Music is one of those art forms that can take on every shape imaginable: Cuddlecore, Folktronica, Gypsy Punk – you name it! It exists, and there is a market for it. However, marketing in the digital age is a different (and ever-changing) story. At present, there appears to be a big gap between marketing a band to a potential audience online and playing a show for potential or actively engaged audience in real life. Moreover, it is difficult to go from creating a Facebook invite to having 500 plus people actually show up at your “intimate” set on a Tuesday night, and with good reason: the Internet is a crowded place for musicians. There must be a concerted effort across your online and in-person efforts in order to grow the following and exposure of your craft. Below I have provided some tips from my personal experience playing with Elaine Greer and from an exclusive interview with the super talented Eva Mueller of One Hundred Flowers – a whimsical, pop-infused, knock-out local act at the surface layer of Austin’s vibrant music scene.
Facebook AND Twitter: The Necessary Evils
It is infinitely important to have an active portal for people interested in your music. Due to the highly interactive nature of Timeline for brands, Facebook has established itself as the central social hub for bands. Posting an event on Facebook is the industry standard for making a local music event official. As a bonus, events posted through Facebook can spur further opportunity for your attendee count to grow because the content can be easily shared. Event invites can also offer a chance to be more personal with followers. “I enjoy that people can post on [Facebook Event invites] and have ongoing jokes prior to an event,” Mueller said. “I enjoy that they can talk it up and really set the tone for the kind of people that are involved with it.” In order to bridge the online and offline gap, think of Facebook Event invites as more of an interactive conversation and less like a typical mass-message that will get lost in the mix of notifications on personal Timelines.
And yes, you must have a Twitter account, too! Twitter is just as important as Facebook. News outlets and local clubs often will @reply your band within their promotional announcements. Also, people tweeting about the show will often reference your Twitter handle, which is a lead that can direct potential fans right to your website or to a stream of your music. Don’t miss the opportunity to further promote your show and to start a real dialogue with the local community of bands and promoters. It is a lot easier to connect with them here in the Twitterverse, since messages are more informal and do not require the acceptance of a friend request or a creepy direct message on Facebook to a blog writer that is not already friends with your band.
Niche Social Networks: The Great Experiment
The more links back to your website or music, the better. Do not think of failed social experiments such as SoundCloud, Bandcamp, MySpace or ReverbNation as wasted efforts online. Make sure each social profile is a another opportunity for people to find a link to your website and/or other social networks, even if it eventually becomes a hollow footprint of stuff you posted back in 2009. There are more intricacies to this type of link building, but at the core of this strategy, know that it is far better to be everywhere at once than to blindly put all of your eggs in one social niche basket. And if you find something that works really well for you and your fan base, such as Instagram photos that correspond to links to new songs you posted on SoundCloud, do spend time keeping up with the network and posting new content regularly. The idea is to continuously seek online momentum and to keep it going.
Artwork Still Matters
You don’t exactly have to plaster promotional posters on all of your local coffee shop corkboards, but do take the time to create original artwork for show promotions online. Artwork that incorporates the details of your event or music release sets your level of professionalism and is highly sharable on social networks. A fun strategy that Mueller uses to raise awareness is to personally tag each member of bands playing a show with One Hundred Flowers. Not only is it a friendly “Hello!” to all musicians playing together at a venue, but it also shows up in the newsfeeds and tickers of all of their corresponding friends, since they were individually tagged in a photo. Original images open the gates for all kinds of creative ways to connect on social networks.
Support the scene: Show up!
Attending local shows put on by bands similar to your band is a no-brainer. No matter how much time you spend crafting your next YouTube video or an acoustic recording of a beloved song for Bandcamp, it won’t matter if you do not form a sound foundation with musicians in your city with similar or with complimentary tastes. If anything, connecting with people who are passionate about the same things as you and your band is one of the most rewarding and edifying experiences of creating music. Mueller expressed that maintaining an authentic and strong rapport with local Austin bands has greatly contributed to their large following. “[It] can go a long way when trying to set yourself apart from a rather over saturated market,” Mueller said.
Join a Collective… Or Start One
If you live in a creative city, there has most likely been a music collective established around your genre. In Austin, there are several active collectives that offer the creative power of numbers. Mueller is an organizational leader of the Stem and Leaf collective. She describes it as “a community of artists, musicians, writers, designers, promoters, event planners, and any kind of creative type.” She said that Stem and Leaf is “simply looking for a way that members of the creative community can turn to each other to share talents and create something that is meaningful.” If a group of this nature does not exist within your city or community, create one! It is a huge opportunity for like-minded musicians and artists to create friendships, to establish partnerships and to collaborate in order to put on successful local music and art events.
Of course, there are many other ways to grow a following online and offline for your band. However, the basic principles of bridging the gap are the same. Staying physically connected to the local scene and remaining plugged in to active online networks is an integral part of establishing authenticity and maintaining the longevity of your band’s relevance within the context of the city’s local music scene. And who knows? Maybe your planted, local roots will sprout out and garner the national attention of your genre’s tastemakers and trendsetters!