Getting the Word Out: Advice to the Artist

 

So, for a variety of reasons, I’m searching down information on artists, the nature of which falls under a series of different categories.  I run into a lot of dead-ends and long winding paths to eventually find that information.

The other day, I was putting together a Tiny Reviews post.  It had five 50-125 word synopses “reviews” of new jazz releases.  I do the Tiny Reviews posts because I don’t always have time to do proper write-ups of every deserving new release that I discover.  So, I figure, at least do some mini-reviews, which will at least get the spotlight on the music.  A couple sentences about the album, perhaps mention of a previous release or tie-in to another good recording, a list of personnel, an album cover, embedded audio (if available), and some links to sites for retail, artist site, and label (unless self-produced).  And, later, when it’s posted, I also send it out to both Facebook and Twitter (which means I’ll need a twitter address, if the artist has a twitter presence).

These Tiny Reviews posts should not take me much time.  The reason I do them is because I’m short on time as it is.  But I’ve begun noticing that a percentage of these posts are taking way more time than they should, and I can attribute it directly to the amount of time I spending looking up artist information.  This article will touch on some simple things artists can do to be sure that complete information is available to fans and media alike.  Because I can’t be the only one frustrated with the inordinate amount of time it takes to track some of this down, and if you’re an artist who is attempting to sell recorded music, then having that information available to us is in your best interest.

In no particular order, here’s some helpful tips:

 

List your sidemen.  I’m astounded by how difficult it is to discover who performed on a particular album.  I go onto a nice tricked-out artist site, plenty of promo about the new release, but no mention of who performed on it and with what instruments.  Do this.  It’s important.  Not only is it respectful to give credit to the people who helped create the album, but it also gives potential listeners/buyers additional insight into the music and whether to buy it.  Perhaps knowing that a particular pianist or bassist appears on your album will be the tipping point to get them to purchase your album.  Perhaps it’s knowing that bass clarinet is featured on your album.  Also, in Jazz, many listeners use the sidemen as a way of discovering new music.  Your music could lead to purchases of the music of your collaborators.

And in the case of someone like myself, who perhaps is going to do an unsolicited write-up of your album, I want that information to be a part of the review.  This is free PR for you.  Respect the time and effort of the people giving you this free PR by making it easy on them to collect the relevant information.  Personally, I’m at the point where if I go onto your site and don’t see the sidemen listed, I’ll scrap the review.  That shouldn’t be something anyone should have to spend time searching for.

Link like crazy.  Whether an artist has their own website or prefers simply going with a Bandcamp, Soundcloud, or Youtube presence, a problem with listeners/buyers finding your internet home is getting your site so it falls at or near the top of a Google search query on your name and/or album title.  I can sympathize.  Especially if you don’t have much of a following (yet) or, worse, you share the name of a popular athlete, politician, or celebrity.  If you’re an unknown saxophonist whose name happens to be Bill Clinton, then there’s a good chance that anyone doing a search for your site is gonna get no less than ten pages of non-you results before even getting a whiff of your site.

The thing is, there are ways you can lead people to your site that navigates around the traditional Google search.  You do this by linking like crazy.  My two immediate suggestions to you are to upload a video of your music to Youtube and Soundcloud.  They’re both free services.  Youtube, you know what that is.  Soundcloud is similar in that you can have your own station/page, but it’s simply uploading audio, no video.  Where this becomes helpful, is while, you, the unknown sax player who shares the name of a former U.S. President, is not gonna see the light of day on Google when people search “Bill Clinton” & “saxophone,” on the other hand, there are far less results when that same search is made on Youtube.  And, then, if the searcher adds one or two extra keywords to the search, say, an album title or a geographical location, those search results get whittled way down.  And believe me, those extra search keywords on a straight-up Google search don’t guarantee that your artist site will show up anywhere near the top.  I am speaking from experience.  On Soundcloud, which has a pretty decent search function, it’s even easier to find the artist.

