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My name’s Dave - I play in a Minneapolis Indie-Pop band called Whosah. Doing it all yourself is a grind, as you probably know by the fact that you’re taking the time to read someone else’s opinion. I don’t by any means claim to know it all, or even much, but Dozmia asked for my input on marketing your music.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Make sure it sounds good.

I know you’ve heard this before, and that’s why it bears repeating - MAKE SURE IT SOUNDS GOOD. Your music needs to speak for itself and stand toe-to-toe with the heroes you love listening to. Because the internet is flooded with averagely written, recorded and mixed music, you won’t get the traction you’re hoping for if the quality of your work bears forgetting. Thank “The Voice” and “Glee” for this if you want, but even the most casual listener is going to expect every pitch to be perfect, every drum groove to be like clockwork, and every moment to be intentional, polished and inspiring.

I saw an Instagram post earlier this week quoting John Wooden (UCLA basketball coaching legend) who said, “It takes time to create excellence. If it could be done quickly, more people would do it.” I’m only telling you because I’ve made the same mistakes myself - if you’re spending hours and hours on promo plans but you’re not sure if the chorus hits like you want it to or the melody of the bridge isn’t locked in, you’re going to be spinning your wheels on a product which just isn’t going to draw people in.

2. Assume no one's heard of you.

Just because it sounds good doesn’t mean everyone will stop their lives to listen to it. Think about other entertainment - personally there’s no way I could possibly have time to check out all the Netflix shows or movies friends have recommended to me. Even if the show has great acting, an intriguing story, and incredible cinematography, someone has to get it in front of me. Friend references are great and word of mouth is crucial, but maybe if I get an email from Redbox with the graphic for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmitt on the top, a trailer in my FB feed, and a reference from a friend, I might just try an episode after dinner some night.

Music seems to work in a similar way. Simply posting on your social media pages won’t be enough to circulate something new. Find intentional ways within your means to get the music in front of other people in whatever mediums they’re hanging out - Instagram, Twitter, email lists, Snapchat, showing a new friend your Spotify at a show, etc. Don’t be cocky about who’s heard your song - assume no one has and find ways to gently but confidently encourage them to give it a spin.

3. Make your marketing genuine.

If you have to use the words, “highly anticipated” whatever you’re doing probably isn’t. Scale what you’re doing so that it makes sense to your current audience. If you have 1,500 Twitter followers, doing a promo “1,000 RT’s and we’ll release our new single”, probably won’t pan out. Something that falls hilariously short won’t look good to new potential listeners and won’t engage the people who already are into it.

Whatever you do, don’t try to jump on the tail-end of something hip you’ve seen another band do if it doesn’t fit your brand. If you’re a singer-songwriter, YouTube cover videos in your genre might make some sense; but if you’re an experimental electronic-jazz artist trying to promote a small, a cover of Metallica is probably not going to help you unless it’s done in an authentic way that’s true to the vibe you’re already going with. I know that crude example is a little more obvious than most people might try, but we’ve all scrolled past marketing ploys which seemed inauthentic or just feel flat because it didn’t make sense. Be realistic about where you’re at and use marketing as a chance to authentically represent who you are and invite others into the conversation.

4. Be humble. Sit down.

Assume everyone you meet is more important than you. Learn from them - whether they’re a decorated industry representative, grizzled old bar owner or a 14-year-old new fan. Respect everyone - because as a decent human being it’s a good idea - but also because you won’t make it out there alone. More than once I’ve burned myself by forgetting someone’s name at a show or throwing shade at an email ask because the lead seemed lame. Chances are they either had something I actually wanted or someone saw me do it who would have otherwise helped me out (but chose not to because I acted a jerk). Remember people’s names and take a genuine interest in what they’re passionate about.

Everyone in the human race has something of value to offer - and you never know what that might be until you expect that they’ll prove it to you. Maybe it’s a small-town photographer who ends up traveling with A-listers 6 months down the road and you didn’t give them photo credit when they shot your show. Maybe a small indie blogger wanted to interview your band but you never replied- whoops she writes for Paste Magazine or whatever now. In one case for us, we got connected with a regionally reputable promoter in city we couldn’t get a handle on until BAM - we became genuine friends at a super dead show with an everyday concert goer who happened to know the scene and had friends who could help. In the wise words of Kendrick Lamar- “Be Humble. Sit Down.” Even if your “full-time music career” never really pans out, you might even make some lifelong friends along the way.

5. Just try stuff.

If there was any one tried-and-true way of expanding your listener audience then everyone would also already be on board. The cycle of over-saturation starts all over again as soon as something cool comes along. Ideally you want to keep your ear to the ground and ride the early train to the station, but that’s pretty much the luck of the draw. Talk to your friends who aren’t in the music industry about what appeals to them, talk to people in businesses unrelated to your field, and learn from other people if for no other reason than human interaction is fun. Create quality content, make partnerships, and just try stuff! The worst thing that happens is your grandkids find something (like this interview) on the internet 40-50 years from now and everybody has a few laughs in the family room about it.

Why lie - I’m in an Indie band doin the thing that you do when you have a silly dream. Give us a spin at whosah.com (where we give away a free song via email) or anywhere on the internet really. Thanks for reading and let me know what's been working for you in music promo!

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