As a band who wants to spread the word about your music, promoting yourself is a great investment of your time and money. Just please think twice before you spend your money on promotion, and also make sure you’re being smart about how you promote yourself. A simple way to check and see if you’re being both ethical and effective, is to imagine yourself on the receiving end of your own marketing. Imagine that someone else is communicating to you about their band, using the tactic you’re considering using. Be honest with yourself, and if you would either ignore the effort, or be annoyed by it, then don’t use it yourself!
Some common tactics that I’ve seen bands use, that I don’t recommend you try, include “flyering outside another artist’s show” and “parking a van with a banner on it outside a major concert.” They are perfect examples of bad promotional behaviour that simply comes off as noise. Flyering is like “shouting from a rooftop” and it doesn’t work anymore. Can you remember the last time you were handed a flyer for a band as you were leaving another artist’s concert that actually prompted you to look that band up online, go to their concert or buy their music? I can tell you when the last time I did it was… never. That’s right… not once in my life. It’s simply not an effective way to spend your time or money. A van with the banner on it is just another example of the type of in-your-face interruptive advertising that modern consumers have trained themselves to ignore. This is the same as billboards, print-ads, pop-ups, banner ads, spam email, TV commercials, etc. and they are becoming increasingly ineffective, and so please if you decide you still want to try some of these methods, know that one of the only ways you can possibly be really successful with them is to do them differently or more creatively than people are expecting you to. And be aware that even then, it won’t work every time.
Also, being in an independent band, your funds are most likely very minimal, and I would like to suggest that as an independent artist, paying cash for any form of online advertising is never a good way to spend your hard-earned money. You can’t simply buy success, (this theme will be the central idea in my next article) and I bet that with a bit of thought and effort you can think of many really great ways you can more effectively engage another artist’s fans online without spending any money advertising to them.
Another absolute no-no, is to trade email lists with other artists. While this may seem like a great shortcut to growing your own list, it’s not. Don’t do this, ever. Not only should you have so much respect for the privacy of the folks who give you their permission to contact them that you should never want to give your list information to anyone else, but this type of privacy breach is actually illegal in many countries. Even if you’re in a country where this is not illegal, it is still a bad business practice that will only harm the relationship that both bands have with the particular fan (the band who gave the email address, and the band who sent the email). The fan is going to be angry with the unsolicited email from a band they know nothing about, and they’re going to be even more angry with the other band who has obviously given away their personal email address to someone else. Please never do this.
To close this article, I’d like to repeat what I said in the beginning. A simple way to check and see if you’re being both ethical and effective, is to imagine yourself on the receiving end of your own marketing. Pretend you’re the music fan, and someone else is trying to sell you on their band, using the tactic you’re considering using. If your initial reaction is to ignore the effort, or be annoyed by it, then don’t use it to promote your band either.
For more suggestions on how to ethically grow your fan community, check out these articles.