by: Nancy Baym
Get your music streaming : If you want people to get into your music, they need to be able to hear it. Get your entire catalogue up at Last.fm, load those songs on MySpace, make sure iMeem and iLike have your tunes, find out what services people are using in the regions you want to be heard and make sure those people have easy free access to your catalog. No one’s going to fall in love with thirty second tidbits, and if you’ve got a great song, people will want to know if the rest of your stuff is as good. Let them listen.
Use your own domain : Seems like a wee bit of a no-brainer, but I am always amazed how many bands use MySpace as their primary website. You don’t own MySpace. Why let MySpace own you?
Distribute your presence : You can’t be everywhere your potential audience is, but you can be a lot of places. Everyone needs their own website (more below), but don’t stop there. Among the possibilities? Every band has to be on MySpace unless they’re rebels, but don’t forget putting together your own YouTube channel, getting and using a Facebook fan page, signing up for ReverbNation and using their widgets, Twittering, posting pictures to Flickr … sure you don’t want to do all that stuff, but do some of it, and do more than one of it.
Integrate your presence : Your website should have links to all the other places you can be found online. Fans should be able to move seamlessly from one of your spots on the web to another and shouldn’t have to visit multiple sites to figure out what’s up with you. If you’ve got important news, get it up everywhere you are. I recently had to go to a MySpace page to see tour dates for a band who had not posted them on their own website — you know, the link they put on all the CD inserts. If your music is streaming somewhere that has a widget to put it elsewhere, put that widget everywhere you’ve got a presence.
Give some of your music away : Nothing creates addiction like being able to hear a song on your own machine whenever you want. You don’t have to give it all away (though that seems to be working for some), but at least let people download a few songs on your website, MySpace, Last.fm, and elsewhere. Giving music away also creates good relations with fans — people like it when you give them things. It makes them more likely to do things for you like, um, pay for the rest of your songs.
Get to know the mp3 bloggers : If you don’t already know which blogs cover music like yours, check out HypeMachine and other mp3 aggregaters to figure out where bands like you get discussed. Read the blogs, learn their interests. Write them a nice brief personal note telling them why you think they’ll like you and send them an easy link to an mp3 you think they and their readers would like.
Build an interpersonal relationship with your audience : Like I said about giving music away - when people can distribute your music amongst themselves through peer-to-peer trading, there’s no incentive for them to pay for your music unless they feel a sense of personal obligation to you. Nothing creates personal obligation like warm feelings of friendship. If your fans feel that you think of and care for them, they will be more willing to take care of you.
Reach out but don’t spam : It’s ok to recommend yourself to individuals on social networking sites IF you have really good reason to think they’re going to like you and communicate that to them. If anyone’s ever indicated an interest in you before, it’s wonderful to contact them again when you’ve got new music to share. It is NOT okay to blast yourself onto strangers’ walls and shoutboxes, send random friends requests, and otherwise be pushy. And even when you know you’re talking to the converted (like people who follow you on Twitter) remember that even the most dedicated fans do not need to know what you are doing every hour. A little mystique is okay. Really.
Encourage fan contributions : How can you let your music provide an opportunity for fan creativity? One independent musician who writes instrumental music told me he puts up demos and asks for help choosing names for the songs. Many artists have encouraged fan videos or remixes. There is a place for your fans to play with your music using their own talents. Give it to them. And let them have their own communities and do their own fan thing in there without the interference of you or your legal team.
Give fans promotional tools : As I wrote about in my last post, spreadable is the new viral. People who love you want to tell others about you. Create widgets they can embed on their own pages (again, ReverbNation has a great one but it’s not the only one), create ecards for your music, give them mp3s they can post without fear of lawsuits. Whatever it is that you want others to know, give it to your audience in a form they can easily pass along to others.
You got other ideas? Please post them in the comments below.