By Cari Cole
As an artist, you’ve got your back against a wall. A wall that will take all of your resources and cleverness to break through. You’ve probably already spent a small fortune just to get your music out. But how do you make a dent after you spent most of your resources on your music career? The enormous amount of cash it takes to break an artist is not usually even on the map for most indies. A label will spend $250K to $1M and more. But it’s no use crying in your pillow or trying to compete with that. You can do a lot with small resources, you just have to be super smart about it and not fall prey to the bigger carrots dangling in front of you (publicity and radio promotion) that will certainly rob you blind and have very little effect. It takes a BIG budget to make those approaches work at all. I can’t tell you how many self-funded (or somewhat fan funded) artists spend money on publicity and radio promotion and never see results that measure up to anything worthwhile. It’s EASY to waste cash in this business. Instead, do yourself and your wallet a HUGE favor by smartening up about how to spend what cash you have and how to spend it in the right order which means everything when it comes to seeing results.
The biggest mistake you could make is to do it out of order.
Here are my 5 Most Worthwhile Music Career Investments Musicians Can Make When They’re Short on Cash:
1. Have a Super Strong Brand, Record AND Message.
The very best advice I could give you is to invest in your music, your brand and create a palpable REAL message for people. So much so that you make it a priority over everything else. Artistry first, marketing & promotion second. Many artists don’t realize that in order to gain attention, attract massive fans & followers, get notice from the press, bloggers and industry insiders requires that your product, your record, and your brand, be bold enough to make a worthy statement in the industry. The biggest mistake is to put out a record on a skimpy budget thinking the songs will speak for themselves. Nope. Too many indie artists put out records on next to nothing budgets and sacrifice artistry, quality and don’t spend enough time on the process to find the real message they are offering. Nothing can make your music career breakdown faster than a half baked record. Consequently, nothing can make your career breakthrough faster than an exceptional record. The best thing you can do is to invest in your record by knowing the art of breakthrough record making to help you go the distance. Don’t spend a DIME on any marketing or promotion until you have this nailed. And if you don’t have an Exceptional Record, go back into the creative womb and don’t come out until you’ve got one.
2. Grow Your List for Free (well almost free…).
This one you can do without spending a dime. It just requires time and application. Here’s what I suggest:
Give away your record in exchange for an email address. You don’t even have to spend anything and you will grow your list for free! (Well, sans the cost of your record. But don’t worry about that. Records are what draw people into you especially as an indie. Sell your CD at shows, but give it away for free online for promotional campaigns to attract thousands of fans online.) Run promotions for a pre-selected number of days! Try a 90 day period. Noisetrade is a great way to do this as it reaches a larger audience, and also have your free record available from an email opt-in form on your website. People LOVE to get a free record and will easily give you their name and email. 2-3 songs won’t do it, it needs to be your whole album or EP. They will consider you generous and maybe even fall in love with you a little bit more ;).
3. Facebook Ad Campaign.
These are cheap and get great results!! For just $25-$50 per week you can limit the amount you spend each day, set your total budget and monitor your campaign, pausing it anytime you want. It also helps that you can target the pages of other artists who are similar to you to more easily find music fans. Try three different ads on one campaign and run for a week to see which one is performing better and then ditch the other two.
4. Google AdWords for Your Video.
Google AdWords is a great way to invest a chunk of your marketing budget with YouTube’s TrueView, which is AdWords for video. This creates sponsored video ads on YouTube which can lead people to your video, channel, or website. Since it’s PPC (pay-per-click), you’ll only be charged each time your ad is clicked – plus, you get to choose the cap on the amount you spend (i.e., your $5). With a budget of $5 to $10 a day, you can easily achieve up to 1,000 impressions daily.
5. Hire a Music Consultant to Create a Strategy.
Before you even think of hiring a publicist (and wasting hard earned cash), hire a music mentor who is a “strategist.” Someone who can help you come up with a strategic plan to fit you, your music and your budget (instead of following generic music marketing tactics which usually won’t amount to much) and get better results long term than a short term run with an expensive publicist. Remember a publicist is not a career mentor, they are a hired hand for a short duration and can only be so effective. It’s best to work with a publicist when you already have a large following and want to capitalize on something big, not a small record release. Working with a music mentor who can guide your career and aim the arrow for a place you’ll fit is being a #smartmusician.
Closing thoughts: Whatever you do, don’t spend exorbitant amounts of money on publicity or radio promotion until you have a list size of 50K true fans on your email list (not followers but dedicated list subscribers and fan funders). Trust me, if you rush to spend your cash on publicity you’re most likely going to waste your money! Grow your list more organically FIRST (see #2 above!)
What are your favorite money-saving career building tactics? Share in the comments below!!