Digital Marketing for the Independent Artist

Digital Marketing for the Independent Artist

Digital Marketing for the independent artist is something I have wanted to write about for quite a while now. I have being using it over the years without really understanding it. This year I decided to take on a professional qualification in Digital Marketing so I can further understand the process and relay this information to you the Independent artist.

I would like to start with where I have come from in regards to Music and its promotion at this present time. It has definitely been a long process reaching this far but those years have taught me the roots of Marketing.

I starting working in Bars from an very early age and my first Job was working for my parents in a country Pub  "The Uisneach Inn"  outside Mullingar. Music was a huge part of Pub life in the early 80s and anyone who was anybody showcased themselves in this traditional way. I understood from that early age that Music, Song and verse were deeply intertwined into our society.

Since then I have worked on and off in Pubs and venues for over 30 years. Over those years I noticed a change occurring around the end of the 80s. Music was not as prevalent as Pubs struggled with emigration and recession. You could see a definite change as most of our young had gone in search of work elsewhere. The family dynamic had changed dramatically and the once meeting place " the Pub "  had taken a turn for the worst. That communal feel of the meeting place had disappeared almost.

I remember as a young man being passionate and almost obsessive about bringing that sense of community back to life wherever I worked. It wasn't an easy task but I did manage to have that kind of feel to a pub or venue I ran back then. As publicans were seen long ago, I adapted to their mentality and became the key networker, the protector of order, the organiser, the host and all the other things that go with this responsibility.

It was a massive responsibility to take on and anyone in the trade will know this very well . Traditional Marketing was the way back then . Word of mouth was the single most important part of the marketing process .

So what has any of this got to do with Music ? Everything in my opinion. My success in Bars and venues was down to building a community and word of mouth was a huge part of that. Communication and satisfying a need was the key. It wasn't about the best pint or the match on TV or even the Music that was being played on the weekends but a community of people who were a part of something. A recognition from others, a place of belonging, excepted, loved, respected etc.

I write this because I want to give you the foundations of what marketing is and where it comes from my own eyes  . You understand this and you understand everything about what to do when marketing yourselves . You need to understand what marketing is . Marketing is community .

I wrote an article last year on the approach to Gigs for Independent artists Called " Reality check for the artist " . Its very practical and is inline with what i'm saying here this process is also part of the overall digital strategy for Artists. My advice is to have a read of this first before going any further with this article.

It is an in depth look at the ways the Pub or Venue works and how they must be approached and worked with to build a community ( fanBase ). The article was written from my perspective with booking artists for over 30 years plus investigating the Music industry and working with artists directly for a decade..

There are so many areas within the Digital marketing spectrum but for artists I believe that a handful of them is all that is required for optimum effect. I will take it that you have read the article mentioned and continued with my analysis .

To begin your community you need a place to call home and no it's not facebook Guys . Its a website !! Having a website is the first critical step in the process. Its your base of operation and everyone needs one in business. On Reading " Reality Check for the Artist" you will also realise that the Venue is your second home.

If you are an independent artist you need to realise that you are in business. You are a Songwriter and your product is Music. You need to understand this clearly. If you are starting out and do not have a product then you still build that website to prepare for that product.

Websites should be minimal with clear tabs and call to actions on the front page . You should have a contact page where you can be contacted and also your telephone number and email address available. You should have an about page with an up to date bio with any reviews. You should have a media page with any video and music widgets available to watch and listen to your material.

You should have a blog page for any updates you want to write about. Google search engines love to see blogs coming from websites. You should have an events Page, where you have played and are playing.  You need to have an email registration form so people can sign up and join your community. 

Have all you social links available so people can view you on the social networks. Facebook, twitter are essential and Instagram is now the most popular with teenagers today. Linkedin is another one that could be considered . It is full of Music professionals and labels. Google plus is another one that isn't very popular but don't be fooled by this. Shared blogs to this platform gets ranked by google search engine as it is a google product. Definity share any blogs with this platform for more impact. Make sure all of these networks are connected to your website .

There is no excuse for not having a website. Personally I don't  take anyone seriously if they have not got their own website. There are lots of free website platforms that provide you with a server for as little as 100 to 150 euros a year. less than 3 quid a week .

Now that you have the website up and everything connected , Including a secure venue you are now ready to be taken seriously. You are plugged in to everything and everything reverts back to home which is your website, Your workstation and your headquarters.

If you have implemented my advice on reality check for the artists along with building the website and connecting everything then congratulations. You have just done what so many others have not and are on the right road to building a community. By this stage you will be feeling motivated, excited, hopeful and empowered to move on quickly.

