How to do your own DIY radio plugging and promotion
MARKETING FOR MUSOS. #1
Here’s a great article from Helen Meissner aka Helefonix to help musicians promote their own music!
This is the first in a series of posts where I share everything I have learnt from being a promoter/pusher/plugger and label boss for independent artists over the last decade. Especially the ethos and integrity required. And now I am an artist in my own right, who has also been featured on national TV and the national newspapers as well as played on BBC 6 Music and Radio 3, I can genuinely share things from both sides of the fence. Or should I say mic? I am an artist AND an amplifier!
I want to offer you a down to earth perspective, on how to do your own PR for free and get as good, if not better results, than if you’d forked out for it. This is not to say that paying people to promote you is wrong.
It’s just that, done well, you are probably the best person to sell yourself and your music, certainly at the outset. And then invest the money in the areas you find you are not so strong.
So why did I title this post – Is it sh!t or a hit?
Well, it’s quite simply the recurring thought I have when I’ve worked on something, been immersed in it to the extent that I can’t see the wood from the trees as the saying goes, and am painfully aware that I am now blinded to its brilliance, or indeed its blemishes.
And I wonder if I’ve got something that’s sh!t or…. you get it.
In reality most music is somewhere in between, but STILL, you need to know WHERE you are on the spectrum don’t you!? You need feedback from someone outside your immediate circle, as in, a stranger who doesn’t know you from Eve. And facebook groups – such as ‘2% Rising’ for female and gender minority artist/producers – are an invaluable resource/support mechanism. (Other groups are available! )
Let’s face it, you need to dip your toe in the water without the possibility of humiliating yourself, which would send you scurrying back to the safety of the hole/corner of your bedroom/lonely studio from whence you came. I actually used this analogy in an email to a music magazine. I think it helped. They took pity on me and were very helpful. And I’ve realised since that the ‘human’ connection with the people running the blogs and radio shows/stations and your personal interest angle/story is every bit as important as the music. It’s reassuring to me because it means that there’s SO MUCH we can do ourselves to help get our music out there.
The other factor to bear in mind is that music and its enjoyment is completely subjective. You might find a radio presenter who will happily and enthusiastically play your music but that doesn’t mean ALL will.
So you need to be realistic. You CAN’T PLEASE ALL THE PEOPLE ALL THE TIME. So stop trying. Be YOU. Create music you love and then at least one person loves it! It’s often referred to as ‘authenticity’. People see through bullshit. Don’t you???
You will spend the most time ‘with’ your music, creating, recording, mixing, producing (perhaps), so if you’re making music for someone else’s taste, you are going to end up HATING your music and so whenever you get a rejection, however polite, it’s going to hit you even harder, because…
If YOU love it, you can think, well F*CK YOU, your loss. I enjoyed making it and I will continue to look for someone else who does.
You’ve only got to think about your friends and what they think is shit, compared to what you do, and that there’s probably loads of people out there who love that shit. Beauty is indeed in the ear of the beholder. So how can we use this information?
It’s all about finding your tribe. Cliche alert. Sorry. But it’s the best way to explain this vital step. There’s absolutely no point in prostrating yourself for a reviewer or a radio presenter who clearly (and helpfully from cruising their social media/show/blog titles and hashtags) doesn’t get your sort of music.
I have been astonished to find that there’s literally a tribe for everything. And the internet has really helped this – if used judiciously. There’s a #fam for pretty much anything. Or an industry magazine/council/body. I love being part of the #synthfam!
Disclaimer : I am assuming your music is as in time as it’s meant to be, as in tune as it’s meant to be, has a vocal performance which is a good as it can be, has a deliberate structure (or not), has been produced to radio quality level, has a radio friendly length – circa 3mins.
Beyond that, it’s about finding people who like the sort of output you’re creating.
So this will require a bit of work your end.
Thought it was rather prophetic that the words on journey slightly faded away there, so I left it. It’s correct. There is no end. Even if you reach your goal you’ll then be thinking ‘what next’. And in reality the goals keep on changing because, well, that’s life. And rightly so. We need to adapt as different opportunities present themselves. So we might veer ‘off course’ for a while/for ever, but if you’re stimulated by what you are doing and enjoying yourself, what’s the problem?
I digress! (or do I?)… so I was talking about the work you’ll need to do.
You will need to FIND these people. (More tips on this will be covered as we progress).
