Self-Promotion for Indie Musicians

by Rick LaPoint November 18th, 2011 

music

I have been working on a music project of late, after a long absence. It has never been easier to self-produce and self-promote your own projects. Sophisticated software, powerful PC's, and Broadband Internet have changed the rules considerably.

Even major recording artists have left the old paradigm in favor of cutting out the big record companies and going independent.

Movie legend, Kirk Douglas told his young son, Micheal, "If you want longevity in this business, you have to produce your own movies."

If you know what you're doing, the same can be said about the Music business. Producing your own music gives you a great deal of control that a cushy contract would strip away. Signing a contract means they own you. You play and sing what they tell you to, because you are an employee exploited as corporate shareholder value.

Use that line to justify yourself next time you are asked why you haven't yet inked that big record deal. ;-)

It's insanely difficult to make it in the the Music Biz at all, not to mention doing it on your own.

So assuming you are unwilling to stand at the Crossroads and sell your eternal soul for 15 minutes of fame, here are a few tips and resources for getting the most mileage out of your efforts while maintaining your sanity.

Showcase Your Talent

  • Your Own Website – Regardless of what else you do, or where else you have a presence on the Net, having your own site in your full control is an absolute essential.
  • FaceBook – Pretty much an Internet within the Internet now.
  • Music Artist Specialty Sites – There are various sites that cater to Bands, Musicians, and Singers. Be on as many as you can comfortably handle.

Free Samples Without Piracy

Back in the 50's there were scandals in the Music biz known as "Payola," where record companies would pay radio stations to play certain songs in order to spark an avalanche of sales. Nowadays the people who own the major record companies also own the major media, so Payola is a mute point. However, such corporate consolidation means the Indie band has little chance of getting all-important radio exposure.

The Internet has come to the rescue with a variety of methods to get your faces and music out there where the fans can know who you are. They can hear your music for free, but would have to jump through some hoops before being able to pirate it.

For your own website you can use these web-based music players:

Or you can post links to free music hosting sites where you can upload to your tunes and showcase your style.

  • Soundclick – Full Songs in High Fidelity
  • Soundcloud – Full Songs in High Fidelity
  • YouTube – Duh! ;-) – Make your own Music Video? Why not?. An inexpensive 10-12 megapixel digital camera usually has a video feature included. Combine that with a handful 16 Gigabyte memory cards and Camtasia Studio software, and all that remains is your own creativity. The quality should be fine for an Internet Flash or MP4 file. Remember to keep a distance that does not distort the image (use the zoom for closeups.)

Have a Presence at Music Specialty Sites

Various sites cater to the needs of struggling musicians, and offer a wide range of services, some free and some not so much. It can be an easy way to get your own site up and running without the broader range of expertise required to have your own dedicated web site.

  • Bandzoogle -   A full-featured platform to showcase and sell your music and other merchandise.
  • NimBit - Instant Band Site plug-in for WordPress, as well as an array of marketing tools.
  • ReverbNation – "The best tools for musicians and the best music for everyone else."
  • Want-Signed – Indie Artists and Producers Networking and Music Showcase

Sorry Saga of MySpace

At one time, long ago, MySpace was the "It" place. But having been eclipsed by Facebook, the site once so popular that Rupert Murdoch bought it for $500 million at it's peak back in 2005 has seen a massive decline in traffic. Maybe Murdoch was the kiss of death. Now MySpace is partly owned by entertainer, Justin Timberlake. It's pretty much repositioned as a premier Music showcase for establish and Indie singers and musicians.

A cool place to hear great music in High Fidelity for free is a great idea, but the site is plagued with technical issues. Much of the time the music player doesn't work, and when it does work it's prone to crashing the browser. Many major artists have a MySpace presence, as demonstrated by Billboard.com, where most artists on the Billboard charts have a link to their MySpace page.

It can't hurt to have a presence there, with the hope they can iron out their issues.

Promotional Materials

Even if you have pink hair, black fingernails, and a ring in your nose, you still need business cards. They should include your Name, Picture, Web URL, Phone, and Name of Contact person. It's probably a good idea to use a full color photo card rather than a white card with a picture. You're not a Real Estate agent.

