Promoting Yourself as an Artist

by John Eberhard

Back in the 1980s I made a living working as a musician, playing in nightclubs around New England.

I didn’t know much about marketing back then, but a fellow musician had told me the formula for getting work in nightclubs. He said you needed to have a good quality demo tape of the band, about 4-8 songs, not whole songs but snippets, an 8×10” glossy photo of the band, and a song list. He said you make up a package with all that in it, locate agents who book the clubs where you want to play, and call them and send them that package.

That formula turned out to be pretty good, as I was able to book bands pretty steadily using it. That was just for booking a cover band working in nightclubs. The formula for getting a band a recording contract would of course be more extensive and more complex.

But the point is this: to be successful in any sector of the arts requires that you not only have your act together artistically, but that you find out what the successful formula is marketing-wise for getting where you want to go. And then market yourself aggressively using that formula.

Back in the day I think I had the idea that if I just was really good at what I did as a musician, then things would work out alright. I didn’t have the idea that I had to aggressively market myself. And certainly I was never taught to market myself, even at Berklee College of Music.

I think that with too many artistic schools today, they place all the emphasis on teaching the artistic technique, and completely forget to include teaching students that to be successful as an artist you have to promote yourself, and have a feel for how the business works. An artist is essentially an entrepreneur. Because let’s not forget, that if you don’t eventually start making money with your art, it will of necessity be relegated to the status of a hobby after a time. Because as you get older, your monetary needs will increase.

Making Money with Art

First of all, realize that your goals need to include getting paid for doing your art. This sometimes requires a reality shift, because so often, musicians, actors, dancers, and other artists are expected and asked to perform their art for free. Artists have to fight this expectation, because it is inherently unfair. So finding ways of getting paid has to be part of your thought process, not only for down the road, but also for right now.

Next, figure out what your eventual goal is, and find other successful artists who have achieved that goal. Ask them what the formula is for promoting yourself as an artist to achieve that goal. Sometimes successful artists will jealously guard the secret of their formula, being afraid of competition. But often, especially in Los Angeles, artists of various types will give seminars on succeeding in the business, or you can find books giving this type of information. Be aware also that that formula will change from time to time, so make sure you have up to date information.

Using the Internet

Regardless of the specific formula needed to achieve your specific goal in your artistic field, there are some universal opportunities afforded by the Internet today for online marketing, and all artists can make use of these.

  • Facebook: Set up a personal profile and a fan page on Facebook, then get lots of friends on the personal profile and get lots of people to “like” your fan page. Then start posting status updates regularly (to both), just saying what you are doing as an artist. Don’t just use text, but include photos, links to videos, links to music clips, links to articles, etc. That gives it more impact.
  • Blogs: Start a blog, and start posting material to it on a regular basis. This can be similar to what you would post on Facebook, but more extensive. Write articles, write updates on what you are doing as an artist. Post pictures, videos, music clips, etc., whatever is appropriate for your field to show your work. Make sure you send a notification to the blog search engines every time you post something. You can use www.pingomatic.com, or WordPress blogs do this automatically.
  • Twitter: Start an account on Twitter and start following lots of people and get them to follow you back. Try to target people who would potentially be a consumer for your artistic product. With Twitter you can target people in a certain geographical area, you can target people who have certain words or phrases in their bio, or target people who write certain words or phrases in their tweets.
  • Ping.fm: This site allows you to start an account, then hook up all your other social media accounts to it. Then you can post status updates from Ping.fm, and they will automatically go out to all your social media accounts and all your friends/followers will see them.
  • YouTube: Get some videos made of your work or performances, and post them to YouTube. Then promote the video on all other online media, such as through your blog, Facebook and Twitter, etc.

LinkedIn is generally considered to be a business networking site, so that may or may not be useful to you as an artist. MySpace used to be THE social media site, but has declined severely over the last couple years. Bands still use it.

Summary

In order for you to be successful long term as an artist, you have to exchange your work with the public, and they have to pay you money. Unfortunately our society is not very good about rewarding artists, so you not only have to be good, but you have to market yourself aggressively. And part of that has to include finding the correct formula of promoting yourself to reach the so-called big time.

Good luck with promoting your artistic endeavors.

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