My name is P.J., and I have experience in several different areas. I have formal training in voice, piano, and the viola. I've worked several years as a lead singer in several different bands in greater Cincinnati. One thing that I didn't want to be guilty of is being a spoiled diva singer, so I used my creative arts and communication talents to promote my bands, build our web site, create hard-copy press kits, advertise our shows, create flyers, book our gigs and keep our calendar, cold calling venues, etc. Basically, the guys just had to come in and set up the gear and play...then tear it down and pack it up. I did EVERYTHING else, including singing lead and harmony vocals.
Luckily for me, I had some musician buddies that were way ahead of me in the game, and some who had worked in the professional realm. I spent several years learning the business end of things before attempting to front a band and promote it. I picked up from there by becoming computer literate, learning how to create web sites, blogging, and reading everything I could get my eyes on about the music business.
Because I did my home work, and because I initially worked with some very dedicated musicians, my first band won a regional competition after our 1st year together. We were then sponsored to compete in the IBC in Memphis. We went on to do festivals, radio interivews, newspaper interviews, music cruises, poker runs, bike shows, and gigged every weekend for 2.5 years.
Even though I have not worked on a national scale, I have a fairly good idea of what's expected from labels, and how to start to promote a good music project. The only thing that has kept me from taking anything a step futher is not having access to competent available musicians to execute the music I wish to perform. In greater Cincinnati, most of the better musicians are already over-taxed with music projects. And the independents are either weekend warriors or not educated enough about the business of music to have a realistic attitude about it. And many simply just aren't accomplished enough, or have no idea what professional work ethics are...or self dicipline. Because of all of this, I stopped working my ass off to build a project, because I couldn't get any follow-through from the people I was working with. So, instead of griping about the "slim pickins" of competent musicans, and other local music industry problems, I decided to become a part of the solution. I founded THE GREATER CINCINNATI INDEPENDENT ENTERTAINERS ASSOCIATION, or CincyIndies.org, to start getting all the local independents on the same page professionally, to help those who need to "polish" their acts, and to help promote local independent music.
From what I've read and learned, I agree with the guys here that it is a tall order, without even a listen, to know what needs to be done to market your CD. But, I can give you some basic marketing strategies that can be expanded upon over time.There are several things that come to mind right away:
1. Create a public presense for your CD. Even though you may not be performing live, you still need a web page...just like movies have. If you'll notice, when you Google a movie title, you'll almost always come across a HOME page for the DVD movie, and instructions on how and where to buy it. The same should be done for your CD. The site should not only provide your CD for sale, but you should have bios of the songwriters, and perhaps annecdotes about certain songs by the songwriters who wrote them. Any other information about the project that the public can connect to is good. You should also have an account at MySpace Music, and some other similar networking sites. Go visit some pro sites for examples of presentation, and then present your CD as professionally as you can.
2. Create accounts for your CD at SonicBids and CDBaby
3. Create a digital album, and sell your CDs & Mp3s on Amazon, Rhapsody, and Real Media, and iTunes.
4. Find an online Music Publication (or several) to review your CD.
5. Market your CD online utilizing links to your other accounts, and your home page. Online marketing can be very effective if you use the "tried and true" sites that have a lot of traffic. Create a hype about the CD, provide a link to song clips of the tracks, and then provide a way to purchase online.
6. You really should do some limited live performances, and have a CD Release Party to officially launch your CD. If you had a band that was perfoming regularly, I'd have put that near the top of the list. But you need to create a presence PRIOR to the official release, and then have all of your marketing in place, before officially launching your project. Have the CD release party where you know you'll have the best turnout for the genre you are presenting. You don't want your party to flop...not a great way to start out. And you want some local press there, too, if you can get it. Invite several publications that write about local music to the party. The more good press you get out of the gate, the more information you have to attest to the "awesomeness" of your CD. You need to at least play to a full room of enthusiastic listeners. Get pics, videos, anything you can use later for promotions. If it's good, it will help.
7. Market your CD on nationally known community web sites, such as Craig's List and Backpage.com. There are a bunch of upstart sites out there that don't have the reputation of those 2. Don't mess with them, as you most likely will be wasting your time until that site builds a rating and following. Although Craig's List may be more known than Backpage, CL doesn't offer the marketing that Backpage does. Both sites allow you to post in multiple cities, but Backpage supports html tables to be used as a template ad, where Craig's List only supports simple html and text. Both of these sites are constantly monitored by the search engines, and your ad will show up on them if you post on those 2 sites.Here are some examples of promotions we are doing on Backpage.com in Cincinnati:
1. A CD Release Announcement
2. A Band Weekly Performance Schedule
3. A Tribute Band Gig Advertisement
4. Our Organization Ad
5. A Writers Night Promotion
(We used PageBreeze html editor to create these ads -- free on Download.com)
We've also done concert promotions for the Madison Theater in Covington, Ky that were quite successful, and promotions for other bands at other venues. These are all posted in the Community Events area of Backpage.com. And you can post the same ads in cities all across the country and outside of the country.
The CD Release Announcement was originally created to advertise the upcoming CD Release Party, and was later adapted for sale of the CD. It was originally run as a Sponsor Ad in 33 cities across the US. The target cities were chosen for industry and the most likely public interest. The ads were run for nearly 4 months straight, and gave a good kick-off to the CD sales.
Other community sites where you could post in your local area would be sites like roadrunner's home site. Aroundcinci.com is our page here. There is a community bulletins area of their site where you can post entertainment events. You should do a search of your area for what sites are available to you there.
8. You really should have a good video to showcase your material, without giving it away for free. You do that by using clips played to a video montage, or live performance footage. Enough to strike watchers' interests, but just enough to leave 'em wanting more...so they'll go buy the CD. Aways put a text frame in that gives a place to buy the CD...or several places.
9. Continue to "create a buzz" about your CD. You want folks buying and telling their friends about you, too. It's very easy to pass information along on the internet. On Backpage.com, there's a link where you can directly email the ad to your friends and family, and believe me, those that use those sites use those referral links. Word of "fingers" can be very powerful, once you've created a buzz and marketed in the right places.
10. Make sure you keep track of your sales (CDs, hats, tanks and t-shirts, etc.). If you later want to pitch to a label, producing decent sales stats (while not being marketed by a label) should catch some notice. Remember, music is a business, and you need to conduct your project like a business. If you want label interest, you have to be able to show them that you can make them money.
Now mind you, that's just to get you started...it's up to you how much work you put into it. Just remember that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Make sure that everything you use to market your work is of quality. If you use crappy photos, videos, graphics, etc...it will hurt you more than help you.
I'm sure there are others more qualified than me to answer your question, but I don't think I've steered you wrong in getting started as an independent.
Good luck to you!