Today's post comes from Gaetano - a NYC based Singer, Songwriter, Producer, Guitarist who has worked with some of the biggest names in music. Gaetano is also a professional digital marketing expert so we are thrilled to present his advice to musicians looking to spread the word about their work. If you need a hand putting this advice into action, we'd love to help. Ok, we're gonna shut up and let Gaetano take over.
If you want to find bloggers that actually care about your music, please understand something. It’s over. It’s all over. Spamming people random links to your music is not promotion, so stop doing it! No blogger in the world is going to give a damn about you or your music if you spam them. Fans aren’t going to care either. If you want to be a lazy, annoying spammer, here’s what will probably happen:
“Check Out My New Video”
Ew. Updating your Facebook status to “Check out my new video” isn’t promotion either. No blogger is going to click on that. The average person wouldn’t click on that either. As content consumers, we have more choices than ever before, and far less time.
Why should I check out your new video? Give me one good reason why! Look at what happens when Jamie Foxx says it, versus a no name artist with zero buzz or notoriety.
I get it. Promotion is f*cking hard, but so is creating great records. It blows my mind when I talk to artists who are working on new music, but have no plan to market or promote it. There’s absolutely nothing more deflating than investing thousands of dollars on a new project, and then it barely gets heard. To be transparent about how much money and effort goes into an independent music project, let’s examine the budget breakdown behind my first EP, Fade Away.
In totality, this project cost $7,500 to create across the span of 6 months. You’ll notice some marketing related items in here as well, but the time it took to create the content and assets was 6 months.
Now, if there’s only 1 thing you take away from this article, here it is…
“Artists should spend as much time promoting their music as they took to create it.”
So if you spend 6 months creating an EP, in theory, you should also spend 6 months promoting it! Seems so simple, but yet, we can’t do it. Why not? Well, as artists, we aren’t programmed to be marketers. That’s why labels have marketing and promo departments, but as independents, we don’t get that luxury. We just want to get in the studio and feel good about the art we’re creating, and then we want to have fun performing it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work like that anymore. (Although it would be nice).
There are lots of smart ways to promote your music, but none of them are easy. In fact, promoting your brand + music the smart way is very hard to do. That’s why so many people love to spam, because it requires zero effort. And yes, you are a brand. You’re a business too. That’s how you need to think of your music career, otherwise, it’s just a very expensive hobby. Let that sink in…
Word of Caution
I’m about to give you some powerful information. Use it wisely. Before you start blasting off your music to every site in the blogosphere, I strongly recommend you consult with a qualified industry professional first. Here’s why.
You only get one chance at this. If you screw up the first time, you’ll be flagged and ignored the next time around. When a blogger first discovers your music, he/she is going to be extremely skeptical. Most sites get hundreds of submissions per week (if not thousands).
Don’t believe me? Check out what Tom Leo had to say about it. Tom is the founder of YouKnowIGotSoul.com, and booking manager for Sol Village at SOB’s.
“It's no exaggeration - we literally get hundreds of submissions each week from artists hoping to get featured on the site. The reality is that very few of these submissions actually make it. Unfortunately, it's safe to say that the vast majority of artists are not talented enough, well prepared, or equipped to launch their career. In fact, some are just outright horrible. So while we have discovered some amazing up and coming artists that keep us excited, most of these artists will continue to go unheard unless they can find ways to take their talents, image, business sense and artistry to the next level.”– Tom Leo, Founder of YouKnowIGotSoul.com
There you have it. The truth is that the lion’s share of music submissions are totally amateur. Everything from the quality of music, to the overall presentation of the artist’s digital press kit, to the professionalism and craftiness of the outreach email. It all matters. Don’t blow it. In other words, make sure you have your sh*t together before you start contacting people who matter.
Tom’s perspective is not an outlier. I asked my buddy Rich Johnson, Founder of Soul Factory NYC, to give me additional visibility into the muddy world of online music submissions. Sadly, he expressed a very similar sentiment.
