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The Business of Jazz

Indie Musician in a Digital Age: Self Promotion Basics

By Published: January 20, 2013
Recently, I've had a very educational experience from being a member of a Facebook page for jazz musicians. As it turned out, the group that listed over 2000 members and was intended for musicians only had a fairly narrow spectrum of actively discussed topics.

Movies and beer?—No.

Music?—No, of course, not!

How to promote?—Yes, exactly.

Most posts and associated comments could be covered by just one question: "how to promote my work on the Internet?." This article outlines general concepts and shares some simple to follow methods.

Self Promotion: Basic Concepts

The word "promotion" doesn't do miracles itself, moreover, it is pretty meaningless unless goals and means selected correctly, and you are consistent and professional in your promotional initiatives.

I've chosen three aspects or marketing concepts that seem to be most basic, yet powerful. Also, based on my experience in various social media sites these concepts are often misunderstood or neglected.

Know Your Audience

In most cases it doesn't make a big difference whether you promote your newest recording, invite folks to an upcoming gig or try to increase general awareness of your musicianship. However, your message might vary a great deal depending on the recipient. Are you talking to listeners and fans, or to your fellow musicians?

The better you know your audience the more precisely your message can be fine-tuned. Age, gender, level of education, geographical location of your listeners—all this should be considered when choosing the right and most appealing writing style.

Below are examples to illustrate that this isn't an abstract marketing concept or something applicable to big business only. Everyone should use such approach.

Example #1:

A band with an electric bass, dance rhythms and some hip-hop vocals quite obviously addresses its messages to a younger audience. An easy, direct communication style, even occasional use of slang idioms, is common and appropriate.

A musician with a solo piano program will probably perform for a more mature and educated audience. The language can contain cultural references and music terminology; grammar and punctuation should receive attention.

Example #2:

Musicians of a younger generation typically let their listeners feel they are part of the tribe and their feedback and friendship is valued.

An accomplished artist of a heavy-weight caliber in his genre might choose to keep a certain distance with public. Write-ups in third person, for example "He performs...," can be used along with some more personal referencing.

Example #3:

A musician can use a lot of regional verbal forms in communication with his local fans, but going on an international tour he should be ready to adopt his messages for a foreign audience. Similarly, your chosen communication style will depend on venue. Are you playing in a café, small club or big theater? This should have an impact on your "come to listen me playing" text.

Thus, it is always good to know who the target audience is for your marketing efforts.

Make Sure You Reach the Right People

This is an extension to the first concept. We've just emphasized an importance of all these little nuances in your communication with the audience. You know who "your people" are and how to compose a perfectly appealing message for them. Well done!

Now, for some reason your promos went the wrong way; people who are not supposed to read it received your promo stuff... "Oops, pardon me..."

This is the situation when your efforts can actually harm your public image.

Have you heard such remarks as:

"What a narcissist; how on earth people can be like that? Shameless!"

"Am I supposed to travel all the way down to Antarctica to attend his gig tomorrow?"

"Annoying! Spam!"

Such a negative reaction to a desperate attempt of an indie musician to push his/her music a bit further is quite probable, even common.

As a music fan interested in connecting with musicians I receive dozens invitations a week. It is needless to say that 99% of these gigs take place in other countries and can't be attended. Unlike some others I don't feel irritated. I simply do not pay attention to invitations coming like raindrops from Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. This is very similar to the notorious phenomenon of "ad blindness" where people learn not to see advertizing blocks on frequently visited web pages.

To reduce the risk of miscommunication musicians should learn how to be more responsible at choosing the right advertising tools or platforms. Because, let's face it, we are speaking about advertising here.

Your platform of choice should have geo-targeting options. Your message should be delivered to your audience and nobody else!

Here are couple hints on how to ensure that your message is relevant to the audience:

Use All About Jazz / Jazz Near You Calendar and Other Promotional Services

Jazz Near You resolves the crucial issue with web promotion efforts. Anything you publish is relevant and exposed to your target audience. Bear in mind that All About Jazz is the biggest community of jazz lovers online. We send a weekly email blast currently to 140, 000 subscribers. It has geo-targeting, which means people from New York do not get gigs in San Francisco.

Perhaps less fun than Facebook, with its cats and jokes, All About Jazz / Jazz Near You is a professional platform tailored for jazz musicians.

Work with Social Networks the Smart Way

Publish things at All About Jazz / Jazz Near You, then share on social networks. Post your promo messages in groups/pages for the general public (rather than industry professionals). If we speak of Facebook or LinkedIn groups/pages you can look for:

Any "jazz lovers" gatherings and general industry pages like http://www.facebook.com/allaboutjazz;

Groups of instrument fans, something like "jazz guitar";

Groups by location, like "I love Hamburg"; why not post there if you will be performing in this city?

Groups for some better known musicians you have had associations with;

Do not post to your own pages if most of your contacts are colleagues;

Do not post to pages for industry professionals like these "all musicians" groups.

These are top of the list, but you can think of any other context or settings for your music and search to find out if there is any public channel for it.

It Doesn't Have to Be Facebook Only

You can investigate what websites exist for your local entities. There is a chance that posting a gig on a local forum or a library site will generate more foot traffic to your gigs than a massive Facebook campaign.

Add Value to Every Message You Send Out

The Digital Age has resulted in some new challenges previously unseen. One of them is dealing with a flood of information. Only a couple decades ago, music lovers had a very limited access to information about their idols, mainly through print media; today anybody can connect with an artist who lives overseas and engage into a friendly chat. Updates come daily via a bunch of social networks and news sites. There's often too much noise to handle; filtering takes more resources than research.

In this situation relevance and quality of information are the most important values. "Quality" often means completeness. Speaking of a gig announcement, it has to be complete with band (all members), date, time, venue address, ticket price, short description of the program, image or video (sound clip).

The Jazz Near You Events Calendar offers the most comprehensive format for a jazz gig listing. If it is completed properly, your gig shows up not only on the local calendar but also on a profile page of each participating musician, venue/festival page and related pages including articles, news, photos and more. Your gig is distributed on All About Jazz's network, and is syndicated via a localized email newsletter, calendar widgets, and a coming iPhone APP and mobile website.

Anything the artist has to say in public might have a business aspect, but it also must possess some cultural and educational value. Make your promo message as meaningful and simply interesting as possible. Don't let it be just the usual "Check out"; add a little story or a joke. An interesting photo can be an advantage. Just try to put yourself in place of an average web user who sees your ad (because it is an advert).

The degree of success you achieve with your self-promotion efforts will dramatically depend on how you treat this "new" media, the Internet. If you treat it as a dust bin and throw in your stuff without giving it a second thought, you won't see any positive results. It will be like trying to fill a bottomless hole. If, on the other hand, you remain patient, consistent and professional, your promotioal work should be successful and your audience will grow as a result of the following efforts:

Think of/visualize your audience and create/target your promo content for them;

Choose the best publishing platforms available to ensure that your promos reach your audience and nobody else;

Watch out for new platforms that arise and begin to take hold, like Google+ and Pinterest;

Add value to your messages by ensuring they are complete, descriptive and well-formatted.

Good luck!


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