The promise of going viral has never sounded so sweet. From Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to the newly viral and morbidly interesting “Brick in Yo Face” by Stitches, marketing your band online seems like it has magical powers.
One day, you make a YouTube video. The next… well… you’re famous. Right?
Or maybe you’ll find the answer in Facebook and Twitter and ReverbNation, instead. If you spend enough money online and have a good website, won’t that make sure your band gets heard?
If you’ve tried all of this stuff, or you’ve thought about trying it, you might already know the answer. In the scramble to market their music online, bands are forgetting one vital thing:
Your Band is Made or Broken by a Local Following
Having an active Facebook Page is a great and all (actually, not really, since Facebook decided that more and more people can’t see your band’s posts), but the really successful online marketing for bands is going to be about building a loyal, local following.
You might get 200 Facebook likes by spending $30 on Promoted Posts. But at the end of the day, a promoter won’t rebook you if only four people come to a show.
The simple science of actually booking shows means that you need loyal fans who come to those shows.
The thing that bands forget about online marketing is that fans made virtually are scattered around the world. A scattered online following of 1,000 fans is much less powerful than a local following of 100 fans.
Show and Tell
The terrible return on making money from making music means that playing shows is probably going to be your biggest source of income. You can’t play shows if you’ve poured all your money into promoting your free music to fans everywhere.
Online, people are just listening to your music for free. Even if you have a YouTube video that gets 1,000 views, that’s not really giving you much of anything.
That doesn’t mean you should abandon any notion of marketing your band online. Instead, you should market your shows online. Use email marketing to keep in touch with people. Find out ways to get an upcoming show in front of people in the area.
On Facebook, I get so many event invitations that I rarely even pay attention to them anymore. I’m not alone.
The sheer volume of people trying to get their “friends” or online “followers” to actually invest in their creative work has made most people pretty jaded when it comes to actually supporting anything that’s not the very best thing they want at that exact moment.
But you can still get shows at bars pretty easily. If you put on an amazing show at a bar, that’s going to be worth 100 hours of online marketing, because people will actually talk about you afterwards. Maybe they’ll instagram the show, or post about it on Facebook. Maybe two of their friends will look up your band from there – and that’s when the online marketing part comes in handy.
Just remember that the goal of all that online promotion isn’t just to get that stray $10 from Bandcamp, it’s to get people to come to your shows. When people come to shows, they bring other people. And then more venues want to book you.
The best online marketing comes from your fans. So give them something to talk about.
Want to learn more? Check out For Bands.
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