By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 5 minutes
If you’ve been on Facebook in the last six months, you’ve seen the epidemic. All your friends are sharing blog post after blog post, and your newsfeed has become so blog oriented that you literally jump for joy when you see an actual status update.
While all these blogs may be a little obnoxious, I bet you’ve clicked on one. Or three. Or 16.
No shame! Blogs are a huge part of what makes the internet great, and they are an excellent tool for musicians. Getting your music featured in a blog can put your music in front of a whole new set of fans. There are tons of music blogs out there that are specifically dedicated to helping their readers find great new music. Pitchfork,Consequence of Sound, and The Wild Honey Pie are just a few examples of some well-known music blogs.
And though working to get your music featured on a music blog is definitely something you should be doing, if you are only submitting your music to blogs that are just about music you’re missing out.
There are millions of other kinds of blogs out there that you could be submitting to. And these blogs don’t get hundreds(or thousands!) of music submissions thrown at them everyday. By pursuing blog coverage at a popular non-musical blog, you have a better chance of actually getting heard, and getting featured.
Just remember, if you are submitting to a non-music blog:
Look for a blog about something that you already have an interest in. It will be easier for the blogger to feature you (and interview you!) if you are excited about what they normally blog about.
Look for a blog that’s related to your music. Chances are that many blog “niches” are missing a theme song. So if you’ve written a very specific song or concept album, look for blogs that write about what you wrote about!
Look for a regional blog. If you live in a major city, there are probably blogs that are geo-specific to you. If the blogger likes your stuff, you may even be able to sit down with them face to face about being featured on their blog.
So if you’re ready to start looking for some alternative press features, here are the top five non-musical blogs you should consider submitting to!
The Food Blog
If you love food almost as much as you love music, you can probably find a blog that appeals to your taste buds. If you love to cook, or are passionate about vegan living, a food blog might be a great place for you to seek out a feature. There are also quite a few regional food blogs, so try finding one in your city. You could even offer to write a column for a them about the best places in your city to get great food and live music!
The Fashion Blog
Chances are that you have a specific sense of style. Whether you’re a country artist who wears a different pair of boots to every show, or a rock-a-billy songstress with a penchant for pin-up clothing, there is a good chance there is some kind of fashion blog geared toward your own clothing preferences. Submitting your music to a fashion blog could also work if you have some kind of “trademark” piece of clothing that you wear at every show that the blogger could talk about.
The Travel Blog
If you are a touring musician, a travel blog might be a great place for you to look for press. You have the travel experience, and you might even have a song or two about your life on the road they could feature. If you enjoy writing, you might even talk to the owner of the blog about having a guest post series detailing your next tour. Then your fans would get updates about your tour, and your music would get a regular appearance on a website besides your own.
The Frugal Living Blog
It’s no secret that independent musicians don’t make truckloads of money. A frugal living blog might be a great place for you to talk about how you tour (aka travel) on a small budget, or how you keep your grocery budget low so you can save up for gear. A frugal living blog might even be a great place to release that new single you were planning on giving away, since their readers will probably be excited about getting something for free!
The Extremely-Specific Blog
I know. This technically isn’t a category of blogs. But you know yourself and your music better than anyone else. Look at your hobbies outside music and see if you can find a blog about your random obsession with Hello Kitty, or micro-gardening. Chances are there are other people who love the same things you do, and would be willing to listen to your music! Here are a few more really specific blogs to get you started brainstorming:
Have you had any success submitting your music to non-music related blogs? Do you have any other ideas about what kind of blogs to submit to? Let us know in the comments below!
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 8 minutes
So you think that Pinterest might be a good tool to keep in your proverbial marketing tool belt? Great!
Let’s get into the practical ways you can effectively use Pinterest to connect with fans and increase traffic on your website.
Creating Your Profile
The first step is to sign up for a Pinterest Account. There are now two types of Pinterest accounts: personal and business. The business accounts operate exactly like personal Pinterest accounts, except you get free access to analytics. This is a valuable tool once you learn how to use it, so I recommend signing up as a business account. If you already have a personal Pinterest account, you can convert it into a business account. However, unless everyone and everything connected to your personal account fits with your brand as an artist, I recommend that you keep your personal and business accounts separate.
After you sign up, you will confirm your account through email.
Once your account has been confirmed, you will need to edit your general profile information. To do so:
Click on your user name in the top right to get to your profile.
Click the “edit profile” button just below your name.
Upload a profile picture. The picture should be in focus and not pixelated, easily identifiable, and tied to your brand as an artist. This lets followers instantly recognize a pin as yours.
Add a link to your website. This is important, as you are on Pinterest for marketing purposes. Without this link, people who discover you through Pinterest have no easy way of finding out more about you.
Choose a custom domain for your Pinterest account. Consistency is key, so try to keep your custom domain as close to your name, website, or other social media custom domains as possible.
And that’s it! Your profile is created. Now, let’s make it a strong profile! How do you do that? You add content… the right content.
Building Your Boards
After you’ve edited your basic information, you should begin to create boards. To create a board, simply go to your profile page and click on the “Create Board” icon on the left.
Your boards are where you will pin your content. Topical boards are the best way to organize your content (this is helpful when people are browsing your pins to find content or learn more about you).
When creating your boards, it’s important to think ahead to the content you will pin on them. It’s also important to keep this mantra in mind: Get personal.
You’re here to genuinely connect with fans through shared interests and to give them a glimpse of who you truly are. If all you do is promote yourself, you have missed out on the most useful parts of Pinterest. Your pins, therefore, should reflect who you are as much as (if not more than) what you do.
The key is to strike the right balance.
For boards reflecting your personal interests, some good ideas (topics that consistently trend on Pinterest) are recipes, fashion, DIY projects, and art. If you’re personally interested in something, create a board around that topic.
In terms of boards for marketing your music, you can create boards for your music and videos, tour posters, promotional pictures, live shows, pictures with fans… pretty much anything that can be translated into a visual medium, you can create a board for.
You can (and should!) also have boards that tread the line between your music and personal tastes. Create a board that shows your fans the inspiration behind your music; it could include quotes, poetry, art, or photography. You can even create inspiration boards for specific release, whether a whole album, a single, or a music video.
