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Promotions: A Reality Check for Indie Artists

    Living a creative life is an exhilarating experience for artists of all industries. To be able to do it for a living requires climbing many mountains that will feel as high as Mount Everest. So unless you come from a famous family, or have loads of money to outsource various tasks, you’ll most likely find yourself handling your own business, marketing, and publicity, among other duties. All of this, as you may already know, takes time away from your creative process.

    With experience in the industry from media to production and tour management, I’ve come across many talented indie artists who flailed at promoting themselves, and as a result, struggled to get past the proverbial preliminaries. They usually remained stagnant, or even worse, disappeared into the abyss, otherwise known as the dreaded “9 to 5”. I’d hate to see that happen to you, so I laid out the most basic considerations and components you need to have in place in order to be taken seriously as an artist.

    Accept That You Are A Brand

    I get it, as a conscious artist you oftentimes express disdain for capitalism and consumerism. So, the thought of branding and marketing yourself sounds too corporate or uncomfortable and will make you a sellout, right? Wrong. If you are to make it in any artistic industry, from here on out you have to accept that you are a brand, and are just like any other business.

    At the very least, start out with a unique logo to build your band’s recognition and to set a mood for your audience. This branded image will make it easier for fans and industry professionals to identify with you. Make sure that you don’t settle for a variation of a common design in your industry or genre. Keep in mind, you’ll want to have a logo designed that will translate well to merchandise like shirts and hats. What does a memorable symbol look like? Check out these killer logos for inspiration:

    Be Consistent

    Once you have your killer logo that everyone will want to rock, your branding should be used across all social media pages, promotional materials, and your website. Make sure that the verbiage is consistent across every platform.

    There are so many platforms on the web that are available to artists. It’s essential to have the basics like a Facebook fan page, Twitter, and Instagram. Start the essential pages that work for you, and then maintain them regularly to keep your fans engaged, especially when you are between tours, albums, or showings. Get familiar with a website like Hootsuite to schedule out your posts during the week. You can add spontaneous posts on your own when you have a thought or moment that you want to share with your fans. Start by committing to a posting schedule, say two to four times per week, but don’t flood your page with numerous daily posts, as it can lead people to “unlike” your page. Trust me, I know.

    Lastly, and most important: Stay in line with what you, as an artist, are about. The values you embed in social media are just as important as the values you embed in your artistry.

    We Like to Touch Things

    Always have something tangible to leave with potential fans and industry professionals. This year at SXSW, I received so many cleverly disguised USB drives containing music files like keys and slap on bracelets. It’s the coolest thing since sliced bread, but I understand if your budget doesn’t allow for costly promotional items at this time. An artist once told me that during tours, he simply tells people he meets to search for his name online. My palm met my forehead and I was SMH-ing for a minute or two. But seriously, you represent your brand 24/7. You have to have something tangible to promote yourself. We are all overfed with information, so don’t expect others to remember you unless you’re Beyoncé.

    The simplest, yet effective piece of touchy feely? A sticker. Get stickers made. Make sure that sticker, which by now you know should be consistent with your brand, directs people to your website and your strongest social media page.

    EPK (Electronic Press Kit) Essentials

    With the list of resources available online, there isn’t any reason why you shouldn’t be able to put together a professional looking press kit. Sonicbids and ReverbNation are great one-stop shops to host your EPK for a small monthly fee. Publishing your EPK through these websites places you in an established community of artists, which gives your visibility a boost. ReverbNation is pretty much a staple for musicians outside of Facebook and Twitter. Sonicbids is the platform you’ll need to get familiar with when you’re ready to send in your application to perform at SXSW. You can also go the DIY route, but I’m not talking about pages of information composed on Word. Try ArtistEcard, a multi-application platform that allows you to put together a basic, yet comprehensive EPK at no cost.  In either case, you should research other artist EPKs for ideas, and include the following:

    • Professional quality photos. We are visual beings and if your photos aren’t up to par, we’ll assume the same about your craft. Check out this spiffy article on Photo Shoot Essentials for Musicians by Pamela Ricci.
    • A concise, yet vivid description of you, your artistry, and your purpose. Bios are tedious to read when they are lengthy and poorly written. Unless each paragraph of your two-page bio was successfully orchestrated to blow our minds, your EPK should include only the high points.
    • A combination of 3-6 audio and video links that display your best work. Not all of your work. I repeat, your best. Think picture and sound quality, decent editing, and songs with the most unique and intelligent lyrics. Don’t leave us to comb through your work to find something worthy of standing behind.
    • Contact information (including the name of the person we should address all matters to). You should also have an email address that utilizes your website domain, when financially feasible.
    • Press clips that are well written and are from reputable sources.

    The takeaway? Stand out, be professional, evoke emotions, and keep your audience in one place. Eliminate the guesswork from a potential fan or industry professional. Finally...

    Do Your Homework

    As an independent artist handling your own business, it will help if you do your due diligence and develop your own way of implementing standard business practices and etiquette. A couple of suggestions:

    • Before you send your EPK to the media or an industry professional, go through their website and look for the submission criteria. Record companies, talent managers, media outlets, and booking agents receive a ridiculous number of submissions daily. It’s difficult to check out everything we get, but it will save our time, as well as yours if you first make sure that whatever you submit meets the criteria or fits the target audience.
    • Compose a template for e-mails and letters to accompany whatever you send.  I’ve had messages sent to me by artists who pasted links to their videos or audio tracks in the body of their emails, but nothing else. No subject line, no greeting, no information about the artist, no additional contact information, and no closing. That’s just bad manners. Imagine how many times those artists shot themselves in the foot when they sent content in the same manner to other industry professionals. Go onto a search engine and type in “business letter template”. Take your pick from the sea of examples, customize it and always check your spelling and grammar. Voila! You have a template you can use every time you send your demo and EPK. Don’t forget to include that killer logo.

    About the Author:

    Christy Jeziorski is a concert producer and promoter in the Reggae and world music scene. She has also worked as a tour manager and consults for artists from time to time. She is the founder of InityWeekly.com, a blog and community that focuses on advancing independent and activist artistry.  Email her at [email protected]