I read all the time about how in the age of the Internet and digital music there are so many more opportunities for unsigned bands and artists to get their music heard, make their mark, build a following, etc., etc. Phrases like "you can do it all without a record label" proliferate music-related sites and blogs.
I'll be the first to say that, yes, the Internet and other technology make so many things possible for musicians that weren't a decade ago. I will quickly follow that, though, with a series of emphatic "buts" (not to be confused with emphatic butts, which always have had and still have the power to garner their owners plenty of attention):
- But the Internet is so saturated with bands and artists, all competing for listeners' ever-shortening attention spans, that it's just as rare for an unsigned artist to gain a substantial following on their own as it is for them to get signed to a label.
- But it doesn't much matter that my music is available through iTunes, Amazon, et al because very few people feel compelled to pay for music anymore, and the music people are inclined to buy is mostly by bands/artists who are on labels.
- But it means absolutely nothing that I have more than 4,000 friends on the MySpace profile for my music because, in most cases, you're added to someone's friends list and immediately forgotten. Plus so many of those "friends" are other musicians who obviously only sent me friend requests to build up their own numbers without ever listening to a note of my music.
- But the Internet doesn't tend to improve people's tastes or make them more open-minded about different styles of music.
- But it still feels like any hard work put toward promoting my music is all for naught. I'm active on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and ... nothin'.
I'm feeling cynical right now, and sometimes the idea of giving up on making music (or at least bothering to share it with the public) has its appeals. But something keeps me going; there is a deep-seated need to create and to share what I've created, to not be completely passive and aimless.
If I'm to carry on with it, though, I need to feel like things are moving forward, like I'm reaching at least a few more people. Stagnancy is not an option – which brings me back to publicity and promotion.
In addition to the caveats listed above, one of the tribulations of the unsigned artist is figuring out how to promote music to potential new listeners without being overly intrusive or off-putting.
Sending messages to random people online saying "Check out my music" is boring, impersonal and absolutely ineffective – I know because I've received countless such messages on MySpace over the years.
It would be awesome if I could end this essay with a proven solution for this quandary, but if I had one I wouldn't have written this in the first place.
So I'm turning to you – "you" being anyone who's reading this; if you've gotten this far into the essay, I'm assuming you have at least some interest in this topic – for answers.
If you're a musician and you've found any particular methods of online promotion to be successful, I'm all ears. Also, have you found any ways to get fans involved in helping you with promotion? That's of particular interest to me, as right now I am my own street team.
If you're a listener (not necessarily of my music), have you ever received any kind of online communication from a band or artist you hadn't heard of that prompted you to check out their music? Lay it on me. Give me all the details, including whether it led you to become a genuine fan and/or buy the artist's music.
Leave me some comments, y'all.