Imagine spending 18 months writing, recording, mixing and mastering an album.
Then, on the big day, you throw a release party with everyone you've ever met. You sell a few dozen albums and get a free case of beer from the venue. Good on ya!
Then the weeks go by, and reality sets in. You wait for some major press, and for those sweet royalty checks to roll in. And you wait. And wait. It never comes. This probably isn't hard to imagine, because it's the outcome of most independent records.
In 2013, Spotify reported that 20% of songs on the platform have never been played once.
That's a whopping 4 million songs collecting dust on a server in Stockholm. This leads me to the question: how? Why would a band go through all the emotional and financial burdens of creating an album and never promote it?
Releasing an album doesn't mean anyone will automatically hear it, or care about it. This sounds obvious, but I'm amazed when I see a band that has poured thousands of dollars and time into producing their album, and left $0 for marketing it.
There's a philosophy around Silicon Valley that many are beginning to apply to the Music Industry:
The 50-50 Rule: you should spend 50% of your budget on production, and the other 50% on marketing.
For example, if you think you need to raise $5,000 for your Kickstarter campaign and you haven't considered marketing, you need to change your goal to $10,000.
This may be easier said than done, but consider this: there are around 30,000 songs added to Spotify every week, and most of them - the music industry has oddly decided - are released on the same day. Given that 20% of those songs will never be heard, you're left with 24,000 new songs to compete with that week. How will you stand out?
Every day, unknown artists are being discovered through Spotify Playlists, HypeMachine Charts, Youtube influencers, and indie music blogs. With a little elbow grease, you can get in front of these very people.
Here are a few steps You can take immediately:
- First, have all your website and social media branding consistent with press photos and artwork so you're easily searchable.
- Create a press kit with a compelling story. Something other than "we're five dudes who make music!!"
- Use tools like Reddit forums (free) or Audiokite (paid) to anonymously gauge music fans in your genre. This will help you pick out a single and provide meaningful, honest feedback that isn't from your friends or family.
- Reach out to local press first for your new single or video.
- Continue the buzz by utilizing SubmitHub to receive specific feedback (and possibly press) for your music. You can filter SubmitHub curators by genre, territory, and whether or not they have a presence on Spotify and HypeMachine.
- Scour the HypeMachine Charts in your genre and submit directly to those blogs. If you can get charting, fans and industry folk alike will take notice.
In sum, musicians can no longer use the excuse of not being "business savvy" or "tech savvy." In 2017, you can fund, create, distribute, and market music from the comfort of your bedroom. Even the resources on how to do this are free on YouTube and blogs.
I don't believe every indie artist needs to spend $3,000/month on a publicist - in fact, that would most likely be a waste of your money. Instead, do everything in your power to optimize your websites, empower the people that really care about your music, and keep putting in the work!