Art can be a hard thing to sell, especially in 2018. Odds are, it’s probably not why you set out to be a musician in the first place - although if it is, that’s fine too. If you’ve followed the decline of album sales through the traditional models over the years, it can seem like the days of making money off your music are coming to a pretty swift end. And many musicians think that trying to build a following on social media is just a waste of time.
Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. There’s still tons of money to be made selling your music: But only if you know the right way to do it.
That’s what we’re here to talk about briefly today. I want to introduce you to a few incredibly simple (but incredibly important) concepts that can help you on your way to making a real career from your music.
There’s tons and tons of info to cover, but we’re just going to hit a tiny fraction of it to get you introduced to the idea that you can make money from your art in a way that’s not overly complicated or convoluted.
Alright, so the first and most vitally important thing you need to be aware of is your online presence. I’m talking about the sum total of information about you on social media, your own website, and whatever has been written about you in articles, blogs, etc.
I mean everything out there about your act. There has to be awareness about you, especially on social media, before you even start thinking about making real money from selling your music.
Everyone goes on and on about going viral, and yeah, obviously that’s the gold standard for becoming a hit. And sure, there are some practices that might make you slightly more likely to go viral, but it’s a really fickle mistress and something that you don’t really have control over. What you do have control over is your online presence.
And let’s be clear - you need to be out there.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but you need to be on social media promoting yourself. You need to have an active online presence on places like Facebook and Twitter even if you’d rather not do that; that’s just how it works these days. The single most important thing that you need to do is build an online community of people who are passionate about your music.
It doesn’t even matter how large your community is: Just about everyone starts small and that’s fine. Don’t be concerned at first about how many people are in your community. Even if you’ve got like ten people following you on social media, being active and engaged with them is what gets your music talked about and shared. This is actually a general rule for marketing any kind of content online, but it’s especially important for music.
It helps some people to separate their online marketing persona from the artist who’s actually making the music. If that helps you to frame the two ideas in your mind, go for it! There’s the you who actually sits down and performs and then there’s the you who takes the end result of that process and actually tries to get it out there.
Marketing on social media is a skill, just like playing an instrument. It’s something that you can get better at with practice; but it does require practice. You need to be active about putting your music up on YouTube etc, but you also need to be smart about the pacing of your uploads. Instead of just throwing everything out there and waiting for people to find it. Release new stuff on a drip feed instead of a deluge. Your goal is to keep people engaged with your music over a long period of time so that your audience has time to grow.
So is social media a waste of time for musicians? Not at all. Head out on social media and start building your community. It’s the single most important thing you can do if you want to start making money from your art. Money shouldn’t even be the focus, at first anyway; the focus is on generating attention. Start with this simple concept, and you’re already on the right path to being a successful musician.