You can also create shared boards that your fans can pin to. Want to know what your music inspires your fans to do or create? Create a board for fan art. Not sure what to wear for your next music video or photo shoot? Ask your followers! Not only will you get great ideas, but since they were engaged with planning, they will be more likely to share the finished product.
Katy Perry’s page is a good example of fan interaction. Many of her boards allow fans to pin their own content to them. This helps her fans to feel like they are involved with Katy on a personal level. However, Katy’s profile is mostly self-promotion, which is not the way we recommend independent artists use Pinterest. Personal and authentic content is the best way to add and keep followers.
Branding Your Boards
Your personal branding doesn’t have to stop at your website or your profile picture. Pinterest allows for a lot of flexibility and customization. You can create boards around any theme you want, you can name the boards whatever you want, and you can set the main image for each board. Play around with this to tie in your existing branding.
Actress/Pop Singer Vanessa Hudgens does a really good job of consistently branding her boards. Her board titles are simple, and she has uploaded a custom cover photo for each board using the same font and style.
Adding Pins to Your Boards
Your content on Pinterest is the point of connection between you and your fans, so make sure that it is well thought out. Remember that people follow you because they are interested in who you are. Show them that with your content.
You can do this with a good mix of original content and repins. If you blog regularly, pin the images from your blog posts. Repin recipes of what you want to eat for dinner alongside an original pin of your new music video. Pin tips for caring for a sore throat and maintaining health; after all, you as a singer should know how to care for your voice. If you’re a coffee connoisseur, re-pin recipes you want to try alongside photos of drinks from coffee shops you visited on the road.
One benefit to pinning original content is that it gives you greater opportunity to drive traffic back to your website. (Pinterest is well-known for its click-through rate.) This works best if you pin directly from your website or point people back your website, where they can buy your music or a T-shirt or get signed up for your mailing list. You can also pin from your other social media accounts. This isn’t as ideal as sending traffic directly to your site, but it could increase your opportunities to interact with your fans. We mentioned Vanessa Hudgens for her branding earlier, but she also does a great job of directing the traffic back to her.
You should also brand your original content. If you have a logo, place that logo somewhere unobtrusive in the picture you’re sharing. That way, even if the link to your original page gets lost, people still know where the content they liked came from.
If you are repinning content that others uploaded, be conscious of what you are pinning. Respect other people’s work. Just like you don’t want someone else to get credit for your songs, a food blogger doesn’t want someone else to get credit for the chocolate cake recipe they worked hard to create. Make sure the picture or recipe links back to the site where it originated. Also be sure that the creator is open to having their content pinned (i.e., look for a “Pin This” prompt on their website or for original pins they have uploaded directly). We’ll use Vanessa Hudgens as an example again. On her Music board, almost all the content is pinned directly from the artist’s website or social media accounts. This drives the traffic back to those artist, giving them credit for their original content. When used correctly, Pinterest is great way to cross promote, and other independent business will likely be grateful for your appreciation of their content.
Adding Quality Content
Pinterest is primarily a visual medium. Good images are key to increasing engagement. Text should be legible. Photographs shouldn’t be out of focus or pixelated, and they should be well-lit and visually interesting. What does this look like in practice? Instead of pinning a photo of your new merch shirt on a hanger or sitting in the box, ask a friend or fan to model it… but go to a pretty location with good lighting (often indirect lighting) instead of your garage or spare bedroom. Got a new album coming out? Take your favorite line or two and turn them into a gorgeous graphic. If you like it enough, it might be something you turn into an art print to sell as merch!
On a side note: make sure that when you are creating these graphics, that you are not using copyrighted material. You can gets lots of great stock photos at decent prices from sites like fotolia.com and Shutter Stock. Or, if you have a photographer or graphic designer friend, ask if they want to collaborate and make graphics that both of you can use.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 7 minutes
You’ve just spent countless hours revamping your website, following and chatting with fans on social media, and sending a hundred—or was it two hundred—emails to add more bookings and press to your schedule. Your eyes are red and itchy, your fingers are beginning to cramp, and when you look away from your screen you can hardly see straight. It’s time to stop for the night.
And what do you have to show for all that hard work? A few new followers, some extra likes, three automated e-mail responses from people who are on vacation… but no real results.
This is a dismal story, but it’s one I hear too often. Musicians, working hard to market themselves, are not getting any real return from that work. It helps to know what marketing is.
What Exactly Is Marketing?
Marketing is a term that gets tossed around often but can be hard to grasp, especially for musicians. Merriam-Webster says that marketing is “the act or process of selling or purchasing,” and “the technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.”
To put it simply: Marketing is the work and the strategy of selling something.
All businesses use marketing in some form or another. TV commercials, junk emails, a tweet, and a flyer tucked under a windshield wiper are simple examples of what marketing looks like on the surface. But there’s more to marketing than the public message. Behind those advertisements are people measuring the effectiveness of the ads. They are tracking views, shares, and traffic and pinpointing exactly which ads and strategies are increasing sales. Then, they take that information and use it to create more sales.
So with these definitions and examples in mind, have you actually been marketing? Or just keeping yourself busy?
There are many different ways to market yourself, and everyone has an opinion on what works best. But it all boils down to this:
Good marketing means tangible results.
I could stand in a forest for a thousand hours, paint myself green, and glue sticks to my arms, but it will never make me a tree. It’s the same story for musicians and all the hard work they put into marketing. If you aren’t getting results, you aren’t actually marketing.
But what exactly are results? To measure results, we have to have goals. To have relevant goals, we need to know what our customers need and want. To fulfill those needs, we need to have products.
As a musician, you probably think you have an idea about what your product is: your music. The songs you create and record are your signature product. Your music is what people are going to remember you for and what they are going to purchase from you. However, the music that people consume in various forms—physical CDs, digital downloads, live performances, etc.—is merely one facet of what you are actually attempting to market.
Music isn’t your only product. It isn’t even your best product. You are your best product! As an independent musician, you aren’t just selling CDs or tickets to shows. You are selling the brand you’ve created around yourself and your music and the entertainment that brand offers to your customers.
While there are countless other products you can offer, it all comes back to you as an entertainer. If no one wants you and the brand you’ve built, they won’t want your music and events and merch.
So if you are your product/service, who is your customer?
Many musicians make the mistake of limiting their customer base to people who listen to their music. In reality, it’s much broader. Anyone who buys anything from you or pays you for a service is your customer. This means that listeners are your customers, but so are venues, record labels, publishers, licensing companies, concert-goers, and so on.
