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Get an idea of the kind of people who might like your music. Your promotional campaigns will have a much better impact. | Photo: Melanie Deziel (Unsplash)
Get an idea of the kind of people who might like your music. Your promotional campaigns will have a much better impact. | Photo: Melanie Deziel (Unsplash)
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TOP 5 Recurring Mistakes in Music Self-Promotion

Mistakes happen. There's no need to be concerned about a few setbacks that provide us with feedback and move us forward in our efforts. However, there are a few common mistakes in music marketing and promotion that aspiring musicians and bands have been making for decades. Take, for example, the elementary principle that it's good to know who you're talking to and what the music professional in question does for a living. Or at least what their name is... Let's have a look at the TOP 5 recurring mistakes in music self-promotion.

1. Generic emails and requests

It's hard to believe that the thousands of emails that land in the inboxes of many music agencies, managers or promoters every day tend to be completely irrelevant. It's not just the quantity that makes it difficult to navigate, but more importantly the content. Do you think it makes sense for a metal band to ask a magazine that specialises in indie bands to review their latest album? Conversely, does it make sense to apply to play at a metal festival if you're a student funk band?

In real life, no one would do this. Obviously, it doesn't make sense, but that's exactly what happens when mass emails are sent. You copy addresses from a database, type one email with a generic greeting, hit "send" and then just pray for an answer.

Not only will you get no response to this type of email, but it can also damage the name of a talented artist. When someone in the music industry opens such a generic email, they may get angry and feel used and disrespected. The artist has contacted them, asking for publicity, an article or a spot at a festival, without having any idea who they are and what they do. Nobody likes that. Find out who you are emailing, their name, position and musical focus. Be polite, concise and specific and offer to continue the conversation over the phone or in person.

2. Personal messages

Don't message promoters or other music professionals asking for their services on their personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even LinkedIn accounts. This is an inappropriate platform for them and a way of communication that is very annoying and even aggressive. The worst is to send someone a friend request and a minute after approval follow up with a message saying you have a new music video that is the best, boldest, most creative in the history of music.

Find the official website and contacts of the agency, manager or Spotify playlist specialist. Communicate on a professional level through dedicated channels. It's always safest to send an email, possibly a second email, and then call if you still don't get a response. You don't have to be afraid to send multiple emails or even try a few unanswered phone calls. People who are really good in their profession have a lot going for them and will appreciate your persistence if you offer something interesting and believe in yourself.

3. Chaotic names

Have you aligned all your online platforms? Make your URLs work. When you type the name of a band or artist into a search engine, you should see a flood of content with one name. Watch out for different labels on social media. If you have a name that someone has already owned before you, add "official", "music" or "band" and then edit all online platforms according to that pattern. You'll be easy to follow and, most importantly, it'll be easy to find for fans, journalists or anyone who might need to look up information about you online.

Do not send links in emails to download your music or materials or even physical files. Everything should be one click away. Want someone new to listen to your music? One-click should take them to a streaming platform where the song starts playing straight away, plus there are professional graphics and visuals. No one wants to click through complicated links, download something unfamiliar to their computer or open suspicious and messy-looking links. Use short and clear URL links to familiar platforms (Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, etc.).

4. Shortcuts and overthinking

Creativity should be reserved for your music-making, not your marketing efforts. Yes, there are honourable exceptions (e.g. Vulfpeck with their "silent" Spotify album) where artists have outsmarted the system, but most of the time, trying to be original and especially taking shortcuts in the promotional field is met with not only failure but even reputational damage.

You must have noticed a few urban legends that will probably never stop circulating in the music world. One of them tells of an unexpected discovery of an artist in a seedy pub, others of a tape being handed over at a party or of a miracle from the street. Never say never, as the saying goes, but rather than miracles or bothering music professionals at receptions, try to focus on the consistency of your musical act. Put energy and work into your art, seek out people in the industry who enjoy it, and focus on quality communication with them.

5. Paying for services    

Let's be clear from the start. No established record labels like Warner Music or Universal, or smaller labels like Hopeless and Epitaph will ask you for money for promotion. If they approach you, it will be because they see potential in you, not because you pay them ten, twenty or thirty thousand for placement in the distribution or a catalogue.

Beware of the flood of fake agencies and record labels that send you a flattering email saying they like your YouTube video or Spotify track. Then they offer to get you to the ears of the Sony Music CEO. All for a negligible amount of money.

Musicians are very sensitive creatures at the beginning of their careers. They're glad for any encouragement, a bit of hope and a vision of potential fame. And that's exactly the string played by the hoards of scammers who will milk you for money for spurious promotion and promises of exposure while proclaiming hard-to-believe marketing magic.

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Marek Bero
Bass Gym 101 books, touring & session bass player, football tactics aficionado.