YOU AND YOUR MUSIC CAREER
When it comes to gaining exposure, growing your fan-base, and ultimately, making money from your music, there is only one truth to rule them all; this isn’t going to be easy, but like any worthwhile relationship, it’s not about how difficult it may be, but more about how much effort you choose to put in to keep it together and thriving.
At face value, this statement seems obvious, and almost a waste of time to even mention, but take it from me, the amount of artist’s that seek out promotion through us, and require both fame and fortune by the end of a campaign, is far too many to ignore; and it is clear to me, that there is a real disconnection between expectation versus reality here. For this reason, I have decided to break it down a bit more for any artists looking to gain overnight fame, because I wouldn’t want anyone walking away from making music, because they felt that no one was listening.
The industry has shifted so much in how it deals with, not only music promotion, but also with how it distributes that music to the people. It has become far more complex, and as such, it is not as simple as looking at the numbers and saying, “we made this much profit, this album is a success” or “We lost this much money, this album is a failure”. The numbers are not as telling as they used to be, and there are far more numbers to pay attention to now, not to mention (although I am) there are far more venues to sell your music.
From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to SoundCloud to Spotify to so many others, it can feel like a soul-sucking grind to create any momentum at all when trying to bolster your numbers and support. One might think that having a multitude of Facebook followers would mean that they would have the same amount of Twitter followers, or that three-thousand Spotify follows would mean some sort of potential monetary gain worth mentioning; but sadly, this is not the case at all.
Your numbers do matter, but they only tell part of the story, and they are not transferable; meaning, if a listener chooses to like your Facebook page, there is a good chance that they won’t be heading over to your Twitter. This has nothing to do with a lack of appreciation for your music, but more that we have become a society so tired of being asked to like every post flashed in front of our faces, that for many, not hitting like, is their silent vote against the ever-marching social media machine.
There are those musicians that have created something special, and from a distance it looks easy for them. Every day you look at their pages, and the numbers just keep growing, How? Why? I mean, their great, but so is your music, right?
This is about the exact time where some of the less committed musicians hang up the towel and walk away for an undefined time; perhaps forever.
I am telling you not to walk away, because this is not about what it looks like, this is about understanding how the machine works, and how your music is a part of that machine.
It is about respecting the entire industry, and supporting the artists that no longer look like they need support; because it wasn’t easy for anyone, no matter how it might look. Every artist that has gained the sort of fan-base that you dream of, has put in the sort of effort that you have yet to put in, and since you might never know how they got there, just assume that you are heading in that direction.
I know, you might feel as though you have done everything, but trust me, you have not even scratched the surface, no one really has.
Do you want to know why numbers both matter and don’t? It is because Facebook has ads, and “Likes” can be bought. For some musicians, the hard road (the only road really), is not for them, they don’t want to spend years building an audience, they don’t want to wait for fame, fortune, and glory; no, they want it all, and they want it now!
So, these bands pump money into fake likes, they pad the stats by working the PR machine in the most inauthentic ways, and while other musicians get intimidated by their numbers and walk away frustrated; these insincere musicians sell only an album or two, to the real fans that signed on, and eventually they stop making music because they think it’s impossible to succeed with their impressive numbers.
As you can see, it is a bit of smoke and mirrors at work now, and some numbers are real, while others are not. Some musicians have organic fans, likes, and shares, while other musicians only have the number they paid for. I know a few artists that are truly hidden gems, and their numbers are depressingly low for how good their music is, but once again, that is only part of the story.
The hundreds of fans that they have are true fans, and they will support these artists, and that is something that cannot be bought and paid for.
The other part of the story here is that, simply put, more time needs to pass, and these artists need to continue to hone their own music PR and marketing skills; this never ends (I cannot stress this enough), you will always have to sell yourself to the people.
Those numbers will go up, if the music itself is quality and created sincerely from the heart; and if the artist does not walk away from the challenge of learning how to reach people authentically. The numbers will continue to rise if the artist understands the brand they are selling, and only if they are excited about promoting that brand (music and image) daily.
Succeeding on one platform can be enough to open the doors that you are trying to open, so do not focus on winning everyone over. I have told many artists that they need to find “their people”, and to forget the rest. Do not try to win over listeners of other genres than the genre you play, do not waste time reaching out to publications and radio stations that do not promote your style of music, and do not compare your numbers to anyone else’s, because you don’t know how they got there, and they won’t tell you anyway.
Find your three chosen social media outlets, and keep on top of them. Add to them every day, and don’t post so much that people must block you, or leave your list just to get away from the constant “pinging” sounds of your new message.
It is a common human trait to look for what is working for someone else, and then apply that to yourself; imitate until you can innovate, as they say. Keep in mind, that if you watch the numbers, and you pay attention to the feedback given, you will eventually see the pattern at work for you, and you will only get better at navigating the shark infested social-media waters. Another simple-truth is; great art rarely goes unnoticed, but it may take a while longer than the artist may want to sign up for.
My advice, give your music a real fighting chance by giving it some real time to grow, and by learning how to cultivate your audience in an authentic way. Find your people and pay attention to what is working for you, and what is not. Learn to love promoting your music half as much as you enjoyed making it, and never stop making music if you truly believe in your abilities and what you have created.
If this article has taught you anything at all, I hope that it has helped you understand that all musicians, no matter their current celebrity status, have had their time in obscurity (the same can be said about ALL artists in all mediums really) and that it is only with patience and persistence, that anyone can succeed in rising above their unknown statuses.
When it comes to you and your music, it helps to understand that it all just takes a little time, and a lot of effort; but if you can see it, you can achieve it.
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