I’ll admit it (and big surprise here), I’m critical. I think as an artist you need to be on some things because you won’t have any perspective if you aren’t. I’m especially critical of how bands, particularly smaller or new bands, promote themselves. Mostly because (IMHO) I see them doing it wrong. Sometimes I see dumb moves because I’ve made them myself, but a lot of the time it’s just because I wince when I see artists trying to convince people to listen to their music in completely ineffective ways.
The easiest rule of thumb for promoting is if you don’t see artists you admire doing it, you probably shouldn’t do it either. Maybe you think you’ve found some sneaky way to buck the system in the way you’ve been doing it. Maybe you think you’re being a “rebel” and showing as hard as you can that “you don’t care…BUT OH GOD PLEASE LISTEN TO OUR SOUNDCLOUD PAGE”. Maybe you’re just stupid, but either way HOW you’re doing it may make you or your band look bad. And if people aren’t checking out your music at even a slow rate (and it’s generally a really slow rate) then it’s obviously not working for you.
They say any publicity is good publicity, and I say that’s bullshit, especially when there are no major media outlets to report on your good OR bad (and generally clichéd) behavior. Any publicity is good when millions hear about it, but when you’re dealing with the significantly reduced numbers in a niche genre bad publicity means you don’t get emails back, gigs, or much respect from anyone that matters. “Matters” meaning “Anyone that can help give your music a break.”
I’m all about being inventive, but being a pushy dick on a forum thread isn’t anything new. It’s just being a pushy dick.
I see it all the time. A promoter asks people on a forum or social media site who they’d like to see play their club night or festival and some smaller artist (which, of course, doesn’t mean “bad” at all) “jokingly” says “BOOK MY BAND!!!LOLHARHARHAR!!!” Guess what? We know you’re not joking, unless the promoter is IN your band and there’s no way you wouldn’t be booked. This is a poor move for a few reasons. A) No matter how much you play it off as a joke everyone reading it knows you’re serious, because bands DO want to get booked for good gigs. It’s how it works, but it looks desperate doing it this way. B) It also looks like you don’t understand that emailing a promoter privately is more professional AND doesn’t put them on the spot to have to actually say yay or nay to your public post. Emailing them right when you see the post is always good idea by the way, as it shows you saw it and want to be professional. It’s not a bad idea to also say something along the lines of “I just saw your post and didn’t want to ask publicly, but would you be interested in booking my band for the gig?”
It’s classier. It’s nicer. And even if the promoter isn’t interested in you for this show you ideally put your name in the hat for future gigs. They may not even get back to you, but this isn’t a reason to be a dick. Be professional and use the silence as a reason to give them a real reason to book you— by showing them people WANT to see you.
Oh, also C) The promoter may quickly forget you even said it if you’re yelling in a crowded thread. Good to remember.
So how do you show a promoter that people want to see you? There are a lot of ways, but for me it’s always helped to have people wearing my shirts at shows and fests. You can’t make anyone buy your merch or wear it out to gigs, but if you’ve built up a good group of people and have cool shirts they want to buy (and buy cheaply—remember it’s not about making a mint on shirts) promoters do notice, especially if a group of people are all wearing it at the same fest by coincidence. I’ve been booked at more than a few festivals simply because a lot of people are my fans AT that festival. Simple as that…although getting that "lucky" meant me putting in hundreds upon hundreds of hours building that base and selling those shirts at shows or online. It can also be as simple as a bunch of random people kindly mentioning your name on those same threads that some people try and self-promote poorly on.
There are a lot of ways to do it, and none of them are easy. Getting a passionate fan base takes tenacity, creativity, and sincerity. It also takes a lot of positivity. Sure, you may make solid, if not amazing music, but whining and negativity never gets anyone anywhere, let alone a solid fan base. The more you bitch (whether a big or small artist) the more you simply look like you have no concept of reality and how people actually perceive you. There are a million artists out there and a tenth of them may be the best thing in the history of ever, but the one thing that nobody wants to hear from ANY of them is that “My life is so hard how come nobody will support us we’re so butthurt that we can’t get more fans or likes on Facebook…”
If you met someone for the first time (or even knew them for a while) and heard that I can pretty much guarantee you’d excuse yourself to go look intensely at a plant in a corner rather than continue feeding that passive aggressive bullshit. Sure, some people will internet pat you on the head and say everyone else are a bunch of meanies, but you’re really restricting your fan base if your main fans are, for lack of a better term, enablers. Anyone else paying attention will just be making fun of you. And rightfully so, you big baby.
