In our efforts to make available as much music business information as possible for Alabama music artists, Alabama Music Office.com has asked music business professionals from all over the world to share their knowledge and experiences.
If you are a solo artist, songwriter, band or any other type of musician or ensemble and want to successfully promote your music, you must be prepared to explain your work and your overall brand in vivid yet concise terms. A well-written short artist or band bio, solid recordings, stunning photos, videos and other pieces of media are all incredibly valuable components of your press kit. But in the Internet Age, where attention spans are shorter than they have ever been before, you also have to be ready, on command, to deliver a quick elevator pitch that describes your music and mission as an artist.
The elevator pitch is a promotional tool often overlooked by artists – or an afterthought consisting of a few clever (or not-so-clever!) adjectives strung together haphazardly as part of a Twitter bio – but it is absolutely essential to your overall marketing strategy, a short message that is easy to share with others online and in person. And if you are good at communicating a consistent artist brand, your elevator pitch is the mission statement that you will speak, write and live out every day as you pursue your creative goals.
If you have never put together any sort of a mission statement, summarizing your experience and accomplishments in a way that simultaneously conveys the deep, personal connection you have to the music you make may sound like a daunting chore. (I am frequently approached by frustrated artists that need help putting together a short statement because they have been staring at a blank page or lists of adjectives for months and are still unable to come up with a description that is true to what they are hoping to accomplish with their music.)
An elevator pitch does not need to be long. Some of the most efficient pitches are simple phrases of 5-10 words that describe an artist’s music with a mention of genre. (As an example, a guitarist and composer I work with and I came up with “[Artist Name] – Middle Eastern World Rock,” memorable words that fit the artist’s story, personality and his individuality as a musician, songwriter and performer.)
So, how can you illuminate the many dimensions of your personality, goals, artistic journey and art in as few words as possible and make people hungry for more information in a way that sounds natural when used as part of your other marketing materials and strategies?
The following is a collection of best practices that can help you create a solid elevator pitch – one that communicates your identity as an artist and attracts more fans to your music.
Listen to your biggest fans. Think about what your most loyal fans and artists and musicians with whom you regularly collaborate have said about you and your music. What other musicians do people say you sound like most often? What about your voice, instrumentation, playing style and songs makes you different from other groups or artists within your genre?
If you don’t already know the answers to these questions, find out. The ease of connecting through social media gives you no excuse not to enlist the help of your fans by posting a quick survey on Facebook or Twitter, or sending out a few questions to your email list inviting them to give you feedback on your music or on the experience of working with you creatively and professionally. Outside perspective offers a fresh, unbiased view of your music and can also provide you with important insight into the “x-factor” that will attract new fans that have never heard of you.
Build your bio around your elevator pitch. Your bio is often your first chance to make an impression on someone who will support your music, and your elevator pitch is at its center. A well-written elevator pitch, much like a well-written bio, shows you have an understanding of your fan base, the industry you are in and that you are serious about making music your career.
A memorable bio offers a compelling narrative that highlights your individuality as an artist in a language that speaks directly to your fan base. Your elevator pitch should follow the same guidelines and be based on what others say about you and about the music you make rather than simply rehashing your own ideas about why others should enjoy your music. Think of your elevator pitch as a laser-focused introduction to your story, and you will be more likely to compel others to explore your music and everything else you have to offer.
Use your elevator pitch to simplify your online presence. Visitors to your website, Twitter profile, Facebook fan page or any other social media page do not want to have to work too hard (or at all!) to find information. When you are looking at your own website or social media profile, you read every bit of content on every page, whereas the average visitor will just skim, passively vs. actively surfing. Thus, visitors to any of your pages on the Internet need to know exactly why they are there from the moment they land in your universe.
When you make your elevator pitch the focal point of all your pages, you give fans and potential fans an instant feel for your music and style. And the user experience for a casual website or social media page visitor will be greatly improved when you keep the message short. The shorter it is, the more likely it will grab people as they search mindlessly.
Just act natural. An elevator pitch is called an “elevator pitch” because it should be able to be said aloud and should take no longer to get out than the duration of a brief elevator ride. Think about how you would describe your band if you got into an elevator with someone who asked, “What do you do?” or “What does your band sound like?” and you only had a few floors’ ride to explain yourself.
Whatever your response, it must show you have a handle on your professional and personal goals, the philosophy behind your music and what that music sounds like, in language that sounds natural and genuine whether written or spoken.
If you have the basis of your elevator pitch nailed down before you write a full biography, design a website, social media pages or compile any of your other marketing materials, you will have an easier time building your artist brand organically. (And if you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of doing any of all of these things yourself, you can always hire a professional band bio writer to do some of the heavy lifting.) However, today’s music business is full of talented artists and easy ways to make and distribute music. Thus, you have to be able to clearly state your artistic goals via a carefully-thought-out pitch if you want to stand out from the crowd and grow your fan base.
If you spend any time online, you’ve no doubt seen a hashtag – a word or phrase preceded by a “#” symbol. You’ve probably even seen them on TV, billboards and magazine ads.
But what are they and why are they spreading? Most importantly, how can you use them for music marketing?
Hashtag: What the heck is it?
