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Unsigned Band Music Promotion

by Bard Marc Gunn

Music Promotion Tips for Unsigned Bands to learn How to effectively Promote their Music

Ten years ago, I decided to follow my idol Elvis Presley into a music career. I quickly learned that Elvis' singing ability was matched with Col. Tom Parker's incredible artist marketing and music promotion skills. So I began learning what it takes to make a successful and profitable living in as an unsigned musician, and later, in an unsigned band.

I read book after book, promoted my bands, and pushed my music and songwriting forward. Eventually, I came across an incredible author and book that really helped me as an unsigned artist who I'll mention later.

In 1997, I realized the web was the great equalizer. I designed webpages and learned online music promotion. I read newsletters by online marketers and music promoters and studied other unsigned band resources. In 2000, I took my knowledge and began publishing my own newsletter, called The Bards Crier, a free music promotion ezine.

The Bards Crier continues to earn rave reviews from unsigned bands and musicians worldwide though it is published once a quarter now. The reason? It features practical and inexpensive music promotion promotion tips to help unsigned musicians move forward in a world dominated by Major Labels.

Unsigned bands are faced with huge challenges with music promotion, including:

  • Virtually no income from gigs
  • Lack of money to record and promote your CDs
  • Few dedicated fans to buy your CDs and see your live performances
  • Unfamiliarity with how the music business works, and,
  • the biggest cause of failure in music, lack of effective music management skills

The great thing is unsigned musicians can be taught to promote their music! It may take a while to learn the music promotion skills you need to succeed, but you can learn them and make a fortune without a record label.

Here's a brief intro to making a living as an unsigned band or musician:

When I stared The Bards Crier, my band had no fan base and very little money to promote our music. Using online resources and aggressive music promotion ideas, we were able to push our unsigned band into one of the most-popular unsigned Celtic bands online! And using some of the music promo tips below, I'm gonna show you how you can do the same!

Promote your Unsigned Band with a Newsletter

I first started publishing my unsigned band newsletter during the Summer of '98. I tried the snail mail route. It was exhausting. Electronic newsletters (aka ezines) are the way to go. I must've tried it all too. I promoted gigs, told of our latest accomplishments, gave away a free mp3 every month. Some of it worked. Some didn't.

Here are some tips I've learned about running my band newsletter:

  1. Give away something for free. It can be as simple as an MP3 download at MP3.com. Or a sticker. A free CD once a month. Well worth the cost for their loyalty. And it can be a great promo tool to draw people into signing up for your newsletter.
  2. Hype your band. Tell your fans about all the band news. Who's reviewed your latest CD? Post rave testimonies by your fans. Post them on your website too. Be positive and let them know you are the best! In the two years I've managed my fan newsletter, I've had scores of fans write, saying, "Wow! I'm glad you're doing so well." We weren't. And I didn't lie. But our many small successes sounded like big ones to our fans. That is what hype is all about.
  3. Keep it short. Write as if you were writing for a newspaper. Compose brief paragraphs about your greatness. Use headlines that make your fans want to read it. Provide frequent links to your website where you can post articles or more "further info".
  4. Publish every 7-10 days. This depends on how much info you get. But as long as the content is short and informative, people won't mind. If you add a little drama, like how you're doing on MP3.com, and how they can help, you'll keep the fans reading. But if you're not gigging much, and don't have much news. Don't publish. Give your fans what they deserve, the best.
  5. Don't get upset if people unsubscribe. It happens. If you lose half your list, consider adjusting your publishing schedule. But expect that some people can't deal with a newsletter every 7-10 days. Perhaps every two weekes is better. I was doing every two weeks until I realized how much more effective a 10 day schedule was for our fans. But less than two weeks, and you are no longer on the fore front of your fans' minds.
  6. Choose a great inspiring name. Something that has meaning and is fairly informative. Certainly you can can get by without one, but a good name could attract people just out of curiousity.
  7. Make it visually appealing. Keep lines short--60-65 characters followed by a hard return. Have a decent amount of space between sections. Add a table of contents at the beginning of the newsletter. Text newsletters work best, at present, but if you decide on an HTML ezine. Make sure you test it out extensively beforehand. Graphics need to be attached to your message. But keep it visually interesting on all accounts.
  8. Content is King. You hear it all over the internet marketing circles. Make sure the info you provide is useful and relevant. My biggest problem is that my newsletter has subscribers worldwide and until we got hooked up on MP3.com, it was useless telling our fans about gigs in Austin. So have info that is interesting for EVERYONE!
  9. Reward your fans. Give discounts for their loyalty. Have your CD on sale to newsletter subscribers.