So, upload an audio file of an album track to Soundcloud and/or Youtube (on Youtube, just make the image the same as your album cover).  Preferably, do both.  And then link like crazy.  In the text below your Youtube video, mention the album details (including sidemen!) and include your website address and the website address of every other place you and your music exist on the internet.  Got a Soundcloud page?  Give that address on your Youtube page.  Also have a Bandcamp page?  List that address.  Got a Twitter account?  Give your twitter address.  Facebook?  Link it up.  And do the same on every other place you have an internet presence.  Create a spiders web of internet addresses so that no matter where a listener/buyer first encounters you, they have a road map of every other place they can search your music down.

It amazes me when I go to an artist’s Bandcamp page, and they don’t link to their artist site.  Or how no mention is made of a Twitter presence on an artist’s site, and on their Twitter profile, no mention is made of their artist site.  Or how a Soundcloud page has four audio tracks uploaded and nothing else other than the artist’s name.  All these social media tools, they’re easy to wield and take little time to construct, and the rewards are limitless.  Make it easy for people to find you.  Think of it this way… establishing and internet presence and creating the road map that I’ve advised, it’s the equivalent of taking your physical cd from the bottom shelf in the back of a music store and putting it closer to the front and eye-level.  You took the time and care to make this wonderful recording… take a little time and care to be sure people can enjoy it.

If you’re on Twitter, let people know it.  I touched on this in the previous point, but I’m going to riff on this facet just a little bit more.  If you have a Twitter presence, make sure people know about it.  Include your Twitter address on your website.  And if you send out promo cds and/or promo emails, include the Twitter @ address on those, too.  When I send out tweets about reviews or Jazz Picks or AAJ Download of the Day, if try to include the artist (and label’s) Twitter address in the tweet.  It’ll not only let the artist know that something affecting them has happened, but it also directs listeners/buyers to your Twitter profile.  And if you include your website address (or Soundcloud page, etc) in your Twitter profile, then that will direct those listeners/buyers to your various sites, too.  I love Twitter, but it’s search function isn’t reliable.  If you think just searching your your name will find me your Twitter address, you’re wrong.  Include it on your site, and anywhere you’re on the internet.

I’m going to talk briefly in a future article about whether an artist even needs a Twitter presence.  The moral of the story is ‘no, you don’t,’ but it’s such a simple and helpful tool to use, artists really should hop on Twitter.  But like I said, I’ll talk about that, probably in next Saturday’s article.

Stream your music.  Let people hear it.  In a previous column, I talk about the value and rewards of streaming some or all of your album.  You can read that article on BitW HERE.  I’m not going to rehash what I’ve already written, but I will re-emphasize how much having a track or two to listen to enhances the music discovery experience.  No matter how nicely a website or album review is, more often than not, it’s the music that triggers the impulse to purchase an album.

Update, please.  This goes to artists and labels both… keep your sites up to date with new releases.  It happens way too frequently that I see an intriguing new album pop up under a retail site’s new releases listing, the hop over to the artist site to discover that their site still only displays info on an album that was released years ago.  And, then, I’ll go over to label site, and find that there’s no mention of the new release listed there either.  Bad.  That’s very bad.  I don’t know what else to say about that.

Is your email address still alive?  If you want people to be able to contact you, be sure that the email address you list on your website is still an active one.  If I reach out to you about writing an album review or getting featured as the AllAboutJazz Download of the Day or just to say hi, getting an undeliverable response error isn’t likely the impression an artist wants to make.

 

That’s it for now.  I’ll likely write follow-up columns on this subject as I encounter more flaws in the system.  Also, I plan to write a column soon which highlights certain artist, label, and PR rep sites that I think represent the types of internet presences to aspire to and model your own after.

Feel free to comment below on anything I’m talking about.  If you have questions about anything I’ve written, but would prefer to contact me privately, go ahead and email me at the address listed under the About tab above.

Cheers.

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