Here’s a pretty simple truth: If you haven’t gotten the fan base you think you deserve maybe you’re going about it wrong in your presentation. Maybe you should look at how you’re promoting, or look how other more successful artists are doing it (stealing ideas for marketing is not a crime). Maybe you should be reaching out to different types of genres to see if there’s any crossover. Maybe you should get out and play any shows anywhere until you’re drawing your own crowds and making your own buzz.
Why? If you're a small artist nobody has a reason to support you yet. The onus is on YOU to make people listen. If you’re lucky enough to be on a label see what you can do to cross promote. There are the rare few artists that blow up out of the starting gate, so strategize how you can attract new people to listen to your music. People WANT to help artists they like. It’s fun to be passionate about an artist, especially an underdog indie artist like most of us are these days. But you have to realize that nobody will invest time in you if your music isn’t where it should be yet, you’re nothing but negative, or you’re not even bothering getting your name out there in any intelligent manner.
If you post on Facebook page with only a few “likes” is anyone there to hear it? No. Give them a reason to check out that page. I do it by giving away free remix EPs and posting dumb shit all day so people just want to hang out on my page. Hell, some people don’t even like my music but hang there because it’s fun. Fine by me, as they might mention it to a friend who would like my stuff and the more the merrier. Find out what works for you, but know that nothing happens overnight. It’s taken me a decade to just get where I’m at now. Be patient, and no giving up. We ALL want more fans. It's natural. I wish I had a lot more even though I'm damn grateful for the people that do support me, but getting mired in negativity about what you don't have serves no purpose except getting bitter. And that serves no purpose except giving you reasons to quit.
On a side note, always be careful of looking cocky, too. Wording is so, so important when you’re posting online, especially if you’re a new band. Jumping in a thread where people are discussing music and saying “Screw those guys, listen to US!” will get you next to no positive notice. Why? Nobody knows who you are, nobody has a reason to care because you’re coming off as a douche, and you SAYING you’re amazing is nowhere near as effective in impressing people as OTHERS saying you are. Walk, don’t talk. Give people a reason and let them talk FOR you. Word of mouth is everything in the underground, and humility is a beautiful thing, even if your “thing” is being a cocky douche. Get a new “thing” if that’s the case, unless you know everyone is in on the joke. If they haven’t heard of you they probably aren’t.
Humility doesn’t mean “be shy” either. Just be aware of how you word things. Be gracious. Be polite. People will give someone’s music that they think is nice (even if you make eeevil music) way before they’ll listen to someone who sounds like a pompous wang. Take that to heart.
Self-promoting in an increasingly crowded musical atmosphere is by no means easy, but if you follow some basic rules and keep making music that kicks ass eventually your crowd will find you if you keep hammering away and stick to being yourself and finding your specific voice as an artist. So stay positive, always keep working on getting the word out, and make as many opportunities as you can for yourself. The more you make, the more than will come to you in time.
(This is partially in response to the newsletter I was referenced in regarding sampling from the Storming the Base newsletter a few weeks back.)
I’m one of those people that gets extremely frustrated by lazy sampling. What I mean by that is when people use not only the same sample sources, but the same exact samples as other artists have used in other songs. I’m not stomping around the streets and screaming about it daily, but I’ve been listening to this music for long enough (over 20 years) to actually dismiss an entire album if I hear a sample that I’ve heard for…over 20 years.
And if your big comment on this is “Sampling itself is overdone, dumbass!” then, well, quit reading and write your own stupid blog for people to pick apart. I’m not here to discuss the necessity of sampling as a whole, but the necessity of doing it with some actual creativity.
