The objective perspective is the idea of getting an unbiased perspective from someone who isn’t as close to your situation as you are. The objective perspective has many uses in music. We’ve all had problems with our significant others–if you go talk to a friend about it, you might gain a newfound sense of clarity on the situation. Even if they just reaffirm what you already think, sometimes you just need to hear from someone else. The same goes with your music: You may have gotten so deep into a project and worked so hard on it that you’ve become insensitive to the finer details.
It can be fascinating how much music is out there that seemingly doesn’t deserve the hype. Everyone has their favorites to hate on (DON’T ask me about the new Kanye or Daft Punk record). But at the end of the day, Kanye or whoever else we might hate on, is way ahead of us because they actually did something. They put out an album, video, tour, marketing idea, or whatever else. The took a risk, got feedback, and probably learned something important in the process – unlike those who aren’t producing anything.
It’s much better to be critiqued than be just a critic. Critics don’t sell albums or merch, go on tours, make magazine covers or get groupies for a reason (although you wouldn’t know that by the long list of hecklers from the cheap seats). Rather than complaining or lobbing insults at those who aren’t up to your standards, your energy is better spent making something and getting it out there, as opposed to telling everyone (including yourself) how much better your (unreleased) material is. Sure, the new Empire Of The Sun album might not be your favorite, but better to put out your own tracks and show them how it’s done versus critiquing in the abstract.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t listen to music with a discerning ear. That’s part of what shows you have insight and are paying attention (and it indicates that you’ve learned something about your art). But unapplied knowledge is just that – knowledge. At heart, we’ll all music critics. Just by your own record collection, you’ve made choices about what you value in music and probably what you aspire to. But in order to separate yourself from the armchair quarterbacks, you need to throw some passes in an actual game yourself.
People are much more likely to forgive your failures if you put out something great. In fact, most “failures” go unnoticed because people are looking for something amazing and they tend to ignore the rest. So don’t be afraid to let your experiments be just that. Better to always be producing something new than second-guessing yourself and worrying about critics (or being one yourself). Music critics can serve a very important role – I used to be one, and frankly, it was a great job. But not as good as being the lowliest artist. You probably couldn’t name 5 music journalists off the top of your head if you tried. Without the music to critique, all of them would be out of a job. Believe me when I say I’d rather gargle a box of rusty nails while tap dancing on a lava-soaked dance floor than listen to Kanye or whatever other (IMO) overrated artist, but just as important as what an artist did wrong, is what they did right. Sometimes you can learn just as much or more from your enemies as your friends (which is why I bit the the bullet and downloaded his Unholiness’, ahem, I mean Kanye’s new album). Being a critic is fun and easy (that’s why everyone has an opinion), but hardly as rewarding as doing something yourself. The real difficult job is making art that matters to you and others. That’s why rock stars get treated like, well, you know, rock stars. Better decide which side you’re going to be on.
One of the most entertaining services to come to the Internet recently is the picture sharing, social network Instagram. It provides many cool filters and photography tools,and allows friends to easily follow you and comment on your photos. The service allows you to import all of your friends from Facebook, Twitter and your contact list. Your fans also have the ability to follow you if they see a picture you posted to Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. So what good is it to have your fans follow you on a social network where you only post pictures? You’d be surprised.
Here are a few ways you can promote your music on Instagram:
- Photo Sharing - You can get your content shared with friends of friends by taking interesting pictures. In Instagram’s news section you can see what your friends have been liking and commenting on. If you’re taking pictures fans like, others will discover you from the social aspect of the site.
- Promote - Post pictures of your latest album or press you have gotten so your fans know to go check it out. While you may want to do this sparingly, this is a great way to make sure fans don’t miss when you have something new and exciting out.
- Tag Friends – When posting pictures of merch, shows or new music, encourage your fans to @tag their friends if they should know about your latest news.
- Geo-Tagging - Instagram has geo-tagging built in. Tag yourself at soundcheck at the venue you’re playing to remind your fans you have a show that night. You can also take cool pictures around the venue or even make a great looking flyer for your show with Instagram.
- Behind The Scenes - You can show behind-the-scenes glimpses through photos and bond with fans in the comments section. Show your fans how you live when you aren’t on stage.
