I found myself in the position of having written ten decent songs and was in the process of recording them to produce an album. Friends and family liked what they heard, but I'd dedicated hours of my life to the album hoping that more than a handful of people were going to hear it. I was also living in a sparsely populated area of the North Wales coast, so there wasn't much scope for playing in local bars that were heaving with music fans clamouring to buy my epic new release. Hmm... think, man, think...
So, I decided to focus my attention to marketing my music online, which proved to be a great move.
Here's what I did:
1. Created a website
If you're a recording artist and you don't have a website you're shooting yourself in the foot. In fact make that both feet. Even a very simple presence can give people a context with which to relate to you. Plus, there's nothing like citing the glowing feedback of happy fans to prove to a new site visitor that you're worth listening to. Here are a just some of the quotes I use on my website:
“Wow, I really enjoyed tonight! You're an inspiration!”
“Impressive songwriting. Its James Blunt meets Damien Rice.”
“Beautifully arranged, played and sung, this is an impressive release.”
See what I mean?
Here's the link: www.markpiercemusic.com
2. Focused on building my fanbase via email
Of course, social media is big news right now, but its also a very changeable beast - and one which I won't trust with my music career. I pity the poor souls who put massive effort into building up a huge MySpace following. What use are those 15,000 people now? And with Facebook now making moves to force you to pay for your own fans to see your content in their news feed, often a strategy that you find to be working well, suddenly doesn't.
This is why I consider an email list to be golden. It will always be mine - a method of direct communication with fans that won't be scuppered by influences out of my control.
There are a number of very good email list providers. I personally like MailChimp.
Here's the link: mailchimp.com
3. Filmed a cover version video
I realised that there were one or two recording artists who were enjoying slightly more success than I was *cough*, but noticed that some of these were similar enough in style that their fans would possibly like my songs too. So, I recorded a few videos covering some famous songs, stuck them on YouTube and included a link to where people could find me. They did, and a percentage of these followed my link and signed up to my email list. Result!
Here's the link: bit.ly/1fDGC4O
4. Allowed a song to be publicly dissected & mixed on a podcast
Part way through mixing the album I started to lose a little bit of perspective and was aware I could really benefit from another mix engineer taking a listen to one of my tracks. So, I contacted the seriously talented Kendal Osborne from one of my favourite audio podcasts The Recording Lounge.
Long story short, Kendal took the raw files from my song Gold In These Hills, and did a three-part podcast feature where he mixed the track step-by-step, exposing it to the world warts and all! It wasn't an emotionally easy thing to do but it was of huge benefit as new people were exposed to my music, which led to more email list sign-ups. Plus, I got a great mix of the song from Kendal, and the The Recording Lounge had a brilliant three-part walk-through of how to mix a song.
Here's the link: itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/recording-lounge/
5. Gave away that song for free in exchange for email addresses
So, I found myself with a part-finished album and one completed track (Gold In These Hills). So, I thought I'd make use of this single track while I was working on the rest of the album and so I gave it away on Noisetrade in exchange for an email address.
New fans could have a permanent taste of my music at no cost, and I had the email addresses of more people who'd expressed interest in my music. So, when the album was released I had a very focused group of people I could inform.
Even better was that, even though the song was available free, some good people gave a donation for the download.
Here's the link: noisetrade.com/markpiercemusic/gold-in-these-hills
6. Made a lyric video of the free track
The web is becoming an increasingly visual medium, and YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the planet behind Google. So, it made sense to try and expose my free song in this arena. I could've tried to do a big budget production with multiple cameras and complex lighting arrangements, but I needed to focus on finishing the album. So, I decided on producing a lyric video - one with a bit of creativity and atmosphere to it, but simple and straightforward to produce.
Using a single camera, a few visual cues that tied into the song words, and hand-written lyric sheets I filmed it all in one take. The video has been shared on various websites and Facebook, and has led to (you guessed it!) more email list sign-ups.
Here's the link: http://bit.ly/1g8AGRN
7. Made use of social media
Even though it's far from being the main emphasis of my efforts, I've got a Twitter and Facebook account that I periodically post to. I realise some people do spend a lot of time on these platforms so it's silly to not be present. But I do always funnel people away and toward my email list. What if Facebook and Twitter radically change in the next two years and the following I build on there becomes obselete? I'd much rather have people on my email list than any following on social media.
As an experiment I did run a small Facebook Ad campaign. I didn't focus on getting more page 'likes' though. Instead, I sent my potential new fans to Noistrade for a free track. This had some success and I got a handful of new email list signups, and it may well be something I experiment with again in the future.
8. Ran a Kickstarter campaign
To help fund the physical production of the finished album I ran a Kickstarter campaign. I not only reached my target, but ended up with double the amount I was looking for! This was brilliant from a financial point of view and it also showed me that there were fans who were willing to financially invest in me and get behind my music.
The campaign also had the added bonus of creating a buzzing community of music fans who were all pulling together to reach the same goal. I used my email list and social media in tandem to help promote this campaign.
Here's the link: http://kck.st/1iInFN4
9. Gave away a bonus Christmas song (again - in exchange for email addresses!)
I've found that seasonal and topical events can be the perfect times to release certain songs. So, last December I recorded my favourite Christmas Carol O Holy Night and released it for free on Noisetrade. This proved really popular and led to more downloads (and email list sign-ups!).
10. Kept my fans up-to-date
As work on the album progressed, and the email list kept building, I sent regular emails out to my list, letting them know of all the latest developments. When I reached my Kickstarter goal I thanked everybody. When the tracks were sent to the mastering engineer I let everyone know that the mixes were done. When the album artwork was finalised I gave my fan list a sneak preview of what it was going to look like.
Keeping people informed and treating them as part of a 'special insider group' pays real dividends.
11. Made the album available on multiple platforms
I worked out that the easiest way for my music to be discovered is for it to be in as many places as possible! So, as well as physical CDs (which I sell at gigs and from my website) people can download my album from most of the major MP3 download providers.
CD Baby: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/markpierce2
Directly from my website: www.markpiercemusic.com
12. On launch I emailed my list
By now I had a list of people with a definite interest in my music and so when the album launched I sent them a series of emails - and many people bought a copy. All my hard work finally paid off!
Now it's your turn
I've learned first hand the benefits of building an email list, and I urge you start collecting email addresses at your gigs and online to help you build a strong and lasting relationship with your fans.