I’m probably in a minority of listeners (and obviously artists, since I hear it this garbage way too much), but here’s WHY lazy sampling pisses me off:
1) Sampling is an ART
Choosing a sample is not only incorporating another person’s creation into yours, potentially changing its meaning but always ideally giving the song additional meaning. It’s also showing your originality as an artist. I’ll quickly note that a lot of musicians simply want a cool sounding sample and write, for lack of a better term, Industrial Party Jams (or IPJs, which is a term everyone must now use. I DEMAND IT.) and thus don’t give a shit if the sample is overused or if every second of the movie has already been sampled. And for what it’s worth I guess that just is what it is, but I personally still can’t think too favorably unless the song kicks so much ass it transcends the sample or uses it better than anyone else. I’ll use Skullfucker by Modulate, because even though nearly every second of Full Metal Jacket has been mined for tracks in the last 20 years this track was a monster, plain and simple. So even though I still think people sampling Full Metal Jacket is about as interesting as a hip-hop artist using the Amen break (look it up if you don’t know the term), this song still got me. And a lot of people. But I still hate people sampling Full Metal Jacket.
Back to the point, though. As an artist I believe in pushing whatever art form I choose to work in, and quite simply if you’re an artist also trying to push the form and do something unique why the hell would you lower yourself to using something so overused? It’s like buying a $4000 suit and wearing the shoes you go running in with it.
2) Sampling is meant to ENHANCE, not SUBSTITUTE
The vast majority of overused sample sources are, in my opinion, placed in a track in an effort to not actually have to come up with effective lyrics yourself. I’ll use the “I’m mad as hell” speech from Network as a prime example. It’s far from short as a sample, yet is mercilessly overused by artists trying to convey that they too are mad as hell…and apparently unable to express it in any way in their own words. And maybe these words can’t be improved on, but I give a lot more credit to someone who chooses to tackle the sometimes herculean task of diving into their own soul and searching for the words that best fit their mood and beliefs than someone who does the Hallmark card version and just says “Eh, they said it well enough. Just go with it.”
To me there is little to no emotional power in using a sample that has been used countless times before and is a disservice to the music and artist if used.
3) If you’re an artist using samples EDUCATE yourself
Everyone is not a sampling maestro. Everyone has not listened to industrial music for decades and is thus not as peeved as I am when I hear the same sample I heard in a song by X-ARTIST a decade ago. Everyone also did not go to school for film like I did and has spent more time “studying” drunk and high watching obscure films from the French New Wave and New York underground, but that’s no reason to not at least try and educate yourself as to what else has been used out there before. And while it’s completely unrealistic to expect everyone to know every song and every sample source, it shouldn’t be unrealistic for an artist to ask “Hey, do you know if this sample has been used before?” to a more knowledgeable friend, or, better yet, to seek out LESS OBVIOUS sample sources that have probably never been used. It’s easy to see a movie like The Matrix and go “Ooh, this sample and THAT sample and that other sample are the best!”, but know that since that movie is a blockbuster and everyone you know is talking about it, that it’s going to be oversampled to death. It’s far more interesting to find less known sources because that will be significantly more memorable than using something, for lack of a better term, that’s easy. Frankly, I get embarrassed if I hear that I used a sample someone else has used (which has happened). If I hear one in someone else’s song my usual response is “Seriously?!” and then I sigh loudly and hope everyone notices. Or something.
Sampling less obvious sources is something I’ve gained from since day one of Caustic. Early on I earned a lot more notoriety for sampling less treaded sources for my tracks from smaller indie films and, well, shows like Mama’s Family. Using less known sample sources allowed me to create a distinct voice in the cacophony of the million other artists making music in this genre, as well as gave me a source of pride every time someone said “Where the hell is that FROM?!” It helped me stand out. It can do the same for you.
By the way, you can also find the sloth.org sampling sources page at archive.org—it’s a list of the most sampled movies (up until it was taken down) and who samples them. It’s invaluable, even in its inactive state.
(And as an aside, you know you’re an industrial artist when you watch films or television and call mental dibs on a sample. It shouldn’t be as exciting as it is, but we’re nerds like that.)