Email marketing is your next challenge. This is where most people fail . I cant tell you how many artists have argued that this is not required, WRONG WRONG WRONG. Email marketing is the most powerful way to communicate with your community. It is estimated that 90 % of all email delivered will be opened. That blows any social network out of the water in term of successfully connecting with your community.

I have befriended quite a few Music Managers and everyone of them have confirmed that email marketing is the single most important way to communicate with your fan base. In fact they went onto say and i quote " Facebook and twitter mean jack shit to labels, they look for obvious talent, relevance to the current climate and your email fan list ". Your list is gold to them and you. It is a direct link to your Fan and a possibility of a real sale in the future . There are ESP ( email marketing platforms ) available for free.

Most of them allow up to 2000 emails for free and a small fee after that. If an artist actually got to 2000 fans they are a serious contender for much bigger things. You see labels cannot afford to do this donkey work for you anymore. Having this done for them is a huge message for any label to take a closer eye on what you are doing. By then you may not want them involved at all or at the very least you have a serious negotiating tool to use when needed.

There are so any figures out there as to the worth of an email address to a company but a safe figure would be between 50c to 1 euro per promotion. So at 2000 email addresses @50c to 1 euro with lets say 12 promotions a year could fetch you 12,000 euros to 24,000 euros a year in sales. That's the way the industry looks at this and that's the way you should too. Your Business has value. I use Mailchimp myself. There are lots of them but I personally like this platform. I suggest you look around and see which one suits you.

In my opinion Social media Marketing has little effect for artists .In the beginning they seemed to be more reaching but that has drastically changed over the years. Facebook and twitter seemed to have optimized it for sales. The problem for artists is they need to build brand, a community and eventually a need for their music. Those platforma do not support this type of marketing in my opinion. Social Media should only be used to post updates like upcoming gigs, events and Video.

They also have a livestreaming facility and i see Artists using this quite skillfully . It's a very good idea to GO LIVE and update your Social Fans with your latest material. It's a fantastic way to drive fans to your website, email sign up form and selling your Music. In my opinion it is a very powerful way to connect, Communicate and Build a following. It's also free so use it. Live is the way to go.

NB: I've added this point as it has being brought up from a fellow professional in the business after I launched this blog. He was concerned that i was Disagreeing that Facebook etc was not a good way to communicate and build a fanbase. It absolutely is and i agree with him but using it as your headquarters is not the way to go in my opinion. Social media is part of the overall marketing process but treat it like just that " Just one part of the process ".

See what parts work for you on it and what part don't. If you are getting a poor response rate then reassess and try something different. The point i was making is everything should revert to the Main console which is your website ...

Another thing I forgot about was mentioning google analytics. This tool is a must from all website owners. It has the ability to tell you where you traffic is coming from on you website . Whether its social media, search, referral etc. It can tell you what device they are viewing your site from, what interests they have, what country they come from, age, How many viewers you have. Its a fantastic tool and its free and easy to link with you website. 

Imagine having that power to see everything and the impact of any promotion or blog you post ? Incredible tool and one that should be studied back to front as you move forward with you business.

As I said before being an artist is a business but the structure around this is different in many ways. You have to build basically before the product and drum up support by painstakingly collecting one fan at a time in the hope of a sale and support down the line. Its based on the particular Genre of Music, the skill of the band or artist, the likeability factor and the regular interactions with the community.

It's a very difficult task and is not for the weak minded. This can be an excruciating process for so many artists out there but if it is done right, you will enjoy the process. Like I said be ready from the beginning and gradually Build.   .

I will finish this with a bit of a recap. Read my blog " Reality Check for the Irish Artist " from last last year, follow the steps outlined in this blog, Build your fan base. Use social media for you and not for social media. Write blogs, Send your fans an email once a month and update them with how things are going.

If you have no updates then email them a blog, keep in contact !! Don't be afraid to tell them how it really is sometimes, be honest. If you are having a bad day then say it, you will be very surprised how people respond to someone who is down. It happens a lot in Music. They are your community and many of them will support you and also guild you as best they can.

I've seen some wonderful fans coming to see their band or artist play. They not only care about the music but the Artist or Band too. Like i said in the very beginning, It all boils down to a sense of community and mutual admiration. We don't have to pretend  to be someone else in this musical Journey. Be yourself, love what you do, Build friendships and stay in touch is all that is required. The rest will come when you understand this.

I sincerely hope that this resonates with some of you reading it and gives you encouragement moving forward.

God bless and thank you for reading.

Michael Kiernan

Creator / Promoter of Musibiz

Reality Check for the Irish Artist 

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2 comments on “Digital Marketing for the Independent Artist”

  1. All good points Michael!

    Bands/Artists have to build their community and be aware of marketing trends. And today it's so simple to build your own website, there's no excuse!

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