The two most dreaded words in the English language:
The two most dreaded words in the English language:
Yeah, trying to describe my own music is a challenge. Although I take some perverse comfort in knowing it’s going to be listed as “Dance & DJ” on Amazon no matter what.
ah this really worked out
Yeah, we’re also hoping that leads people to talk to us about things like dogs, beer, and baseball more than synthesizers at shows
Lots of anti-promotional sentiment around here, wow. Promoting something you put time and effort into should be rewarding. I’d say move slow and build something you love. Of course, that’s easy to say, hard to do.
I don’t have anything ready yet, but I’m looking forward to the process around creating the aesthetic. While the music is the most important thing at the end of the day, a lot of the musicians and labels I admire have put a good deal of time and effort into telling their story and I find that inspiring.
I think a lot of the anti- is the artificiality of so many feeling pressure to create a message that you perceive ‘sells’. That brings it back into the idea of art being a ‘product’ to sell. Alternatively, when it’s just about an organic sharing of something you love - then it’s more pleasant/palatable. Anyway, I suppose I’m dipping into some of what @ht73 more eloquently brought up earlier though.
I think it’s ultimately about finding that authentic voice in how one shares their art.
Promotion comes AFTER my process. Of course I want more people, rather than less, to hear my stuff, but I don’t think about them when writing, recording, etc. And it’s just work. Take a year or more to make a record… might as well take a few months to help its chances.
We actually had fun with them, for a few years. There was very little truth in our first two. Here’s one - http://www.lloydcole.com/lloyd-cole-and-the-commotions-geffen-and-capitol-press-releases/ I would agree that after 30+ years it’s tough to get excited about them, I get friends to write them these days, while I still have a few.
i guess it is? promotion is not a primary thing for me nor does it contribute to my general well-being the way my creative work does, but I enjoy releasing my music, so promotion has to happen.
I try to work with labels who either have a good promotion habit or whose general sensibility and execution makes promotion easy. there are a handful of writers that generally make good on my solicitations and are supportive and articulate. this is nice, and i like to think it is due to the quality and ~accessibility of my work because I don’t put a lot of critical effort in Artist Bio & Statement.
while I empathize with the anti-promo sentiment here, I have found the work, while thankless, has paid off for me. sending out demos when I had little prior success to show sucked, sending out demos sucks in general. hustling up gigs is no fun either. no i’m not trying to get grants and residencies and do rely on Employment, but I don’t think I would have the sense of satisfaction from my work, nor the drive to continue it, if I didn’t do the promotional work.
I’m sort of a unique case on that one, or at least I used to be.
I had an unfair advantage, in that I was in a band whose members included two puppets and a six foot rabbit. I never felt weird about putting them on people’s screens, because I knew that people wanted to see them.
So, I made videos to promote every show, and these promotions were at least half of my creative efforts, for several years. Again, I didn’t feel gross about it at all, because I knew people were enjoying those.
This was probably my favorite:
I haven’t yet played out as a solo artist; not sure what my new promos will look like when it’s just me. It’s intimidating to think about. But as I have no songs to play, it’s also premature to think about. Regardless, I do have some wisdom to share from that experience.
Let’s use that video as an example, to make a few points…
Promos aren’t only about getting people out to the show.
I knew our home crowd wasn’t going to drive out to see us in San Diego. That didn’t matter. This one was about prepping the attendees who’d never heard of us. And assuring other promoters that we pull our weight when they book us for shows. And, most importantly, giving the fans at home something to root for.
I really want to focus on that last point for a minute.
Understand that sharing a win is compulsory.
Your friends and family want to see momentum; that they’re backing a winning team. This is important. A win for you is a win for them. You owe them. Pay up.
And the second half of that:
Learn to see “booking a show” as a win.
You just got an amazing opportunity. They’ll love that.
Anything else you might want to announce is also a win.
I hinted at this earlier, but it’s worth calling out explicitly:
These promos were never “we’re so great, and you should come to our show.” It was always “we’re exceptionally lucky, and we’d love to celebrate with you.”
Lucky to play a new venue.
Lucky to be invited to a big event.
Lucky to share the stage with other bands we love.
Whatever aspect of a show you’re excited about; share that excitement.
If excitement’s not your thing, find something to be grateful for, and share your gratitude.
If you can do both, so much the better.
Put another way…
If you can’t find something to feel good about, why are you doing this?
If you can, your friends and family also want to feel good about it.
Conveying that emotion is all there is to a good promotion.
Thank you to everyone for all the thoughtful replies. You’ve helped me gain some perspective.
I’m in the final stages of getting a physical release ready to go and I was dreading the part where I have to convince folks to listen to it.