4) Saying “We’re just having FUN!” is no excuse
Yeah yeah yeah, you’re only in this for shits and giggles, so who cares if you use some bland, washed up sample? IT SOUNDS SO COOL. Well I guess, but it automatically equates with mediocrity in my mind as well, so if you’re cool with that I’m down. I get it though—it’s not as important to some people as it is to me. I actually think that when someone uses a sample they have in fact taken it off the market. If they use it they “own” it in a sense, and while some songs accidentally use the same source (I remember one of my early tracks had a sample that popped up in a few other songs at the time—I think we all visited dailywav.com too much, hence why I don’t go there anymore) there’s a pride in using ORIGINAL samples (which, of course, is an oxymoron) and using them to enhance THIS song, not hearing it elsewhere and go “YEAH, I’LL USE IT TOO!” Even if I’m just messing around with something I want it to be mine and something original, because why would you be doing it otherwise? If hackery is your thing then go for it, as people may still dance to it or think it’s awesome, but it’s still hack and it’s not really that hard to NOT be a hack when it comes to sampling. So settle for that if you want, but I’d sooner never make another beat if I felt all I was doing was using the same moves as someone else.
5) Sampling obvious sources detracts from your tracks
Point blank, music is your opportunity to draw people into your world, see your perspectives on things, or at the very least show off how badass and awesome you are creatively. Using samples, as discussed above, is meant to enhance that music, but using obvious samples can quickly take people out of your music and remind them that “Hey, Se7en was a really cool movie!” This mostly applies to blockbusters, but it also applies to cult movies that are popular within a genre. I try and avoid most movies like that, simply because the likelihood of it being used is higher, but also because I honestly don’t want people taken out of the experience I’m trying to give them by smashing them in the head with a sample that will make them use their internal IMDB page and re-review why they thought Saw was a bit heavy handed and lacked emotional depth.
Mind you, I DO like it when people simply want to know where the sample came from, or if they figure it out and are amused at the source. In that way I’m a bit of a hypocrite, but I think music is in a way about showing off (if it wasn’t nobody would care if it was ever released, after all) and so is sampling. Regardless, I’d rather have people wonder where a sample is from instead of going “Hey, it’s a sample from OBVIOUS FILM #28.”
So be smart, don’t be obvious, and impress people with your nerdy knowledge of all things film and television. Be CLEVER, dammit. Hell, the beauty of the internet is there are a million amazing samples out there to be used for tracks. Places like YouTube offer countless opportunities to sample, and cheap voice recorders make doing them “in the field” a lot easier as well. In other words, you have no excuse to be boring with your sampling. Be better, and get to it.
AFP and the Pitfalls of Transparency (and Why Everyone Should Shut Up)
September 13, 2012, 11:09:am
Okay, let’s talk about all this Amanda Palmer bullshit, shall we?
So it was leaked/exposed/planted that Amanda Palmer, DIY indie Brechtian cabaret diva and all around social media whore (and I say that with the utmost respect—I wish I could give as good social media as she does), doesn’t pay guest musicians helping her out at one-off gigs for her current tour. The main argument (indeed, to me the ONLY argument) people seem to be putting forth is that “OMG SHE MADE ONE POINT TWO MILLION DOLLARS ON KICKSTARTER!!!!”gkhadgj) and that’s she’s ripping off, essentially, fans.
Okay. Take a breath. I’m going to tell you something important here:
You have zero real facts.
Yes, she did raise the amazing amount of $1.2 million on Kickstarter. This actually equates to around $750,000 after Kickstarter takes it’s agreed upon $120,000 and she puts away 20-30% for the taxman. I know it’s still a lot, but that’s the REAL figure.
Now, Amanda’s already put forth in a May 22nd blog that she MIGHT have ended up with around $100k after all the budgeted expenses (read about it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amandapalmer/amanda-palmer-the-new-record-art-book-and-tour/posts/232020) , but here’s where shit gets sticky. I say this not knowing Amanda, not working for Amanda, and not knowing her budget or what could have happened, but I do know what has been happening to ME with the $15k (re: $10k after taxes/KS fees) I earned on Kickstarter...shit goes over budget.
I know. It’s a revelation. ARTISTS AREN’T ALWAYS GOOD WITH MONEY. I'm not necessarily saying Amanda isn't, or even wasted a penny, but dealing with everything she's had to coordinate simply isn't easy.