With each new type of customer, you have the opportunity to create a marketing plan that will effectively reach them. Creating a marketing strategy around a known customer tends to result in more effective marketing.
So we know what you are selling, and we know whom you are selling it to. Now you have to set goals to get those sales.
Though income may be your ultimate goal, there are also different goals you can set that, while they don’t lead to an instant payoff, can add up to income over time. This type of goal could be fan interaction, like signing a certain number of people up for a mailing list, or getting a new video shared. It could also be a networking goal (meeting someone from a certain music blog) or a creative goal (writing a set amount of new material by a deadline). Your goal could be something as simple as the number of CDs you want to sell at your next show, or it could be landing an important gig. These goals involve you actively doing something to generate more income.
Practical Strategies: Work Smarter, Not Harder
So now that you’ve discovered the three most important things to consider as you market your music, it’s time to stop. Take 5 minutes and write down 3 goals that you want to accomplish and a time line for accomplishing them. Got your timer set? Good. When you finish writing down your goals, keep reading to find out how you can make those goals reality.
Ready, set… go!
All done? Great. Let’s get marketing.
Step 1: Target
Want me to clue you into a little secret? This is the only step. Target the things that are working for you, and spend the most time on those things.
Say for example you’ve posted every day this week on Facebook. But just one of those posts—a video—had significant interaction. So the next week, you create another video, and post it to Facebook, alongside your other posts. Again, this video was shared, liked, and commented on. The next week, you decide to post another video exclusively on your website. Since your fans already know they like your videos, they are more likely to click to your website to watch. One you have them on your website, you can get more information about them, like their email or phone number, so that you can have even more interaction with them. This interaction can lead to music sales or to fans coming out to see you live, and those sales means money in your pocket.
This is a specific example, but the principle is the same no matter what your goals are. Find out what works with your customers, and do more of that.
Don’t be afraid to try experiment a little. Go all scientific method on this marketing thing. Set up a time frame, and try different ways of doing things until you find one that works. This goes for social media, for your website, even for face-to-face interaction with fans and industry contacts.
You want to make your live shows more effective? Book some small gigs and take some risks. Play music for 95% of the gig. At the next show, maybe tell a story between each song. Try different ways of talking about your latest project or the awesome new t-shirt you have for sale. Find what works for you and for the people who are listening to your music.
I’m not saying totally eliminate other things that don’t work as well. Variety is not a bad thing. Just make sure that the things that don’t work as well aren’t taking up much of your time. Don’t get so settled into a routine that you don’t try other things that could work for you, or ignore when your current success becomes a little less relevant. Having varied content helps keep fans interested long term, but your time is too valuable a resource to spend on things that aren’t going to help you meet your goals.
Marketing your music and reaching goals doesn’t have to be a mystery. Be creative, target the things that will get the results you want, and work hard.
Download cards can be a great way to get your music out to people. But, when your band is choosing cards, you need to choose wisely. Not all download cards are the same.
NationWide Disc recognized that musicians need better download cards, cards with options and cards that help musicians. That’s why they created cards that:
Collect Your Fans’ Email Addresses
How does this work? By logging in to your account, you can instantly access your download stats, including the email addresses of anyone who has used one of your download codes! It’s a simple and effective way to grow your fan list.
The best part? It’s free! There are no setup costs, no annual fees, and no hosting costs. Really…It’s FREE.
Let You Get Creative With What You Offer
You’re not restricted to an MP3; we also accept MP4s, JPGs, PDFs, and zipped files.
This means that, if you want to think outside the box and offer your fans ringtones, artwork, wallpapers, band photos, or full albums, you can.
Need some ideas here? If you’re a boy band with a fan base of enthusiastic teenage girls, take a few official band photos and offer them as phone wallpapers. If you’re a singer/songwriter, try offering a pretty photograph with your poetic lyrics on top as a desktop background, or turn your lyrics into a unique printable piece of art. If you have an iconic logo or kick-ass album art, consider offering that as wallpaper for phones or tablets. Or, take a page out of Coldplay’s playbook and offer downloadable copies of hand-written lyric sheets.
Use Them To Market and Sell Your Music In-Person and Online
We give you options. Get your codes printed on physical cards, or have the codes delivered to you digitally.
Physical download cards can be sold (which we’d recommend for a full album and, perhaps, for singles) or given away (for example, included with a purchase or handed out to fans after a show). Download codes can be shared with your fans online (think “To access this fan-exclusive single, visit NWdownload.com and enter the following code…”).
You can also choose between Static Codes and Dynamic Codes:
Static Codes: This means you purchase one code that has unlimited downloads. This option is great for offering free downloads. You still collect the email addresses, and fans can share your code via social channels or by word of mouth.
Dynamic Codes: You can purchase an unlimited number of unique codes. However, each code is only good for one download. This option is ideal for sold codes, where you don’t want the code shared with anyone besides the buyer.
Are Easy And Free
We made it super easy for you to set things up. There’s no hosting, no coding, and no software required. You simply purchase the codes or cards online, log in on the NWDownload site, and upload your file. You can send fans to the site with your download code, you can hand out or sell the cards in person, or you can do both.
NWDownload will do all the hosting for you, and they’ll do it for free.
What can be better than that?
Order Your Download Cards or Download Codes from NationWide Disc
Visti NWDownload, then click Artist Login at the bottom of the page
Enter your Username and Password, or Register as a new user
Register on NWDownload as an Artist
Once you're logged in, you can access your email addresses or upload a file
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 9 minutes
With so many social media platforms to choose from, it can be hard to keep track of all the websites, blogs, and profiles to create for your band. Some might argue that a profile on XYZ’s site is enough. We disagree.
While it’s true that social media sites are useful and important tools for connecting with fans, they shouldn’t be your main focus. Why?
Well, first, the popularity of these sites is constantly shifting, and new sites seem to pop up daily. (Maybe not daily, but still.) How many profiles can you manage—five? thirty? seventy?—before becoming overwhelmed and losing track of them all? And when the sites your profiles are on fade from popularity or shut down altogether, how will you communicate with your fans? In the battle for social media platform dominance, having your own independent website gives you stability and your fans a consistent place to find you.
