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Marketing Around the Music

Without the help of an established music label and their associated PR machine, getting online buzz is difficult for a DIY artist. Even if you do go to the time and effort of collecting valid email addresses for music journalists and bloggers, without some kind of hook or plain good luck it’s likely that your email will be trashed or simply go unopened. It’s not that music writers are cruel; it’s just that they are inundated with new music every day and this has led them to develop zero-tolerance filtration systems. Nevertheless, there are still ways to stand out from the crowd and generate your own buzz. And one of the ways to get around the music writer’s filtration system is, well, not to contact music writers at all. This is what we call marketing ‘around’ the music.

In a recent interview on Music Think Tank, the queen of DIY music marketing Amanda Palmer makes an interesting point about why artists become popular. According to Palmer it’s because of an artist’s personality, not the music. Of course people will convert into real fans and stay around long term if they love the music, but to get yourself in front of people her mantra is ‘You First, Music Second’. Many musicians would baulk at the notion of cultivating image over art, but the reality is if you want to get attention for your music, you have to create attention for yourself first.

It’s human nature for people to connect with stories, so think about the stories surrounding you as a band or solo artist. What is it that makes you unique? What are your obsessions? Think about ways in which you can tell these stories to people who are not inundated with music press releases. Are there websites out there which cater to your band’s obsessions? Then contact them and start a conversation. We have used this technique with an iPhone obsessed band who played the Nlog electric guitar app live on stage during a rock festival. Submitting a video of the concert to Apple related websites generated over 28,000 views; views that never would have happened had we gone down the direct-to-music-journalist route.

Los Angeles indie rock band and cat-obsessives Best Coast used a similar approach just last week when they released a video for their latest song ‘Crazy For You‘. It’s a feline feast of a video and so, instead of going the normal route of pushing it out to the traditional music press, the band gave an exclusive to that online bastion of all cat-related squee ICanHasCheezburger opening up a huge new audience to the band.

So the message is (and yes, we’re going to use that awful cliche) think outside the box. Your potential listeners and fans don’t just read about music; they read about other things as well. And it’s likely they’ll be into the things you’re into too, be that iPhones or cats or sky-diving or crochet. So don’t be afraid to market around the music - spread your music outside of the music press and one day Pitchfork will be contacting you for an interview, not the other way round.