The Secret of Minimal Effort Music Marketing of Unsigned Bands

When it comes to music promotion, I love facts. So I'm going to give you some cold hard facts on how my band, the Brobdingnagian Bards, has quadrupled visits to our website with minimal effort.

I know, it sounds like great ad copy, but the truth of the matter is I found some incredible promotional ideas, first, in "Poor Richard's Internet Marketing and Promotion", and then inspired to action by David Nevue's "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet".

About a month ago, we began running The Great Celtic Music Giveaway from our website. And during that time have doubled unique visits to our homepage.

In case you don't know what a "unique visit" is. It is a more accurate reflection of how many people are visiting you. Whereas one "hit" means you had one visit, plus, one download for every image on your site, a "unique visit" is one person visiting that particular page.

I don't have the count for unique visits to our contest page, but that's okay, because we are getting hundreds of unique visits to our homepage, meaning...people are looking around. And with 3-5 new signups per day, that's 150 new people per month who are interested in our style of music.

Sure, it's nothing compared to them millions visiting Yahoo. But the Celtic music scene is small and tight. And we are making ourselves known to a growing number of people. And considering I've only promoted the contest in this newsletter and in About.com, I think it is one heck of a start.

Choosing Unsigned Band Music Promotion Books that Yield Results

As an struggling unsigned band, I read dozens of music promotion books that vouch that their advice will get you incredible results. Some are yielded incredible results, most have a few decent music promotion tips, but are not quite there when it comes to all around great books. Here are a few for you to consider:

Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook
by Bob Baker

Bob Baker was the man who got me interested in music promotion for unsigned bands. I found his newsletter, The Buzz Factor, and was inspired to share my experiences. This book been his best seller since it was originally released in 1996. It's been updated many times since and is filled with some absolutely invaluable advice for any unsigned musician. Bob Baker also offers several special bonus including a report on How to Double Your CD Sales (in 90 Days or Less). This book is well worth the obscenely low price he sells it for and I'm still learning new tips every time I read it.

How To Promote Your Music Successfully Online
by David Nevue

David Nevue knows online music promotion. He started in the late 90's promoting various music businesses online, including the Music Business Academy. In 2002, he quit his day job and began a career as a successful unsigned musician earning over $5,000.00 per month! David is the kind of person you WANT to learn from.

Due to the fragile nature of the internet, David publishes a new edition of his music promotion book once every quarter. So the information is always up-to-date and relevant. And let me tell you, some of the tips he offers are just fantastic! He teaches you ways to attract targeted web traffic to your website that will earn you new fans. I highly recommend this book to Anyone wanting to make a strong presence online. And the price is MORE than reasonable at under $15.

Grow Your Band's Audience
by Joe Taylor, Jr.

Grow Your Band's Audience is much shorter than I expected. It's one of those pocket-sized books you see at the store. You can sign up for the newsletter and receive some of the best tips straightway, or you can spend the thirty bucks for the book.

When I saw the price I was a bit shocked and disappointed. Over thirty bucks for a tiny books with minimal information. Would I pay it? Honestly, no. However, I must admit that there are some absolutely brilliant marketing tips. I was really impressed in particular with a tip on how to pack a venue without spending a fortune on traditional advertising. Quite ingenious ideas actually. There's also some good information for those struggling to setup street teams.

The one bonus, that might make you think twice about buying the book is the teleclass recordings. The author offers group classes by telephone where he answers questions and encourages unsigned bands to think about they can promote their music. If you sign up for the newsletter, you can take classes for as low as five bucks which is well worth the investment for the information and stimulation.

