If you are serious about becoming a pro in the music biz, knowing how to market yourself is almost as important as being an excellent musician. And let’s be honest, there are a lot more flaky musicians out there, than there are reliable guns for hire. So you should always make yourself look as professional as possible, while synonymously maintaining your “cool factor”. Social media is a very powerful marketing tool to show that you’ve got your act together and are a “good hang”, but it can also be very dangerous for the whimsical poster. “It’s a good rule of thumb to never post anything you wouldn’t want a boss or prospective employer to see. Always assume that, no matter how strict your privacy settings are, your post will be seen,” says the Vice President of Workplace Solutions at Care.com, Chris Duchesne. Here are more helpful hints to live by while navigating the transparent world of the wild wild web.
1. Nobody wants to read your old status updates… clean out the past!
Look at it this way… your online content is basically a resume fully inclusive of pictures, quotes, and even relationship updates. More times than not, I see musicians making too many posts online, informing fans of their personal lives instead of music. Unless you’re a superstar act, whom TMZ is following around Hollywood because the general public cares about your personal life so much, it’s probably best to focus on making your posts mostly related to your art. One thing that I did, was to clean out the past on all of my social media accounts, (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) even my private account! It can be a daunting and overwhelming task. But when you are sitting in airports and on tour buses all day, it is a great way to be productive without an instrument in hand. I don’t want anything posted online that could potentially affect a relationship with a future employer, family member, or fan. It has been said in recent job interviews that potential employers will search your social media to learn more about you, remember this could potentially be the first impression you give someone – so make it good!
2. Make sure your business card’s website address actually works.
Common sense seems to go out the window quite easily, believe it or not, with struggling artists. I understand it can be exciting to have a new single, or to be networking in a new town. However, I noticed that a lot of musicians focus on getting business cards made very quickly and sometimes don’t even proofread their content. It has been often, where I’m out “networking” (or so it’s called in LA, when you sit at a bar all night with strangers) and someone hands me a business card that, lo and behold, reveals they are also a musician. They may have an attractive, fancy, high end card with a headshot, but the website link from the card will be a dead, non-existent link, or lead to the wrong place. It’s very important that we proof read anything that we are giving a potential fan or colleague. I’m not sure about any of you, but most of the time if I receive a business card I will check it out – you never know when you may hear a songwriter that blows your mind and you may want to get involved with someday.
3. Keep track of which sites (You Tube, etc.) show your viewing history and pay attention.
Several of the top social media sites, 2 that come to mind (YouTube & Instagram), have the ability to show other users the videos you have watched and which photos you’ve liked. Be cautious, because as small as it sounds, you could alienate potential female fans by your string of ‘liking’ all of the porn stars photos on Instagram, but maybe you’ll gain a few fans also! The important key to remember in this step, is that no matter what, someone is always watching what you are doing!
4. Keep your content relevant & remember, quality over quantity.
This is another one that goes without saying. When you start posting more photos of what you had to eat today over show flyers, studio photos, behind the scenes shots with fans, or concert photos – we have a problem! Keep the focus on anything that IS music related. Our goal is to sell records, fill seats at shows, and gain exposure for our art! Photos and videos that don’t relate to this goal need to be avoided at all costs (this will tie into step number 6). Photos of you with fans show that you are personable, easily approachable, and down to earth, so these are always great to have online. Behind the scenes photos are also very fun for fans. I’m not saying to avoid putting other kinds of pictures online, but keep them relevant. For example, if you were in Moscow it would be ok to post pictures of you and the band visiting Red Square (you may gain a few Russian fans and followers from it). Get outside the box and be creative with your content! It wouldn’t hurt also to learn some hash tags in different languages just to spice it up!
5. Do your research on your “enemy” fellow players.
It’s important to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. In this case your enemies are all the guys in your city that you see at audition after audition, that keep beating you out for gigs! Get to know these players! Get to know their websites! Do your homework and research their online presence. If you see somebody get gig after gig, after gig, look at their online content and see what they have going on there that you don’t. See how they brand themselves and portray themselves to the world. In this day and age, it’s important to show yourself as a brand & asset, and not just a guitarist. Are they doing gear demos? Are they endorsed? What are their credits? What do their photo albums look like? What videos are on their You Tube channels?
6. Most importantly… do research on yourself!
Have you ever typed your name into a Google search? You’d be surprised at some of the items that come up and some of the crazy professions people that share your name have, or even what crazy fetishes they are into. Get online and do your research on yourself. You can’t implement any of the previous suggestions without first assessing where you are in regards to your online presence. I would do a search, see what images come up (step 4), what links, what are the top headlines, and start writing these things down and organizing a game plan. Your game plan would include where you are currently with your online content and where you want to go. Start researching your idol guitar players and musicians and see what kind of content comes up for them. What websites come up in the searches first? Are they in all the top searches? Do they do instructional videos that are the top searches? Find out what they are doing and copy it! Learn how to use hash-tags appropriately and also learn about search engine optimization. The Internet, if used properly, can be your biggest friend but it also could be your biggest downfall!
Erik Himel is an international touring guitarist, songwriter, and producer, based in Los Angeles.
As a live performer he has played the famous Sunset Strip, Ultra Music Festival, South by Southwest, The Playboy Mansion, and most recently the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. As a session musician he has lent his talents to a wide variety of independent artists and producers in addition to artists from Ultra Records.
In 2014, Erik joined the legendary Russian rock band, Mumiy Troll, which has been described as the “Rolling Stones of Russia” and undoubtedly the most significant band that modern Russia has produced since the fall of the Soviet regime. Currently Mumiy Troll is on tour worldwide and gearing up to release their new album “Pirate Copies” in early 2015.