Even though hashtags have been used in the technology and programming fields for many years, they only started being used by the general public a few years ago on Twitter. Over the past year many websites and social media platforms have adopted them, including Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin, and Kickstarter.
Therefore, it’s high time you learned what they are and how to use them!
Think of the online world as a stadium filled to the brim with chatty people, all talking at the same time. Then imagine giant hashtag signs hanging from the rafters over various sections. People gradually gather in specific sections to talk directly to others, rather than screaming across the field.
If you stood in the middle of the stadium it would sound like an incomprehensible noise. But if you walked through the various sections you would hear people engaging in real conversations because they are now talking to others interested in the same topic.
When you use the “#” symbol before a word or phrase (with no spaces) in your social media updates, it becomes a clickable link. When you click that link you are taken to a page that shows only updates that use that hashtag. It’s a great way to filter out the noise and see only the discussions that pertain to a specific topic.
The cool thing about using hashtags is that you can observe and join global conversations on virtually any subject, or start one of your own. If you have something to say, you can tweet your thoughts, type in the right hashtag and send it out. Other people can search, read, retweet, like, comment and reply to them.
Hashtags are a particularly intriguing tool for music promotion. From getting the word out about your latest album release to promoting your next tour to staying in touch with your fans between shows … hashtags are a simple, effective and FREE music marketing tool. Major record labels and marketing gurus plan massive hashtag campaigns. Why not invest a little time now into planning your own hashtag marketing strategy?
Six Ways to Use #Hashtags for Music Promotion
1) Live tweets and updates during a show Create a hashtag for your band or album, and ask your fans to use your hashtag when posting social media updates during a live show. To get people in the room to really do it, you’ll need to use both visual and verbal cues. Spell it out for them verbally over the mic, but also have a banner or large sign with the hashtag spelled out (along with your website address and other info you want to convey).
2) Brand it, baby! Create a fun, short, unique hashtag that represents your band, musical theme, or current string of live shows. Think about the name of your album, a character in one of your songs, your most popular track, or an abbreviated version of your band name. Consider putting this hashtag on your blog, website, press releases, album covers and more. Of course, don’t be obnoxious doing this. Just be sure to make people aware of your strategically planned hashtag.
3) Encourage fan-generated content Have you seen major companies asking people to tweet or post pictures of themselves drinking a Coke, flossing, or making a funny face? With just a bit of effort, they get regular people to do their online marketing for them – for free!
There’s no reason why you can’t do this too! For example, you could ask people to take pictures at your show and tweet them out using your hashtag. Even better, offer a free prize for the best picture, like a free album, tickets to the next show, backstage passes, or a gift from a sponsor. But to win, they have to use the hashtag when they post their photos.
4) Engage new fans This one will require a bit of research, because you’ll need to figure out which hashtags are of interest to your ideal fans. Then, spend some time conversing with people using the hashtags you discovered. But be smart about it. Your conversations should not necessarily be about self-promotion, they should be about the topic at hand.
Your first objective is to make friends, gain followers, and get shared and retweeted. Pique interest first, and people will visit your profile page on Twitter, Facebook or whatever social site they discover you on. Then, hopefully, they’ll visit your website. (Please tell me you’ve got an artist website, and you include a link to it on ALL of your social profile pages!)
Here are some tips on where to start your search for the best hashtags: Causes you care about, news stories that resonate with your message, musicians you and your fans admire, and venues you want to play.
5) A live Q&A Twitter chat session Major celebrities do it, so why not you? Make it a planned event, promote it well in advance of the chat, and give it a unique hashtag like #ask[insert artist name here]. If your band’s name is long, you might want to abbreviate it so it consumes the fewest characters possible. It might help to get a few friends and supporters to kick off the conversation by posing the first few questions.
6) Respond to users who use your hashtag I know, this might seem like a “Duh, Bob” point, but I know damn well that many well-meaning musicians will forget about this. Simply encouraging your fans to use a specific hashtag of your choosing is a great start. But you can make this a lot more effective by being responsive. People who take the time to actually use your hashtag do so because they want to interact with you and other fans. So acknowledge them, retweet, respond, and have fun with it.
#Hashtag fail: How NOT to use them for music marketing
I wouldn’t be doing you any favors if I didn’t also tell you how not to use hashtags in your music marketing efforts.
• Using too many hashtags is annoying and will turn off followers. Pick one or two per tweet or update.
• Try to avoid always attaching hashtags to the end of your update. You’ll get a better response when you cleverly incorporate the hashtags into your tweet, such as “Soul #Massage Is Like a Guided Meditation You Can #Dance to www.SoulMassageMusic.com.”
• Don’t use irrelevant hashtags. Throwing #Kardashians into your update when your music has nothing to do with them would be dumb. Research and understand how people (your ideal fans) use hashtags before you start spitting them out.
• Don’t be a “character hog.” There are only 140 characters to work with, so keep your hashtag short and sweet.
If you haven’t yet tried using hashtags for music marketing, you may be missing out, especially since more and more prominent sites are using them. Give it a shot. It just might help you attract and engage more fans.
Start getting some hashtag practice right now by posting this to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and more:
Hashtag #MusicMarketing: How to Use #Hashtags to Promote Your Music http://bob-baker.com/buzz/hashtag-music-marketing via @MrBuzzFactor