How To Make $100,000 a year in the Music Business (Without a Record Label, Manager, or Booking Agent)
by David Hooper

I finally broke down and got a copy of this book that I'd heard so much about. The title is fantastic, and the copy behind it is mind-boggling. David Hooper of Kathode Ray Music was approached by an unsigned musician who was making over $100,000 in the music business. He had written a book. David looked it over, edited it, and began selling it online.

After all the hype, I found it very poorly formatted. This made it kinda difficult for me to read. But I also found it actually has some amazing music promotion tips for unsigned bands. The thing that really caught my eye was how the artist was able to earn a percentage of bar sales as part of their income. For just under $20 this isn't too bad a deal.

So is this something you should consider? Sure. Give it a try. Keep it small to start if you need to. One CD. But promote it BIG!

THE GREAT (your style of music) GIVEAWAY.

Promote it online. To YOUR audience. That is the key. Don't try to promote it the musician crowd, but the music-lover crowd. People love to win things for free, and you too could pull in hundreds of new fans with minimal effort.

How Unsigned Bands Can Develop the King Midas Touch

Do you remember the story of King Midas? He's the one in Greek mythology who was so greedy, the Gods "blessed" him with the magical power that anything he touched would turn to gold. But it wasn't until he touched his only daughter that he realized his folly and decided that his blessing was actually a curse.

Well, I know a sort of King Midas. But let me tell you, he has the gift of gold without the curse. His name is Ryan Holley. He plays in the San Marcos, Texas band, Pavlov's Dogs.

I signed up on the Pavlov's Dogs' mailing list about a year ago. Their unique style of rock drew me in, but it was Ryan's charisma and incredible passion to succeed that told me this was one helluva band to keep an eye on.

Sadly, I moved. I disappeared from their mailing list until one day I got a call out of the blue. It was Ryan. He called to see if I was still interested in hearing Pavlov's Dogs. Ryan told me when and where their next gig was. They were performing for an Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands in San Antonio.

What really struck me the most about it was the personal touch. Ryan called from San Marcos...a long distance phone call. He made the extra effort to find my phone number, which had changed a couple times since last I saw them perform. He made me feel important, like I was one of his bandmates. He took the time to basically call me a friend.

You see, most fans aren't looking for great music. They're looking for something personal. For me, Pavlov's Dogs not only play great music, but they also have the drive and potential to be the best, because they combine music and friendship at a personal level. And that is the the true touch of gold.

Setting Your Music Promotion Goals

Setting and attaining goals is essential for the progress of any musician or band. If you know where you are going, you will figure out how to get there.

Try these simple steps to attaining your goals.

  1. Determine exactly what you want.
  2. Brainstorm and develop your plan to reach your goal.
  3. Set a date to complete your goal.
  4. Read and verbalize your goal daily.
  5. Study to increase your knowledge about your goal. Read all you can. Listen to tapes. Go to seminars. Meet the professionals who have reached your similar goal.
  6. Spend time with people with similar goals and enthusiasm
  7. And to quote Galaxy Quest, "Never give up. Never surrender."

The more focused you are, the quicker you will conquer the task at hand. You can and will be a professional if you make the choice.

Play It Forward - Viral Music Promotion

Have you seen the Kevin Spacey movie, Pay It Forward? I loved the movie. I'm an idealist. So seeing an "idea" rocketed forward to me is beautiful. And it's a great example of effective Viral Music Promotion.

For those of you who haven't seen it, it's about a boy responding to a class assignment comes up with basically an idea to improve life. Basically, he determines to help three people in a "special, life-changing way". But instead of having them pay him back for his kindness, he tells them to pay it forward, that is, to help three people in a life-changing manner. Then they require the same pay it forward philosophy. It's a beautiful example of... well, network marketing. 

Well, I left the theatre inspired, thinking, "How can I institute this in my life?" With MP3.com's help, I came up with "Play It Forward". It's a webpage that encourages fans to send e-cards of our music.

The page reads, "Is there a song here that you really like? Play it forward and share it with your friends. Your friends and we will both thank you."

Since posting that link we get an extra 2-5 more e-cards sent every day from people "Playing It Forward". And that is very personal way to get more people listening to your music.

