While technology and social media have opened up an incredible variety of opportunities for marketing, none remains as effective as that old school classic, word-of-mouth. Here we look at three key tips for how to harness this tried and true marketing technique.
Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix
In a world filled with limitless opportunities for promotion, word-of-mouth remains the most powerful tool in music marketing.
Great marketing is the key to success in music today. The problem is, everyone trying to make it in music right now knows that to be true. Everywhere you look, be it online or in the real world countless artists creating a seemingly endless stream of promotional material in hopes of gaining enough traction in their careers to move forward in one way or another. It’s overwhelming, in a way, and often defeating in another.
Don’t lose hope yet. There is a secret to cutting through the noise that has worked for artists throughout history that will undoubtedly work for you as well. Marketing professionals and promotional consultants may not tell you this, but the most effective advertising in the world often costs nothing at all. It’s call word-of-mouth, and there is a good chance you have it right now. As long as someone who loves your work is telling someone else about the stuff you create, word-of-mouth is working for you, and if you can get enough people to spread the word then anything is possible.
And therein lies the big question all artists face: How do I raise word-of-mouth for my music?
The answer is both complicated and straightforward. There are simple things every artist can do, which I will outline for you below, but to make the most of these tips, you will need to add a twist of your own. Every artist is different, and the same is true for the fans of every artist. No two fanbases are alike. To empower your fans to the best of your abilities you will need to try (and most likely fail with) new approaches to the tips below until you discover what works best for you and your audience.
Identify your most engaged fans, and treat them well
Not all fans are the same. Some people like your music, but don’t follow your socials and probably can’t be persuaded to buy an album they can access for pennies on streaming services. Other fans may follow you online and attend shows, but they wouldn’t go out of their way to engage with you or see you rise above genre peers. But your best fans — your most valuable followers — will go above and beyond the efforts of your other fans without being asked. They will line up hours before doors despite knowing the show is not sold out. They will share your new single on their social media without you reaching out to them. Your most valuable fans feel your success will be, in some small way, their success. You getting ahead means that they’re getting ahead, and people who think that way about your career are the ones you need most.
Finding your most valuable fans is easy. Watch your mentions on social networks, read fan mail, and look at who lines up to attend your shows. Identify who those followers are and make them feel as important as you know they are, preferably without initially asking anything of them. Tell them you appreciate their support, reply to their questions, engage with their comments, follow them online. Do what you can to let them know they matter to you, and they will work even harder to raise awareness for your art.
It’s hard to promote someone who is bad at promoting themselves. Empowering fans to promote you begins with promoting yourself in a way that connects with people on a personal level. That includes, but is not limited to maintaining your presence on social media. That means posting regularly, yes, but also posting things that let people connect with the artists behind the music. Showcase your personality, talk about things you’re interested in, and don’t be afraid to broadcast yourself using Facebook or Instagram’s live capabilities.
When people feel engaged with you on a personal level, they also feel a deeper connection to the music you create. Everyone wants to see their friends get ahead, so do whatever you can to establish a friendly relationship with the people who enjoy your music. Again, it’s all about making people feel they are a part of your journey. Their success is your success and vice versa. Does one of your fans have a birthday today? Tweet at them! Did someone land a new job that allows them to buy tickets or merchandise? Let them know you’re proud of their work ethic!
Make great stuff
This tip is relatively straightforward. People promote stuff they like, so make the best stuff you possible can. People also know when your heart isn’t behind something, and if they sense that might be true for your latest creation, they will not feel inclined to promote it. Make the best things you can with the skills you have, devote every last drop of yourself into the process, and a response will come. Do anything less and you will be doomed to obscurity forever.
James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.