The post below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for The Developing Artist on “Finding Fresh Ways to Get Your Music Noticed.” As you’ll be able to tell from the piece, I’m not really one to rely much on fixed formulas, because by the time it becomes a formula, it’s already pretty much overused. However, my goal in writing this piece was to encourage DIY musicians to think outside the box on this issue, because there is more than one “right way” to get the attention of the music industry. Enjoy!
With all the self-promotion tools available to DIY artists, the bottom-line goal with all of them is simple: get your music noticed. Get your act on the radar with as many people as possible, both consumers and industry professionals. The question is how to do it–and despite what anyone might tell you, there’s no single formula to get it done.
I was having a conversation with a screenwriter who shared with me (laughingly, I might add) some of what he’d read about how to get a screenplay picked up for production. It was this formula of sending out 100 query letters at a time, and by the time you hit 1000 query letters, statistically you’d have five responses out of which one would possibly be willing just to read the full script. An awful lot of work for a little bit of attention, wouldn’t you say? It simply underscored how hard it is to get attention within the film industry.
As I was talking with this guy, I couldn’t help but draw a relation between this and the music business, because the music industry is also admittedly a tough field in which to get noticed. And I thought about all the people trying to strategize how to break through the barriers, and all the products for sale out there to help aspiring musicians get their music noticed. And I made two observations about it all:
- If someone is out there promoting 1000-query-letter strategies as THE PLAN to get something noticed, then chances are the field is already saturated by everyone who is already doing that. (If 1000 people are sending out 1000 query letters each, that’s one million letters–and you can bet it’s much more than that.) The point is, by the time you come across a formula to get your music noticed, chances are that formula has already been overused–especially if you bought some book that told you the formula.
- If you read the bios of successful artists you wish to emulate, you’ll probably find that none of them used those formulas to get where they are. In fact, every story of discovery is going to be different, and most of them will involve a combination of hard work, being in the right place at the right time, and taking advantage of a unique opportunity that presented itself.
So here’s what mainly comes of these formulas: you end up in a sort of club with a lot of other wannabes who all hang out together while competing with each other for attention, and bemoaning how hard it is to get a break–and the only people who are actually making money from the experience are the people who are selling the formula ideas, in the form of books, software, workshops and the like.
I don’t mean to be jaded. Just realistic. Certainly there are a lot of common-sense ideas out there for how to get your music to the public, and with a combination of hard work and a basic understanding of networking and marketing, it is possible for DIY musicians to build a fan base and make money without ever getting “discovered.” But for those who are trying to “break the barrier” and get noticed by industry bigwigs, there are a lot of people out there who will try to make money by exploiting that desire, filing people with false hope by presenting formulas that might work for a few, but WON’T work for the many. Statistically speaking, there just has to be a better way to get your music noticed, especially by industry pros. And chances are it’s going to be a way that a million other people haven’t already tried. As my new screenwriter friend put it: “I don’t need 1000 people to read my script; I just need the right one.”
Having said all that, obviously, I’m NOT going to give you another formula here for getting your music noticed. J But I do believe you can find a way to accomplish this goal by being creative in your thinking process, so you can see and take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Believe that your gift will make room for itself. I don’t mean to sound esoteric or anything. It’s just that when you believe something, you will take steps toward it that you wouldn’t take otherwise. That attitude alone can make all the difference.
- Make the most of opportunities. Share your music whenever possible, both recorded and in live performance. You never know when the right person will hear it.
- Be diligent with what is in front of you. Keep building your fan base little by little, not to get noticed by the industry, but for the purpose of building your fan base. Make it your goal to be as successful as you can, regardless of whether the larger music industry ever picks you up on the radar.
- Don’t lose your love for the music. Do what you do because you love it, not because you’re trying (desperately) to make a living at it. People with the passion for the music itself are more apt to get their music noticed than people who just have their noses to the grindstone.
The most important thing with all this is to keep your eyes open to the possibilities. Chances are the opportunity you’re looking for is not going to come in the form of a formula you read in a book. Your perfect opportunity could come and go while you are busy working the formula. Remember that most of the success stories came from a combination of hard work and recognizing the right moment–then seizing that moment. You’re more apt to seize the moment if you are actively looking for it.