In the rush of excitement to start our careers, get our music out there, and begin connecting with fans around the world, we sometimes miss the foundational steps that take us from “artist putting out music that no one hears” to “artist putting out music that fans have pre-ordered and pre-saved and are telling all their friends about.”
Which would you rather be?
We need to get better about prepping well ahead of time and laying the foundation for a fruitful career, so that when we do decide to release that new video or announce that tour, there’s an eager fan base ready and willing to receive it.
And don’t worry, whether you’re a brand new band that’s just started the process of putting all this together, or you’ve been around 10 years and are looking to revamp, the process is the same and you can start at any time. In fact, if you’ve been putting this off for too long, now’s the time to get serious and reboot your career.
Build your foundation
There’s no skipping over this part—you’ve gotta build a strong foundation if you’re to move forward with your music career. This means having….
- Promo shots that a professional photographer took (not your friend with an iphone). Make sure this is someone who has actually worked with artists before, because it’s important that they can not only take a quality photo and understand how to edit it, but that they can help you with locations (and knowing which will have the kind of light they need) put you at ease and suggest poses, tell you when your arm looks weird, etc. There has to be a level of trust and compatibility there so that you don’t come across just looking uncomfortable on camera.
- A bio that’s written by a professional bio writer (this could be a freelancer or a publicist.) Every now and again bands really shine at writing their own bio, especially if they have a natural born writer in the group, but this isn’t very often, so if you want to try your hand at it first, just remember to have someone totally objective read it and tell you if it’s interesting or if it needs work. Also, remember that your bio should tell your story—it should pull the reader in with something relatable and descriptive right away, and then lead them on a journey through what it is you’re all about, highlighting major accomplishments and future plans along the way. It should not simply tell me about your entire band history and how you met at a party and decided to start a band.
- A few quotes that are heartfelt and relatable for both press and your fans are incredibly important. People need an emotion to grasp on to, and quotes help do that. It’s not terribly interesting for most people to hear about the nitty gritty of the recording process (unless there’s a good anecdote in there), so while it’s ok to include one of those quotes for press or for other musicians to appreciate, you want at least one of your quotes to evoke emotion. A funny anecdote from writing the song, a memory that sparked the creation of a lyric, the feeling of putting this all down on paper—it has to be something that makes the audience feel because that’s what’s going to make them feel connected.
Build your social media
Everything you want to do in the music industry, if you hope to receive any kind of recognition or appreciation for it, will require you to have a strong, engaged, and consistent social media following. Want to get featured on NPR? They’re going to want to see that people care that you exist. Want to play a festival? They want to see that if they book you people will actually come. Everything comes back to having an engaged fan base, and there’s no better place to do that than your social media.
You do this through creating content that doesn’t just sell, but rather, creating content that builds your brand. This means honing in on what it is you’re all about and then making that a part of everything you do. For instance, if you have a strong passion for personal growth, like artist Jon Pattie, you’d do videos and photos that talk about your experiences meditating or a reflection you had while on a walk in the woods. The first step is to figure out what your message is and what it is you want to put out into the world, and then to start to include that in everything you do from your photos to your bio to your social media.
Create a mailing list
Like your social media, a mailing list is an important and crucial part of building fan connection and fostering and nurturing those relationships. However, unlike social media, your emails will go straight to the inbox of your most loyal fans, ensuring they see it. There’s no algorithms to beat here, which is why it’s so important to develop your mailing list early (or begin ASAP) and to continue to nurture it with regular content that’s designed to connect and educate, rather than sell.
Get outside your computer and connect
You’ve probably heard the importance of networking a million times. I prefer to call it what it really is, which is simply “relationship building.” And while there’s so much that you can do from behind the screen to connect, there’s truly nothing more powerful than in-person meetups for beginning to develop those relationships.
You can do this through shows (weekly themed nights like Emo Night or Open Mic are great for this because they tend to see the same crowds) as well as meetups, and special conferences or panels. If for some reason those don’t exist in your city or nearby, start your own! There really is nothing that beats one on one time, so even if you’re a total introvert, trust me when I say this one is worth the effort!
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR, where her artists have seen placement on Alternative Press, Noisey, Substream, and more, as well as the Co-Founder and Director of Community and Events for Music Launch Co. She recently released a free training titled ‘Reaching a Wider Audience Without Spending A Dime.’ She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.