Dear Steff Metal
How do I promote my metal band on the internet and stand out from the other 666 million metal bands trying to promote themselves on the internet?
I think this is a rather important topic to cover. With the music industry still in turmoil, and even major label bands losing out on funds they used to rely on from record sales – most metal bands wonder how they will even manage to get noticed. Promoting music online has become the new gospel of DIY band success – in some cases, more even than touring. If you’re trying to get ahead as a musician today, you need a plan for marketing, and your plan had bloody better include the internet.
Disclaimer: I am not a musician. I have never promoted my own metal band online. However, I do know a thing or two about online promotion – I’ve created two successful websites and promoted them, and sold hundreds of ebooks. I’ve also helped create online campaigns for successful small businesses – a gothic corset company, and a dentist (yes, seriously!).
Online promotion tactic – when done right – can be applied to any form of art or business, and used to create the audience for your music, art, clothing, jewelry, craft, or writing.
So, how should an up-and-coming metal band promote their music online?
Create the Best Music You Can
Before you start promoting, you should have something to promote, and it shouldn’t be some half-assed demo recorded in your garage with pillows on the walls (unless that’s the sound you’re after). Take the time to hone your songs, save the money, and either bring your band to a studio or invest in the equipment yourself, then hire someone experienced to master it. Then find someone to create the best cover art possible.
Because if you do everything else in this tutorial, but your music sucks, ain’t a man alive who can help you make it big. Metal fans are rather discerning – we want it to be good.
Find Your Point of Difference
So you’re in a melodic death metal band, eh? – what makes your band different from every other melodic death metal band on the planet? Why should I listen to you when I can listen to Arch Enemy?
You have to figure this out, because it’s the key to your marketing strategy.
It could be a gimmick. I’m not knocking gimmicks – in fact, most of the music I like has some kind of gimmick:
- Amon Amarth – death metal about Vikings
- Arch Enemy – melodic death metal with a female growler who actually sounds good.
- Blind Guardian – Lord of the Rings themed power metal
- The Hate Project – black metal electronica with female vocals.
- Behemoth – black metal from Poland
In essence, their “gimmicks” are that little catchphrase you use to describe them to your friends. Their “gimmicks” beget the word-of-mouth marketing that bands rely on to make a go at music. Their “gimmicks” are the essence of great marketing.
What do you want people to say when they describe you? What would your one-line tag be? Figure this out – because it’s the key to your marketing strategy.
Create a Web Presence
I personally believe every musician should be on MySpace – I know MySpace is shite, but until Facebook allows you to set up a band page that allows streamping music with such ease – MySpace is the site to be on.
But I also believe you should buy your own domain name and create a website. Professional bands have websites – and you want to be a professional band. I would start with a simple template on WordPress – you can always hire a designer later to make it look uber.
On your website, you need a NEWS page, a page of upcoming tour dates, a contact page, a page of bios of the band, a page with your discography including links to buy your work. You might also include a merch page, photo shoots and live gig photographs, and reviews and interviews from the press.
You website and your MySpace page should reflect your point of difference. Take a look at the pages for the bands I listed above – Amon Amarth’s website looks like a Viking hangout, Blind Guardian’s is heavy on the fantasy themes, Behemoth’s looks dark and evil, The Project Hate’s looks dark and arty.
Mailing List: whether you use Myspace or your own website, or both, you should have a mailing list. Send a mail out to announce a new song streaming live, an interview in a magazine, a new tour schedule or merchandise going up for sale on your website.
Now you’ve created your website, you should experiment with social networking. Myspace is your first stop – start adding your friends and bands you love to your page – eventually, people will start adding you back – go and leave a personal comment on their pages – not one of those automatic “Thanks For Following Death Beetle Apocalypse” graphics – an actual personal comment.
