Games, Guerrilla Campaigns, & Modern Music Marketing

Ask a modern indie musician what the most important thing is for his or her career, and marketing will probably come up in one form or another. Of course the most important thing is to develop a great sound, and to stand by your music. If you’re making music you believe in and you’re doing it with passion, you can be happy and fulfilled even if your career never takes off. But on the business side of things, finding creative ways to put your sound out and gather a fan base is as important as anything. 

And creative is the key word there. The music industry is a lot different than it once was, and while there are actually more avenues for indie artists, the process of gaining fans is perhaps less straightforward than it used to be. It’s for this reason that we’re exploring some of the ways young artists are looking to prop themselves up nowadays – and some of the ways that perhaps they should.

Blog & Share

This is a pretty big category, and it’s the one that indie artists are most likely already engaging with. But it’s also probably the most important one. As another list of marketing tips pointed out, every artist should maintain a blog in addition to simply having a website, because there’s no better way to keep your site updated. Blogging for fans makes you more relatable and makes your creative process more interesting. You can let them know what you’re up to (even if you only have a small group of fans), what you’re listening to, etc. – become a total musical information and entertainment resource rather than just an artist. And as you do it, make sure to share past the point at which you feel like you’re maxing out. Any indie artist hoping to make it in the modern musical landscape needs to be adept at all major social media platforms, and active on them as well (including YouTube).

Play Live

Playing live almost seems too simple to be included in any kind of discussion on strategic marketing ploys, but it’s always important to remember just how big a deal live shows are. There just isn’t a better way, when you’re a young or up-and-coming artist, to make sure that new people are hearing your sound, or that people around town are talking about you. Whether you’re opening for bigger groups touring through your area or just playing in the corner of a local bar, you can’t go wrong with squeezing in as many live shows as you can muster.

Go Guerrilla

There was a great read on how artists pushed boundaries in 2016, and part of it zeroed in on Skepta, a London-based grime artist who ran a busy, creative guerrilla marketing campaign leading up to a gig. In this specific case he put up posters around town featuring his own blurred face on what looked like a postage stamp – a sort of baiting for fans or just curious passersby. He then returned to the scenes and spray painted over the posters with details about the show, and posted videos of the act to his social media platforms. That’s one fairly specific example but it shows how sometimes just getting out into town and doing busywork can be the best way to market a specific event and generate some buzz. If you can become known for this sort of thing, you’ll probably get more fans in the process.

Find A Game

This is something that more established artists have been exploring, but it’s a tactic that may work for some indie artists as well. You may have heard for instance that Steve Aoki set up his own vaguely Bejeweled-like mobile game (complete with new music). Perhaps more prominently, a few classic rock groups have had a rebirth via online casinos. The range of games is sometimes highlighted as a perk for these gaming platforms, and as casino developers seek new and engaging themes, they’ve turned to groups like Guns N’ Roses and even the Jimi Hendrix Experience with significant success. Whether an indie artist can take this exact route is debatable, but it’s worth keeping in mind that there are thousands of developers working on mobile and online games. One creative marketing ploy would definitely be to seek some of these developers out and ask to help with a soundtrack (with you or your band’s name attached of course).

Be A Tease

This too is for more established artists, but it’s something you can toy with if and when you build up a bigger social media following. We’re actually getting the idea from stars like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, both of whom have “gone dark” on social media at various times only to return with exciting details about new material. This is a way to create a huge impact surrounding an announcement. If your fans come to expect regular posts from you and you then go on hiatus, it’s all the louder when you return to social action.

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