How to promote music the old fashioned way

May 14, 2018

As a musician, having a sizeable fanbase often makes the difference between music as a hobby and music as a living. People who buy your albums, stream your tracks, go to your shows – they will help you continue making music and grow as an artist. But this doesn’t come so easy. Truthfully, it’s quite rare for bands and artists to make a sustainable living out of their music, even if they do have a fairly large audience. Good promotion is now more necessary than ever.

But within a music industry where most bands and artists market themselves using the internet (with the likes of Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Facebook and Twitter being essential for new artists), promotion is potentially more difficult than ever too. The music fan on social media will receive an abundance of invitations to music events, updates from artist pages, links to new releases – so many that their promotional impact may have been drowned out by all the digital noise. Taking your music promotion efforts offline can help you stand apart from this big online crowd; at the very least, it’s something different, so here’s how to promote music the old fashioned way!

Word of mouth

Is there really some value in taking your promotion offline, flogging your music like its the 1970s, and pretending that digital marketing just isn’t a thing? We think that there’s one major benefit: the human aspect. Without relying on the large and distant audiences found on the internet, musicians must work to create have a direct impact on real people, in person.

The most prominent form of promotion that takes advantage of real people is word of mouth. People can decline a Facebook event, scroll past a paid advert, ignore a promotional message, but the recommendation of a close friend means something much more – it holds more weight. When someone hears about your new EP or your upcoming live show through word of mouth, they are more likely to actually follow through than they would be if they just found you online. But what can musicians do to encourage people to talk about their music and spread the word? Of course, the process will not be completely in your control, but there are ways of encouraging your fans to be your best promoters. Here are some of the best methods to keep in mind:

  • Just ask – Sometimes its as easy as just asking people to share your music with others. Once the thought of telling a friend is in their mind they will be more likely to actually do it – ask a fan after you sell them some merch or ask your whole audience after a show!
  • Be nice – Whether you like it or not, the music game has a lot to do with personality now. How you present yourself, how you act on stage, how you interact with your audience – these things are important if you want others to spread the word about your music.
  • Get good – If you make great music that people naturally want to share with their peers, you know, because its good, then you don’t need to aggressively push your music online (but we’ll talk more about this in more depth later in the article).

Live performances

Your gigs and performances are first and foremost a form of entertainment, as they should be. However, they double up as a form of promotion. Most audiences will not just consist of fans, but also people who are familiar with your music and have the potential to become a fan. Therefore, for up-and-coming artists, the gig presents a great opportunity to reach new ears, build a bigger audience, and ultimately earn more fans.

The promotional impact of your live performances will depend on how you approach the show – the kind of vibe you create in the room, the type of songs you play, the sort of people you invite, and so on. This brings us back to what we previously said about word of mouth promotion. Putting on an amazing show can incentivise people to come to your gigs and enjoy your music, increasing the chance that they tell their friends how much of a good night they had afterwards. Many artists, such as bands with a raucous stage presence and dance oriented electronic acts, are known not just for the music they make, but also their ability to create a great atmosphere.

Sure, people still go for the music, but they also go to dance, sing, party, and enjoy themselves. If a gig makes for a great night out as well as an opportunity for audiences to hear your material, it will be able to draw in people who are just looking for a good time, ultimately getting them on board with your music.

Flyers and posters

There was once a time when flyers and posters were the dominant method of promoting music, being a necessity for smaller bands looking to create a buzz around their upcoming gigs. Nowadays, the promotional gig poster is more likely to be a collectors item sold on eBay for £80 than a legitimate way of actually promoting a gig. But maybe now is a great time to bring back these more direct and tangible formats as a way of doing things differently and standing out.

Since the dawn of the internet and social media, there is a sense that something has been lost – something natural and charming about the way new musicians made a name for themselves. Traditionally, performers at the Edinburgh Fringe will spend lots of time on the Royal Mile handing out flyers to punters as they peruse the festival. By taking this face-to-face approach, the performers can engage with potential audiences, ramp up a sense of fan interaction and build up a rapport with the public. Musicians have a lot to learn from these old school tactics.

Though posters may not have as wide a reach as flyers (which are given out in the thousands), they are great for attracting attention and acting as a reminder of your event or new release. Furthermore, an eye-catching music poster is something of a novelty on our streets today, rendering them more likely to make a lasting visual impression on people than a digital advert. With this approach, artists should always make sure to observe the laws around fly posting, getting permission before displaying their posters in public.

Quality control

Simply put, your music should always speak for itself. With all this talk of promoting your music, it can be easy to forget that music is a form of expression and an artform with inherent value. While it’s perfectly natural for a musician to dream of large paychecks and even larger crowds, try not to let the quality and meaning of your music can fall by the wayside. Plus, let’s be frank, even with the most comprehensive promotional campaign in the world (both online and offline), you’re not getting anywhere if your songs are, well, terrible.

If your music is good enough, the need to actively promote it is notably reduced. In some cases, artists have self-released their music with no fanfare only to grab the positive attention of critics, get picked up by bloggers and publications, and even gain airplay on the radio. In recent years, it’s becoming increasingly common to see new musicians jump from the odd Soundcloud single, through quick cycles of internet buzz, all the way up to the top-40 charts. And how do they do it? By releasing quality music that makes a lasting impression, has some kind of cultural import, and evokes a response in listeners in its own right. Indeed, When your music has artistic merits, you don’t need wild promotional schemes to make it stick.

Yes, you should be promoting your music; yes, you should be inventive with your marketing; and yes, you should expect to gain more listeners if you are doing this stuff really well. However, your promotional efforts will only have an impact if you focus on the music first and foremost. Not only will this make your marketing count for something, but if your music is genuinely great, it could remove the need for promotion altogether.

One way to improve the standard of your musical output is to start releasing quality recordings. Recording your music in a professional studio will not only give you more legitimacy as an artist, but also help to properly define your songs and impart them with a more characteristic sound. Kore Studios is a recording studio in West London run by experienced producer/engineer, George Apsion. We offer a large live space and two control rooms, backed up by a mixture of high-end and vintage gear, brought together by specialists in producing various styles of music. Get in touch to arrange your tailored studio session now.