How Unsigned Bands Can Effectively Sell More CDs Online

When MP3.com first made changes to their payback formula, it had catastophic results to indie artists everywhere. My band, the Brobdingnagian Bards, was making over $100 per day when the system dropped out from beneath us. But you know, it didn't hit us as hard as many artists.

The reasons is that about two months ago, I saw the changes that were happening and decided to make a change in my own music promotion tactics. Vivendi was taking charge. They want to hinder free downloads and keep CDs viable for as long as possible. Alright, so we need to sell CDs. How do we do that?

That's when I started surfing to the masters. Fellows like Jim Daniels of BizWeb2000.com, and even to some of the SPAM marketers.

You see, I read a book on ad copy about a year ago, and I started to understand what these people do. Sure, when you head to some SPAM marketer webpage, you see ad copy three pages long that doesn't tell you jack. It kinda beats around the bush. But you know what...some of that stuff ACTUALLY SELLS!

It's true. Ad copy for your CDs is all about convincing your potential fans to buy your albums. It's easy to write because all you need to do is tell your fans what you think is so great about your album. Why do they want to buy your album?

No, you don't have to write ten pages to sell your CD. Just write one. I setup some ad copy for our Celtic Wedding CD. Since then, our wedding CD has been our best selling CD. What does it do that is so special?

Not much. It directs traffic to the site. Tells visitors about the CD. It gives them free samples to listen and download. Offers a few testimonials. And it tells them why I think our CD is the perfect album for someone who is getting married or just in love. Finally, it gives them something extra. That's all ad copy is. And it works!

Hey, follow my example. Steal my ad copy and cater it to your own needs to start selling CDs!

Building a Fan Base for Unsigned Bands, as Easy as 1-2-3

Originally, I was planning on publishing an article by John Wilmott of Celtic Ways. But the "article" was actually a promotional piece designed specifically for the Celtic Ways roster, and was less of an article than I anticipated.

So instead, I'm going to lay out the main promotional idea presented in the article. John was writing about putting on a Celtic version of Club MP3.com, called Ceilidh 2001. For those not familiar with Club MP3.com, it is an MP3.com-sponsored tour of 50 US cities by mainstream MP3.com. Celtic musicians were excluded, so we would do our own.

But in order to make a successful event, we need larger regional followings. Here's the advice John had on building a fan base.

"For those of you who have not built up a substantial fan base I will try to work with you to make this happen and the best route to this is through newsletters. With some of you, you'll need help getting people to subscribe to the newsletters in the first place.

If you are gigging that's the easiest way. Make sure you make it easy for people to leave email addresses on the way in or out of the gig. Even bolder would be to get people to give you the email in the middle of the gig. You might make up an "Email Song" and add a traditional tune to the lyrics and then have someone pass around a guest book where everyone leaves their email address.

If you are not gigging your only option is to visit chat rooms and forums and talk to people and collect email addresses. You could hold a yard sale and have your music playing and collect email addresses from visitors.

Best Buy & others are clearing out old 74 mins CDRs right now very cheap. Put 3, 4, 5 of your tracks on each one and use the paper folders instead of jewelcases. There is a way you can print regular paper and fold to hold a CD too - try it out !!!!

Then go to somewhere where these is people and hand them out free in exchange for their email address. You'll get 100 subscribers for under $20.00 cheaper than placing ads, doing flea markets and paying record stores to promote your CD."

After reading his article, I found a website (http://blankcdmedia.com/) that sells inserts and CD labels in bulk for pennies each. Sure it may cost a small bit to start, but this is one tip that I'm jumping all over.

  • John Willmott is a former Celtic and English folk song, dance and story performer who now commits to producing and promoting Celtic and Folk Music for the net through www.CelticWays.com .

Let Them See It, Touch It, Hear It, Taste It, Smell It

A couple of weekends ago, I went with my girlfriend and my daughter to a country fair held at a place called Eckert's Farm, just across the river from St. Louis in Millstadt, IL. There were pony rides, face painting and strawberry picking ... but what really caught my attention was the arts and crafts area. About a dozen or more tables and tents were set up to sell everything from country wood crafts to scented candles to hand-sewn clothing.

