capture that attention. Although he was focusing his talk on the publishing world, many of the tips directly apply to musicians.

1. Start with Your Website

You need to have a hub from which you’ll engage your fans and sell your product. If you don’t already have a website, check out HostBaby. They’ll set you up with a great, customizable website in minutes that will have all the functions you need to promote yourself (blog, email list management, HTML newsletter tool, event calendars, widgets, etc.)

Don’t duplicate your efforts. House your content in the hub and push it out to social networks from there. But don’t forget about interaction. Pull content into your website as well (twitter feeds, re-posting other relevant articles in your niche, etc.)

Blog frequently to establish a rapport with your audience. Make the tone consistent with the writerly image (or musical persona) you want to convey.  Interact with readers who comment on your blog. Similarly, make sure you’ve set up Google alerts for your name and for your website URL. This will allow you to monitor the chatter about you out there on the internet. Engage from there, as well.

Some other things to try with your website

* Offer free chapters of your book (free songs from an upcoming album) to entice fans.

* Give fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse into your creative process. Many artists are introverts, but today’s technology allows you to open up to people on YOUR terms.

* Sell direct-to-fans

* Use an email capture widget to OWN your fans’ information (as opposed to Amazon sales where you are not given all the info).

* Grant fans access to exclusive content.

* Serialize your novel. (Offer one track from the album at a time).

* Solicit feedback on works-in-progress and ask questions.

* Do live-streaming of readings and workshops. (Live concerts and music lessons).

2. Email is Still King

As we mentioned above, you want to own your fans’ contact info. A solid email list manager (like ListBaby) is key! An email address is much more valuable than a Facebook friend or Twitter follower. Email newsletters always outperform similar efforts using social media. Make sure your emails are creative, compelling, and informative. Give readers something THEY want. Don’t just spam people with your latest product promotion.

3. Get Social!

The writing life is no longer cloistered and private. You’ve got to learn how to participate and interact with a larger conversation happening online. Start with either Facebook or Twitter. Study the leaders in your niche and copy what they’re doing with social media. Remember that barriers are tumbling and the internet now allows you to network with your heroes. Follow them. Retweet their posts. Ask them questions. Link to blogs. Leave comments. Listen and learn and add to the conversation. Building buzz is about community trust.

4. The Odds Are Against You. Make Beautiful Art.

The world is drowning in content. Don’t just add to the noise.  Instead, realize now that you no longer need to wait for a publisher or 100,000 fans (or a major label) to bless and anoint you. You have a legitimate point of view right NOW. You have something beautiful to say right NOW. So hone your talent, be articulate, be yourself, and say something important. Luck favors the bold, and the prepared, and the authentic. So be all three!

Your most precious commodity is time. Focus on what is worth focusing on: writing, promoting, and managing your website. Leave the rest to someone else (like BookBaby). No need to worry about ePUB conversion, file formatting, delivery, digital distribution, accounting, metadata, and XML, when you could be crafting that perfect sentence. (Or writing the perfect song!)

See video of Brian’s full talk HERE.

-Chris R. at CD Baby

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