Here’s a sad story you may be all too familiar with if you’ve been trying to make it in the music world for a while:
Band works for months (or maybe even years) writing, rehearsing, and playing their songs at venues around town. Band meticulously records their debut album, books a release party at the best local venue they can find, and throws up some Facebook statuses and colorful posters around town up to promote the show. Band brings 45 people to a venue with a 300-person capacity. Band is sad. Band is also disappointed to find that none of the 391 blogs they sent emails to over the past three months wanted to review or even mention the new release they’ve worked so hard on.
With a constant cacophony of distractions, getting the world to care about the music you release can be a massively challenging endeavor. Conventional ways of getting the word out are proving to be fruitless even for bands on labels that can sell out shows.
The fact is, the music industry is more competitive than ever, and if you want any hope of getting people to care, you’ve got to be unique. Try these five guerrilla marketing tactics to help make your next album release more effective.
1. Lead fans on a scavenger hunt in your city
This might seem corny, but bear with me here. Fans are more likely to respond to a clever idea over traditional forms of promotion.
Take themes from your release and construct a scavenger hunt that leads your fans all around your hometown. Base each clue off of anything related to your release: song names, lyrics, or characters talked about in songs, for example.
Give special prizes away to the winners, and try to design the scavenger hunt in a way that promotes your release to strangers who might accidentally stumble upon the clues. For example, if you tape a clue under a park bench, leave a QR code that links to a free download of one of your new songs. You could even lead your fans on a scavenger hunt of just QR codes that link to virtual clues.
2. Create themed posters, cards, and online banners
Simply throwing up a few hastily designed posters most likely won’t bring any meaningful attention to your release, but planning out a series of visuals that are part of a larger narrative might draw some real attention.
For example, you could design one series of posters, cards, flyers, and online visuals that feature compelling and mysterious imagery. Let’s call this “the question.” These visuals don’t even necessarily have to feature your band’s name on it. Get your band members together and post the materials all over town and your social media simultaneously.
Wait a few weeks and then put up an “answer” round of visuals. This material should feature all the information about your release, along with a visual that ties into the first round of posters, flyers, and online banners.
3. Throw an actual party
Yes, every band has an album release party, but how many bands take the time to throw an actual party to promote their release? This idea will take money, but it could draw a significant amount of attention to your release.
Throw a party with themes based around your release and invite local bands, bloggers, and tastemakers to come. Bring plenty of booze, food, and promotional materials to hand out to your guests.
4. Create themed ad campaigns
You can create smart ad campaigns through traditional forms of media, or new ones like Facebook that are purposefully mysterious and engaging. Similar to our tip on creating themed visuals, you should aim to create a themed ad campaign that’s compelling to potential fans. Your ads should be designed to spark curiosity and get people interested in who you are and what you’re doing.
5. Do something cheeky
Throw an ice cream social. Hire a magician to open for you. Write an album called Sleepify that features songs that are completely silent, tell your fans to stream it on Spotify, and then enjoy tons of free press. (Actually, don’t do that last thing because another band beat you to it.)
Yes, doing cheeky things just for promotion is completely superficial and can even be a little bit childish, but it can also be fun, and it’ll definitely get more people talking about you and your music.
Marketing your own music will be an experience filled with trial and error, but coming at it with a thoughtful plan will boost your chances for success. At the end of the day, there’s no guarantee that any of these ideas work, but you’ll have a much better chance of getting the world’s attention if you try something unique and original.
Patrick McGuire is a musician, writer, and educator currently residing in the great city of Philadelphia. He creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.