Second, relying on third party social media sites means you have no control over who sees your messages and when. It’s becoming increasingly harder, and more expensive, to make your voice heard over the noise, even by those who actively sought out your profile or page and want to hear your message.
Third, a profile or page isn’t the most professional way you could present your band or yourself as an artist, since just about anyone can create an account. On the other hand, a dedicated website shows professionalism and a level of commitment that profiles just don’t. When a label, promoter, or booking agent wants to look up your band, they want to look at your website. When the press refers to you, they will want to direct people to your website.
So, what’s a musician with no web design experience to do? Read on for more information.
Determine Your (And Your Fans’) Needs
Remember when the internet looked like an online phone directory, where one-page websites simply showed a brief company description, list of services, their contact information, and—if you were lucky—a photo or two? That kind of web site doesn’t cut it anymore.
Your band’s website should build a relationship between you and your fans. This means it must be informative, interactive, and up to date. Yes, your website should tell them about your band and display your discography. It should also give fans a place to listen to your new releases, watch your videos, and buy your music, and it should share your stories from the road and announce upcoming concerts or tours. Ideally, your website will also let you gather your fans’ information so you can continue communicating with them.
What type of experience do you want to offer your fans? What features does your website need to keep your fans engaged and coming back? Take some time to think about the sites you like to visit and what it is about them that keeps you coming back. Write out a list of those features, and cross out any that can’t apply to your band. If you need some ideas, here’s a list of features that we recommend:
There are other features you could add, but that’s a pretty good starting point. Of course, simply having these features isn’t enough; a tour schedule with nothing filled in won’t fill seats at your shows, and not adding new videos, music, or blog entries means there’s nothing new for your fans to see. Effective websites need a steady stream of content flowing into them.
Find a System That Works For You
Now that you know what you want to offer, you need to find a way to offer it. If you’re an independent musician struggling to make ends meet, you probably don’t have a huge budget for web design. It’s equally likely that you aren’t an experienced web designer or fluent in CSS or HTML5. Even if you do happen to be the rare independent musician/code-writing web designer, you probably don’t have enough free time to be designing your website from scratch.
The good news is, that’s okay. There are hundreds of platforms available that can help you build your website, without requiring prior knowledge of code. We’re highlighting a few platforms here, to give you a starting point:
One place to start is Bandzoogle, which is geared toward helping musicians sell their music and merch. Sign up for the free trial and see if their options—like download codes, shopping cart, site-wide music player—and interface meet your skill level and your needs. There are hundreds of layouts to choose from, with additional customization and design available without coding or software. As far as perks go, the site gives you the option of letting your fans set the price of downloads (which some studies suggests can increase your income), and Bandzoogle doesn’t take a cut of your sales. However, the plans max out at 10,000 mailing list contacts, so this might not be a good long-term solution (or short term, if your band already has a large following).
Another great option is Squarespace. There are dozens of templates to choose from, each of which can be customized in appearance and layout. With galleries for photos and videos, music collections, and blogs, showcasing your content is easy. Squarespace has a built in eCommerce option, allowing you to sell physical goods (and it tracks inventory) or digital goods (and it auto-emails the file to the customer). Sign up forms integrate with MailChimp (if you use that to email fans) or into a Google doc spreadsheet (which you can export and upload to your email system), and the contact form forwards to a designated email address. Their help system (both searchable forum, live chat, and ticket system) is impressive. Squarespace currently lacks a site-wide music player (although you can add a player to your footer, if your template has one). You should also noted that Squarespace uses Stripe instead of PayPal; the services are relatively comparable, except when it comes to digital downloads. PayPal offers a lower rate on these, and Stripe (currently) does not. On a $1 download, you either lose $.10 with PayPal or $.329 with Stripe. Like Bandzoogle, Squarespace offers a free trial period; it’s worth testing out and seeing if the features and interface are a good fit for your band.
Yola is another option. While it isn’t marketed solely toward bands, it can easily be customized to create a great band website. Wix is yet another option and is similar to Bandzoogle, although it’s not marketed toward bands. Both provide templates and design customization; with Wix, you can completely customize each page using a drag and drop editor. If you’re wanting to keep things super simple (like, just a followable blog to share images and brief updates) Tumblr—one of those previously-mentioned social media sites—allows you to use a purchased domain and your custom URL.
When looking for a platform, it’s important to keep in mind your future growth. If a platform doesn’t offer a service you will need, or caps your traffic or storage at or near your current levels, it’s probably not wise to choose it only to change again in the near future.
After testing out a few platforms (using the free trial periods that many offer), you probably have a clear frontrunner. If that’s not the case, try narrowing it down to a top two or three platforms, and then ask for feedback from people you trust. Once you’ve selected a platform, congratulations! It’s time to start setting up your site.
Setting Up Your Site
If you decided to create a band website to own your fan relationships and give your band a committed, professional online presence, you probably want to use your own custom domain. There’s a difference between johnhenryandthecrooners.com (a custom domain) and johnhenryandthecrooners.webuildwebsites.com (a custom sub-domain). With the first, all the focus is on your band, John Henry and the Crooners; people won’t question that the site is official and tied to your band. In the second version, though, the phrase “webuildwebsites” takes some of the attention away from your band, and it might cause people to question how official your site is. Many of the platforms provide default sub-domains for you (as shown in the above sample). Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to register a custom domain. Some platforms, like Squarespace, will even walk you through this process. If you have a existing site, you’ll want to redirect traffic from that site to the new one (once it’s ready).
It’s important to set your site structure (page names and URLs) and basic design elements (color scheme, layout, logos) up before officially launching your site. You can set these up during the trial period, or you can set the pages under development as private and create a “coming soon” landing page. This lets visitors know they’re in the right place and that your site is in progress, and it’s far better than making an unfinished site public.
If you’re planning on long-term growth and aren’t quite there yet—for example, you haven’t recorded an album yet and are waiting on your t-shirt orders to arrive, so there’s nothing to put in a store—it’s okay to launch your site without that element and then add it when you’re ready.
Once your site structure and appearance is down, go ahead and launch it. Redirect your old site, and announce the heck out of it on social media. Be sure you have a way to track visitors and gather their information; a sign-up form is a must. (But be sure to do something with their information, like send them a follow-up email!)
Making the Leap
A professional-level band website is a big step to take, but it can make a big difference—both in how the public perceives your band, and in who owns your relationships with fans.
