How do you promote an artist? By promote I mean publicise, market, shout, plug, etc.
I thought I would blog about this as it is something I have been doing for some time, for bands and for individuals. There are some basic things that I have been doing.
Promotion is often about getting an artist’s name known. It’s about pushing that name around, largely on the social media, primarily Twitter, Facebook, Reverb Nation, Myspace or whatever else comes to hand that seems to work.
You believe that an artist is worth promoting or you see the potential in a band and you want to give them a helping hand. I promote acts through my magazine #Arts in Leicestershire. That sits at the centre of a web of social media connections. Bear in mind that Leicester/shire is a place brimming with musical talent of all kinds and beyond that many artists who work in comedy, dance, digital arts, photography, painting, poetry, writing and so on.
Apart from shouting about a named act or artist, I also have to say why they are good. We do this by setting up profiles and through reviews of their work. If they bring out an album, EP or track I promote that. If they have show, gig or exhibition, I push that out too.
Apart from Internet-based work I also issue press releases and plug songs with radio DJs. True, most of this happens on the Internet but there is still a big world of paper-based newspapers and magazines that will take material about artists and their work. We can’t neglect this, no matter how powerful, the web is, people still read paper and listen to the radio.
So why do I do this? There are plenty of people out there who do their own publicity and some of them make a very good job of it. I still think that an independent voice has some value. There is always an advantage in a third party saying how good an act is. It’s good that an artist believes in themselves and can tell the world how good they think they are. Some weight does, however, attach to an independent voice agreeing with that and proclaiming why they think this act is worth looking at.
When I say I am independent I really mean that. I do not manage bands, singers, actors, dancers or anyone. They do not pay me to be their press agent. I do it because I am genuinely passionate about their act or work. I do it because, as an editor and journalist, I am driven by the same passions about arts, whether I am writing about them or promoting them.
It’s a little dream that I have, that I could play a small part in getting a band or a singer to the top and giving them a bit of a leg up the ladder of success. I don’t do this because I have to do it; I do because I want to do it. In a city so rich in promising talent, which ones do you choose?
I use my instincts. If I see an act that is established and everyone else is coo-ing about them then I feel confident that I am probably right to also add my voice to the chorus. Sometimes, I see a new act, as yet rather rough and raw, but I sense potential. I see something beyond the inexperience, the lack of professionalism, I sense something in that band or act which looks like it could grow and get somewhere.
I have often stuck my neck out and given the thumbs up for someone when everybody else has ignored them. That’s because I see something that they don’t see. It doesn’t always work. It’s not just about artistic ability. The acts I tend to get behind these days are those that believe in themselves, the ones that really want it, the bands or singers who have a dream, who see themselves making it in the music business or in the world of comedy, and so forth.
I have also met people who clearly were born with talent but who, for whatever personal reason, will never make a go of it because they lack the two vital things that are needed to run alongside natural ability: self-worth and determination. Not everyone has this. I’ve tried pushing people because I think they have real ability. They have got nowhere because either they are lazy, have no ethic of self-sacrifice or because they really could not hack it.
The arts world is full of people who spend years muddling through, doing what pleases them, wallowing in self-gratification but have no concept of a personal career, no sense of path or direction. There is no point spending time promoting acts or artists that clearly don’t really want to get to the top.
To be successful in anything requires generous slabs of self-discipline and more importantly self-sacrifice. Many people, me included, have to make painful sacrifices in the cause of success. Often. OK, maybe not always. Some are happy with this, however uncomfortable it feels at the time. Others, however, are either too timid or lack the confidence or sense of personal security to defer some of the things their friends are enjoying in order to get rewards later on.
I love watching those interviews with young athletes who dream of Olympic gold. They undertake punishing regimes of training, get up at stupidly early hours of the morning, train relentlessly for months on end, forgo so many of the things their friends are enjoying, just to stand a chance of getting a medal hung around their necks.
The arts do not generally impose such rigorous deprivations. Even so, there is no gain without pain, even in the world of rock music. Whilst I deplore cheating – whether in athletics or in music – I can understand why some people see that as being the solution for them. I don’t believe in fast tracks to the top. Making it into the big time requires years of dedication. Singers who get catapulted into stardom, by record labels or by TV talent competitions, often come part and can’t cope with the pressure.
As I have often said, acts that go somewhere have two assets: themselves and those who are ready to support them. Behind every rising act, there is an (often unseen) iceberg of supporters, street teamers, publicists and, not least, fans who are egging them on. Tips with no underlying iceberg sink very quickly.