HOW TO PROMOTE YOUR MUSIC
Having a demo is great, but it’s worthless if you can’t get anyone to listen to it. You need to distribute it amongst your current audience, and have them spreading the word to your potential audience.
Firstly, always call a demo exactly what it is. A DEMO. Don’t go treating it like a professional release and calling it an EP or an album, or trying to get your ‘single’ on mainstream radio. Anyone with experience will see through your facade and either think you're an amateur for pretending, or an amateur for having a crappy EP.
You ARE an amateur. It’s ok. Everyone was at some point. Go out there with your head held high, demo in hand, and announce it to the world. People love a humble artist and will be more likely to help if they know you are being honest.
The fact is, the trendiest word in music is demo. “You like Sally Jane? Oh I’ve been a fan since her first demo!”. It stands for something raw, fresh and unique. If you’re listening to a new demo, you’re one of the first in-the-know: it’s a privileged position and your fans will use it to appear cool to their friends. People will continue to tell you how much they like your first demo long after you’ve released your third album: it makes them feel important to have been with you on your journey. Trust me on this.
So get it out there! Get it in people's faces and make them listen! Brainstorm all the ways you can think of how to spread your demo to the people and tick them off one by one.
Here are a few of the more common ways to promote yourself to get you started.
Got a facebook page for your music? Instagram? Twitter? They are free and provide somewhere online for people to find you. Make an account and use it to talk about your band and/or your music. The best advice I can give with social media is to focus on the site you actually use. If you’ve got an Instagram account but never use it, starting an Instagram account for your music probably isn’t going to prove the best use of your time. Almost everyone is on facebook and it’s a great place to start sharing your pictures, upcoming gigs and music.
Most importantly, you need to actually have your music on a streaming site so that people can hear it. Bandcamp is an excellent site to promote your music. They have been championing unsigned artists for nearly 10 years, have excellent integration features and even have the ability to sell merchandise (finally it’s time for your signature teaspoons). Bandcamp take a cut of what you sell, but their rate is much better than many other sites and if you’re giving your demo away for free then you don’t pay anything.
Spotify and Apple Music are the two biggest music streaming sites currently. Getting your demo on either of these can be a bit tricky, but sites like Distrokid make it simple for a yearly fee. Distrokid can also get your demo on Google Play, Amazon, Deezer, Pandora, Tidal and YouTube. For $20 (USD) per year you can get your music on all of the main streaming sites.
You might choose to wait until you have a professional release before you upload to sites like Spotify and iTunes. Some people don’t want the world to hear their demo and are happy to promote it through a singular site like Bandcamp. Whatever you choose is up to you, there’s no right or wrong way here.
Actually having a physical product to give someone in person can give you a better chance of getting them to listen. If they get home and there’s a CD or flyer with a free download code in their bag, they might actually remember to check it out. Go to gigs and give your demo to other musicians, the sound engineer, the bar manager. Hand out free download code flyers at the door as everyone leaves the venue.
Have you read the article about finding band members? Use the same method to promote your demo. Post flyers offering a free download in record stores, music shops, studios and rehearsal rooms.
Podcasts and local radio.
Your demo has to sound good (sonically) to go down this route. Send emails, make phone calls, ask people if they will play you. There are thousands of podcasts and radio shows dedicated specifically to local, unsigned music. Even niche genres like death metal have local radio and online shows all over the world. You might not get played, but if you do; there’s always someone listening.
I mentioned this at the beginning; your friends and family are the most important audience you have. We call them the ‘inner circle’. Your inner circle are the people who come to your shows, tell you you’re great and encourage you. Every single member of your inner circle should have your demo and know where to find it online. These are the most enthusiastic supporters you have and they should be sharing your music with everyone they know. Get your friends and family excited and involved, and watch your inner circle grow.
Sadly, we live in a world where most people expect to get their music for free, or at least as little as possible. The rise of streaming services has seen more people paying for their music, but has resulted in a value gap between revenue generated and revenue received by musicians . Selling your demo shouldn’t concern you just yet, the purpose is to grow your audience, so unless you’re printing your demo to a physical medium like CD or vinyl (and including artwork), you’re probably going to have to give it away for nothing. Think of your demo as promotional material and leave it at that, because even after all this talk: by far the best way to promote yourself (and spread your demo) is by playing shows.