Take a look at where you are as a band and decide if you’re ready to invest in a website. Like many things (free stickers, opening for larger bands for free, ect.), the return won’t be immediate or direct… but a band website could get you closer to where you want to be.
Do you think band websites are essential? Or are you satisfied with social media profiles? If you’ve created a site, do you have tips for other artists setting out to do the same, or are there services you can recommend?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 12 minutes
Fans are the lifeblood of your music. Learn how to keep them happy, and you will profit from the relationship. Ignore them, or trust your fan relationship to someone else, and you will suffer. Simple, but true.
We have a few suggestions to help you work through how to do this, including a free iPad app that helps to make it easy—read on.
The Right Stuff For A Career in Music
Remember when you were a kid, daydreaming of being a rock star? If you were anything like us, you were singing your heart out while picking out your clothes for the day, or vacuuming the house with the stereo blasting your idol’s tunes, or going all Risky Business while jamming on your air guitar. As a kid, it was so easy to become what you wanted. You just pictured your dream and—BAM—you were livin’ it.
As an adult, you might have realized it’s not as easy as just imagining. You now know that, to be a rock star, you need to have some talent as a singer, songwriter, musician, or performer. Ideally, you’ll be talented in each of these fields, but being extremely talented in just one field might be enough to gain some traction. You may also have realized that not everyone with talent has a successful music career, which means it takes a bit more than talent to make things really happen. That “bit more” includes some pretty mundane—but important—things, like collecting and reviewing data.
When we were growing up, we didn’t know anyone who wanted to collect data or review statistics for a living. It wasn’t exciting or thrilling. It still might not be… but it’s important, even to rock stars. Actually, especially to rock stars. Boring things like collecting data can make the difference between success and failure in your music career. Just remember, in this case, boring equals profitable.
Data Collection and Your Music Career
Let’s explore just one of those boring things today: what are you doing to develop your fan base? You know, your fan base. The people who like your music, attend your performances, visit your webpage, purchase your CDs, download your music on iTunes, and hopefully do more than stream your music online for free. Those people. Do you know who your fans are? What are you doing to develop your connection with them? We hope your answer is more than “ummm…” or “nothing”, because fans are the lifeblood of your music.
We know that musicians can be funny about fans. Everyone seems to have his or her own take on the musician/fan relationship. Some performers prefer to operate in a higher circle than their fans, creating a sense of mystique about their persona; others are quite friendly and enjoy personally interacting with fans. Whichever method works for you is fine… as long as you establish and maintain connections with fans. Don’t be the performer that ignores fans and then wonders why their career is suffering.
Why Knowing Your Fan Base Matters
We had the opportunity to visit with a musician client recently. He noted that he was struggling to sell merch to fans at performances, and he had decided that the fans attending his gigs already owned most of what he had to sell. Since a significant part of his income was coming from merch sales, this presented a problem for him. He told us that he had not released any new music in over 20 months. When we asked him why, he confided that he had material ready, but the expenses associated with releasing a new album were high. He also wondered, given recent low sales, if he would recoup the investment in a new release, yet alone profit from it. Lastly, our client said that he wasn’t doing much beyond social media and the merch table to connect with fans that attended his shows.
His story, especially that last statement, really resonated with us. He noticed that sales were down, he assumed it was because of product saturation, and he struggled with investing in new material. All of that is understandable. But, without solid connections with fans, he couldn’t confirm product saturation, couldn’t reach out to those not attending shows or who didn’t have his existing merch, couldn’t advertise shows effectively, couldn’t test the waters on interest in a new project, and couldn’t use his existing fan base to help fund a new project. He was up to bat, but blindfolded, deaf, and dizzy.
Had he connected better with his fans and owned that relationship, his story could be quite different.
Social Media Does Not Cut It
Don’t get the wrong idea. Our musician does have fans. People come to his shows and buy his music—just not as much as he’d like or as they used to do. And he has followers all over social media. In fact, Facebook was his main source of communication with his fans. He’d post about a gig, and they’d like the status, or share, or comment. He even recognized a few of them at gigs from their profile pictures.
Despite that, he didn’t have a good connection with them. The fans were largely anonymous, his posts didn’t get the reach he hoped, and—most importantly—he did not have direct contact information for them.
Here’s the downfall to counting on social media (or any third party) for your fan connection: it will always let you down.
With social media, you cannot control the conversation or its reach. Sure, you write a post, but you can’t really control who sees it or how they respond. You become just another voice in a long list of voices trying to communicate with your fan. After a short while, your post drifts off to the bottom of the fan’s feed. Even on your own page, it is very hard to control the conversation.
Also, what happens if your fans do not get on Facebook very often or are no longer active at all on Facebook? Anybody remember MySpace? We know of another musician that had over 90,000 people following her on MySpace in the site’s early years; when MySpace fell out of favor, the fans stopped signing on, and she lost the ability to communicate with them. It is a bad idea to base your entire fan experience on a site that may not even be popular in 2 years.
So… what can artists do?
Start Capturing Contact Information From Your Fans
Remember our other articles, where we pointed out that iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, and other services wouldn’t tell you who downloaded or streamed your music? They know how valuable that information is, and they keep it for themselves. Social media is the same: no direct contact information, just an interface that is shared with everyone else trying to communicate with your fan.
Instead, you have to actively work at gathering information from fans. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that make the gathering part easier.
At gigs, you should have a sign-up sheet for fan names and email addresses. Better yet, save yourself a step and have fans sign up electronically. If you have an iPad and a MailChimp* account (which we recommend), we suggest using their free app, Chimpadeedoo, for in-person mailing list signup. We tested this software, and it performs well. We’ve even written a guide to walk you through the setup process, including a link to stands that prevent iPads from being loss or damage.
Having a signup list sitting on the merch table probably isn’t enough, though. You need to make its presence and importance known; point out the merch table and your must-have items, and ask people to sign up. Be witty and humorous. Play around with it to see what works.
If this still isn’t enough, you might offer an incentive. You’d be surprised how many people will give you their email address if you give away a t-shirt, CD, or signed mug at every gig. Our musician friend tried this the other night and got 106 people to give him their contact information. Not bad for one night.
Outside of gigs, you should add a signup form to your band’s website and social media profiles. While social media sites are not good for direct, consistent communication, they can be a great place to let fans know about your mailing list. Again, MailChimp makes this easy. If you need help with this, let us know and we will send instructions.
