These days, there’s an extensive (and effective) list of best practices for marketing a band, including social media outreach, retail exposure, a strong publicity campaign, etc. But sometimes it takes more than these efforts to cut through the clutter. Out-of-the-box marketing campaigns can help to get your band recognized, your videos viewed, and your fans engaged. There isn’t, however, only one set of guidelines – a method that works for one band may not work for you. Instead, it’s all about building a unique campaign that’s specific to your band. Here are four tips to approaching creative marketing and challenging traditional methods for promoting music.
1. Know your fans – really know them
This sounds obvious, but it’s crucial. What do your fans like to wear? What do they like to eat? What’s their favorite TV show? What is it about your music that really gets to them? Take this information and create strategies to engage your audience, while still highlighting the music. Perform an offbeat live cover of your fans’ favorite horror movie theme. Partner with a local brand where your fans shop. Create a dialogue on social media about favorite vintage albums. Use your fans’ interests to build campaigns – whether on a small-scale social level or a huge brand partnership expanse. By relating fans' interests back to your music, you’ll engage them on a deeper level and expand your outreach.
Want to take it to the next level? Try actually hanging out with your fans. Fan experiences do wonders for building loyalty and serve as cool viral promotion. Think about creative contests to give lucky fans a band adventure they’ll talk about for years. Think about experiences that go beyond the venue and really highlight who you are. Hit the mall with fans for an arcade tournament. Tour one of the local attractions (biggest ball of twine, anyone?) and play an impromptu acoustic set. Go to a dog park and play with your fans' pets. Have a real-world experience, capture it on video, and promote on your sites. This is appealing video content, shows that you're a real person, and it’s a great viral tool.
Collaborations are a fantastic and creative way to reach a new audience – and produce something awesome to boot. Start with your friends, then think about local artists and musicians to approach. Do you know the next great painter who can whip up an original piece for an album cover? Or musicians that you can write, record, cover, collaborate, or lay down some guest vocals with? Not only is this a fun and innovative extension of your music, but it exposes your name to your collaborator’s audience. Branch outside of your medium and work with artists and musicians who can enhance your music, and build a unique promotion around this.
3. Embrace your inner talents
Are you secretly the best taco chef to ever hit music? A wizard at Lego-building? Or (to use something more outwardly helpful to bands) a really awesome photographer? Embrace your talents and incorporate them into your strategy. For example, be your band's official road photographer and frame the visual positioning of the band. For those other talents and hobbies, create irreverent videos of you in your outside-of-music element (Lego in hand). Or hold a fan contest highlighting your hobby. Plus, consider media opportunities alternative to music outlets – there’s a food blog out there with your name on it! Whether an offbeat fan contest or an interview with a lifestyle site, always relate this back into your music, but don’t be afraid to share another side of yourself and to shape it into a broader plan.
4. Support a cause you believe in
If you believe in a cause and want to support it, consider ways to engage both your fan community and a like-minded organization. From playing a charitable function, to raising money through ticket or merch sales, to simply speaking out, becoming part of the conversation is both important to artistic expression and draws parallels between your music and issues around you. Social activism also opens doors to other bands and artists supporting a similar cause (note collaboration above!) and keeps a creative dialogue going. Generate ways to incorporate your cause into music, lyrics, and sales. In doing so, you’ll be speaking out and reaching a wider audience.
Overall, there isn’t a right or wrong creative marketing campaign that will break your band. The best strategies represent your music and who you are. These are the campaigns that fans respond to, the campaigns that resonate. And they're also the campaigns that are the most fun!
Alison Shepard is the vice president of creative strategy at Wind-up Records. At Wind-up, she strives to create unique and meaningful campaigns for each artist, and above all else is a music lover.