If you're a musician who writes and records their own work outside of any label, then you already know how much work you have to do to get gigs and get people listening to your music.
When you're completely on your own, it's hard to catch the attention of the general public for any length of time, or even at all.
But there's good news here, too, and it comes to us in the form of social media marketing, which we'll be exploring here today.
Victoria Gates-Fleming will be our guide for all matters relating to social media promotion. She is the Vice President of Digital Strategy and Creative Insights with Day One Agency in Los Angeles and formerly led the Social Team of Brands2Life.
Gates-Fleming is skilled with social media strategy, and is well-versed in social trends, including the ways in which Millennials and Gen Z-ers engage with online content.
As we go through our major points, she’ll provide important information and insights for musicians hoping to use social media to their advantage and to the advantage of their careers.
Without further ado, let's look at how to make social media work for you.
Ok ok, we know what you might be saying after reading that header. Maybe you don't like to use social media in your personal life, or maybe you've seen how other artists market themselves on social media and you don't want to follow in those exact footsteps.
These just aren't good excuses to not have at least some kind of social media presence, and we don't just mean writing up a quick artist bio for Spotify and Apple Music.
To put it very simply, social media is like having an incredibly useful tool sitting in your toolbox. Not using it just because you don't feel like it is a definite blunder, and Gates-Fleming can definitely back us up here.
"For emerging artists specifically, a social presence can make or break a career. Just look at the impact TikTok has had on listening habits and the music industry. More broadly, there are so many ways in which social media can help artists, from promoting songs, albums, and tours to finding new fans and retaining existing ones."
Having a song go viral on TikTok is a best-case scenario for a lot of new artists looking to build their audience, but it's also far from the only way that you can make social media work to your advantage.
Especially in the early days of your career, having multiple social media accounts will be a way to give your fans a near-direct line to you.
This doesn't mean that you need to be talking to specific users all the time, but even something so simple as a Q&A session that you host every few weeks could be an exciting opportunity for fans to get to know you better and forge a connection with you and your work.
Moving on to another crucial function of social media that has only become more relevant over the past year or so, let's talk about live streaming.
As Gates-Fleming noted during our interview:
"The disappearance of live music and opportunities for artists to play to fans has caused immense financial damage. With venues being closed and festivals canceled, musicians have turned to streaming. Over the last year, we’ve seen a huge rise in live streaming across Instagram Live, Twitch, and other platforms as musicians found new ways to connect with their fans in real-time."
While many major artists have put on digital shows over the last several months, smaller artists have also taken advantage of any number of social platforms to bring some version of the live music experience to their fans.
Not only is livestreaming one of the only ways for musicians to perform under the current conditions, but it can also be a low-cost event for the artist that can still bring in some significant revenue.
For example, you could easily stream via one of the free live streaming services such as Twitch, YouTube, or Instagram (as long as you meet the basic requirements for streaming on those platforms) and simply share a donation link as part of the stream page.
That way, you're not paywalling anyone who might want to hop in and take a look, but you still have a way to earn some cash for your work.
Before we move on, there's a very important marketing concept that deserves a closer look.
It's often referred to as 'target audience,' but is sometimes also called a 'core audience' or a 'target demographic.'
Basically, marketing professionals, or anyone looking to market a product of some kind, need to know who they should be aiming for.
Sure, in theory, you could try to market to literally everyone, but this would be extremely expensive and very difficult as well.
Instead, marketing pros do a lot of research to find as many details as possible on the target audience for each campaign.
When you know who you're marketing to, it's much easier to make that marketing effective, as Gates-Fleming explained.
"The most successful digital strategies have a deep understanding of the target audience at the heart of them. Are you connecting and resonating with your fans and followers? Ultimately, you have to figure out who your fanbase is, where they are, and which platforms they use. That’s where you should spend your energy."
For an independent musician with no substantial marketing budget, this might sound quite complicated, but you can get started by taking some small steps.
For example, once you have a handful of dedicated followers, try to pay attention to which ones tend to like your posts on a regular basis.
Then you can check out their social media profiles to learn a little bit more about them. If you're feeling bold, you can even interact with these fans during a livestream or Q&A session where you can answer their questions and ask some of your own.
You could even ask what other artists they like listening to. Simple questions like these could give you valuable information about who's listening to and enjoying your music.
Once you have some information in this department, you can decide where to focus your marketing efforts in order to attract more listeners.
Of course, there's always going to be a point where an independent musician can't do all of this on their own. Maybe you have a day job in addition to your music career, or maybe getting more and more gigs prevents you from engaging with your social media presence the way you used to.
In these cases, it might be best to hire some professionals to do the hard marketing work for you. Gates-Fleming weighed in:
"Musicians are often very busy. Hiring professional social and digital strategists gives musicians more time doing what they love: making music. Hiring an expert can help musicians create a channel and content strategy early on. Professional strategists can also support with disruptive social campaigns like the creative launch of Miley Cyrus’s latest album Plastic Hearts."
This "creative launch" that Gates-Fleming alluded to here involved Cyrus starting a TikTok challenge, referred to as, "If Miley Cyrus Comment, I'll Do Something."
This challenge definitely involved pre-existing elements of viral marketing, but it also felt genuine and involved.
Not only did it have fans promoting the new album of their own free will, but it also gave them a unique opportunity to feel connected to one of their favorite recording artists.
There's no doubt that a talented team of digital strategists took a look at Cyrus's brand and found the perfect way to promote her latest work.
That's the benefit of having a dedicated digital strategy team as opposed to trying to do everything yourself. As any musician can tell you, writing and recording music is enough of a job in itself.
To close out, we'd like to share one final very important tip from Gates-Fleming:
"Authenticity always wins. There’s a reason why artists live streaming from their bedrooms during the pandemic has been so well received. It’s raw and open and addictive to watch. A good digital strategy will help you listen to your fans, connect with them and stay true to who you are.
Yes, it's important to present strong branding to your audience, but the most important thing will always be staying true to yourself and being honest with your fans.
Not only does deception set a negative standard, but it's also more likely that fans will pick up on your inauthenticity and maybe even jump ship.
Let who you really are shine through and your fans will appreciate what you share with them.
The Jam Addict team is a revolving door of writers who care about music, its effects on culture, and giving aspiring artists tools and knowledge to be inspired and keep on creating.
If you have any questions or concerns or just want to drop us a line, don't hesitate to contact us! We always appreciate the feedback.