As an artist (especially one without a label, but no doubt with help), planning an album, promotion, distribution, and all related costs is a cursory number. You don’t know the FULL costs of everything until it happens, and something ALWAYS slips through the cracks. Hell, if gas and oil prices bump up? That's thousands more for a tour. Not only in gas prices-- it can actually make your T-SHIRT costs skyrocket (no, I'm not joking). Yay for oil-based inks.
My only point is it's really hard to get exact numbers. Those are just a few examples of a zillion variables you have to deal with as an artist planning this kind of stuff.
This is why creative projects, from albums to movies to EVERYTHING, can easily slip down that perilous slope. I know I’ve been blowing through a ton more money than expected, and while my $10,000 is technically easier to go through than Amanda’s bounty, she’s also dealing with an exponentially larger fanbase and exponentially larger costs, with the general album bills and paying (most likely) a manager, booking agent, and a zillion other middle people that all want a small cut. Me, I have…me. And the people I paid to help me on the album. It’s a lot simpler, is all I’m saying.
So yes, she wrote a blog explaining everything BEFORE she actually tallied up all the numbers and now the world thinks she’s ripping off less known musicians because they aren’t being paid. First off, THEY’RE MUSICIANS-- STOP CALLING THEM FANS. They aren’t JUST fans. They’re artists as well, and they aren’t idiots. They’re volunteering because it’s a fun opportunity and they get to meet someone they dig and get to put that they played with her on their Facebook page. Chill the fucking fuck out. Stop acting like Amanda’s promising them anything but what they’re being given and acting like they’re the victims. That condescending attitude is more insulting to the musicians that are willingly giving those few hours to play with her than not paying them.
They aren’t practicing for months, either. It’s a great one-off. It’s a fun night out in front of, most likely, one of the biggest audiences most of them have played in front of in their careers. And that audience will LOVE them. They might even make some new fans off of it. You never know.
I’d do it in a second, by the way. And I know people who have and loved it, so get off your patronizing horse about that. Stop pretending you know anything about the situation and realize that a) This woman isn’t perfect, b) Artists in general aren’t great at numbers, b) The musicians she’s working with don’t have to participate, and d) It’s really none of your fucking business unless you’re an investor OUTSIDE of giving her $50 for Kickstarter. Her obligations end to you (and me, as I tossed her a few bucks) when she delivers the premium you pledged for. That’s it. Oh, and making a great album.
It’d be different if she wasn’t being up front about it. If a musician is butthurt that they aren’t being paid to play with her they should get a gang together and burn down every open mic coffee house and every bar that does door deals and kill every touring band that doesn’t even give gas money to the opener. There’s a lot more egregious offenses in the world than not being able to pay for helping in a gig, is all I’m saying.
It’s easy to judge someone when you don’t have the facts. And guess what? Amanda doesn’t owe anyone shit if she doesn’t want to share it. I don’t know her personally but greedy is hardly a word I’d use to characterize her.
Rip Me Off: Respect it, Dissect it, Eject it, and GO
August 30, 2012, 11:48:am
Well over a decade ago I had the pleasure of meeting the incredibly affable writer Chuck Palahniuk at a book signing. At the time I don’t even think I had started making music— I wanted to write. Maybe screenplays, maybe books, maybe just shitty drunken poetry in bars (I had a lot of experience on that one. Let’s just say I don’t revisit it often.) I waited in line with my copies of Fight Club and Survivor in tow and when I got up to him I mentioned I was writing and nervously, jokingly said I ripped him off a lot. He laughed and said something along the lines of “Please rip me off. I rip people off all the time.”
He even signed one of the books “RIP ME OFF! Chuck Palahniuk”.
That was a real eye-opener to me, not in that I didn’t think artists didn’t get inspired and take direct influence from other artists, but that it wasn’t something to be ashamed of in the slightest. I also realized that one of the differences between a hack and a “true artist” is that although everyone rips other artists off, the true artist knows that’s only the foundation: The actual art is where you take it from there. That’s where you make it your own.
