Kelley James (@yourboykj) is a singer/songwriter whose music is a fascinating collection of acoustic guitars, hip-hop beats, thoughtful lyrics and freestyle flows. His brand new album 'The Pattern Transcending' was released on Oct 1st, 2013.
Being a recording artist in the digital age means you have more resources than ever to share your content and engage your fans. With so many different blogs, music platforms, and social media outlets, it can start to get a little overwhelming, both from the sheer number of options and the other voices threatening to drown you out.
Despite all these avenues, there is one channel that many artists let fall by the wayside: video. At best, most will have a few videos of themselves performing live. On the other end of the spectrum, some have only a vacant YouTube channel, or worse, no video presence at all.
Creating engaging video content may seem like a burden, but I’m willing to bet it’s actually a lot easier than you think. I’ve pulled together a few easy steps every independent artist should take to not only amp up their content, but increase their digital footprint by connecting with the people who matter most - the fans.
1. When creating content, think outside the box.
Everyone is pretty familiar with the two main standbys that most artists will utilize when it comes to creating videos: the video-blog update and, of course, music videos. One is low budget with the potential to be stale and contrived while the other often seems like too big of an investment for artists who are still growing. That’s why it’s very important to think outside the box when it comes to video content. What are your viewers getting from your videos that they can’t get elsewhere? If the answer is “nothing”, they probably won’t be tuning in any time soon. When I’m creating content for my channel, I like to give my fans something they can’t see at a show or buy on iTunes, so I like to do one of my signature freestyles on-the-spot. Other times, I’ll mash up two songs into one streamlined acoustic performance. Once your viewers realize that they’re getting in on something special when they watch your videos, you can bet they’ll be back again next time.
2. More is less.
There’s proof all over the web that a clever idea can be as valuable, if not more, than a bloated budget. A lack of funds can be a blessing more than a curse in that it forces you to think creatively and work with whatever resources are immediately available. In 2012, I released my single “Summertime On My Mind” and wanted to create a unique video to promote it without spending a ton of cash. I was involved in a campaign for Patagonia at the time called “Repair, Reuse, Recycle” which was aimed at promoting cleaner environmental practices and conserving resources, and I saw one that one of the logos was an acoustic guitar with only one string. Inspiration struck. With the goal of showing that you can create something awesome with only simple tools, I rounded up five friends and six guitars - each with only one string. We played the entire song together, one string per person, and over 13,000 views later, I was able to prove that it doesn’t take more than a few buddies and some ingenuity to make something special. Don’t get caught up in trying to copy the music videos you see on TV, because the average major label video usually has a budget somewhere between $200,000-$500,00. Use your brain and remember, more is less.
3. Utilize live-streaming platforms to bring your content to life.
One of the greatest things that technology is doing for artists is tearing down the barriers between us and our audiences. Live-streaming services only continue to get better with time, and they can be a powerful weapon in your social media arsenal. Websites like StageIt can help you easily create streaming content to share with your fanbase. I use StageIt to turn any location with an internet connection into a concert venue by allowing my fans to tune into scheduled performances via webcam. Artists are free to charge whatever they please for access to the show, and can leave a digital “tip jar” open if audience members feel so inclined. This is a great way to let your audience know that they matter and that you’re willing to go above and beyond to provide them with a unique musical experience.
4. Get to know talented filmmakers and videographers.
Everyone dreams of the day when they’ll be getting paid big bucks to do what they love, but as most of us well know, you have to start somewhere. There are as many talented people behind cameras as there are behind guitars and microphones, and it makes sense for us as artists to get to know each other and discover ways we can help each other out. Filmmakers and videographers want their work to get noticed too, and it never hurts to ask to see if there are options for you to work together to promote your respective brands. Some of them may be willing to work with you for free, while others won’t consider it without some promise of payment - either way, it’s only beneficial to get a sense of what your options are. At the very least, you might find yourself inspired by some of the material you find. I constantly draw new musical ideas and vibes from my friend Mike Greene’s video work. Bottom line: you’ll never know until you get out there and do some research, and with the entire internet at your fingertips, you have no excuse to not do it.
At the end of the day, video content is one of many, many tools that can be used to make yourself stand out from the crowd and engage people. The fact that it gets overlooked by a lot of artist should provide you with that much more incentive to take advantage of it in the most resourceful, cost-effective means possible. Being creative with your webcam today means that you might get to be creative behind a big-budget music video tomorrow - so get to work!