Some bands are having success making Fan Pages on Facebook, so you could always try there too. I’ve observed the fan pages that tend to go viral are the ones about completly ridiculous things or with crazy, funny titles. Two of my favorites are:
- If 1 Million People Become Fans of This Group, My Girlfriend Will Let Me Turn Our House into a Pirate Ship
- My Potato Brings all the Irish to the Yard, and They’re Like, My Famine’s Better Than Yours. Damn Right, It’s Better Than Yours.
So maybe you’ll have more success if you create a fan group like “metalheads against spiked wristbands in the mosh pit”, than simply a group about your band.
Next, consider Twitter – the darling of social networking. It’s simple, you sign up, add some people, link it from your website, and start tweeting about life in the band, upcoming shows, and other random stuff. Follow major bands and make friends with their followers, and gradually, you’ll build up a list of loyal twittering fans.
Act as Though You’ve Already Made it
By this, I don’t mean become an arrogent rock star (Hi Axl!). I mean treat your band in all your correspondance and online dealings as though they’re an important act – worthy of discussion and review and respect. Don’t belittle your music or say things like “well, the production could be better, but we tried our best.”
Oh, you can think it, but don’t say it. If you don’t believe in your music, no one else will. Be proud of what you created, and know you’re worthy of success.
Offer Something More
Offer more than just music – offer unique content on your website, like short stories or historical data about your themes, or a useful blog on tips for promoting a band and interviews with other musicians. Offer merchandise – and don’t just stop at t-shirts and beanies. Collaborate with indie designers to produce unique, limited edition pieces. Offer other services – create music tutorials, online clinics, “Make your own drumkit” videos.
Offer yourself – your mind, body and spirit. Be a genuine, kind and awesome person – the kind of person your fans would want as a friend. There is no substitute for good old-fashioned likeable people – because when people see you as a trustworthy, open-minded and generally good person, they want you to succeed. And they will help you.
Learn to Write Press Releases
because until you can afford to hire a publicist, you’re in charge of them, and you won’t get any exposure in print press until you’re writing and submitting press releases regularly.
I am pretty good at writing press releases now, and I can tell you the key is finding a newsworthy story – someone once told me “if your press release is printed in the paper, word for word, with no changes, you’re doing it right.” A press release is like a mini-news story – you’re showing the journalist they can write an article about you.
I could write an entire article about creating effective press releases (in fact, I’ve devoted a chapter of my blogging book to the very subject), but this here article is getting quite long as it is. So here’s an article to get you started: How to Write a Press Release for Your Band.
Make Friends with Podcasters and Internet Radio Stations
Your formet is primarily auditory, and so is theirs – so embrace them. Send demos and press releases, and offer to help out in other ways – maybe you could do a segment where you review another band’s album. Maybe they would like a guest presenter – or someone to create a theme song for their show.
How do you find podcasters and radio stations? Well, ever since I signed up to receive Blabbermouth updates via RSS, I’ve learnt about an awful lot of new radio stations and metal podcast I hadn’t realised existed before.
Make Friends with Bloggers
These days, bloggers are the voices of the internet. We drive the sales and decide who’s popular, who’s good, and who’s shite. So get yourself noticed by the metal bloggers – email in your press release, coment on their blogs, send them a copy of your album. Give them prize packs to giveaway.
Speaking of which, if you are a band interested in promoting here on Steff Metal, and we can talk ideas.
Extra for Experts
- Using Last.FM to promote your band in 6 easy steps by Jimmy Shelter.
- Stories of Success: Online Band Promotion by Sean McManus.
- If I were in a band: how I would promote online by The Daily Rock.
- How an Indie Musician can Make $19 000 in 10 hours using Twitter by Amanda Palmer (obviously not a metal musician, but you can learn a lot from this article, and it’s given me some great ideas for promoting my book next year).
You will find lots more advice on using blogs, Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter in my ebook – the Grymm and Epic Guide to Blogging – due out in April. Until then, best of luck, and I hope to be hearing your wicked and brutal tunes soon.
Spreading the Blood of the Innocent on her Hot-Cross bun