Published on June 21st, 2015 | by Tom Wake0
How to get your band online, expand your fan base and sell records in 7 simple steps
If you want to connect your music with an audience, build a fan base and make more money from sales without dealing with record labels or compromising your craft, read on.
Today I’m going to look at how you can take your creative hobby or passion and get it online in 7 simple steps.
This week’s focus is on music but with a bit of tweaking the exact same ideas could be applied to other fields – the theory behind it is the same.
Let’s say you’ve created your debut album: We’ll call it ‘Wakey Wakey’ – by The Edgers. Catchy I know.
You’ve done the hard part, but…
How can I hear your record?
How can I buy your merchandise?
Where can I hear you play live?
If it takes you longer than 3 seconds to point someone in the right direction, you’re doing something wrong.
That might sound a bit melodramatic, but it’s true.
Thanks to the explosion of online, it’s now MUCH easier to get yourself out there and get exposure quickly, inexpensively and with very little effort.
What’s more, people’s attention spans are decreasing and their expectations are increasing, so it pays to be smart about how you approach it.
Before you do anything you need to get it online. You need to be able to email, post or share a simple link to your work with friends, people you meet, fellow musicians, journalists, promoters. So step 1…
1. Make it as EASY as possible for someone to find, buy and download your music
If people can’t access it quickly and easily they’ll get frustrated or lose interest. Worse still, they might try and download your music illegally.
So the very first thing you need to do is put the album up (or track, if you haven’t completed the album) on Bandcamp.
Bandcamp is an online music store where unsigned artists can upload their music and members of the public can listen to it and download it (for a price).
It’s completely free for artists to sign up and you only pay commission on sales. Bandcamp take 15% of each sale. This drops to 10% if you hit a large enough volume of sales.
There are some alternative/additional websites you can use including:
Tune Core can help you get your music onto iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Play and other major digital outlets.
The downside is that it’s not free and you have to pay $9.99 per single and $29.99 per album. The upside is that you keep 100% of your sales revenue (that’s after the vendor e.g. iTunes, takes their cut).
Like Tune Core, CD Baby can get your music on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and more. However, instead of charging a yearly fee they charge a one-off $14.95 per single and $59 per album. They also let you sell CDs and downloads direct from their website for free. You get 91% of download sales made via cdbaby.com.
Top Spin Media offer subscription models ranging from $9.99-$99.99 a month. Their TurnKey approach means some of the services they offer include digital downloads, physical merchandise, ticket sales, email marketing and more. One to consider further down the line.
Reverb Nation offers tools such as a digital distribution to iTunes, Amazon and Spotify and other bells and whistles such as fan base management and various plugins. To be honest it’s a pricey option and you’re constantly upsold to and advertised to. Also it’s not particularly user friendly for music fans.
If you’re not sure where to start, I’d highly recommend focusing solely on Bandcamp to begin with. It’s free, incredibly user friendly and they offer a superb revenue share. You can always opt for a more premium model further down the line.
2. Now upload your best tracks to other popular online music hubs where your target audience can ‘stumble upon it’ and share it with others
A key market to tap into is the ‘stumble and share’ market. These are folks who browse online portals like YouTube or Soundcloud in their spare time seeking out new bands to listen to.
You want to make sure that if any of your potential listeners are out there looking for new music they stumble upon yours and go on to share it with others or make a purchase.
That means blitzing all the different music sites.
It’s a relatively straightforward rinse and repeat process. You set up a free account, fill in your profile and upload your music.
Here’s a list of the main ones:
Facebook (create a fan page):
(Tip when you’re putting a track on YouTube, enable ads so that you can get a share of the advertising revenue. Also make sure you have link on the video which points viewers towards your website or Bandcamp page).
Only upload a handful of your best tracks to these websites to pique people’s interest and get them wanting more. You don’t want to lay everything bare at this stage.
The idea is that you’re building up a presence and getting people to share your best work with others. Those people that like it and want more can go to your Bandcamp page (which you’re have handily linked to) and buy the album!
Now before you start creating all these different profiles and uploading, make sure you read point 3 – this is really important!
3. Create profiles which are consistent, engaging and link through to your Social Media profiles and band page seamlessly
When you’re creating your profiles make sure you use the same url across all platforms.
For example you would have: theedgers.bandcamp.com, twitter.com/theedgers, and facebook.com/theedgers
If you can’t get: theedgers, try the-edgers or a similar variation thereof.
Having consistency across the different platforms will help people access your music and brand. If you’re called the-edgers on one platform and something else on another, like ‘tomwake’ or ‘mrmusiclover’ you’ll confuse people.
Now that you’ve got a Social Media presence, don’t be afraid to get friends and family to like and share your posts. It doesn’t cost them anything, or take any real effort, so most will be happy to do it and it can dramatically help extend your reach.
If a friend on Facebook likes something, their friends will see it and if they like it or share it their friends will see it and so on, so get promoting! It’s a similar principle on Twitter with retweets and mentions.
4. Always site your own artistic influences in your bio and follow your heroes on Social Media so that like-minded folk can ‘discover’ you
This could come under point 3, but it’s something important that I wanted to separate it out.
