Do you know how much music is uploaded to SoundCloud every minute? Twelve hours' worth. Every single minute of every single day! On Facebook, over 30 billion pieces of content are shared each month. There are probably more musicians today than ever before (my nerdy research skills failed me trying to find a definitive number to back that up). So, the question remains: How in the hell do you plan to stand out from the crowd?! Your success as a DIYer may very well depend on the answer, and word-of-mouth marketing – the practice of giving audiences something to talk about – could be exactly what you need.
Here’s a quick behavioral psychology lesson that I promise you'll catch yourself repeating to friends. The human brain is designed not to think. Yes, you read that correctly. Our brains are built to be as lazy as possible in order to conserve energy for crisis situations so we can continue to survive. Constant thinking = more energy used = increased danger of extinction. So, the brain creates something called schemas, which are basically mental models we use to make sense of the world in the easiest ways possible. When you pull up to a stoplight, you don't have to think about what red means; you just know it's signaling you to stop. That's because your brain has made a mental model – or memory – of what a stoplight looks like and how to interpret it, so you don't ever have to use valuable energy deciphering it again.
What does this have to do with marketing your music? Well, consider what would happen if that stoplight was blue instead of red. After checking to make sure you weren't dreaming, you'd probably feel the need to tell somebody about what you just witnessed. An unexpected experience that disrupts the norm has two significant effects on our brains. First, we immediately come to attention to scope the situation out. Second – and this one is important in the context of engaging your audience – we talk about it. That's a key way our brains get back to their desired state of equilibrium, by talking about it with others.
Find a way to disrupt the everyday expectations of music fans, and you'll incite conversation and word of mouth. Transviolet, an LA pop band, recently took this ethos and jumped in head first with a courageous (and some say creepy) direct mail campaign. In the age of online marketing and streaming music, the foursome went a completely different route by mailing cassette tapes with "Just Press Play" printed on them to unsuspecting young pop fans, most of whom have blogs dedicated to indie music.
Here are Google's search results for "Transviolet" over the past few years. Guess what prompted the remarkable spike in the summer of 2015?
You don't need to be a seasoned marketing vet to put these concepts to work today. Simply start by establishing goals for your campaign and identifying the “traditional” tactics for marketing yourself. Then brainstorm ideas that fly in the face of convention, and tactics that communicate what you and your music are truly about in unique ways. A good dose of fearlessness doesn't hurt, either.
- Top 10 Marketing Mistakes That Musicians Make
- A Basic Guide to Permission Marketing for Musicians
- 10 Free (Or Insanely Cheap) Marketing Strategies Your Band Should Use
Dave Marcello is Head of Artist Growth for Audiokite Research and co-founder of BoomboxFM. At Audiokite, he is responsible for growing and engaging their artist customer base and establishing the company as a thought leader in music data analytics.