You can only build a house in so many ways and in so many shapes, but there are still basic fundamentals that need to be followed to make it still be a house. Architects build from those base rules and bring their own ideas and flair to that foundation of knowledge, some more successfully or more interestingly than others. Some are merely adequate when it comes to bringing these ideas, but there are also the trailblazers that can deconstruct the ideas of a house and do something in a completely inspired and interesting way, but those ideas and catalysts didn’t come from thin air— that trailblazer saw a million different other architect’s designs, decided what he/she respected and liked about those (or didn’t), took those influences, and started going from there.
Music is the same way. Any artistic form is the same way.
Beware the artist that says they’re wholly original. You’re dealing with a deluded and irrational ego. Or, more specifically, you’re dealing with someone with really low self-esteem who’s most likely just a dipshit who desperately wants attention. Especially the artists who think “no one is ready for them yet”, comparing themselves to Van Gogh or some other penniless, dead, then unappreciated artist who is now revered. Out of kindness, try not to laugh in their faces. They’ve got issues.
It takes most artists years to start moving past their influences into having their own creative voice. It’s said that it takes 10 years or 1000 hours of practice to get good at an instrument, and I’d say that somewhere in there is when you start finding that voice. There are those lucky few who have an original voice from day one but here are others that it takes at least a decade to have the courage to break out of the confines of their influences and trust their own instincts. Or, as some incorrectly state, “thinking outside the box”.
And let’s address that term, shall we? “Thinking outside of the box”, other than being a horrid cliché, should never be what you’re thinking when you’re an artist. Why? You’re implying that you have limitations. There isn’t a box, sparky. There’s just working to come up with the best ideas you can and expressing them as cleanly (or as dirty) as possible.
Screw “the box”. “The box” is a term non-creative people use to try and pressure you to come up with better ideas. Or, in a lot of cases, ideas that they can use to sell more of whatever it is they’re trying to profit off of.
Does this mean you can’t get stuck in a rut? Of course. It’s not a box though. It’s a creative lull. It’s time to recharge, go see a movie or a play or take a walk and wait for the next inspiration. In his book The War on Art (highly recommended, by the way), Steven Pressfield discusses how there’s no such thing as creative blocks, it’s simply practicing creating every day and knowing how to work through things. That’s the difference between a professional and an amateur. I think that philosophy also figures into a “true artist” understanding that ripping people off is just the start and not the end of the creative process. It’s understanding that your influences will be inherent in your work but that’s just the beginning. Those influences are just you setting up the frame to your house, but everything on top of that frame is you using your cumulative knowledge, insight, inspiration, and passion to make that house something new to you…and not some prefabricated, merely acceptable place for an incredibly boring person to sleep at night.
Art is evolution. It’s building on what was done before, what others have done, and especially you building on what you’ve done before. It doesn’t have to (nor will, most likely) be a revolution, but for an artist to be successful creatively they always need to be moving forward. Otherwise they’re just stuck in a vicious cycle of hackitude.
Accept and cherish your influences. Then move on. Respect it, dissect it, eject it, and go.
Caustic on Facebook: www.facebook.com/causticmusic
The Gentle Art of Self-Promotion...Without Looking Like An Egomaniac
August 15, 2012, 02:03:pm
First off: Yeah, I know. Promoting yourself isn’t what you signed on for as a “creative artiste”. You just want to sit in a room with your sequencer/guitar/tuba and make music that the world embraces and play to sold out shows everywhere you travel and get heavenly oral sex from slutty, drunk angels.
Guess what? Tough shit.
The world of music (or, of course, any artistic pursuit) isn’t set up for you to just be “discovered”. And yeah, I also know that you’ll hear about the Biebers and Lily Allens of the world going viral and now having huge careers, but that’s not 99.9999999999999% of how people actually make it in today’s world…nor has it ever. You have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting randomly discovered by some label exec, because you don’t have to actually have talent to win the lottery. You only need to have a few bucks to buy the ticket.
So where does that leave you? On your own, mostly. Unless you’re the rare person/band who has buckets of money around AFTER you make your album and can hire some sort of promotions manager you’re stuck promoting yourself. Sure, you can have friends and bandmates help and all that (and gosh bless ‘em if you do), but as an artist it’s crucial that you understand that a large portion of your success and “luck” in getting opportunities comes down to one person: You.
