Over the last six years I’ve been looking at music promotion and the most effective ways to reach a wider audience. Its been a fascinating exploration and confirmed a number of my initial suspicions as well as revealing some surprises.
Investments of time and money
One thing is certain, if you want to connect to a wider audience, its going to take investments of both time and money. I’d love to think that there’s a quick fix and the music will speak for itself, but that’s really not the case. Like any form of marketing you need time and money to reach an audience beyond friends and family. I’ve seen many great bands play local small venues (often for free) and the primary audience is friends of the band and family. My own experience is that playing local gigs is invaluable in building up performance skills, but it can also burn a lot of time and money with very few tangible results. Of course many artists just love to play and that’s 100% a legitimate reason to gig, but its in my view not something to be relied upon to reach a wider audience.
BBC Introducing experiences
With my first band “The Small Change Diaries” we had an extraordinary amount of music played on BBC Introducing in Leeds, often week on week. I genuinely thought this would crank some interest in the band, but found it made absolutely no difference at all to any momentum for the band. When Alan Raw was one of those choosing the tracks, we had good plays and Alan was kind enough to comment “It’s an interesting sound, it’s good, I like what they are doing!” The second album had a play of “I know what you’re saying is fine” and then NOTHING for any other submitted tracks from following years. I sent tracks from four different projects and even though they were really diverse nothing ever got played again! This was a very different experience and I subsequently found that there were different people choosing the music and a lot of what was played were artists from Leeds college of music. That’s 100% fine of course and one artist had the same single played twice over two weeks, but this lead me to look at other radio stations and see what interest there might be.
Everyone has an opinion, but what actually works?
I attended a music forum in Leeds with a number of local gatekeepers including some from the BBC and it was a good opportunity to hear what people suggested was useful and ask questions. Some of the advise proved in my experience not to be especially helpful at all including the suggestion that radio promoters were a waste of time! My own experience is that this is far from the case and I’m pleased to have built up some really good connections with stations across the UK.
Of course different people will have different experiences and there is no “right way” to market music. My experience is that to be effective you need to useful many different mediums and not reply on sporadic social media posts where friends and colleagues proclaim you as “brilliant”. Its well meant of course, but “the music business” is like any other business, its essentially about “trades” who gives what and who gets what. My experience is that the key is collaboration with like minds and being prepared to put in the hard work.
Green Eyed Records and Music for The Head & Heart
I set up Green Eyed Records and Music for The Head & Heart as platforms to showcase a wide variety of music. This requires a fair bit of time and financial investment. That said, its proved to be a great way to share information and offer practical help to some artists. GER has sponsored some artists with marketing by paying for services the artists probably could not afford, and/or have access to. Music for the Head and Head and Original Ukulele Songs have allowed me to connect to many great artists who I would probably never have come across. Obvious examples are Towse and Emily Mercer, both who play on the forthcoming album “All is fine ’til the world goes pop” Both are smart enough to have their own sites and not just reply on social media platforms. Of course not everyone gets the value of collaboration and I even had one artist decline free assistance from the GER platform, while at the same time endlessly seeking funding from core fans for all manner of urgent financial needs just to get by from week to week. That in my view is not a great long term strategy and the whole “I know better than anyone else, following my dream” is a bit daft. Of course others may disagree and that’s fine to.
Enter Frank Wilkes and Kycker
I’d almost given up on getting sensible advice on music promotion until I spoke to Frank Wilkes from Kycker. Frank offered some great practical advice and the edited one minute clips here are invaluable for anyone wanting to expand their audience reach. Frank is very straight talking and offers some really sensible tips worth listening to. Of course everyone needs to decide for themselves what path they want to take, but it doesn’t matter how great the music is (in your opinion) connecting to a wider audience requires some good strategic thinking. Anyone who imagines otherwise is with respect, totally delusional!
There’s no substitute for experience
I’ve realised that there really is no substitute for experience and its worth looking at the artist interviews on Music for the Head and Heart as well as Green Eyed Records. I’m grateful to Jim Glennie from James, Jon Gomm and Martin Simpson for their insights as well as world famous journalist Sylvie Simmons.
One thing is certain, “the music industry” is changing and hoping that your track will stand out from the other 62,000 tracks uploaded each and every day to Spotify is somewhat optimistic. Ultimately any success will in my view come from working with like minds and appreciating that the old model of “getting signed” “to make it” is now seriously outdated. I have massive respect for any artists seeing to create and bring music to a wider audience. Its often far more work than anyone might imagine and great music alone is not going to be enough. Every artist I have interviewed or spoken to has had a great work ethic, good strategic planning as well as excellent creative skills.