Using Online Media to Promote Your Music

The internet has had a disastrous effect on traditional media, as people are becoming more dependent on blogs, e-zines and social networks to discover music and are less dedicated to the established players filling the racks of your local newsagent. However, as a musician in the 21st century, the NME’s loss is your gain.

Think of your online media campaign as equivalent to gigging. Playing in front of lots of small audiences will build up to a larger fanbase. This in turn will get you gigs in front of bigger audiences and so on. In the same way, start with the smaller, niche blogs and e-zines to gain the exposure that will make larger sites take notice of you.

Be prepared to give stuff away. This will remain true for the whole of your career, but particularly at the beginning. People will only pay for stuff if they want it. If they’ve never heard your music, they won’t know if they want it yet.

The internet is brimming with free tools and opportunities for promoting your music, in a way that just wasn’t possible with traditional media. A little bit of know-how (and a lot of time) can get you a long way.

Having an Angle

When attracting press attention, whether online or print, it is vital to have an angle. No one is going to feature you just because you ask. It’s important to tie your contact with an event: a single release, album release or tour are the usual suspects.

It’s also important to target the sites you’re hassling for exposure. There’s no point asking a heavy metal e-zine to plug your new single if you’re a hard house DJ. A site will only feature music they think their readers will be interested in. Every music writer/DJ wants to be the one to discover the Next Big Thing, but their primary interest is keeping people reading/listening.

That’s the Catch 22 of music promotion: the big acts get the most column inches because they attract the most attention. But they get the most attention because they get the most column inches.

The upshot is that until you’ve made a name for yourself, only the smaller sites are likely to feature you as they have less invested.

Blogs/e-zines

So you’ve got your single coming out, with a tour to follow – how do you find the blogs and e-zines that will feature you? Chances are you spend too much time making music to read all the blogs, and even if you do, you’re unlikely to read as many as you need to get a decent amount of exposure.

The first step is to create a spreadsheet (not very rock ‘n’ roll but it can’t all be strippers and broken TVs) and start filling it with any e-zines and blogs you already know of that you think your music would fit. Get email addresses.

Then, use blog aggregators like Hype Machine to find blogs featuring artists similar to you (obviously no one has ever made music like you, but you must’ve listened to something while you were growing up). Make sure to note how you found each one, it’s important for when you email them. Use the same approach on Google/Google blogs.

Once you’ve compiled a healthy looking spreadsheet, it’s time to start emailing. Here are some crucial points to bear in mind:

  1. Do tell them why you think they and their readers would be interested in your music. E.g. ‘I found your blog on Hype Machine while searching for Captain Beefheart, he was a big influence on us so I thought you might be interested in our new single.’
  2. Do be open about what you want. If you just tell a blogger they might like your song they’ll just listen to it and smile (hopefully). If you ask them to feature it, they might do just that (hopefully).
  3. Do give them something free to post. People like free stuff. Bloggers and site-owners know this. Let them have a low-quality stream to embed on their site. Some people will really like it and pay for it. If no one’s heard it, no one will like it.
  4. Do email sites that are probably too big to feature you. You don’t get if you don’t ask.
  5. Don’t presume they will automatically feature it. Be polite. Until you’re a big draw, they’re doing you a favour.
  6. Don’t send attachments in a first email. It’s rude. If you’ve got a press release (and you should), upload it somewhere and link to it, or ask if you can send it over.
  7. Don’t send more than one reminder email. It’s entirely possible they read your first email and forgot to reply. Not replying twice is deliberate.

These 7 points will significantly improve your chances of getting featured. Fact.

Embeddable Players

One of the best tools to emerge over the last couple of years is the embeddable player. Using something like Zimbalam’s own player you can easily distribute your release to blogs and e-zines for embedding without having to transfer any data or give access to anything you don’t want other people to have.

If you’re not familiar with players like this, they work in the same way as YouTube widgets. You get a little bit of code that you can send to whoever is featuring your track, and they add it into their post. Users can then play your track straight off the page. Some players even feature ‘buy’ links so people can buy your tune before they’ve even finished listening to it.

The standard format for preview streams is 128kbps mp3. Almost every music blog has a disclaimer in the sidebar about how all the music featured on the blog is low quality, and asking readers to support the artist by buying the music if they like it.

Free Singles

Free singles are rarely entirely free. They usually come with a string attached – signing up to a mailing list or liking a page on Facebook. Giving away a free download in exchange for an email address is one of the most effective ways of growing your audience online, particularly when used as the ‘event’ in your online media campaign.

Obviously you don’t want to give away the product of your blood, sweat and tears, but the larger your mailing list, the more people you can tell about your new (paid-for) single or album in the future. Similarly, bloggers and writers may be more inclined to feature you. It makes them look like they’re giving away something for free. And people like free stuff.

Even though people aren’t paying for it, treat it just like a ‘proper’ single release. The exposure you get from it will pay for itself in spades. If it’s good enough for Coldplay, it’s good enough for you.

Exposing Yourself

You will already have an active presence on the main social networks (Facebook, Twitter) but to build a larger following you will need to get some exposure to other audiences. Nothing has changed in this respect, but what the internet has done is opened up more opportunities to get this exposure. You don’t have to get A-listed on Radio 1 anymore.

Find out more about what Bozboz do for musicians, DJs and labels at www.bozboz.co.uk

Nick Lewis
Digital Strategist
Bozboz