You’re your biggest obstacle or you’re your own personal Jebus. It’s all on you.
Promoting yourself, especially at first, is a completely uncomfortable experience. It feels awkward and weird and like you’re imposing yourself on everyone. Usually this is because when you start out your first “fans” are, well, your friends. They’re your family. They’re people you know.
And the last thing you want to do is irritate them by asking them to come to your upcoming gig at some dive bar on a Monday night.
The crappy thing is…you have to. But the nice things are that it gets easier with practice, AND when you start doing it and building a fanbase that DOESN’T include your Aunt Jenny you’ll learn how to promote yourself more comfortably. See, you don’t have to be a bombastic jerk all the time to effectively promote your stuff, but you also shouldn’t be a quiet mouse and just whisper that you have a new album out. Here are some tips on how to promote yourself in a way that doesn’t make you feel dirty in the morning.
1) HAVE FUN
Just like any aggravating job, there are two ways to go about doing it: Hating every minute and whining the whole way, or sucking it up and reminding yourselves why doing this is a benefit to you. With most crap jobs that might just mean getting a paycheck, but when you’re promoting your art remember that this is something you WANT PEOPLE TO HEAR. This is your passion and your best efforts to communicate in a way that a LOT of people don’t have the guts to try. This isn’t you trying to sell some timeshare in a swamp—this is you trying to get people to listen to your art.
Having fun with your promotion also means you’ll get more creative with it. I’ve always enjoyed using the promotion for Caustic as an extension of the music itself. It can be a real challenge to try and find a way to promote yourself but, in all honesty, the more fun and enthusiasm you show the more people will be attracted to it, especially if you can find a different way to present yourself that appeals to potential fans. Fun is contagious, and so is feeling like you’re a valued part of a community.
Remember: The vast majority of artists absolutely suck at getting their names out there, and a lot of them are much better musicians than you or I. Making promoting fun for YOU is key to being a step ahead.
2) WRITE WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO READ
Talking about yourself is hard. It feels completely egotistical and like you’re bragging. The easiest way I found to conquer this was to simply try and write things I would enjoy reading. You don’t have to sound like God’s Answer To Music when you’re pimping yourself. Nobody buys that shit anyway, especially if they've never heard of you. Instead be as honest as possible and stay as interesting as possible in what you say. When I started Caustic it was hardly the finely honed industrial juggernaut many know today (note sarcasm). In fact I had little idea what I was doing, but I was passionate as hell about my music AND I learned that self-deprecation and humor worked for me. People like to laugh. They also appreciate sincerity and are more apt to get in your corner if they see that you’re having fun and don’t take any of it too seriously. And while my methods work best for me, there are a million other ways to go to communicate with your audience (or audience-to-be), so work to find yours. It’s not always obvious, but when you have that eureka moment hopefully it’s as beneficial as you deserve. If not, keep trying.
The most important thing in communication is being concise. Writing a bio on your music is great, but don’t get so self-indulgent to think anyone wants to scroll through three pages on your website to get to the part where you say you’re really influenced by Miley Cyrus. Learn to edit, or find someone who can. It doesn't have to be a haiku, but short and sweet helps a lot.
3) DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR “BRAND” OR “DEMOGRAPHIC”…YET
If you read blogs on advertising you’ll hear expressions like “branding” and “finding your demographic” a lot. While these things are important the most crucial thing I can encourage for an artist is to not worry about that stuff yet— worry about always speaking as YOU (or your character, if you’re doing the Marilyn Manson type of thing.) See, branding is essentially how you (or your label/manager/mom) present your work to people and how you “stay on message”. By naturally developing just how you want to talk to people, what is most effective, and what is most comfortable you’re essentially branding yourself and can tweak how you do it later, once you’ve got that “voice” out there.
And in terms of demographics— you hopefully know who might like your music. Sure, someone who has never heard of the artists you’re influenced by (and are probably trying to emulate on some level) may like your stuff, but chances are you know where your crowd hangs online or otherwise and concentrate establishing yourself there first. You really shouldn’t be stressing about hitting the Hispanic females aged 13-18 demographic, so just worry about getting your name out there in general. Thanks to social media (where you should definitely be), you’ll know soon enough who most likes your stuff. For me it’s mostly English speaking dudes between ages 25-34. The thing is, does that make me gear my stuff to them or anyone not in that demographic? No. It just Is.