Once it’s actually a thing I’ll make sure you all know about it. And I’ll try not to be obnoxious.
i don’t think promotion has to be apart of the creative process, but regardless, it’s a part of the process of existing publicly as an artist and sharing what you make. if that looks like someone not making any effort to promote in more traditional ways but just “being” with their work, or someone who posts on multiple social medias daily and creates “content”, it’s still self promotion because you are publicly sharing something you made. this is a great thing!
i think there is a lot of unnecessary shame attached to promoting one’s work - something that i’ve tried to overcome over the years. if you love making art and you want to share it with people, then share it in whatever way feels true to you. it’s a beautiful and therapeutic thing to make art and it’s something that pretty much everyone in the world needs in one way or another. fear of self promotion i think comes from expectations and the possibility of failure. if you want to make music at the end of the day for your dogs and family but never post one note of it online or perform it live in front of an audience, that is respectable and beautiful too. but if you feel that desire to share then share yourself and be proud of what you create!
I couldn‘t agree more.
I am proud of what I create, thanks. (Maybe not some of my older material, but what I’m releasing in 2018 is good.)
I have been doing this for a while. I started out selling albums on CD to a limited audience (the small minority religion I belonged to at the time) which broke even on CD duplication costs, so I said “I’ll just give stuff away”. I released 16 more albums online without any fanfare, and then in 2016-2017 I recorded 380+ songs and posted them on my website before going back to an album format for 2018.
This year I released two albums so far on Bandcamp and DistroKid; a third is in the final production stages. Again, no marketing beyond basic social media and forums. My total earnings are less than I’d make in one hour at my day job, but I have gotten some really positive comments from fellow musicians I respect.
I made some quasi-demos for the E352 and E370 when I beta tested them. I’ve also done a few other informal module demos on SoundCloud. Those have been by far my most popular uploads, despite being the least musically interesting or personally engaging.
I could probably put on a 15 minute show for an open-minded audience. This is something people often ask about when they like my recordings and/or see that I’m local-ish to them. But this isn’t something I have any real drive to do.
(I have performed before: way back in school and the Florida West Coast Youth Symphony, and in the modern era in a taiko drumming group. I left that group because it was a massive effort, fun but didn’t satisfy my creative needs.)
(…and perhaps someday I will perform on synths with the taiko group; I did a couple of remixes for their 2016 album and we’ve talked about making something work somehow. But that’s not “promotion”, that’s performance and riding on the coattails of an established group that has a fanbase and naturally attracts huge crowds because you can hear them a mile away.)
Making videos also doesn’t interest me. My music paints mental pictures; it sets scenes even if it doesn’t tell a story. I don’t need or want to associate that with a movie of a bunch of knobs and wires and my hands. I also am not interested in spending my time assembling and editing video – though I suppose collaborating with someone who enjoys that could be interesting.
Video seems to be how people get their stuff in front of people. I posted my 260 or so recordings from 2017 on YouTube with a still image logo – and it gained me about ten subscribers. Not really worth the effort of uploading stuff there.
I’m not sure where I could even put any promotional effort that would be worthwhile. Getting on a netlabel, maybe?
I think all previous posts cover all aspects but what comes in my mind after twenty odd years in the music business is that there’s as many ways of “promotion” as there’s styles of music. If you create music for your self, then keep it for yourself, but if you make music or art for other reasons, then share it with others - but sharing with others doesn’t have to imply that you hire a PR-agency that will send out a press release to a 1000 different music outlets hoping for a response. It could be you making a few days of research and then personally contacting writers, listeners, other musicians and artists, institutions, labels, venues, promoters or post on a very open minded and friendly internet forum. This could be; sharing your music, invite for collaborations, ask for feedback but not necessary with a real intention of getting “something” back. I think “promotion” has sadly been overshadowed by it’s aggressive post-capitalist “marketing” sibling, while it for us artists maybe should be named something simple as “sharing”. I think “marketing promotion” is something shortsighted, within an album campaign for example, while “sharing” (which of course also could be to press) is a more humble way of presenting your art.
[If you’re a full blown narcissist who simple does it for the sake of likes, plays, streams and clicks - then hire a PR-agent.] This a little exaggerated of course, to make a point.
I think a lot of the sentiment of your post I agree with, but framing it as ‘a win’ is totally antithetical to the spirit of art (in my opinion naturally). One of the reasons art appeals to me is that it’s about expression without winning and losing.
What I love about your post is that it’s about sharing gratitude for opportunities to share art.
Maybe bit unrelated, but wondering how y’all feel about your own tracks?
I remember Tim Hecker saying in an interview that he can’t even listen to his own tracks because they sounds so bad (while obviously they sound really neat to me)
So I was curious if anyone else shares the same thoughts here
Generally: I am not that fond of most of my pre-“Starthief” material (2002-2016) with some exceptions. Even the songs I know some people like.
My exploration phase 2016-2017 was mixed, but that’s as expected.
What I’ve released this year, I am happy with. I hope and expect that I’ll still be happy with it 10 years from now.
Fair enough. I see opportunities to share art as a win. And a win for everyone.
But, yeah. It’s not about defeating other artists. I want them to win, too.
It’s like seeing old photos of yourself. If you look good it’s fine, but if you have a bad haircut or you’re looking a little chubby then no thank you.