It's always wise to keep Demo CDs handy, but they can be too large to be always convenient. Maybe have some mini CDs or what really makes you stand out, the Business Card CD, which are the size and shape of a regular business card and can be printed with all pertinent information.

Remember that a CD is recorded from the inside ring toward the outer dimension, so these should play in most standard CD drawers. (I wouldn't try sticking one in a slotted front-load.)

And of course, have T-Shirts :-)

Promoting is Useless without Professional Sound

Obviously, your Recorded Sound should be compatible to what you hear on the radio. And there's no point in spending money on promotional Demos if your sound quality sucks.

Notation Software – Few musicians are as profoundly ungifted with instruments as I am. But I'm not concernedI write music Notation. I can create an entire band with nothing but notes on a staff and my Digital Audio Workstation. The magnificent array of real instruments "Sampled" into computer software synths can give you everything you need to sound world class.

Few people realize that much, if not most, of the music we hear in movies and television is created this way. Oh, and heard any Brittany lately? If you ask me, her voice is so computerized it's difficult to be convinced Brittany herself is even real. Just sayin'… People are so used to hearing synthetic sound nowadays most don't even think twice about it.

Notation software can export your music score to a midi file, which can then be accessed by the sampled instruments to give you a full, lush, realistic sound to embellish your studio recordings, or even create an entire backup band for a vocalist.

You could spend $500-$600 for industry powerhouse software packages like Sibelius or Finale, or you could invest a measly $60 in Guitar Pro and run circles around the big boys with it's far superior editing capabilities.

The Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) has pretty much become standard fare for the little guy, as well as major producers. Anyone can have a recording studio in their bedroom. A free way to record would be Audacity, an inexpensive way is N-Track, and my favorite for $100-$500 is Cakewalk, with up to 15 gigs of synth and sampled instrument sounds for use with midi files or midi-control instruments.

Vocal Microphone – Indie's have a difficult time getting to a quiet enough place to record vocals, so a good condenser microphone is important. My favorite is the Shure Beta 87, which was developed to produce studio quality in a live environment. It's very good at keeping out extraneous sounds while giving the voice a nice quality richness.

And I great site full of recording and mixing tips and down-loadable resources (many of them free) come from the book, Mixing Secrets For The Small Studio, which is highly recommend.

Selling Your Sounds

In addition to the sites listed above, there are other avenues available to sell directly to your fans.

  • Amazon.com – Major distribution channel open to anyone with a product to sell. Music must be contained on a CD or DVD.
  • CDBaby.com – Low Fidelity samples and an on-line Store for your music.
  • Tunecore – Another site to help distribute your music.
  • Digital Sales thru iTunes and Amazon – It's reported that iTunes sells 3/4th of legally downloaded music. Amazon has also become a major player. But both companies will not allow the little guy to directly sell digital download music products. You will need a third party. CDBaby or Tunecore, listed above, can help you.

Grand Finale

Not a web host, but a valuable resource for the "Do-It-Yourself Musician" :

Internet Marketing isn't easy, but in many ways it can be a great equalizer for the little guy. You may believe in suffering for your Art, but with an aggressive, multi-pronged marketing strategy, you don't necessarily have to be a starving artist :-)

Good luck out there. Let me know when you're on the radio!

Rick LaPoint

RickLaPoint has years of experience with Inside and Outside Sales & Marketing. He has developed software products with C++ for anticipating turning points for stocks, forex, and futures, and has given many live presentations teaching technical analysis skills. For more of Rick's Online Business Ideas visit his website.

You May Also Like

2 Responses to “Self-Promotion for Indie Musicians”

  1. Rick, this is a great and very complete article! Thanks a bunch! I'm making music as a hobby and just starting another project in Perm, Russia. Will definitely pay a close attention to your notes here. I agree that a band must have its own site with full control over it, however, here's something I wrote in 2009 on web platforms / tools for musicians: Web platforms for independent musicians http://bit.ly/v8CTIa.

  2. Greg says:

    There's a lot of good information in your article. I appreciate what Kirk Douglas said. In fact, that is the part I'm stuck on. I want to have my own promo video. I'm glad that you pointed out some software that is useful for editing video and a camera that can get the job done, but I still feel like I'm in over my head.

    I'd really like to hire a promotional video crew to help out. But I'm afraid it will cost an arm and a leg.