- Photo Fame - If you’re able to take particularly amazing photos and you have lots of fans, you have a chance of getting on Instagram’s featured page. Photos with the most likes go to a page titled Popular, where the whole world can see your name and you can get some serious branding and recognition for your bad-ass photo.
- Hashtag - Make use of their hashtag system by using tags like #recording, #recording studio, #giglife, #guitarporn or #bandshirts. Many users will search these hashtags to look at photos of what they’re interested in. I’m addicted to the #recordingstudio tag, where musicians show off pictures of themselves in the studio. Tag appropriately, and you can get your music discovered by others who share similar interests.
- Profile - Be sure to fill out your profile and web address. If users find you through the social aspects of Instagram, they can learn about you and where to get your music for free.
- ReGram - You can capture photos from other users by taking a screenshot. Be sure to credit them by writing “ReGram” and crediting the author by tagging their @symbol. This is helpful if a fan took a great picture of you that you like.
- Spread - Instagram is a great way to get pictures onto your other social networks. Remember, great-looking images get shared fast on social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. Use Instagram to make your pictures look better and they will raise awareness about your music.
- Filter - It’s FUN! Instagram has tons of cool filters that can make your photos look great.
- Follow, Comment And Heart - Just like Tumblr, you should follow your fans and then heart and comment on their photos. Interact with them and build better bonds.
- Webstagram - Don’t want to do all of this from your phone? You can comment, heart, etc. all from your computer with Instagram’s own website.
- Link – If you want to share your Instagram profile on the web, direct fans to Instagram.com/YOURUSERNAMEHERE.
Fans connecting with you on Instagram can raise awareness about your music. Encourage them by telling your fans whoever takes the best Instagram photograph of your show, and tags you in it, can get a free piece of merch after the show. Having them tag you will show all of their friends what they were missing by not coming to see you.
If you want fans to follow you on Instagram, all you need to do is tell them to go to instagram.com/yourusername. This means you can make buttons and badges (instagram.com/accounts/badges) for your website and link them to your profile.
If there is anything that can be traced to musicians’ antidepressant prescriptions, it’s the immense disappointment of playing to small crowds night after night. It even happens to arena-level acts. We’ve all seen great musicians play at decent-sized venues that are almost completely empty (whether due to a competing show, poor promotion or even a declining fanbase). Despite the lackluster turnout, smart musicians take the stage and play a great show regardless of the circumstances. This makes every concertgoer an even bigger fan. Here are a few scenarios where you can make a heartbreaking show into one that will grow your fanbase for years to come.
Socialize - While not always the case, many musicians get opportunities because they’re friends with another musician. The single best thing you can do at an empty show is to get together with other musicians and discuss real things. Are they on SoundCloud? How is it working for them? Which of the tools are they using? The guitarist has that new Dr. Z amp? How does it sound? You just read a fantastic book that they should read <cough> <cough>? Tell them what you think! Talk about what you have in common.
When you make friends with other musicians, they want to help you, play more shows with you and maybe even tour together.Whether this leads to them getting you on shows or playing your songs to their team member who you’d love to work with–it pays to be friendly in these situations. You never know which acts are going to get huge. And even when you think a musician sucks, they could get a whole lot better in two years and take you with them. If you haven’t figured this out by now, being an asshole doesn’t make you seem like a rock star–it just makes you seem like an asshole.
Audience - It’s not just musicians that you can socialize with. You can talk to the audience too. Something weird happens when you walk into a bar and it’s filled to the brim with people. It makes it a little harder to approach people, because the situation isn’t very exclusive or special. On the other hand, if you walk into the same size bar and it’s kind of empty, suddenly everyone starts talking to one another. This same thing happens at shows. It’s totally acceptable to hang out and make good friends with people and in an empty venue it’s more welcome than ever. No matter how big or small a show you play, meeting the attendees can turn them into fans and turn the fans you already have into super-fans.
Impress - Once, a long time ago, I was in a band. We rolled into a desolate town and played a show to a dozen people. There were more musicians in the bands that played than audience members in attendance. Despite this fact, we went on stage and did what we always did: We gave it 110%. After the set, 10 of the dozen people in attendance came up to us and said they had never seen a band go so crazy, despite no one being around. We were rewarded by everyone–and I mean everyone in the audience–buying tons of our merch to make up for their town being so lame that no one had come to see what ended up an amazing show.
