Having worked at Music Forte for several years, I have gathered a strong awareness of how artists promote themselves.  Lets face it, starting off in obscurity is a difficult point to launch a career from.  Yet almost everyone who was not born into royalty or fame has shared that starting point.  And many have found great success.  Although it would be just as easy to focus on what they did do, it is also helpful to focus on what they did not or should not do.

1. Over-Pimped websites

This is one of the most annoying blunders an artist seems to make.  No matter where you promote yourself, you should keep in mind the direction your visitors will take.  With all the widgets, media players, and banners that are provided for online promotion, it’s fun to show them off, but it’s not fun for your visitors.  Focusing on one direction will yield much better results than focusing on 100.  That direction does not mean to use only one site, rather focus on one direction that will lead your listeners to a sale.  Quite often I am asked to visit an artists’ MySpace page to listen to their music.  In many cases it has been impossible.  First off, the load-time of the page takes over 60 seconds (due to all the gadgets and such that the artist has installed).  Next, 5 media players start blasting their music at the same time.  Now I could start jumping around the page to turn off all but one, so I could actually hear the music, but to be honest it’s just not worth the trouble, and will annoy any perspective new fan.  By keeping your content small and focused, it is much easier to funnel your visitors to a sales page.

2. “I’m Awesome” – the crushing ego

You’re awesome? Yeah, well that’s just great.  David Lee Roth had no problem exposing his ego, but he really was awesome!  Even after all these years, there have been very few lead singers that can compete with his level of of vocal ability.  So many times, I start listening to a song, thinking to myself, “wow… this is going to be great”.  After the first 10 seconds of a well crafted intro that has already pulled me in with it’s groove and masterful guitar licks, the horror begins.  You know what it is; that tone deaf vocal with a range of one octave.  Remember, just because you wrote a song, doesn’t mean you have to sing it. Sure, we all know that the singer is in the spotlight and receives the most attention.  But you should be showcasing an abundance of talent, not a lack of it.

3. Don’t do it all

Although this is similar to point number two, it is still a common scenario.  Most of the people who say, I play drums, guitar, bass, and keys, really can’t play any of them.  Just because you did it, does not always mean you did it well.  Go out, and find an experienced musician to help you with your recording, and your music will be perfect from intro to end.  It may be that your gift is simply in songwriting, and there is nothing wrong with that.  Keep on writing and be sure you have the right people to actually play the music.  By doing so, you and your fans will be happy with the result from intro to end.

4. Putting your eggs all in one basket

Although most artists are obsessed with the idea of landing a great label deal, very few have a back up plan.  Even the major labels only sign a few big acts a year. Branch out and take advantage of other opportunities that are available.  You never know where it might land you.  Working as a studio artist isn’t bad at all.  It should not be considered an act of betrayal to your current band mates.  And if it is, perhaps they should read point number 2, and tone down their ego.  You might decide you don’t even need a band.  Production music is a great way to get your music on TV or in a video game.  You might even find that playing in a church gospel group, brings out talent you never had.  There are many careers in music aside from singing telegrams, so look for those opportunities to branch out, and you’ll find opportunities that you never knew existed.

5. Stay focused towards your audience

You may have a niche market.  That market may be small.  Less competition is always a good thing.  But it doesn’t mean it will put you at the top either.  Connect with your audience every way you can.  The idea of Christian Rock used to be a contradiction.  By knowing your audience, you will find success. But don’t try and force your way into an audience that is not relevant to your music.  Regardless of opportunities, don’t just throw your music to anyone and everyone. nobody will listen to it if it is not the kind of music they are interested in.  And you will have just wasted time that could have been more efficient spent elsewhere.

6. Go talk to the manager

Being humble is not a bad thing.  Even if you do have a manager, it may be a good idea to speak directly to the party that is interested in you.  Make yourself accessible and show your personality.  Your audience does not  want to qualify in order to reach you.  It just might be that you are not that important to them.  If they want to wait, they can schedule a doctor’s appointment.  Talk to your manager, and find out exactly what they plan to do for you, but don’t give away more than you need to, or you might discover you are losing your artistic freedom and motivation.

 7. Don’t beat a dead horse

Persistence and dedication are great attributes, but know when to step away. Take advantage of your inspiration when it exists and not when it doesn’t.  If you are not interested in your music, neither will anybody else.  I remember hearing from a songwriter that when he was having trouble with a particular song, he would move away from the primary instrument he was working with, and try to compose with a different instrument.  If after switching from guitar to piano (as an example), you find that you are stil struggling with the melody, move on and revisit the song when inspiration strikes.

8. Don’t take the easy way out

Details are important.  You might find that spending money for a graphic artist to handle your cover art is a lot better than taking a picture of your face against a white wall, with your sillouete looming behind you. Use an editor, or get a second set of eyes for review.  I know this sounds silly, but I have come across many indie albums in which their songlist was grossly misspeled. Image is important.  When customers search for music, they may just choose to preview music that has professionial cover art.  If you’ve taken the time to perfect your music, take the same time to perfect every thing else that represents your work.

9. Paranoia

If you are so worried that someone is going to steal your music, just give it away for free. That does not mean that you should announce that the music is available for redistribution.  In most cases, that is never going to happen anyhow.  Your song is under copyright protection as soon as you write.  Put your CD in a certified envelope, mail it to yourself, and don’t open it.  Even putting your music online creates a time-stamped entry in most databases.  Of course, you can always get a free Creative Commons license to protect your work. More importantly, there are tons of people that are happy to get music without paying for it.  Give them a taste, and they may just come back for more.

10. Don’t be a loner

There are a lot of networks available, and without a doubt it is good to get involved.  Many artists put up their music, and leave it there waiting for people to start flocking to it and sharing it with their friends.  Remember, they want attention, too.  Any succesful blogger, or musician, knows that adding friends to their networks is going to increase their own visibility.  This doesn’t mean that you have to go against the competition.  Look for fans, or relevant parties and add them as friends.  That’s when the buzz begins.