As a whole, artists have a bad reputation when it comes to self-promotion.
Tabloids poke fun at “diva” behavior. People pour over tell-alls that detail over-the-top behavior backstage. And then there’s “that guy,” the one who manages to post 3 times a day on every form of social media, and somehow turns everything from his jog on the beach to the sandwich that he age into a promotional opportunity that he ties back to an upcoming event he’s plugging.
So where does this leave everyone else?
In our experience working with driven musicians and performing artists, most of our clients are actually very modest and humble. In an effort to avoid being “that guy,” they systematically make at least one of these marketing mistakes. We want to get a dialogue going here, so please take a look at these and let us know in the comments whether you identify with any of them And feel free to add on!
Marketing Mistake #1: Getting Too Event-Focused
In an effort to not be “that guy,” you feel that promotion requires something specific to promote. But here’s the thing: self-promotion doesn’t have to be anything more than communicating with your community, and that doesn’t need to always center around an event.
How would you feel if the only interaction you had with a friend was when they were trying to get you to attend something that required you to pay money? Even if you always enjoy the events they invited you to, you probably wouldn’t feel a strong rapport with that friend. At worst, you might be annoyed by the constant invites devoid of being framed in a substantive relationship.
At best, your community and your fans should feel that they matter to you—and not just because they shell out their money for things. They want to see that you stand for something that they also care about.
Quick fix: Get crystal clear about the message you want to be putting out there. Sometimes understanding what you stand for can be tough. That’s why we offer a lot of support about how to promote your work (check out our Ignite Your Dream Workshop). When you’re putting information on your website or social media throughout the year, be willing to share about what’s important to you.
Marketing Mistake #2: Doing Nothing
Does this dialogue sound familiar? “Getting up on stage takes so much preparation and mental energy; do I really have to do this, too?” Or “Maybe I’ll get to this promotion business next year, when I have more to promote…”
The problem is that next year turns into the year after, which turns into the year after that, and somehow you aren’t getting any less busy! I encourage you to accept that you’re never going to be any less busy than you are now. In fact, the opposite will probably be true. On the other hand, if you don’t get your message and out there and learn how to promote your work, people won’t know that you exist.
You may be growing into a better, more confident, more innovative artists from year to year, but people who aren’t exposed to your work won’t take notice.
Quick fix: Set a communication schedule wherein you communicate with your community through whatever platform you feel most comfortable with at regular intervals. Then, find someone in your world who can serve as an accountability partner—someone to keep you on track and keep you to your word if you set a schedule.
You can ask an existing friend or go to a professional development workshop and introduce yourself to someone there. There are tons of resources in most cities and when you go to a workshop, you’ll find lots of like minded people who are in the same boat. We hear from Bootcamp and Ignite alumni that they still stay in touch with people they met at the programs they did through iCadenza as many as 4.5 years ago! They serve as accountability partners, and some still meet weekly, even after all those years.
Marketing Mistake #3: Trying to Please Everyone
You’re committed to never writing or saying anything publicly that could offend someone or turn them off. The problem is that unless you stick to universally held truths (which are very few and far in between), that’s pretty much impossible. Someone out there is going to hate what you’re saying/doing. At some point, that has to be okay. Focus on attracting the people who love what you’re saying, and don’t worry about the others.
Quick fix: If you’re feeling unsure about posting something because you’re worried that it will change someone’s perception of you, check back in with yourself. Ask yourself: Is what I’m looking to put out there in line with what’s important to me and what I stand for? Will it help others connect to what is important to me? If the answers are yes, go ahead and put it out there. If they’re no, trust your intuition and reframe your message until you can answer yes to those questions.
Marketing Mistake #4: Over Sharing
Sometimes, after years of making mistakes #1-#3, artists rally and make a big leap to the opposite side of the spectrum. They think that sharing anything is good. Sharing is sharing, right? Well…not always.
First, remember that this is your community, not your therapist or coach. Your fan pages or professional sites aren’t the best places to talk about your personal struggles in detail—unless of course, your personal struggle is part of your message. If that’s the case, always remember to tie your struggle back into your brand. Remind your community why you share your stories with them so that they can make the connection between your life story and your artistic work.
Second, everything you put out there is permanent. This is not the place to write about your feelings about the colleague who totally let you down or upset you. Sharing publicly about your personal misgivings about someone is just not professional. It’s a small world in the arts, and you never know where that person will be in a few years, or how you might feel about them then. Sometimes people change, and more often than that, our opinions about people might change.
When you post something negative about someone, even if it’s warranted, it always makes others question how trustworthy you are. If they feel that you’re a loose cannon, they’re going to feel less comfortable sharing private information with you. When we see someone bad-mouthing someone else, we always wonder, “is that person bad-mouthing me, too?”
And if you feel like posting photos of yourself at the beach or intoxicated, remember—what goes up on the internet does not go down, it stays up forever.
Quick Fix: Similar to #1, figure out your message, then only focus on sharing content, thoughts, and images that support that. Nix everything else as NOT your message, and you should be safe.
In sum, remember that marketing is all about communicating your message to your target audience. As you play around with that, keep in mind that communication is a two way street. As you figure out what you stand for, I encourage you to employ the art of listening as a marketing strategy.
We’ll be writing a future post just on this topic, because there’s a lot to unpack on it, but in short, keep in mind that the more you start to engage your community, the more they’ll be speaking to you. Listen to them! Hear their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns, their questions, their amens. What are they reacting to? What do they need more of from you? What do they need less of? What words are they using when they describe your work? Remember that this whole experience—the reason you’re marketing your work to them—it’s not about you. It’s about them.
What marketing mistakes do you see other musicians and performing artists make? Can you add to the list above? Leave a comment.