“We get at least 50 submissions a week, and maybe 2 out of 50 are any good.” – Rich Johnson, Soul Factory NYC
People like Tom & Rich are tired of the garbage. I’m not even a music blogger and I’m tired of the garbage too. To sum it up, don’t suck! Now that you’ve been warned, here’s how to find bloggers that actually care about your music.
1. Understand Your Genre
As insane as it sounds, there are some really eccentric genres out there. And while I’m never a fan of placing any given artist “inside of a box,” I’m also cognizant of the fact that most bloggers and music sites identify themselves with a specific genre. Many fans, also, will self-identify with specific genre(s) of music. For the purpose of connecting with bloggers and fans who care about your music, you must also identify yourself with a genre. Having a clear understanding of who your music appeals to is absolutely critical for blog coverage.
It’s pretty safe to say that our Scottish Pirate Metal friends are only going to appeal to a very niche audience. This is totally cool though. Seth Godin, one of the most brilliant marketing minds of our generation said,
“If you appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.”
That said, if they want a real shot at finding an audience who actually cares about them, they would need to start at the macro level: Metal.
They at least know that metal is the starting point. However, there are many different kinds of metal (sub-genres). There’s death metal, black metal, alternative metal, gothic metal, Christian metal, Latin metal, etc. At this point, it would make sense to figure out how Scottish Pirate Metal fits into the equation.
Or you can let Google help you…
Google’s auto-suggest populates what terms people are searching for. My initial query was for “Metal Music Scotland” but auto-suggest showed 3 results that have more search volume. Those 3 auto-suggest results are a good place to start when trying to identify sites that might care about Scottish Pirate Metal.
2. Check Your Analytics
A smart, data-driven way to better understand exactly who will care about your music is to check your analytics. Half of the artists I talk to don’t even know what analytics are and how to check them.
Twitter Analytics Snapshot.
My twitter analytics, at the overview level, is showing that my audience’s top interest is music. That’s a great sign. It also shows that I’ve been steadily building my twitter audience month over month. Another great sign. Let’s look a bit deeper now.
I know that my primary genre is R&B / Soul, but I also have a strong hip-hop following because of all the collaborations that I do with hip-hop artists. However, the stronger insight is that I need to do a better job of speaking to my core fans on twitter.
Facebook Analytics Snapshot.
My Facebook Insights are showing that the overwhelming majority of my fans are men & women, ages 25 – 34. Combining that information with my Twitter data lets me know that I should be targeting sites that cater to urban millennials and young professionals, who are primarily into Hip-Hop & R&B / Soul Music, but may also be interested in related topics, such as comedy, pop culture, and movies.
This is all relevant to your outreach strategy, because often times, sites that cover music and new artists will also have sections on their site dedicated to related topics. You have to make sure it all aligns correctly before you start submitting your music for coverage.
3. Set Up A Prospecting Spreadsheet
Once you determine exactly who you should be targeting, it’s time to start prospecting websites, bloggers, and influencers. But did you ever stop and think about how you’re going to track all of this? There’s a lot of work involved, and you can’t waste your efforts by not managing it properly.
I did some consulting for The Heatmakerz production team as they prepared to launch a new release for Hip-Hop Artist, Fred the Godson. I gave them direction on how to prospect sites that would be interested in covering Fred’s project, Contraband 2.
For professionalism, I blurred out the contact information, but here’s what my prospecting spreadsheet looks like.
The two most important metrics when determining blogger importance are Domain Authority (100 point score of how powerful a given website is), and Prospect Value. There’s a number of ways to determine a prospect’s value, but I usually do it by measuring DA and then evaluating how difficult it will be to actually land a placement on that site.
Typically, the higher the Domain Authority, the harder it will be to get featured. I sorted my spreadsheet by DA in order of highest to lowest value, so the top of the list has sites like Billboard, Dat Piff, and Hype Beast. These are very powerful sites that yield lots of traffic, and will get plenty of eyeballs on your music. The key though, as it always comes back to (especially in the music industry) is relationships. That’s the name of the game. If you don’t have a personal relationship with a key blogger from that site, it’s going to be a lot harder to get featured or mentioned.
