I originally published this article in July of 2009 when the world of social media was still evolving. At that time, Myspace was still very relevant and Twitter was just stepping up as a meaningful contender in the social media free-for-all. Now, 7 years later, almost every individual and business has an online presence. Although much has changed many of the ideas from my past article are still useful today. So luckily, with an easy Google search, I was able to find my old Dos and Don’ts article and decided to update it for relevance with today’s current platforms. Originally I wrote this for musicians and songwriters, but the principles I speak about can be used by any content creator. In place of musician feel free to punch in your own occupation — filmmaker, graphic artist and so on. Replace record label and record deal with whatever business lingo is used in your area of expertise.

Top 7 Online Marketing and Promotional DOS AND DON’TS for Artists and Songwriters

Over time I’ve learned that as a musician or songwriter you have to learn what works and what doesn’t if you want to make money. The problem for most, I realized, is the fact that this process takes a very long time if you’re not exposed to the right social network of people. Most musical artists aren’t business minded and really only want to handle the music aspect of things. However, that mindset is like jumping into the belly of the beast head first. I learned that lesson the hard way but that’s another story. In order to effectively make money as an independent artist you have to carry out almost everything yourself — bottom line. Don’t sit around and wait for things to be handed to you. In this article, I’m going to discuss my online dos and don’ts of promoting and marketing yourself on the internet. Hopefully, some things will get clarified for you.

1.) DONT PLAN ON GETTING A DEAL FROM ANYTHING YOU DO ONLINE.

As a matter of fact don’t do any promotions or marketing with the primary goal of getting a major label deal. That can be a goal but be sure to always make building a larger fan base your primary goal. Even if you do not get a deal your fanbase will be sure to keep you paid as long as you keep them happy. Deals fall through and record labels shelf artists all the time, but a true fan will always support you. Cater to them. Another reason to keep your fans first is because if you have a large enough fanbase you can use that as leverage to find a label deal. Labels want artists with numbers. With the recent trend of the one hit wonders and declining album sales, record labels want to make sure that an artist is marketable before they sign them. They measure that according to how large your fan base is. Understand?

2.) STOP INFLATING YOUR NUMBERS!

This is one of the most important things. Stop inflating your Youtube views, Soundcloud listens, Facebook Likes, Vimeo views, and all the rest. Stop right now. What’s most important is creating a conversation around yourself. Engagement is what “smart” labels and businesses are using to choose whom and whom not to do business with. If you’re still using numbers to choose who’s voice you’re listening to, you’ve been out of the loop for a few years.

Comments, likes, retweets and meaningful engagement with your brand are most important. That inevitably creates the numbers you’ll be looking for. Ask questions and see what your audience wants and then continue to engage. Create your niche. It’s better to have 300 fanatical fans that leave thought provoking comments every day then 300,000 that say nothing. Don’t be the guy with 150,000 Youtube plays and 15 comments saying “cool” or the girl with 70,000 Instagram followers that barely like your pics and leave dancing girl emojis on every post. No Bueno. To quote Zig Zigler, “Don’t become a wandering generality. Be a meaningful specific.”

3.) DON’T PUT ALL YOUR ONLINE EGGS IN ONE BASKET. DIVERSIFY!

I always come across independent musicians that have an Instagram or a Twitter. Maybe both. Maybe they’ll have a Facebook too. Splash a Youtube video here and there and you’ve now become every other musician. Nowadays, that’s not hardly enough. Imagine having no buses, cars, or trains and the only method of transportation you were using was a bike. Well, if you’re only using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or Instagram (the usuals) to market yourself then you’re riding a bike while others (not many) are flying private jet promotional campaigns.

The online world is all about Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Look it up if you’ve never heard of it. That’s partly how Google determines rank on their search pages. Anyway, be sure to create blogs and update them regularly, write and distribute online press releases, create profiles on multiple sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp, and write articles on Medium and other places with links to your sites. ALWAYS have a professional website (www.yournamehere.com for example). This gives you a professional look and helps people distinguish between you and the millions of other artists out there. Also, social networks come and go but your website will be your great pyramid that stands the winds of internet time.

4.) DON’T STOP PROMOTING AND MARKETING!

Rapper Retchy P once told me, “Consistency trumps talent.” That quote is something I want you to NEVER forget. Constantly update all the sites you have. It’s easy to be forgotten so updating regularly will keep your audience interested. Remember what Aristotle said. “Time crumbles things; everything grows old under the power of Time and is forgotten through the lapse of Time.” Use platforms like Hootsuite, Crowdfire or Buffer to automate posts to your social media and be sure to respond to all interactions you’re receiving online.

5.) DON’T FOCUS ON THE OPINIONS OF FANS THAT AREN’T IN YOUR TRIBE.

According to Seth Godin, your tribe is your core group of fans. Bob Baker says, “I suggest you not be distracted by the people on the fringe of YOUR tribe. Don’t insult them (unless that’s a part of your brand identity), but don’t cower to them either.” Trying to appeal to everyone will only water down your identity and lead you to failure. Focus on the true fans. Those include the people that attend all your shows, buy your albums, comment on your sites, and support you wholeheartedly. They are your IDEAL customers.

6.) DON’T INVEST MONEY IN ANYTHING WITHOUT PLANNING YOUR DIRECTION FIRST!

There are so many scams out there preying on musicians for money! Due to the fact that the entertainment industry is so congested, many musicians have become desperate. Everyone wants the dream without the work and scams are constantly taking advantage of these people. Be sure to write down exactly what it is that you want and exactly what you need. That way you don’t go spending money on services that you don’t need. If you know what you want people can’t convince you that you need whatever trash it is they’re trying to sell you. If you’re not sure what you need, feel free to tweet me with questions. I’m no expert but I might be able to help. Remember this quote by Alfred Montapert, “In life, the first thing you must do is decide what you really want. Weigh the costs and the results. Are the results worthy of the costs? Then make up your mind completely and go after your goal with all your might.” Cheesy but true.

7.) PAY TO PLAY!

Please stop thinking you can trade visibility for professional work. This means stop trying to convince established blogs to post your music in exchange for you telling your 300 Facebook fans to visit their site as if that blog will care. That might work for the high school kid down the street experimenting with his dad’s old camera but not the cream of the crop. The phrase “money talks” is extremely true and if you don’t have money don’t expect others to eagerly throw themselves onto your bandwagon. Be realistic. I’ve heard so many say, “But my music is soooo hot, it’s only a matter of time before I make it! The music will sell itself!” That has to be the most untrue statement anyone could ever think. MUSIC DOESN’T SELL MUSIC, PEOPLE DO. This means you. Get up and start selling yourself and paying for quality services because most people (anyone that considers themselves a real professional) will want to get paid. Everyone has their own agenda. So unless you can somehow appeal to someone’s agenda get ready to come out of pocket a lot to accomplish your goals.

P.S.: From my own experience Facebook ads are extremely useful and it will grow your tribe rapidly. Twitter also has a sponsored tweet capability and buying advertising on other blogs using great sites like Passion Fruit ads can also be extremely useful. Fivver is growing rapidly and has all kinds of services available including college radio spins, Soundcloud promotion, and cover art design to name a few. Use these sites! I can’t overemphasize enough the impact of buying ads and using professional quality services. It will help your brand stand out from the rest.