By Jason Didner
Imagine thousands of creative types, each on the rooftop of his or her own little building, shouting “Hey, check out my wonderful stuff!” and wondering why no one’s coming over to sample their wondrous creations.
It’s confession time: This is exactly what I have done virtually every time I engaged in promoting my own music – with one exception. I did, for a time, spend every night burning the midnight oil to hang out on other artists’ virtual rooftops and compliment their stuff in hopes they’d compliment mine back. I’d even buy some of their wares, and some of them bought mine. That was essentially a way of nursing the wounds of going unnoticed by the general record-buying public without actually solving the problem, without really moving my artistic presence forward in the world.
That began to change about a month ago, as I started taking to heart what I was learning from a variety of do-it-yourself music marketing experts and discerning the good advice from the bad. I got some clarity on what it really means to engage with potential fans, the lifeblood of an independent artist’s career.
It came in the form of a shocking and liberating statement from music marketing coach Brian Thompson as a guest on a CD Baby podcast: “The first thing is to try to stop selling.” HUH???! That flew against everything I had always thought an independent artist had to do because we don’t have a multi-million dollar advertising budget!
As the shock wore off, exhilaration and relief kicked in, because now I could take off the suit and be a “regular guy” on social media and just converse with people I found interesting. This was quite different than putting pressure on myself to “Sell! Sell! Sell!” and then seeking the consolation of mutual admiration societies with other struggling artists. Now, I was beginning to engage in genuine dialogue with the people who will most likely come to appreciate my creations – parent bloggers.
Since my foray into kindie music is entirely inspired by life as a dad, I could relate as one parent to another without the pressure of constantly making sales pitches. By paying attention to what my fellow parents are saying in their posts and tweets, I’m more aware of who is in the right frame of mind to play my music for their kids if I suggest it. I consider this to be only one or two people a day out of the dozens with whom I interact, because I’m going by the context of what they’re putting out there.
Not only does this go for the individuals we hope to lead toward becoming music-buying fans, but also for people inside the industry: radio programmers, reviewers, booking managers, etc. The stacks of e‑mails and CD’s they receive are invariably huge, and it’s virtually impossible for these tastemakers to meet the sense of frantic urgency in every self-promoting message they receive every day, even if their hearts really did go out to each and every artist. Well-respected kindie music reviewer and podcaster Jeff Bogle, creator of the Out with the Kids blog (also inspired by his commitment to parenthood), offered this humorous take on the typical e-mail he receives.
“‘Hi, You don’t know me, but would you like a complimentary copy of my CD so you can spend a few hours not hanging out with your kids, but writing about my please & thank you and use your manners songs? Oh, I have cool songs about colors and animals too that will get kids dancing!! There’s no money to be made for you, I just need some press and thought you would be so perfect! Let me know!! P.S. I love your site!!!’ — My inbox, daily, in miniature.”
So, how do you pivot from “shouting into an empty room,” as Brian calls it, to having meaningful interactions? In my next post, I’ll offer some principles that have changed the quality of my social media interactions so far.
Jason Didner headlines the band Jungle Gym Jam, and is a frequent contributor to CMN’s Blog about the kindie music biz.