But essentially, it’s about finding the people who are into your sort of music and also supporting it at the level you are at currently. Every artist goes through a journey. You can’t be the best you can ever be when you first start out. Sure, be inspired by those who are the top of their game but don’t COMPARE yourself to them. You are on your own unique journey. I can’t stress this enough.
Please don’t waste energy being jealous about someone else’s ‘lucky break’. We are all in this together. We can support each other and benefit from each other’s successes. We can all ‘bring each other up’.
Also, don’t be too hard on yourself and your earlier output. You have to start somewhere. If you never release you can’t get any better. You would be in a vacuum. I know first hand how embarrassing it can be to share stuff early. Even now I listen cringing.
And yet there were and still are people who love the track and keep on playing it on their shows!!! What’s that all about!? Just more proof that people will take different things from your music. And we need to keep an open mind. It’s all part of life’s rich tapestry.
Your job is to do your best to give your music a fighting chance of being appreciated.
I’d like to add some feedback here when I asked people whether I was creating something useful here on my facebook page, and this feedback really resonated.
“thanks for this, I’m a nightmare for comparing myself to others, wishing I was further on & a better player and writer, but when I take a step back and look at where I am now from where I was 5 years ago – there’s a huge difference – for one I’ll actually face the audience now”
I thought Corrie Shelley’s comment was a really important point. And didn’t want to ‘steal’ it!
Whatever stage you are right now, there ARE people out there who want to support you from the start and turn a blind ear to little issues if they think the music, and you as a person, have potential.
And, very importantly, if they LIKE YOU and your approach. As they say, the devil is in the detail. And that detail is down to you.
I’ve spent years working out what that detail is, and am very happy to share it here because my inbox is usually filled with ‘little’ questions that ‘just pick my brains’ and the thing is, it’s not a quick fix.
But there are very specific things you can do to help yourself. And some common denominators regarding your approach which I have already mentioned.
It’s probably no surprise to hear that social media and particularly twitter is one of the best, most responsive tools at your fingertips.
From there you will be able to find the radio presenters and the reviewers who will help you get heard.
You might decide to pay for promotional services. Nothing wrong with that. But this guide will help you amplify the efforts you are paying for and get value for money and make the most of your hard earned cash.
Word of reassurance, if you are worried about people hating your music (for that read ‘hating you’) and are scared about the possible rejection, the reality is, and I have A LOT of experience in this, people tend to be nicer to artists who are not household names.
Unless you are rude or demanding.
Or instead, they just don’t respond.
Which is definitely better than being panned with your first release.
So really you’ve nothing to lose and an eager audience to excite and stimulate with your music!
· Make the music YOU like, don’t be pushed down a path someone else has laid for you. Or you’ll end up hating music and quitting.
· Realise that not everyone will like your music. No matter how brilliant it is. Think of the household name artists. They have fans who love, and critics who hate them. And yet they’ve ‘made it’. So don’t be so hard on yourself.
· Notice your progress, and how far you’ve come. Regularly. Give yourself some credit. Compare yourself to yourself, not others! We are all on unique journeys.
· Seek out people who like new music and ideally your type of music. Go where you’re wanted. Find your tribe!
· Get hooked on twitter. Make it work for you. Instagram is vanity, twitter is practicality.
· Don’t keep your music to yourself if what’s stopping you is fear of criticism. Most people would rather not respond than come across unkind. Most people will help you/give you useful feedback if they see potential, it’s the sort of music they like and they LIKE you, and your approach!
WHAT YOU COULD DO NOW TO HELP MARKET YOURSELF…
If there’s anything in here which made sense for you, why not do a screen shot and share the love? post it on twitter with a link to this post, or instagram for that matter (I am on there as Helefonix).
I will retweet all (nice) tweets lol!! The thing about twitter is, you need to have lots of different messages to share, so be on the lookout for posts to retweet (in general) and don’t just make your feed ALL ABOUT YOU! More of that as we progress.
If you’re not already, follow all the presenters and the stations that have played you. Or as many as you can remember. If you’re not sure of their twitter handle, this is what I do, type their name, radio show and the word twitter into google and you will usually find they come up (if they are on twitter).
And a little note here – if the radio show or it’s host, or blog is not on social media, that is the only time I would question if it’s a good investment of my time and energy.
If you found that helpful, please click on the link below to get to the next post in this series where I will explain in more detail the HOW to do the social media, WHERE to find the people to contact as well as the WHY you need to do it a certain way, so you can ‘ad lib’ once you are comfortable with the ground rules, and add your own personality.
If you have any questions about anything covered here you can contact Helen at email@example.com