It turned out that in attendance that night was a girl whose brother was A&R at one of the largest indie labels in the country–a label we dreamed of being on. After listening to our demo, the girl called her brother and said she’d just seen the second coming of Christ (aka our band) and that even though no one was there to see us, we destroyed the stage and had the most amazing demo ever. The next thing you know we’re on the phone with an A&R man being courted. You understand the point–you never know who’s watching, so always play shows as if the rooms are completely packed. While it is highly unlikely that there will be some connection to a powerful music business player at the show, you have zero chance of impressing anyone if you’re not trying your best.
Word Gets Around - When you give it your all in front of a small audience, it isn’t just about the sibling of a famous A&R person who might be in attendance. When I see musicians give amazing performances to small crowds, I tell everyone. The fewer people at a concert, the more powerful an amazing performance feels. Fans, especially tastemakers, bloggers and huge music fans, love to tell friends about an experience that was amazing–this is even more true if very few people experienced. If you play a great show, the eight people in attendance will tell 16 friends how great you are and the word will keep spreading. Trust me, I have heard my father talk about seeing Bruce Springsteen in front of a dozen people over a hundred times–and I’ve told almost everyone I know about seeing Refused in front of less than a hundred people. When this word of mouth happens, the next time you roll into town it’s likely the show won’t be so empty.
Keep It Clean - I’m not going to be unrealistic and tell you to play every show sober. Some great musicians play their best sets intoxicated out of their minds. What I will say is this: Don’t use the show when no one is there as the time to test if you can actually drink a whole bottle of absinthe and still get through the set. As stated above, this is an opportunity to blow potential fans away, not become Internet famous after the picture of your vomit all over the drum set gets turned into a .gif by Hipster Runoff (on second thought, this may help you). This is the night to get eight people telling every one of their friends, “I saw ____ and even though no one was there, they blew me away with how amazing they were.” Save the drinking contest for practice or the next time you play a party.
Take Requests! - If you’re playing a show and the eight people there are actually fans of your music, make it fun and engaging for them. Bribe your fans by offering them what they want. I once saw one of my favorite major label bands play to a quarter-packed room and they made it one of the best shows I have ever seen. They had a tambourine and said that if we rocked out hard on the next song, whoever danced the hardest got to play it in the chorus. The crowd went crazy!
After taking requests they even attempted to play a song they’d never played live. The crowd was so psyched and we told everyone we knew about how great it was. Because of me going on and on about them, some of my friends got into their music and they made new fans. Don’t look at an empty room as a let down, look at it as an opportunity to get your fanbase talking.
After four years of research and writing, we are proud to announce the release of Get More Fans: The DIY Guide To The New Music Business. Todd and I set out to make the most comprehensive guide to the techniques, tools, ideas and methods that go into building a fanbase and came up with the 700+ page guide you see here. We wrote a book that leaves no stone unturned when bands wonder what they could be doing to get more fans. We couldn’t be more proud to put this book out and would love for you to take a look at it. Lots of famous musicians and music business people have already said insanely nice things about it.
Here’s what we suggest you do.
- Check out the Table of Contents and read the synopsis. We have a list of ten reasons you should buy it.
- We also have half of the book available for free on our website here.
- It’s for sale on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Google Play. It is available in every format of eBook and in physical book form.
If you are really feeling generous, here is how you can help.
- We would love for you to help spread the word. Over the years I know we gave many of you advice and free time and have tried to help you promote your music without asking for anything in exchange. Right now, we need all the help we can get and you can help me by taking 60 seconds of your time. Any Facebook post, Tweet, Tumblr post, Instagram picture, or email to friends wo would be interested in this book really helps.
- If you are really feeling giving, we desperately need Amazon Book Reviews. Two sentences and a 5 star review does us a world of good helping us to promote the book. It is greatly appreciated.
Lastly, we would love to hear from you, if you know someone who we should get this book to, are curious about it, just want to say hello, give comments on it, point us to writers, reviewers or whatever, please write us. We put four years into this book and need to get it everywhere we can.
Thank you for your help and for listening.
Jesse and Todd
Hear It Local, is a site that makes it easy to book live music for any occasion. With a focus on the growing house concert movement, the service sees hope for this helping to bring musicians more income since many musicians are actually making more money doing these private events than they do playing larger venue gigs. While many musicians think these type of events may be rare, they are becoming more and more common and offer a way for a musician to give fans a special concert, while being compensated. The service employs a Facebook App called, GetBooked, which can let fans book (and crowd-fund) musicians for these private concerts. Learn more here.
