“IT IS ALL ABOUT THE IMAGE”
An Article About Networking Your Music, Written By Gangsta Barbie Beats.
So you are a producer now huh? You have saved all your hard earned cash to put together an in-home studio and put in the countless hours of work needed to be successful, so why aren’t you? It’s because music is only successful if heard. Just like the age old question “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?” Sadly metaphorically speaking in the music business the answer is a finite and absolute N-O! You can compose the most progressive, original, mind boggling music ever created but without the correct networking and marketing tactics you can easily get stuck in the irrelevant zone. Unfortunately talent is NOT a prerequisite in this day and age and most certainly not in the music business. On the flip-side fortunately it makes good producers all the more obvious to recognize, but only if given the proper promotional tools to expand their audience. Self promotion is easier, more readily available, at an all time high level of necessity and it is an undoubtedly essential element to building your own brand. If there was ever two sayings in Hollywood that were more true they are: “Image is everything”, and “First impressions are the most important.”
The Value of a Brand:
Your image and brand is the first impression people have of you until they actually decide to press the play button, without a good one you are fighting an uphill battle. All major successful musicians have a very distinct brand and/or image, or as of late more often seen, gimmicks. As producers we are used to being on the other side of the booth and tend to overlook the importance of these tools. When looking at a site full of musicians, are you more likely to click on the person with the tacky mirror self portrait or the person with a professional looking photograph or logo? Chances are you will choose the professional looking page every time, which although prejudice is simply “the way the cookie crumbles.” Fortunately for you I have compiled my favorite mostly free or affordable strategies, following these simple marketing tips will make all the difference in your music networking site views and plays.
There are several easy ways to improve your mass appeal without busting the bank that are highly effective. First off is to get some professional photographs taken or to have a graphic designer custom design you a logo and/or slogan, best possible outcome would be to find both. This is an equally important process whether you’ve already obtained popularity or if you are just beginning to build a fan base. Just as there are music networking sites there are photographer and graphic design networking sites as well, such as ModelMayhem and DeviantArt. These sites are full of up and coming professionals looking to expand their portfolios and are more than happy to offer “trade for prints” or “TFP’s”, which means free for you and exposure for them. If you do not want to use photos of yourself, models are available on these sites as well. Search these type of sites for professionals in your area and contact them, I have found that some of my personal favorite photographs have been taken in this manner. If you do not want to take this route get yourself a decent camera and never underestimate the powers of photoshop. Remember that when doing your own design or photoshop work that a minimalist approach is the best approach, don’t distort your image by plastering words and effects all over it. Keep it clean, simple and to the point. The next time you are browsing your iTunes, take a moment to closely observe the album artworks to get an idea of what industry professionals in your genre’s images are like.
Music Networking Sites:
After you have a decent image and brand, the next order of business is the production networking aspect of self marketing. I highly advise that when using music networking sites that you find one site that you personally like best (Soundclick, Soundcloud, Reverbnation etc.) and primarily devote your time to that one site. I also believe that having ALL of these sites is a good strategy as long as they are maintained, current and share a cohesive portrayal with your primary site. If you are just trying to get your name out there go with the free versions of these sites, if u want to sell your music the best course of action is to fork over the monthly fee which is usually around $10 per month depending on the site. This option allows you to fully customize your site and really incorporate your brand as well as upload bigger high quality 320kbps production files. Whichever you choose to use, again remember to keep your site clean, clutter free and showcasing your music talent. This is where your professional photos and logo are imperative. Utilize the options such as using album artwork for each track to coax the spotlight onto you. Your website is your image’s main stage.
Promoting Your Music With Social Networking:
Social networking is where the real headache begins. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even MySpace are all very time consuming and not made for musicians at all. Facebook can and will slap you with a limited, locked or terminated account for pretty much anything, but most especially for self promotion. This is actually so common that it is referred to as “Facebook Jail” and violations will land you in there for a whole 30 days which can be very detrimental to your business. The best way to avoid this is to follow your account’s rule book no matter how nonsensical. You can be forced to withstand a sentence for what Facebook refers to as “anything that may be found annoying to other users” in their terms and conditions. That vague detail leaves an obscene gap for error in that department which includes adding too many friends, profanity, posting too many links, self promotion of any kind, use of any other type of account besides a personal, clogging feeds, commenting or liking too many comments….the list goes on and on, and grows more and more absurd. In short, stick to the basics. Don’t add more than a few friends a day on your own, wait for them to friend request or follow you. Don’t incessantly post links to your website on other users timelines and accounts. Dont bully or hate others, they will flag you just because they can. Limit posting the links to your music website on your page to once or twice daily per account. If profanity truly needs to used (i.e. It is part of your brand or a track name) use asterisks to replace letters to limit vulgarity. Use your wits to promote yourself. Write posts that spark discussions like questions of opinion on favorite artists/producers, programs or studio equipment. Make it a point to spend quality time getting to know your fans, after all they are the ones listening to and purchasing your music, rely also on your professional photos and logo to attract attention.
Networking In Person:
Finally there’s the tried and true (and sadly near deceased) form of actual person to person networking. This can be the greatest decision you ever made or can make you look like the greatest idiot ever, depending on how you conduct yourself. Spend the small chunk of change it costs to get business cards and again maintain a cohesive image with your other forms of media. If u can’t afford a graphic designer you can design your own online for free and just pay for the printing and cards. These are definitely not ideal as they are just templates and therefore a million other people will have cards that look identical to yours. I can not express the importance of a professional and unique looking card enough, this is the first and last impression someone has of you. Before you make the final decision on your cards sit back and ask yourself, ‘what about my card is going to keep it out of the trashcan?’ Once you have business cards, get them to every single person you possibly can, give plenty of stacks to family members, close friends, coworkers and even neighbors that you can trust will pass them on. Another great tactic for getting rid of them is to attend open mic nights, hip hop battles or concerts/shows and stand at the exit handing out cards to any and all musicians and music fans you encounter. Be personable and approachable, don’t just shove them into people’s hands because they will just as quickly shove them right into the nearest garbage. This unfortunately for you, means your hard earned cash literally being thrown into the trash. Networking is about both establishing and maintaining relationships, not shameful annoying self promotion. When out in places like nightclubs follow the same guidelines talk to as many people as possible and incessantly hand out those cards. Never underestimate or judge someone’s business reputation by what you see from them in a club setting. For my first modeling contract I was approached in a nightclub and snubbed it off as drunken nonsense, only to have that person be a complete professional, get me signed and take some of my favorite photographs in my entire portfolio.
All in all the most important thing to remember is that without being relentless with both your music AND social networking, unfortunately chances are no one will hear you. Next most important thing is that if you don’t take your brand image seriously, no one else will either. There is a dire need for more professionalism in the hip hop industry especially since it will only ultimately bring you more rapid success. Make it a top priority to stay in constant communication with the contacts you do establish, otherwise you basically wasted your time. We as producers put our heart and soul into our music and the only way for our passion to be heard is to CREATE our own audience. We are all interconnected online these days, we have every bit of technology needed to gain exposure which makes it both easier and harder simultaneously. Easy because you can be just about anywhere and be connected to the world. Hard because now that it is SO easy, there is an enormous boom in in-home music production which has in turn, over saturated the market. The only way to ensure your place in the spotlight is to promote, promote, promote. No amount of marketing and networking will ever be a waste of energy or time, you get back the exact amount you put in. Be professional, be consistent, be relentless, be cohesive and above all….be an original.
Written by Gangsta Barbie Beats