So, you’re looking for more exposure for your band, but you’d rather spend your money on a new reverb pedal than on an extensive marketing plan. Thankfully, there are lots of ways for you to market your band without having to spend a dime (or maybe just shelling out one or two). When marketing your music, saturation is key – your name should be in as many places as humanly possible because, to put it simply, people are looking everywhere. You never want to miss the opportunity to be found.
Before we dig into the steps below, it's important to reshape how you think about marketing. Marketing is not only buying an ad or promoting a post on Facebook, or putting up a poster in the local record shop – though all those are great ideas. Marketing can be woven into every single thing you do as a band when it comes to connecting with the public. Simple things can be approached with marketing in mind, and can end up making a larger impact than you expected.
1. Take your newsletter seriously
I discussed this in a previous blog post, but building a newsletter is a key tool in connecting with fans and helping them stay up-to-date with all of your happenings. Capturing data at every step of your career will allow you to build a larger database and long-lasting relationships. In some cases I’ve seen, a great newsletter can be the difference between an empty show and one that's sold out.
But the only way to pack a house is by invigorating your fans – turn them into champions, give them exclusives and insight into your life, etc. The more you give them, the wider your network reaches. Your subscribers are already aware that you sell music and merch; now, they’re looking for a more intimate connection with you as a band, so be sure to keep it authentic.
2. Send birthday and thank-you notes to your fans
Nothing makes fans happier than a personal connection with their favorite bands. Thanking your fans and letting them know that you appreciate their support pays off. Going the extra mile and making them feel special can only solidify that connection to create die-hard fans that last your whole career. By sending out personalized notes (thank-you and birthday cards, Facebook messages, direct messages on Twitter, etc.), you show them that their support is more than just monetary potential. You show them that you care, and, even cooler, they’ll be super excited about their personal message and likely tell and share it will all of their friends – your potential new fans!
3. Regionally target your Facebook posts
If you’re playing a show in Toronto, is it really the best idea to tell your fans all the way in Vancouver to come over to Sneaky Dee’s – tonight? By geo-targeting posts by region, you speak more directly to fans. This also means you can post more. It may seem counter-productive to limit your audience on a given post, as getting the most engagement may be your ultimate goal, but speaking directly to an audience will make sure that connections are more personal!
For example, by targeting a link to an upcoming show in a given city, people in that city may be more likely to share the post with their nearby friends to let them know you’ll be in town. You're directly telling those fans that you’re coming, and that this is their chance to see you. Got it?
4. Give and take
By forming relationships with other bands, brands, and businesses, you’ll be tapping into different groups and communities – ultimately reaching new, potential fans. Give a shout-out to the restaurant where you just ate lunch. Recommend the music of the artist who came over and gave you a pat on the back for a great set. Thank the clothing company that just hooked you up with some new threads. By engaging with these brands, and sharing the content with your fans, you’re marketing for other companies, and they might be just as willing to do it for you.
5. Hit the restrooms
Think of ways to get your name in front of people when they have nothing else to look at and aren’t likely to be nose-deep in their phones. (Good luck!) By tagging bathroom stalls, street posts, and various everyday objects with your stickers or posters, you’re giving new fans a chance to stumble upon your music when they're bored. (Just make sure you're not committing anything that could be categorized as vandalism.)
Put up flyers of your upcoming shows at every opportunity. Remind people that you’re there, even when you’re not, and they may just take the time to catch you when you are. If you have a bit of a budget, leave a download card, discount code, or anything else that shows you are up-to-speed with technology and willing to give your fans something of real value. Also, don’t forget – even at your own gigs, putting swag and promo materials in the bathroom can be very helpful.
6. Play in stores during peak hours
What better way to get people to buy your record than to perform for them at a popular retailer? Intimate pop-up shows are a great way to open the doors to the public. With high foot traffic running in and out of shops, you’re destined to get a few new fans. Enhance these efforts by handing out free music or merch, plus links to your website. Provide a memorable experience and people will remember it.
7. Ask your fans for help
Your biggest fans will be willing to help you, so encourage them to do so. Ask them to distribute posters for your upcoming shows in their area in exchange for free tickets. Create "share contests" on your social media profiles to help boost those numbers and tap into your superfans’ networks. Most people find out about new music through their friends, so look at these fans as a bridge to success!
Be conscious, however, about asking too much of your fans, and make sure that there is some sort of value exchange for them. The worst thing that could happen is that your fans feel you are using them and not getting something in return.
8. Become part of the scene
This might seem obvious, but hear me out. If you go only to your own shows, then you probably can’t expect others to come to yours. So get out onto the scene – head to shows for bands that you love, and network, network, network! Inviting people to listen to your music through email newsletters and social media is great, but nothing beats genuine and honest face-to-face connections. Talk to the smokers outside the bar, listen to and recommend other musicians, be supportive, and take part in community events.
9. Speak up on issues
By chiming in on matters of social or political importance, you are providing a story to your fans on your beliefs and values. When done right, your opinions can be a great marketing opportunity, providing media outlets with a potential interview subject and further exposure on the matter – which will spill over to your band. This will attract like-minded fans, too. Be warned, however, that you must know your facts and speaking points before jumping into this one, or else it could be very embarrassing.
10. Blog more
Sharing your story is the most surefire way for you to gain and retain fans. People always want a look behind the scenes, and, with today’s technology, it’s never been easier for you to provide them with just that. Write blogs, take photos, and make videos – provide your fans with content they can sink their teeth into.
Also, share your opinions and real-world experiences. Tell your fans about life on the road, take a picture of your green room or backstage setup, or post a video giving them a look at what your daily life is like. Fans like bands they can relate to on a personal level outside of the music. Give them something to read, share, or watch, and they’ll be waiting patiently to see what comes next!
Sari Delmar is the founder and CEO of Audio Blood, Canada’s leading creative artist and brand marketing company. Through unique PR and promotional packages, Audio Blood continues to be on the cutting edge of music marketing and promotion. At the age of 24, Sari leads a team of 10 out of the company HQ in Toronto, has spoken at a number of music conferences and colleges, and sits on the Toronto Music Advisory Council. Read more from Sari at SariDelmar.com.