It would be wonderful if music was logical: talented artists were famous and had enough support to make a living, they could release their songs and their audience could easily find them, booking shows was just a matter of calling up and setting a date.
Unfortunately, the whole process is whack. The internet has made it so that a talented artist can independently record, release, and market their music for absolutely no money (assuming they borrow microphones and steal software) but there’s a piece missing: how does the audience find you?
Fans used to find music through radio, or through variety television. It was centralized…and although regions might vary on who or what they play it was pretty likely that if you had a hit in Austin, Texas on a major network you’d find your way onto the sets of people around the world.
Just to get on that major network you’d probably need to be signed to a label, or have a close contact who could sell you to the music directors…but once you were there the competition was limited…the world is your limit…sky your oyster!
Now where does a musician go to reach fans? Some people go to YouTube, but how do you sift through the junk to find the gold? Some browse music sites like last.fm or artist pages on MySpace, but again…are you willing to sit through 10,000 artists to find one that suits your tastes?
There are blogs…there is satellite radio…
In the end, the best promotion is word of mouth, a friend passing a link through Twitter after they find an amazing artist they never heard of.
An artist they stumbled over.
Sometimes, I wonder how many thousands of dollars are spent on various promotional tools, but in the end a band reached its audience because someone accidentally found the song.
What’s the solution? There isn’t one…yet. Finding fans with connections, fans that fell in love with your art, is the best bet. It’s something that money can’t buy (though you may have to subsidize their services after they’ve fallen in love with you.) There is something I can say from experience though:
If you have to pay someone to love your music then they aren’t going to put very much effort into spreading the word. In the end, they’ll provide the service you’ve paid but not the passion you need. Some companies take as many cheques as they can, to the point that they have five or six artists in each genre competing against each other for attention. That isn’t the way to reach your fans (much like buying Facebook ‘Likes’ or YouTube views)
What you should be looking for is a dedicated fan base, and have ‘them’ spread the word. If that fan base includes one or two professionals with contacts in the industry, BONUS! If they truly love your music, they’ll find a way to tell their friends.
Music is hard! In the good ol’ days you impress two or three people (a producer, a manager, a label exec) then you’re in! Today…you need to impress two or three hundred people…and even then, it may not be a guarantee.
Conclusion: music is about love, and you have to love what you’re doing. If you do, then someone else out there will love what you’re doing as well…and slowly but surely, over time, you might build up a base that can support you through your career.
Nothing comes easy for a few bucks…you get what you pay for, and a passionate fan…they’re priceless.