2010 won’t happen by accident

Online Only PromotionBrian Hazard over at the Music Think Tank blog has posted a good article entitled The case for online-only promotion.

Some of his thoughts are right on and I agree wholeheartedly, others I have to respectfully disagree with.

First he issues a warning. He counsels artists to beware of the promise of free “exposure” saying:

It’s nebulous and generally worthless. I’ve spent a lot of time and money courting press and radio, resulting in bucketloads of “exposure” but few sales or follow-up contacts. While “you never know” who might be listening or reading, chances are good that nothing will come of it. The best promotions are targeted to as specific an audience as possible.

On this point I agree. Don’t waste time on generalized promotion. Think about the potential audience and find a way to reach them specifically.

His second warning is that artists don’t need to be too concerned with impressing the “gatekeepers” or opinion makers. In other words, don’t worry about trying to impress the leading journalists and bloggers.

You’re better off letting them come to you. Bloggers, DJs, music supervisors, labels, and the rest of the industry want to discover you for themselves. Grow your fanbase and the rest will follow. I know that may seem counterintuitive, but one small leap of faith could save you years of rejection and frustration. It is my sincere belief that lasting success comes from the bottom up.

Let me address this as a blogger/journalist. What he says is partly correct. If an artist has a growing fan base and we hear a buzz about that artist, we will likely want to check them out, if we have time. The problem is twofold.

First, generating that buzz and growing fan base with which to gain the attention of bloggers, journalists, and other media. Word of mouth is most definitely the best promotion, but I myself have sources, bloggers, writers, etc, which I trust and look to for tips about new artists I might like. That’s part of how I discover new music. I consider that “word of mouth.” I think most music fans who are engaged with today’s online world are probably the same. So ignoring those writers who are trusted by the fans you’re trying to reach, seams like an oversight to me.

The second problem is that even if an artist does generate a buzz which comes to our attention, we’re busy. I’m sure we’re not alone. Other bloggers and journalists are busy as well. We don’t always have time to go searching out information about a new band or recording. If the artist is proactive and comes to us, it sure makes it easier for us to write about them, which feeds back into the final sentence of the previous paragraph.

The last point Hazard makes is his strongest, in my opinion. He warns artists that when engaging in online promotion, you will never run out of possible avenues, but you will run out of time. So choose wisely.

You’ll never run out of things to do online: your web site, blog, podcast, remix competition, iPhone app, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, iMixes, thesixtyone, Jango, Stereofame, Last.fm, OurStage, Pandora, Amazon, iLike, Podsafe Network, ccMixter, Blip.fm, Music Xray, Bandcamp, and a hundred others.

He suggests you need to find what works best and limit yourself. I agree. After all, you want to make music, not spend all day everyday online at a hundred different social media sights trying to keep everything updated. My suggestion would be to keep your own site/blog current first, then Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

As we head into a new year, and a new decade, you should take some time to think through your promotional plans. It won’t happen by accident. You’re going to have to be intentional if you want 2010 to be a great year. Start by planning how you will manage your online activities, promotion, and fan relationships. And make sure to leave some time for making music. The fans will thank you!