Of course, you don’t want a stack of sign-up sheets sitting in a corner. You’ll need to find a system to keep track of the data on them, and then you can put that data to use. Use your emailing service to help set this up.
As you collect names and email addresses from fans, you should begin communicating with them on a regular basis… but only when you have something to say. You don’t want to spam them by filling their inbox with repetitive information or meaningless ramblings. Don’t be like so many people on Facebook who have nothing to say but say it quite often.
Instead, you want your fans to feel special, like they are part of an exclusive club. The communication can and should share your current schedule, especially if you make it feel like a personal invitation to those shows, but it can also offer more. Share something revealing about your career, pictures from behind the scenes, or funny stories from performances. Post a “teaser video”; it doesn’t have to be anything complicated, either. One artist we know posts a 20 second video weekly; all he does is play his guitar off-camera for 15 seconds, then ask the fans to guess which guitar it is. The response to these videos is pretty impressive. Be creative and get your readers to respond.
In short, you should focus on communicating with fans regularly and with quality content. If this means you email once a week instead of daily, that’s fine. Just be consistent and be active. Your ability to communicate with your fans on a regular basis develops the relationship. You have to reach out to them.
Also, if you have the cell phone number of your fans, then texting can be a great way to communicate as well. (Hint One: get their permission first. Hint Two: this method might work best for specific messages, such as reminders about a show, instead of every message.) Although not as flexible in format as email, it puts your message right in front of your fan. They don’t have to sign in to an email account or social network to see what you have to say.
Does It Really Work?
Let us share our business experience with you. If fans have a relationship with you and have purchased your music in the past, they are over 30 times more likely to purchase your music in the future. This means existing fans are the biggest supporters of your music career, which in turn means you want to connect with them.
As with any form of marketing, not all recipients will read your material. However, email is one of the more personal and flexible forms of communication you can have. Some email programs allow you to thank fans for signing up or sharing your email by offering a free download, or you could tailor emails to each recipient by including their name in the subject line or message. You could (should) separate your list into groups, emailing grouped fans only about shows in their area (instead of shows elsewhere that aren’t relevant to them) or about product they don’t have yet (if you’ve tracked that). Short of receiving a hand-written letter, emails tailored to each fan is about as personal as marketing gets.
You should also be tracking fan data. When fans sign up for your email list, be certain to include details like the date and event information. Over time, as you interact with your fans, you can develop more detailed fan profiles. Don’t pass up an opportunity to capture more information about your individual fans. In addition to an email address, sign up forms can request or require a fan’s address (or at least a zip code), phone number, age, gender, how they found out about you, and more.
Ideally, some of your fans will become “super fans”. These are the people that absolutely love what you do. When organized effectively, super fans can form a network or street team that drives your success. They bring people to your events, help you promote your merch products, even volunteer to do some of the boring things that you might otherwise have to let slide by. Do not miss the opportunity to engage them.
Back To Our Musician
His past lack of data collection is hurting him, but it’s not too late for his story to change.
He needs to engage his fans in the markets where he is well known. While he thought that those fans were his least valuable audience (because they already have his merchandise), in fact the exact opposite is true. Because they already know him well, they represent a great opportunity for him. If he releases new music, these are the fans that will buy it. They might even fund the project. They just have to know about it first.
Taking action now can turn things around for him. It can work for you, too.
* This post is in no way sponsored by MailChimp. We simply think that it’s a valuable tool for musicians to consider when managing their fan databases and communicating with fans. And in some cases it is free, so it fits almost any budget.
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 9 minutes
First thing’s first: YouTube will not make you famous.
(Don’t misunderstand us. It also doesn’t mean that you can ignore YouTube. It’s an important tool and platform that musicians should be aware of and using. We’ll explain.)
There are exceptions, those few performers who gain international fame because the right person saw their YouTube video, or those individuals who—as a result of their extreme and innate wit, talent, and ingenuity—have gained millions of subscribers and even more video views. We don’t deny that YouTube can make you famous… we just argue that, odds are, it won’t. Here’s why:
YouTube Is Not For Being Discovered
After signing in to your YouTube account, the home page shows videos of other users. The list of popular videos on YouTube are videos that already have millions of views. The list of recommended videos are based on videos you have watched previously. Unless your video has hundreds of thousands of views or is similar to something users have watched previously, it probably won’t show up on other users’ home pages.
Let’s assume that the user wants to find something new, so they click on “Browse channels”. The page shows 14 featured channels, 111 paid channels, and hundreds of channels that fall into categories like Music, Comedy, Film & Entertainment, Gaming, and so on. These categorized listings of channels, while extensive, only scratch the surface of what is available on YouTube. Users can enter a search term, but that will pull up thousands/hundreds/dozens of videos that fit that criteria. Even a specific search term (such as “fort worth folk blues”) brings up thousands (11,319) of channels in the search results.
Looking at the statistics provided by YouTube doesn’t paint a more-encouraging picture. Yes, the market of potential viewers is huge, with more than one billion unique users and more than six billion hours of video watched each month. However, 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That’s a lot of other videos for users to wade through to stumble upon yours.
When taken all together, this means it’s pretty unlikely that YouTube will help you be discovered.
You Should Be On YouTube Anyway
YouTube may not be good for gaining random fans, but it does have its uses. When used properly, YouTube is a great way to:
strengthen connections with your target audiences
learn more about your audiences
make a little more money off your craft
These might sound like small things, but they can have a huge impact on your career as a musician. We’ll elaborate on each below.
Using Video to Connect with Your Target Audiences
As a musician, you might think audio should be your focus. In terms of marketing your music, though, it’s widely acknowledged that video is increasingly becoming an essential element of successful marketing strategies. Video allows you to send a message and connect with viewers in a way that text, graphics, or audio alone can’t.
If you’re going to add video, you need to know what your options are. You don’t need to spend millions on a national television ad campaign, but you probably should add a video player to your band’s website or share videos on your various social media accounts. Instagram and Facebook have added built-in video-sharing functions (15-seconds/unlimited time, respectively), and applications like Vine focus on creating video and sharing it (either with your followers on Vine itself or on other social media accounts like Twitter or Facebook). Websites like Vimeo seem to compete directly with YouTube, although their user count is much smaller. Obviously, YouTube isn’t the only method of mixing video into your marketing strategy. However, its size and market dominance make it worth seriously considering. Additionally, it’s simple for you to share your YouTube videos on your other social media platforms.