One resourceful woman was hawking her packages of spices and seasonings that could be mixed with sour cream and other goodies to make tasty dips and spreads. While many of the crafters sat quietly behind their tables -- some reading books, others occasionally saying "hello" to passersby -- this woman was enthusiastically inviting people to come over and sample her dips.

"I've got five different flavors here," she announced to potential buyers as she placed a dollop on a cracker. "We'll just start with this one and go down the line. Then tell me which one you like most." Needless to say, there was always a small gathering around her booth ... and a lot of dollars being exchanged.

As I walked to another section of the crafts area, I noticed a small boy peering at one of the handmade toy airplanes on the table. Mom was right behind, asking him to keep his hands to himself. "It's okay, he can play with it if he wants," the crafter offered. "Here son. You can even spin the propeller."

Not far away, a seamstress was asking an interested visitor to try on one of her vests and letting her see what she looked like in a mirror.

What was going on here with these three creative marketers? They were using a selling concept as old as the hills: Get the prospect directly involved with the product and you're halfway toward a sale.

How do most people make a final decision on buying a car? Do they make up their mind by looking at the car and listening to the sales person talk about it? Or by getting behind the wheel and driving it?

The vast majority of music CD sales come about as a result of fans either hearing a band perform live, hearing a song on the radio or seeing a music video. Simply reading a favorable review rarely inspires action in music consumers. Experiencing the music through their ears (and enjoying the sensation) is what motivates people to reach for their wallets.

So, how are you stimulating the senses of your potential customers?

More questions:

  • Can you give away free samples?
  • Does your creative offering lend itself to taste, smell, touch, hearing or sight?
  • What combination of some or all of the five senses could you use to stir up interest?
  • How can you get customers directly involved with your talents before they buy?

Find a way to involve people in your creative product or service ... and you may soon find a line of customers waiting to sample (and buy) what you have to offer.

Unsigned band music promotion sites I recommend

I've looked all over the internet looking for a great places to find unsigned band music promotion websites.

Here are some links to my favorite music promotion sites:

The Bards Crier
Okay, this is a personal plug for my newsletter. But there are some more great tips and help for the unsigned band.

Bob Baker's The Buzz Factor
Great weekly newsletter, plus, lots of free articles on unsigned band music promotion.

The Music Biz Academy
Twice monthly newsletter with music news and music promotion tips.

One of the most-complete websites online featuring, literally, scores of music promotion and unsigned band resources. There's also an invaluable venue database and a host of other great services.

The top website online for selling unsigned band CDs and merchandise. Low setup fee and they also allow you to accept credit cards AT your gigs for no extra charge!

Amazon Advantage
Sell your CDs from the largest online CD retailer in the world. And your fans can earn a commission when Your CDs sell!

The world's largest free music portal. Upload your music for free, sell CDs, and master the charts.

Another cool free music portal, and one of the few to pay artists for downloads.

Earn extra hits to your website just by opening up your browser. This is one of my favorite ways for boosting my internet traffic.

My Music Promotion Experiences with my Unsigned Band

My name is Marc Gunn, Bard. Bard is actually just a title I gave myself when I started playing Celtic Renaissance music with my band, the Brobdingnagian Bards. We are an unsigned band that started playing music together in 1999, and since then have completed six full-length CDs for a growing international audience due largely to our music promotion success on MP3.com.

Through aggressive online music promotion, I was able to push make our band the #1 World/Folk band on MP3.com with over three million downloads of our music. This makes us one of the Top 10 unsigned bands on MP3.com.

Doing music promotion has been rewarding to me both personally and financially. While music is still a part-time job for me, I found that our success grows exponentially as we educate our fans on how they to can promote our music and help another unsigned band achieve international success.

Contact Details

I live in the Live Music Capital of the World, Austin, Texas.

Bard Marc Gunn
PO Box 4067
Austin, Texas 78765

Email Me

Marc Gunn, Bard of the Brobdingnagian Bards has helped 1000's of musicians make money with their musical groups through the BardsCrier.com and the Texas Musicians Network. Now you can get personal advice by visiting http://bardscrier.com for FREE "how-to" music marketing assistance.

No time to visit the site? Subscribe to The Bards Crier.com distributed weekly for Free: mailto:subscribe@bardscrier.com

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