Work on developing good and effective communication skills before caring about precision marketing. Worry about engaging people and building a relationship with listeners.
4) CONTENT IS PROMOTION
Some people think that the only thing their fans want to hear is when the next gig is or when their online EP will come out. Nope. Like I said, you’re building relationships, and you also want people to have a reason to visit your website and especially places like Facebook or Twitter, where EVERYONE is. The way to do that is simple: content. This content can be pimping other artists you like or simply engaging people on whatever subjects interest you. Unsurprisingly I talk about music a lot, but I also make stupid jokes, or talk about movies. Even more unsurprisingly, I also write blogs.
The more people have reasons to come to your site and hang out in your virtual room the less you’ll hopefully feel a need to “hard sell” people all the time (which, let’s face it, is the worst thing on the planet) and keep things relaxed. Remember- nobody HAS to come to your Facebook page…unless there’s a good reason.
5) KNOW WHEN TO STOP
This is the hardest thing to do for some people. They want people to check them out so badly that they just end up spamming everywhere nonstop- on their pages, their friend’s pages, other band’s pages, and hijacking threads that don’t have anything to do with them. On top of it, they’re never bothering to try and engage anyone otherwise. Nobody likes spam, and people like it even LESS if it’s from someone they know who won’t stop being a blathering billboard for their new demo track and just relax about it for a while.
Mind you, this is really hard to recognize sometimes, especially when you’ve put everything you’ve got creatively and, at times, financially, into your art, but start working on not saying the same crap daily and talk about other stuff in the meantime. Desperation isn't pretty and people don't respond to it unless it's a life or death situation. Your new shirt design doesn't qualify.
The problem with promotion is that it’s by nature repetitive as hell, but mixing up how you say things and not copy/pasting the same post over and over is vital to keeping people from wanting to kill you (and why linking your Facebook and Twitter posts suck). I highly recommend practicing the fine art of rewriting and, more importantly, trying to present the idea in a completely different way. If it’s at least a variation on the same crap people will be a bit more forgiving. Personally, I try and focus on elements of the new album, like what remixes are coming in or how great I think [X-TRACK] turned out. Every post doesn’t need to be epic, but it should say something interesting. And it all relates to the thing you want people to know about.
You’ll make mistakes on this one, as we all get overzealous at times. I know I sure as hell have, but I’ve started getting better at listening to that little voice in my head that says “You don’t need to mention that new Caustic teapot today, Matt. Mention it tomorrow.”
Listen to that voice. That voice is smart.
6) NOTHING HAPPENS OVERNIGHT
One post about your new album will not cause the world to buy every copy. Remember that promotion is incremental, and tenacity is so, so important if you want to succeed. Also, remember that posting to the same places over and over probably means the same crowd is reading it over and over (and sick of it), so you may want to give other places a shot. Appropriate places, mind you- don’t post about your new death metal album on a gardening forum…unless it’s a death metal gardening forum. That would be awesome.
It takes years to start being recognized on any noticeable level. Sure, it takes less for some people, but assume you aren’t those people and keep your nose to the grindstone. Be consistent, speak as you’d want to be spoken to, don’t whine if you aren’t achieving what you want to, and mostly be cool to people. If you have 500 Twitter followers and only 5 have bought your new album you do one thing: You say thank you. You want people to stay with you, not be against you, and while it can be extremely frustrating when you feel like you’ve given your all for years and you don’t think you’ve gotten very far it’s even more soul-crushing to never have tried at all. Good things do come to those who wait, but especially to those who are always trying to improve, find new audiences, and putting in the time with their feet on the pavement instead of bitching to their three friends who are completely sick of hearing about it every day. You were never guaranteed anything, so appreciate anything you get for your efforts.
Also, know that when you do start getting some breaks, whether it be when you sell that first shirt to someone you didn’t grow up with or headlining stadiums, know that you EARNED that shit.
So get to work. Time’s a-wastin’.
Caustic on Facebook: www.facebook.com/causticmusic