The two golden rules
- never be afraid to ask people for help. It’s surprising how far you can get if you just ask nicely. And don’t be under the illusion that other artists have everything handed to them on a silver platter. Regardless of whether you want to be considered as a support act for a concert or ask someone for their email address: the answer can’t be worse than a ‘no’ and you learn to deal with that over time.
- personal conversations should not be underestimated. Even if you only meet someone once and make a bit of small talk, the likelihood that this person will remember you and respond to your request is much higher than if you have never met in person before and you send an email off the cuff. So – go out into the world and network! In the vast majority of cases, it’s even fun.
The first steps towards self-marketing
You should pay as much attention to marketing as any other element of your music career. Promoting yourself can be rather uncomfortable for some, but doing publicity for your music is nothing to be ashamed of. All established artists today who have made it big and built a large fanbase have had to self-promote to some degree.
As I said, more music is being released today than ever before and there is a huge demand to be heard by music experts. This also applies to the artist & repertoire scouts (A&Rs) of labels who are on the lookout for new talent.
There are of course a few exceptions, but basically it’s not enough to “just” have a few good songs. It’s important for the key people in the industry to see that you already have a following or are creating some hype. Labels want you to have a growing fanbase and actively work to increase it. Radio editors and playlisters expect online samples from you to create a buzz.
So until you can afford your own PR and promo team, you’ll have to make sure that something happens with your releases for quite some time.
Positioning and approach
It’s important to find ways to market yourself that you feel comfortable with. Not everyone wants to share every single moment of their life on social media channels, for example, and that’s okay. It’s about finding out how you can ensure your presence and promote your music without bending in a direction that contradicts your musical, content-related or personal convictions.
You should therefore start by determining where you want to position yourself in the music landscape.
Write down your answers to the following questions:
Which other artists do you compare yourself to or would you like to be compared to? – At which festivals and in which venues would you like to play?
In which publications, on which websites and blogs would you like to be mentioned? – Which label would you like to be signed to at some point?
The more clearly you can answer these questions, the better you can plan your promotional and advertising activities.
You should continuously inform yourself about the scene you want to be a part of and about the music industry in general. True to the motto “know your history”, you should have a rough overview of how the history of music and the things surrounding it have developed into what they are today and in which direction they are developing, especially in the genre you are moving in.
There are thousands of books, free articles and podcasts that can help you learn more about how to best self-promote, how others have done it before you, and how to make your way in the music industry. The more background knowledge you acquire about mechanisms and connections, the better your own campaign will work. It’s also important to keep an eye on the constant changes in social media and online marketing opportunities.
There are great resources to help you with this, such as:
‘How Music Works’ – The standard work in English by Talking Heads legend David Byrne is a must for every aspiring musician.
Red Bull Music Academy: Couch Wisdom podcast – A great collection of in-depth interviews with some of the music scene’s biggest stars on how they broke through – from Björk to Drake producer Boi-1da.
Complete Music Update – A daily e-mail newsletter for the music industry.
Musikwoche – It is first port of call for you if you want to read the latest news from the industry in German. The daily newsletter is free of charge.
Allfacebook – the name is a bit misleading in that you not only get helpful tips and news about new features on Facebook, but fortunately also for Instagram (in German).
Electronic Press Kit
Good promotion starts with a comprehensive Electronic Press Kit (EPK), i.e. a digital press kit. This should either be in the form of a download link or a PDF with clickable links so that you can send it to the press, blog editors, promoters and labels. It should contain the following:
Your artist biography
– Photos of you/your band and logos (if you have any) in high resolution;
– Links to your social media channels and to your music and videos;
– and, if applicable, articles/press reviews about you or your project.
Your press release should give the recipient a good overview of you and arouse their interest in you. And don’t forget to include your contact details in your bio so that you can be contacted in different ways if they are interested! If you are comfortable writing, feel free to write your own bio. However, it can be a bit strange to write about yourself, but you know yourself best. Perhaps you have friends with a certain writing talent?
The same goes for photos. Ultimately, this is a good investment; they will be present on all your social media channels and in press articles about you or your band – so if you have to pay for them, it’s worth it. However, you should first look for photographers whose aesthetic style appeals to you and fits your project. Ideally, you will then have 5-10 good photos in different variations and formats (landscape or portrait format, also cropped square for social media channels). Simple and clear photos are best. If you prefer artistic images, make sure you also have a few more neutral ones – this can be a great advantage, especially for newspaper articles.
Create a clearly labeled folder on your computer, save all (also clearly labeled) content, i.e. bio, photos, press releases, links to music and videos in it and upload the file either as it is or as a compressed .zip file to Dropbox, Google Drive or a similar platform. Use a short URL service like bit.ly to create a unique, memorable link, for example bit.ly/mybandname_EPK.
Even if you’re not sure whether you’ll have enough time to post regularly on the main social media platforms, you should still set up your preferred username for each channel, fill out the profile page, upload a photo, etc. so that you can at least be found everywhere. This is also important for the Google results page when people search for your artist name. Focus on the most important channels such as Instagram, Facebook, X, TikTok YouTube and Soundcloud. Depending on the genre and orientation, some platforms are more relevant than others – so research where your favorite artists and those with whom you identify personally and musically gather their most fans.
In order to allocate your time and effort for social media wisely, you can choose your favorite channel on which you want to spend the majority of your energy. The best way to determine this is to ask yourself the question: “If I could only have followers on one channel, which one would it be?”
Blog series in cooperation with Universal Music Group