If you’re marketing your band, you need to know who your audience is. As an independent musician, your main audiences are your existing fans (your first audience) and their connections (your second audience). With your existing fans, you want to use video to connect deeper and strengthen their loyalty to your band. Behind-the-scenes videos can make fans feel like they’re on tour or in the studio with you. Music videos let you visually tell the story behind your song’s lyrics. Announcing band news via video is the next best option to announcing it in person. All of these video uses help strengthen your fan’s connection to your band. The more committed that your fans are to you, the more likely they are to share you with those around them. In terms of your second audience, they are likely unfamiliar with your work and who you are, but they trust the opinion and recommendations of your first audience. You want to hook them, so your videos need to grab their attention and leave them wanting more of you.
Why is YouTube important in reaching your audiences? Well, remember those one billion unique monthly users? Some of them are your fans. They are already on YouTube, watching other videos. Putting your videos where they already are just makes sense. Additionally, YouTube makes it extremely easy for your fans to share your videos, either with their connections on YouTube or with their friends on other social media sites. Below every video is a “Share” tab, with links to the top ten social media platforms as well as the option to embed the video or email it to someone.
Using YouTube to Analyze Your Work and Audience
YouTube provides you with loads of information (perhaps more than any other social media platform) about your content and fans. You can see how your channels are doing by looking at the number of subscribers, the number of views, and the total time spent watching videos from that channel. You can also monitor an individual video’s number of views, amount of time watched, likes, dislikes, shares, comments, and favorites. For shared videos, you can see how often it has been shared as well as where.
In terms of fan data, YouTube provides information on the age range, gender, and general location of viewers. It also allows you to track your subscribers, helping you understand what gains fans and what loses them. You can break this down further and compare overall viewers to your subscribers. YouTube tells you where your videos are played (on the video’s page, on your channel, on other websites, etc). It also lets you see where your traffic comes from and compare organic traffic versus paid traffic.
This data about who your audience is, how they’re getting to your videos, what they’re doing with your content, and which content is most successful is extremely valuable for marketing purposes. To access this information, simply log in, click the down arrow (at the top of the page next to “Upload”), then select “Analytics”.
Getting More Out of Your YouTube Videos
YouTube gives you a way to learn more about your audience and share content with them; both features are great. With the YouTube Partners program, though, it also gives you ways to make money from that content (as long as your account is in good standing and has not been previously disabled for monetization).
First, you can monetize your videos by allowing ads on your content. When you upload the video, you’ll be able to select the ad format you want on your video. You can also go back and monetize already-uploaded videos. The video will then be reviewed (especially looking at the content and copyrights) before any ads are approved. Note: you must either own all the content yourself (you created it and have retained the rights to it) or have expressed, written permission by the rights holder to use the content; this applies to the video itself as well as the music you’re performing in the video. (Visit here for more information.)Also note that you are currently unable to add ads to private videos. To get paid, you will have to link your YouTube account to an AdSense account and then reach the set payment threshold (in the US, that’s $100). Your profit will depend on the type of ad, the price paid by the advertiser, and the number of views the ad gets.
Another method of making money is by profiting off of others’ use of your content. YouTube allows users to protect their copyright claims on their material (the video itself, the audio of the video, and the lyrics/melody are all addressed separately) through its Content ID program. When you join this program, you verify that you hold all the exclusive rights to your submitted content. YouTube then scans all videos (past, present, and any going forward) to see if your copyrighted material is used. If results are found, you have the option to block the video (either entirely or just the audio, and with different geographic options), track the video’s statistics, or monetize the video. If you monetize another user’s video because it has your content, the profit from the ads will go to you instead of that user. Not every user will qualify for YouTube’s Content ID program, and it won’t work on instances of allowed use (i.e., you can’t monetize a video of a cover of your song if you authorized the cover). However, it’s worth looking into, especially if you know other users have been using your content or want to prevent others from doing so.
So, What Should You Do?
It’s hard to deny or ignore the impact YouTube has had on the internet and on the music scene, and it’s unlikely that YouTube will be going anywhere (but up) anytime soon. While YouTube won’t likely lead to your big break or help you gain a million random followers, it is still a useful tool for marketing your music, connecting with your fans, and adding to your income as a musician. Your best bet is to learn how to use it effectively… and then do so.
Do you use YouTube, and are you a consumer of content or a creator of content? How have you incorporated YouTube in your band’s marketing and social media strategies? Have you monetized your account?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 4 minutes
While the social media landscape is constantly shifting, Facebook has consistently dominated the scene in recent history. Using this social media platform correctly can significantly impact your band’s marketing strategy and the size of your fan base. Part of that correct usage is creating a distinct, branded Facebook page for your band.
Why Does My Band Need a Page?
Creating a distinct, branded Facebook page has several benefits. First, it gives your fans (many of whom are already on Facebook) easy access to band details, your website, uploaded videos and songs, upcoming events, your pictures, and up-to-date information. It’s also a great way to reach new fans, as interactions with existing ones often shows up in other fans’ news feeds.
Second, Facebook lets you track the usefulness of your page, which you can’t do with a standard profile.
Third, it keeps your personal profile just that: personal. As your band grows, your fans will consist of more than your family and close friends. As much as you love your fans, you might not want them to have access to every detail of your personal profile. Having an existing page gives these fans a way to keep in touch with the band while maintaining your personal privacy.
Creating Your Band’s Facebook Page
Go to Facebook’s “Create Pages” screen. Select the “Artist, Band or Public Figure” option. In the drop down menu, scroll down to “Musician/Band,” then enter the name of your group. Read and agree to the Terms and click “Get Started.”
At this point, if you were logged out of Facebook, you’ll be asked to enter your email address and password. Sign in to your account; this will set your personal profile as an admin of the group page (you can add other admin later). Note: if you don’t want to sign in to your account, you can create a profile for the band, set the entire profile to the most private settings, then fill in the public page’s info. Once you’ve signed in, fill in the blank fields. You’ll have the chance to enter a description for the band, the band’s website, verify the admin rights, upload pictures, and advertise (optional).