Before I get started, I know that many people will say we shouldn’t talk about politics on this blog, but this election is too important to musicians and their ability to promote their music. Our blog is about promoting your music and there is a stance that one candidate has taken in this race that makes voting for them, a vote against your music career. I will not be discussing all the other issues that come with each candidate, you can find that on other sites from many people who are far more qualified to discuss these subjects. My expertise is in musician issues and there is one stance, on an important issue, that these candidates have taken that could damn your music career. If your music career is not a major factor in who you vote for, move on to another article. If it is keep reading.
Net Neutrality is the single most important issue that will affect your ability to promote your music and keep the music world full of opportunity for unknown musicians. If you are not familiar with the issue, the above video gives a great description of it. In short, Net Neutrality keeps the Internet how it is – allowing musicians to promote their music and continues to allow unknown musicians to build their own career without getting permission from the gatekeepers like labels, radio and large corporations. It allows fans to choose who they want to hear, instead of corporations allowing them to hear who can afford to pay them a bribe. When we hear stories of independent musicians being able to promote themselves without major label backing and make the gains many DIY & indie artists have made over the past few years, it is because the Internet is presently neutral.
If Net Neutrality is not upheld, large corporations will ask you to pay to have your content be seen by their subscribers. This means if you want fans to be able to see your website, you may need to pay ISPs like Comcast, Optimum, Cablevision, etc. a fee just to allow your own fans to check in on your website or other content. Obviously this would help return the power to big, corporate funded, major label musicians who can afford this fee and away from fans deciding who gets popular and who does not.
This will have a catastrophic effect on anyone trying to grow their fanbase that doesn’t have large corporate backing and music fans looking for good music, not music that can afford to pay a bribe. It would also help return the music world to one where major labels have all of the power to shove crappy musicians down your throat, as opposed to the democracy of music popularity we are seeing emerge on the Internet. You can pretend to be an economist and decide whose solutions you believe will be better for the economy etc. At the end of it all, there is no single issue that will determine what promoting your music will look like more than Net Neutrality.
Here is where the candidates stand:
Gary Johnson - Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, is a fierce supporter of Net Neutrality. He goes a step further and would like the government to be even less involved in the Internet.
Mitt Romney – Sadly, Mitt Romney is the one presidential candidate who is firmly against Net Neutrality and will look to allow the Internet providers to bill you for access to your fans. While Mitt has taken stands on both sides of many issues and flip-flopped all over the place throughout this campaign, this is one issue he always stands by. In my opinion and everyone else I have seen who consistently cover this issue all agree – Mitt Romney would be a catastrophe for Net Neutrality.
I will be voting for Obama. Todd will be voting for Johnson. Both of which will continue to help musicians get a fair shake. Sadly, a vote for Mitt Romney will make things harder for everyone looking for an equal playing field on the Internet.
You know what’s a great feeling? After you just played a city, seeing your fans tweet about how hard you rocked. Even better you see a fan tweeting how much they are looking forward to seeing you at your tour date in their town. While this feels great for you, you can make them feel even better and make sure they know about your next show in town with a little bit of time while you are bored in the van everyday. Whenever you see a fan tweet about a certain show, simplky go into your Twitter client and make a new Private List. Add each fan to a list for whatever city they are from. The next time you are rolling through town simply take the time to tweet or DM them a message that you are coming to town. Now only will they be amazed that you aknowledged them, your show turnout and their passion will increase. This 10 minutes of boring work in the van every day can yeild high returns.
Have you ever heard the joke, “What’s the difference between a Soundguy and a toilet? A Toilet gets crapped on by one asshole at a time.” This is why you want to be nice to him! Not only is today’s soundman usually tomorrow’s top record producer, tour manager A&R guy or show promoter. He also has it hard and people treat him crappy. One of the best promotions I have seen is to always give the sound guy a T-Shirt. Usually he is broke and if he likes you, he will wear it and he is one of the mos visible guys in the club every night, giving you a free ad and a friend every time you come back to his venue that can really help you out. Just remember he is also usually the key to local fun girl and the pot your drummer needs to shut up in the van.
- Ira Glass via 37 Signals from the Code Academy handbook, designed by Sawyer Hollenshead.