In order to help you prioritize which prospects are worth reaching out to first, I’d recommend you start checking Domain Authority. The best way to track DA and other useful metrics is to install the MozBar in your Chrome Extensions.
4. Use FollowerWonk To Find Influencers
At this point, you’ve pledged your allegiance to one primary genre, you know who you’re targeting, and you’ve got a process in place for tracking your prospects. Now it’s time for the dirty work. Meet FollowerWonk.
FollowerWonk is a fantastic tool for scraping Twitter bios & profiles for information. Social Media platforms are similar to Google. They are essentially search engines, but when you’re searching for information on Social Media, you’ve got to think differently. From my experience “source” is a common keyword used in popular Twitter profiles, so I added that to my R&B Music query.
The results look pretty good. The beauty about Twitter is that a lot of sites will post their submission email address directly in their profile information. I’d recommend signing up for FollowerWonk’s free version and playing around with it.
5. Search Directly Within Twitter
Search (Your Genre), “Blog” in Twitter’s Search Bar.
6. Use Google’s Advanced Search Operators
Typically, a simple Google search is an easy starting point, but there are ways to get more value out of Google. Let’s say I want to target R&B Music Blogs in the United Kingdom.
I know that I’ve tapped into my fan base pretty heavily here in New York, so this is a very practical example to use. Here’s exactly how I’d type it into Google:
inurl:blog / r&b music blog inurl:.co.uk
I’m using the inurl: command to target URLs that have “blog” or “r&b music blog” in it.
Notice the top level domain for England specified at the end .uk
Here’s what the results look like:
Results for Music Blogs in the U.K.
Let’s say you have a new release coming out soon, and you want to specifically target blogs who give album reviews. You can use the intitle: search operator to find them.
Rnb music intitle:review
Specifically, I’m telling Google to only return domains related to RnB music that have “review” in the title.
7. Find Blogs That Feature Similar Artists
I’ll use myself as an example, but this strategy can work for any genre. A new emerging artist that I’ve been compared to lately is Pittsburgh Singer-Songwriter, Kevin Garrett.
The easiest next step would be to perform a straight-forward Google search for (artist name) “music review”. From my experience, “music review” is a great keyword to find authoritative blogs that matter.
The first two results from this query look very promising. I clicked on the first result, scanned the site to make sure it was an appropriate target, and then went to the contact us section to find out how to submit.
This took me all of 2 minutes to find…
Pro Tip: To easily find anyone’s email address, try Voila Norbert.
8. Ask Other Artists To Introduce You
I have a lot of friends in the music industry. Not just venue managers, sound engineers, publicists, and producers… but also OTHER ARTISTS. Yes, it’s okay to be friends. Other artists are not your competition. The only competition you face is yourself. It’s you vs. you, not you vs. every other artist in the world!
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking your colleagues to introduce you to a business connection, but it all depends on how you go about doing it. More importantly, the favor has to be reciprocated at some point. Relationships of any kind are about give and take balance, not just take take take.
I recently tweeted that most artists are clueless on social media. Check out this response. At first it felt like a subtle dig, but then I realized it’s true.
That’s one of the major reasons why I started blogging in the first place. If I had to consult, train, educate, and help every artist in the world (for free), I’d have to move out onto the street. Writing blog posts are the most effective way for me to help others while making the best use of my time. When aspiring artists email me about how my blog posts have helped them make smart, well-informed decisions, it’s extremely gratifying.
Final Word: Delayed Gratification
We all want instant gratification. Check me out now. Listen to my video. Follow me here, follow me there. Getting featured on blogs is the opposite of instant gratification, it’s called delayed gratification. Successful people know that putting in hard work up front for a grand reward later on is worth it. Lazy people just need results now. Spam vs. Smart Marketing. Think about it...
Gaetano is a NYC based Singer, Songwriter, Producer, Guitarist that has worked with some of the biggest names in music. After releasing 2 EP’s and producing records for major artists, Gaetano has been documenting his music industry experiences via his blog.
To get in touch with Gaetano, follow him on Instagram: @official_gaetano