For the April edition of our Disc Makers Twitter chat (#DMchat), we asked teacher, author, music industry visionary, and founder of Berklee Online, Dave Kusek, for some music promotion tips. His guest post, “Six ways to promote your music,” is a great primer for the Twitter Chat.
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To view the entire chat transcript, please visit this link. Below is a reformatted version of our discussion.
Who’s with us today in #DMchat? Please introduce yourself and let the conversation begin!
Hi everybody. I’m Dave Kusek, founder of the New Artist Model. I’m also the founder of Berklee Online and author of the best selling music business book, The Future of Music. I’m happy to be here today with all of you. Who’s got a question?
What’s the biggest challenge musicians face when it comes to promoting their music?
There are lots of challenges. Just getting started is one, knowing where to focus is another, and learning how to manage your time is the third. These are all things we work with our members on in the New Artist Model. It is never to early to start building your audience. Don’t wait for your album to be finished or for everything to be perfect. Just get started promoting your music and connecting with fans. Lots of people spin their wheels doing things that don’t move the needle. One of the first things to do is to understand your audience and what makes them tick. Once you do that you can find more people like that.
Next you want to set up a way to measure everything you are doing with your marketing and promotion so you can see what works and what doesn’t work. Do more of what is working and optimize your efforts. Time management is a huge problem for most people. I suggest using a weekly or monthly calendar and breaking your time up into 30 or 50 minute segments so you can focus on one thing at a time. These are all things that we teach in our programs which you can see here: http://newartistmodel.mykajabi.com and here http://musicianpowertools.com.
Guest: Could you give me tips about how to write emails to music editors and build good relationships with them?
You need to research who you are writing to and match your offer to what they want to see. It is not a five minute process but something that if you put the effort in to identify what they are looking for and then tailor your presentation to that, you will have a much better chance of getting their attention and building a relationship.
Why should artists approach their career like an entrepreneur?
Today every musician is an entrepreneur, whether you like it or not. Treat your music career as a business or you will fail. There is no one waiting to take care of you, like label A&R or Publishing A&R until you are already doing well all by yourself. So you have to think like an entrepreneur and get yourself off the ground. We recommend that every musician create some kind of musician’s business plan so you can set goals. Then create a series of steps to reach them, and then have something to look back on to measure your progress.
Guest: Do you value an email opt in conversion more than a follow/like? If so, do you have a rule you go by? (Ex. 1 email = X followers)
An email is worth far more than a like. Maybe 100 fold! Likes are cheap and a false measure of interest. They are too easy to get. Email however is much harder to get but worth so much more.
What’s the first step artists should take when building their brand platform?
We usually ask people to define themselves, what they stand for, what unique thing they bring to the table. Why people should give a s*** about you and your music. You have to have this figured out before you can create a brand strategy. This is a process of both setting some goals for yourself, but more importantly understanding how you are different. What you want to say to your fans, what you want people to remember when they hear you or see a show. You need to be deliberate. Often its good to ask your early fans how they would describe you to their friends to get a sense of what people already think. You can build on that as we talk about in our courses.
How important is it to engage via social media versus funneling traffic to your website?
DK: I think of social as being the top of the funnel and there your goal is to attract people. Get them via search or a hash tag or a referral from somewhere. The biggest challenge is breaking through the noise. Obscurity is your enemy. YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook – these are all platforms for you to get exposure about your music and your own point of view. Then try and get them to visit your website and sign up for an email list. You want to control your data. If you don’t have a list and website and do all of your promo on social, then you don’t own anything. When they change the rules, you are screwed. So I always recommend a funnel strategy with social to attract and engage people, then drive them to a channel you control. Get them on your email list and over to your website where you can start learning more about them and engaging with them. We cover all of this in our Musician Power Tools program.
Lucy: All have their strengths, but it’s key to find which platform fits YOUR strengths. Nothing is worse than a dead profile.
DK: Agreed. And of course you want to develop relationships and engage with people on social media, but you want to have a strategy and set about it deliberately.
How often should artists update their website? How about their social media channels?
