2020 was the year of surprise albums by major artists, and most offline marketing efforts went out the window. So some artists experimented with releasing their album with zero marketing. This is an interesting strategy for a major artist, as it is a pleasant surprise for fans, which is likely to become a success and an engagement driver.
If you’re an unestablished artist reading this with the goal of being able to do nothing but perform and create music for the rest of your life, you’re not alone. It’s a completely understandable goal, and something countless musicians strive for. For many of us, a perfect situation would be to spend our days focusing on music and doing nothing else.
If you’re a developing artist, DIY promotion is essential for finding an audience for your music. But in 2021, traditional ways of promoting a new record, like touring, have become complicated and out of reach for many artists. The good news is that listeners are hungry for meaningful music experiences and artist engagement online during this uncertain time. Try these four DIY online promotional tactics to get the most mileage from your releases in 2021 and beyond:
Few non-musical people listen to music and realize just how much money, time, and work goes into creating a single song. From music lessons to recording equipment to the creative and emotional labor it takes to write, record, and produce a song, music takes an immense amount of work to make. For developing music-makers who have yet to find their audiences, asking what, if anything, listeners owe you is a fair question considering the sacrifice involved in creating music. However, the answer might disappoint you.
When we think about the kind of music that makes a real impact on people, we’re not just talking about emotionally deep songs written by tortured artists, though “serious” songs certainly are meaningful to a lot of listeners. Tracks that blow out speakers in clubs and music that’s heard by thousands of spectators at sporting events have an effect on audiences as well, though in a completely different way than someone playing the same song over and over again to get through a breakup.
It’s possible for musicians to find success with their music without the help of their friends and family, but it’s much, much harder without them. From showing up to your first concerts when no one else will to donating money to fund your releases, the community closest to you is a priceless asset for a developing artist. But if your plans don’t extend further than the people closest to you as a musician, you’re creating an unsustainable situation for you as well as your friends and family.
If we’re lucky, safe in-person music experiences will become a regular part of life again sometime in 2021––if we’re lucky. While music fans and artists alike are desperate for a sense of normalcy to return to live music, there are still a lot of unknowns around the idea of people packing into venues to see musicians. If you’re not sure what to do when it comes to waiting for touring to become safe and viable again, the same advice applies now as it did back when the U.S. started locking down in the spring. By staying productive, active, and creatively engaged, you’ll make the most of this time. We don’t know exactly when touring will be a major part of music again, but there is a lot we can do while we wait.
Storytelling is the art of building a narrative around your music and your artist persona.
In the streaming age, your music will be exposed to a lot of people. This is a great opportunity by itself, but it’s also a big challenge. In fact, in 2021, the biggest challenge for independent artists is to convert their listeners into fans. This is easier said than done. Storytelling is a great way to show people who you are not just as an artist, but also as a person. It is what makes people care about your music and it’s what makes an artist likable, perhaps more than anything.