The venues to get one’s creations noticed are many and few at the same time. It takes months, and mostly years, of hard work and patience to finally hit the general public. I have connected with some of the most incredible artists and supporters in North America and have followed their tips and advice very carefully. And as a result, I received more exposure in a couple of months than I had managed to achieve in more than three years!
A lot of independent artists believe that once their CD or book is available for purchase, the work is done. They think that they can rely on the quality of their work for it to sell itself. While this is not a bad thought at all, it is also important to realize that sales obey the 10-90 rule: 10% creativity and 90% promotion/marketing.
Start by asking yourself the following questions: “What is my long-term goal as an artist? What do I want to do with my creation(s)? What is my mission statement?” Be very honest in your answers, because they will determine your career and how long you may last in the business. Being an artist entails many things. You must be professional in your approach, dedicated, and aware of your surroundings and global issues. It is also essential that you be willing to support other artists and causes, and serve as a positive role model. Always acknowledge your fans and supporters, those who work in the shadows for you. And most importantly: build relationships before thinking of sales! This is the first step to get respect from fellow artists, and hence exposure.
Nowadays, if you want to attract more followers, you need to build a website or at least have a regularly updated profile page. This is very easy to do, especially if you are not computer-savvy, and it is free.
For a website, use Wix or Weebly. They are excellent!
If you are a musician or a spoken word artist, you have probably heard of Reverbnation. I use it myself and I love the fact that I can send pre-formatted newsletters to my fan base, build a street team and launch missions with the click of a button, and promote my CD and tracks through easy-to-share widgets. What’s more, people can also help spread the word by sharing the widgets almost everywhere on the Internet!
If you want to build your online presence, it is very important that your fans and followers be involved. They want to know more about you and what you care for. A blog is a very nice tool to use. You can talk about anything, address questions and concerns from your fans, educate them on topics that matter to you, and invite them to take part in discussions. You can also promote yourself. The best blog services are WordPress and Blogger.
You can also join writing communities and forums like Red Room and share some of your stuff there.
Social networking sites are essential for promotion these days. The best part is that they are totally free! Make sure that you check out Facebook, Twitter, Ning, YouTube, and MySpace. Ning is especially impressive, as it offers tons of options!
You can also use Internet radio. I recommend Blog Talk Radio. There are tons of broadcasts every day and the neat thing is that you can also interact in chat rooms. Hence, you have the golden opportunity to “meet” hosts and listeners who often happen to be hosts or promoters of the art themselves. I used this medium and got to know great individuals. I have been a guest on numerous shows, which has allowed me to promote my books and CD, and tell the world why I am a poet and spoken word artist. I got introduced to many new listeners. The traffic to my site has been huge since I started listening to BTR shows!
If you are not camera-shy, you can also host your own show, using your webcam. This is something that I do once a month with Livestream (and people love it!). When you join their site, you receive access to a personal studio. From there, you can upload your own videos or videos from YouTube and stream them on a 24/7 basis. Then, feel free to embed the screen anywhere you want.
UPDATING YOUR STATUS
Part of your promotional time should be used to update your status across the different networks you belong to. You will attract more followers. However, it can be very time-consuming. You need to be able to do it in one convenient place. Use TweetDeck or Hootsuite.
BUILDING A STREET TEAM
You can only do so much on your own. At some point, if you are like me, and work alone 14-15 hours a day, you will get burned out. You need to be able to rely on others.
A street team is a group of people who are committed to help an artist spread the word about their work. The artist sends the group on miscellaneous missions (never involving money on the part of the group) and the best street teamers are rewarded in different ways. The thing I love about this concept is that it allows an artist to connect with their fan base on a different level. It brings them exposure and makes fans a complete part of the artist’s success. On the other hand, street teamers get free stuff, which is always nice!
Reverbnation offers you the perfect way to do it: once your mission is launched, the site keeps counts for you and all you have to do is check your stats!
SELLING ONLINE AND OFFLINE
95% of poets go the self-publishing way. To me self-publishing is more rewarding than challenging because I have to promote all my products myself, and it gives me the opportunity to really get to know my readers and listeners. Print-on-demand or POD is a great service and I recommend Lulu. Open an account, upload your files, fill in the necessary info, and you are on your way. They will print your books, CDs, calendars, photo books, and pictures for you. Use your Paypal account address to receive royalties when people purchase your products through your personal (free) store.
If you only focus on music or spoken word, there are a few nice options out there. I heard that CD Baby is very good. I personally use Reverbnation & Audiolife. Both sites have partnered to allow Reverbnation members to sell their merchandise and music for free. All you need is a Paypal account. Set up your store (in two minutes), upload your files, fill in the information, and start selling your CDs, MP3 albums, individual tracks, Tshirst and tote bags within minutes! And to be honest, the royalties are very decent.
You can also sell your music digitally, using major retailers like ITunes or Amazon.com. Reverbnation lets you do that very easily!
I have a motto: the more you have to offer, the more exposure you will get! It means that you have to diversify. And do not wait for others to do it for you. Do things YOURSELF!
Make a list of all your skills and see what you have to offer. If you are a poet/writer, you could offer poetry/speech-on-demand or proofreading services. If you are an amateur photographer, why not sell your pictures to other artists for their book/CD covers? And if you are really fluent in two or more languages, you could also translate documents…
Another good idea is to design your own exclusive merchandise (Tshirts, bags, mouse pads, mugs, greeting cards, etc.) and sell it using services like Zazzle or Cafepress. All you need is a PayPal account. They provide you with a free store that you can promote everywhere you want. And royalties are quite decent.
The great thing about diversification is that it makes it harder for people to label you in one category. You may end up attracting a lot of different people!
Always remember this: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Before throwing links at someone, introduce yourself properly and get to know them a little. You will be surprised by how much help and support you will receive in return!
Also, do not hesitate to ask for tips and advice from those who have a proven successful background in your industry. Always keep a notebook and pen handy, and write any suggestion and idea given you. Sometimes, one little thing will make a huge difference.
Finally, frustration and discouragement are part of the job. Take a few days off, enjoy life, and come back refreshed!;-)
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