Now that the basic page details are set, go ahead and fill in more information. Add additional pictures and set a cover photo. “Update Page Info” will allow you to add more information about the band (genre, members, hometown, record label, influences, etc), control the security settings of the page, and set the admins (maybe each of the band members and your band’s manager, if you have one) of the page. The “More” option at the top lets you link to your music catalog. When your page is branded and ready for public viewing, write a welcome post and start sending invitations to friends.
Using Your Band’s Facebook Page
Of course, you’ll use your band’s Facebook page to keep fans informed of upcoming gigs, tours, and releases and to share press reviews, photographs, and videos of the band. But you’ll also want to track the page’s effectiveness.
When you are logged in and viewing your page, the Admin Panel at the top of the page will provide insight into your page’s activity. It shows notifications (such as likes of, comments on, or shares of your posts), recent likes of your page (by people or other pages, as well as subscribers), messages to your page, a list of friends to invite to like the page, and tips for building your audience.
The Page Insights tool (accessible through the “Insights” button at the very top of the page) is like Google Analytics but just for your Facebook page. You can see the history of your page’s likes (as well as the source of your likes), the reach of your posts, the engagement levels on your page, the number of visits to your page, external referrers (as well as the source), the traffic levels on your page throughout the day, and the demographic breakdown of your fans.
If you find yourself needing to reach more people, you can pay Facebook to increase your exposure. You can do this either by boosting a post, which promotes that individual post’s visibility, or by promoting the page itself with an ad campaign. The campaign allows you to target Facebook users by geographic area, interests, and demographic details; you can also set the budget and time frame of the campaign. If you choose to do paid advertising, you can break down your reach results on the Page Insights, comparing organic traffic to the paid (ad) traffic.
Obviously, using Facebook to promote your band is a little more complicated than simply writing a post. However, with a little practice, you can turn it into a powerful marketing tool for your band.
Does your band have a Facebook page? Has it helped increase your fan base and market your band? What advice do you have for those creating their band’s page? What have you done to maximize your page’s effectiveness? What is your favorite (or least favorite) feature?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 2 minutes
Unlike other social media platforms, LinkedIn is not aimed at helping fans find you or you communicate with the masses. Instead, its purpose is to facilitate networking within industries. On a personal account, this means adding business connections instead of friends and family. For your band, it means focusing on your peers and others in the music industry, not your fans. Here are a few tips for maximizing what LinkedIn has to offer:
Connect With The Right People
Again, LinkedIn is not like other social sites. Focus on the quality (not quantity) of your connections; connect with those that can actually benefit you, either by example, advice, or working together. Music managers, media personnel, marketers, and other musicians are contacts that will help you advance your career.
It’s accepted (if not expected) that you have fun with your band’s Instagram or MySpace page; however, your LinkedIn profile should be polished and professional. Keep your page free of clutter and ill-conceived ramblings; focus on making the best impression possible. Make sure any links you share will send users to relevant, attractive, information-packed sites.
Optimize Your Page For Searches
Aside from direct connections, keywords are the best way to generate new traffic to your profile. Think of words that promoters and record labels are likely to search for; this includes your band’s genre, location, and your music’s subject matter.
Use Your Resources
You are not alone. Hundreds of bands and promoters use LinkedIn every day, discussing various aspects of the industry. If you have questions, use your connections as resources. Start by joining groups related to your band or interest (Independent Artists and Musicians, or Music Promoters of America). If you have something to contribute, comment on existing discussions; or, if you don’t see an existing thread with your topic, start a new discussion.
We’ve said it before, but it’s even more important on LinkedIn. Spamming on other sites might cost you a few fans; on LinkedIn, spamming equals banning. Keep comments and updates professional and relevant, and save the spam for the grocery store.
Having a lot of fans is an important part of any band’s success, but it’s certainly not the only part. If you want to take your band to the next level—a professional level—then you need to treat it like the business that it is. Use LinkedIn to connect your band to right resources to make that happen.
Is your band on LinkedIn? How have you used it to help advance your music career?
By NationWide SourceEstimated reading time: 3 minutes
Unlike more-generalized social media platforms, Instagram specializes in something: sharing photographs. In fact, that was all you could use the virtual photo album for until last year, when they began allowing short video clips. Regardless of its specialization, Instagram is a wonderful way to connect with your fans on a personal level.
To get the most out of Instagram for your band, here are a few tips:
With its various photo filters and many challenge groups, Instagram was the first major social media platform to encourage users to play with their photographs. Feel free to explore their filters (or use one of hundreds of photo-editing apps) and participate in challenges; get creative with your shots, trying new angles or styles. You can even share a short video clip of your most recent gig or slideshow of images from a trip or event. Bonus: the video or slideshow should feature your band’s music.
Save your staged photos for album cover art. Instead, post photos your fans can relate to, photos of you and your bandmates doing ordinary things. Whether it’s a snapshot of a massive burrito from an all night diner while on the road or a behind-the-scenes look at band practice, your fans will love you a whole lot more if you can show them just how “normal” you really are.
They say that “a picture speaks a thousand words”, but a caption can summarize it beautifully. Make sure to add captions to your photos to help your fans know what they are seeing.
Hashtags are key to helping random users discover your account. Just add the hashtags to the caption of your photo using the number sign (#) and a searchable keyword description of the image without spaces (#houseparty, #livemusic, or #thekickstour2014, for some example). Do follow Instagram etiquette, though; make sure your hashtags are relevant to your picture.
Unless you’ve got your own personal photographer, chances are you won’t have time to be shooting all of your photos by yourselves. Ask your fans to take pictures of your band at gigs or take pictures of themselves hanging out, listening to, or imitating your band. Have them upload their photos on their own Instagram accounts and tag you to get more traffic your way. If their pic is phenomenal, you might consider reposting it; be sure to give them credit, though. Also, be sure to tag other users (bands you’re performing with, venues you’re at, or fans you’ve met) if they’re in your pictures.
Sync your accounts
With Instagram, posting photos directly to your other social media platforms is easy. As a word of caution: be sure to check your default settings and the active account (if you have a personal account and a band account) prior to posting to keep from sending a picture to the wrong crowd.
In the end, Instagram delivers what your fans want. Sure, they like your music, but they want to feel like they know you. Why not hand them a photo album to thumb through?
Have you used Instagram? Was it a personal account or one for your band? Did it affect the size or quality of your fan base?