I think an artist should be updating their website weekly. Put your shows up there, reviews, merchandise, blog, podcast, new song, whatever you can think of. Change the pictures and keep it fresh. This helps the Google bots as well as keeping people interested.
As far as social goes, I recommend being on there daily a few times. You want to pick one or two social channels and focus on those. That should be based on where your audience and potential audiences are hanging out. A huge mistake people make is to be on every platform they can all day every day. That is a time sink that will drain you. So pick your social channels carefully and then spend some time every day responding to comments, posting new content and engaging.
What strategies should you take for building your email list? What if marketing just isn’t your thing?
First I’ll talk about your email list. You want to trade content for email addresses. Trade songs for an email address. This is a proven strategy to build your list. Or create things like eBooks, picture galleries, contests, whatever fans might want. Contests are great ways to build your email list. Enter to win tickets, merchandise, meet and greets, backstage passes, join in studio sessions, Skype calls, whatever you can think of. There are loads of tools out there for doing this.
If you are not into marketing… get someone who is on your team ASAP. This is critical. Without someone marketing, you will have a difficult time. There are agencies that you can pay or you can find a friend who is good and motivated and either hire them or give them commission. Check out musicianpowertools.com for more ideas.
Why types of promotions can you do to promote a live show or tour dates?
For live shows you want to straddle the online and offline worlds for promotion. Tried and true things like flyers and posters work if you can get them in the right locations. Other winners are a street team, PR, and radio. Online promotion for shows usually comes down to having a great email list that you can send to. You can also use Facebook events, live chats like this one, or other event based systems like Eventric and others. Another thing to do is to create a bill with other bands and all promote shows together. Cross promote each other & build your audience together.
How can working with music blogs help expand your fan base?
Blogs. Do your research and understand who you are talking to and what they are looking for. Send them something that matches that will make them look good. Work on your pitch and be as memorable as you possibly can be. People are scouring the web for new music. You have to reach out to these bloggers and get them to talk about you. The trick is how? Pitchfork, Consequence of Sound, Resident Advisor, Stereogum, Aurgasm, Dancing Astronaut, Drowned in Sound and many others.
You can try exclusive content, something outrageous, anything that will get their attention and drive page views and advertising dollars. Remember that they are in the business of eyeballs and you need to respect that – and play to that A good strategy for blogs is to try and tell a good story that is going to appeal to them. They will be interested in anything that will appeal to their readers so make sure you do your research Don’t bother with “check out my songs!”
What does collaborating with other musicians add to your promotional strategy?
Collaboration is an area that most musicians fall down in. Collaboration with artists and networking is the key to success in the music biz. If you are not helping other musicians out, no one is going to help you. You have to give to get. Collaboration is how you get more gigs, play bigger shows, build your audience, test out ideas… so much more.
The entire music business has been based in large part on people collaborating to grow their audience. Promoters have done this for years by building lineups that will attract the biggest possible audience. Why do you think festivals are so popular? If artists could work better together and not be hung up on competing for shows and fan dollars and instead build awareness we would all be better off.
What tools do you recommend for managing the flow between all these different strategies?
We just released a brand new version of the New Artist Model with memberships. No one has seen this yet. Lots of great tools and resources in there to help you out. We also have a Musicians Resource Library with thousands of tools, products and services. I have to recommend again the Indie Artist Network as a resource for people to collaborate around the world on projects. This is a very active online community where people share everything. As far as tools go, Canva, MailChimp, Asana, and Slack are all great tools worth checking out.
Got to jet folks. Thanks for having me. Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have more questions.
Disc Makers’ marketing manager Lucy Briggs conducted this interview with Dave Kusek. Dave Kusek is the founder of New Artist Model and Berklee Online. Over the years he’s worked with tens of thousands of musicians around the world across every genre imaginable and in many different markets. New Artist Model is an online music business school designed especially for indie musicians. Learn how to turn your music into a career, understand the business, and start thinking like a musical entrepreneur.
Six ways to promote your music
If you ain’t measuring, you ain’t marketing
Five things you can do to be better at social media marketing
Collaborating with another musician can boost your exposure
Expand your audience with opening act and support slots