Indie Bible: indie music promotion

To survive as an indie artist, you must be as creative with your marketing and promotion as you are with your music. There's no better "creative" marketer than Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby. Scroll down to read a series of exceptional promotional tips by Derek.

Indie Bible: indie music promotion

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Indie Bible: indie music promotion

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Indie Bible: indie music promotion

Copyright, 2012, Derek Sivers. Reprinted with permission.

Put your fans to work
You know those loyal few people who are in the front row every time you perform? You know those people that sat down to write you an Email to say how much they love your music? The guy that said, "Hey if you ever need anything - just ask!" Put them all to work!
Often, people who reach out like that are looking for a connection in this world. Looking for a higher cause. They want to feel they have some other purpose than their stupid accounting job. You may be the best thing in their life. You can break someone out of their drab life as an assistant sales rep for a manufacturing company. You might be the coolest thing that ever happened to a teenager going through an unpopular phase. You can give them a mission!
Gather a few interested fans for pizza, and spend a night doing a mailing to colleges. Anyone wanting to help have them post flyers, or drive a van full of friends to your gig an hour away. Have the guts to ask that "email fan" if she'd be into going through the Indie Contact Bible and sending your press kit to 20 magazines a week. Eventually, as you grow, these people can be the head of "street teams" of 20 people in a city that go promote you like mad each time you have a concert or a new CD.

Go where the filters are
Have you been filtered? If not, you should start now. People in the music biz get piles of CDs in the mail everyday from amateurs. Many of them aren't very good. How do you stand out? Filters allow the best of the best pass through. It will also weed out the "bad music", or the music that isn't ready. I worked at Warner Brothers for 3 years. I learned why they never accept unsolicited demos: It helps weed out the people that didn't do enough research to know they have to go meet managers or lawyers or David Geffen's chauffeur first in order to get to the "big boys. If you really believe in your music, than have the confidence to put yourself into those places where most people get rejected. (Radio, magazines, big venues, agents, managers, record labels, music promoters...)

Be a novice marketer not an expert
Get to the point of being a novice music marketer/promoter/agent. Then hand it to an expert. Moby, the famous techno artist, says the main reason for his success was that he found experts to do what they're best at, instead of trying to do it himself. (Paraphrased:) "Instead of trying to be a booking agent, publicist, label, and manager, I put my initial energy into finding and impressing the best agent.... I just kept making lots of the best music I could." If you sense you are becoming an expert, figure out what your real passions in life are and act accordingly. Maybe you're a better publicist than bassist. Maybe you're a better bassist than publicist. Maybe it's time to admit your weakness as a music promoter, and hand it off to someone else. Maybe it's time to admit your genius as a music promoter, and commit to it full- time.

If you don't say whom you sound like, you won't make any fans
A person asks you, "What kind of music do you do?" Musicians say, "All styles. Everything." That person then asks, "So who do you sound like?" Musicians say, "Nobody. We're totally unique. Like nothing you've ever heard before." What does that person do? Nothing. They might make a vague promise to check you out sometime. Then they walk on, and forget about you! Why??? You didn't arouse their curiosity! You violated a HUGE rule of self-promotion! Bad bad bad!
What if you had said, "It's 70's porno-funk music being played by men from Mars." Or... "This CD is a delicate little kiss on your earlobe from a pink-winged pixie. Or... "We sound like a cross between AC/DC and Tom Jones." Any one of these, and you've got their interest. Get yourself a magic key phrase that describes what your music sound like. Try out a few different ones, until you see which one always gets the best reaction from strangers. Have it ready at a moment's notice. It doesn't have to narrow what you do at all. Any of those three examples I use above could sound like anything. And that's just the point - if you have a magic phrase that describes your music in curious but vague terms, you can make total strangers start wondering about you.

2012 Derek Sivers - all rights reserved. Founder of CD Baby, Derek has been a full-time musician for 8 years, and toured the world as a guitarist sideman with some famous folks. He also ran a recording studio, and worked inside the industry at Warner/Chappell Music for 3 years. Derek cracked the college market and got hired by 400 colleges, and sold a few thousand CD's.
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