Today's post at the Copyright Alliance blog got us thinking about how today's musicians develop a fan base. The digital revolution has led to unprecedented ways to connect with potential audiences, but the landscape can be tricky to navigate.
If there's any consensus about what you need to succeed, it's probably much the same as back in the analog era. Talent (even if it's currently only your mom or GF/BF who thinks you've got it) and persistence are still your best bet. The good news is that you've got tons of tools to start convincing the rest of the world.
While there's no shortage of new technologies to promote and distribute your work, getting going can seem daunting. FMC talked about ways to get your music out there at our "What's the Future for Musicians?" events in Chicago and New York City (as well as our earlier seminars in upstate NY) — we'll be archiving the presentations online as soon as they're available.
In the meantime, here are a few interesting places you can visit to learn how to "market yourself."
FMC Advisory Board member Derek Sivers is a hero to many for having started CD Baby — a service that's helped countless indie musicians sell physical discs and get their stuff in digital stores. Derek recently sold the company, but he hasn't given up on helping artists promote their work. His site has tons of DIY tips for musicians, which he's constantly refining and adding to.
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are the authors of a book called The Indie Band Survival Guide, and they also run a website of the same name. (We got to meet Jason in person at our Chicago seminar). The book you have to pay for, but the PDF that it's based on is still free. The site has tons of information about tools you can use to promote your music.
Ariel Hyatt is a publicity expert who appeared at our Big Apple event. Her main site is here. (She's also got a new book called Music Success in Nine Weeks.)
David Rose has a blog called Know the Music Biz that's full of good tips.
It used to be you pretty much needed to have a label or distributor (or spend a lot of time consigning stuff at individual record shops) to get your tunes to retail. Nowadays, you can "stock" your music with all the leading digital stores for a nominal charge. There's the aforementioned CD Baby, which includes digital servicing when they stock your physical disc (you can also opt for digital-only), TuneCore (which also offers CD duplication and marketing tips) and ReverbNation — which recently went from being just a streaming player to a full-service digital distributor.
Of course, once you've made your music available, you gotta let people know about it. Today's artists have a lot of different means to do so — podcasts and webcasts (either their own or other people's), blogs, social network sites and online "radio" stations like Pandora and last.fm. And let's not forget good-old-fashioned terrestrial radio. Indie artists may be mostly locked out of commercial stations, but there are stil plenty of opportunities with non-commercial, Low-Power FM and college broadcasters.
The bottom line is that you've got great deal more opportunity to self-promote than at any other time in history. This might mean a lot of work that doesn't seem to fit into the "rock star" stereotype of boundless leisure. But it also means more control over your musical destiny — something pretty rare in the days of bottlenecks, gatekeepers and middlemen. (If you think musicians should be able to make their own choices about how their music is distributed online, you should check out our Rock the Net campaign for net neutrality.)
Of course, we're curious: what are some of YOUR favorite means to promote your music?