You can spend years crafting your art and create a world-beating masterpiece but the reality is when you’re first starting out, no-one knows who you are.
It might be hard to believe but our incredible band, The Edgers, are an unknown quantity.
Most people have heard of The Rolling Stones… or 50 Cent… or Miley Cyrus… or Metallica… or Daft Punk… or Coldplay – so how can we tap into their exposure?
If you let people know who your artistic influences are, they can quickly get a sense of what they might expect from you. The very fact that you’re associating yourself with a particular style or genre will help you stand out.
Say to someone that your work is a blend of prog, psych, art, bluesy rock and they’ll quite rightly think you’re a plonker. Say to them that you’re influenced by Pink Floyd and they’ll get it, instantly because they’ve heard of Pink Floyd.
Now, the bands I suggested earlier are all completely different from each other because I wanted to cover a wide range of genres. If you’re a hip hop band it’s unlikely that you’re going to be influenced by Coldplay and Miley Cyrus, so be honest.
The key thing is to site a mixture of bands big and small. Include more niche bands within the genre and viewers will think, wow this person really gets what I’m into.
Let’s say The Edgers are a Psychedelic Rock band.
Our influences are The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Jefferson Airplane for the larger, more well known bands… and Goat, Jacco Gardner, Youth Lagoon and The Allah-Las for the more modern, niche influences.
These happen to be some bands that I like. You probably haven’t heard of the last 4 and that’s fine. But as a fan of this genre hunting for new music, if I saw in a bands bio a mention any of these I would instantly give them a listen – a proper listen.
Why? Because it’s like a sign post, a marker to me that I might like their stuff. If they love the same bands I do and they’re producing music, then the chances are I’m going to like their music too.
It’s also great for your presence on the search engines. If someone types in any of those bands above, and your band comes up alongside them, you’re going to start attracting the right visitors.
5. Create a simple website on WordPress or Tumblr (free) so that you can list upcoming gigs, sell them products and build up your brand
Of course this is optional and you don’t have to go spending money on a website if you don’t want to.
However, at the very least I would have something online where it’s just you, not a social media platform, and you can control the content fully without ads or external content distracting people.
It’ll also give you a boost on Google, so that when people search for your band they find you, not someone else.
What should you put on there?
The main things you want to have on there are your bio, a list of upcoming gigs, previews of your music, any videos or photos and of course a link where they can purchase your music.
You should also put down a contact email for press enquiries. If a music journalist, promoter or record label wants to talk to you they’ll look on website to make contact. Make it as easy as possible for them.
You’ll can be as fancy pants and creative as you like when it comes to creating your site, but the golden rule is this: simpler is better. Don’t use any hard to read fonts, avoid reversed out text (no white on black!) and make sure it’s not too cluttered.
Within 3 seconds of entering the site the visitor should know exactly how to…
- Buy your music and merchandise
- See a timetable of upcoming gigs and where to buy tickets
- Get onto your mailing list (see next point) and follow you on Social Media
That’s all that matters, everything else is a ‘nice to have’.
If you want to go the WordPress route (recommended) here’s my how to guide for setting up a WordPress site in 7 clicks.
Or if you want to create a free Tumblr you can do so here: set up a Tumblr account
6. Get them on an email list so that you can let them know about upcoming gigs and special offers
Gigs are a band’s bread and butter. Releasing records, CDs and digital downloads are a vital source of income but unless you go viral, it’s a long term game.
The most important thing you can do as a band is let your fans know when and where you’re gigging in advance so that they can book tickets and plan ahead.
Don’t wait for them to come to you, go to them. It’s a common thread in this piece, but make it easy for them.
You may be lucky and have some superfans that’ll contact you direct or Google upcoming gigs to find out when you’re next playing, but 95% will be normal people with busy lives.
Get them on your mailing list and tell them about your upcoming gigs so they can book them. If you’ve got a WordPress site it’s easy.
1) Set up a free Mail Chimp account – you can sign up for free here (it’s free for your first 2,000 subscribers)
3) That’s it! You can now capture new subscribers via a simple opt in form
You could include a free track download as a thank you if they sign up.
After gigs, events or signings enlist a bandmate or friend to go round with a clipboard and get people’s names and email addresses so that you can add them to your mailing list too.
Keep your emails simple, friendly and personal. You might want to include a picture of yourself or the band performing.
Sign up to Twitter and keep them posted about upcoming events.
7. Don’t forget the merch – upsell to your existing fans and dramatically increase your profits
What do I mean by ‘merch’? Vinyl, CDs, T-Shirts, figurines, posters, coasters you name it.
Take a look at this screen grab from Metallica’s website. This is a tiny, tiny selection of what’s on offer.
They’ve got tank tops, fold out chairs, branded baseballs, Frisbees, ice hockey pucks… and tons of other random items. It’s quite literally ridiculous.
You don’t need to go that far but take this hint from one of the most commercially successful bands on the planet – merchandise sells.
Sell them the music and upsell them your band’s brand.
If you don’t give them the opportunity to buy these items from you, you’re leaving money on the table and they’ll buy merchandise from other bands they like.
The good news is you can create this stuff cheaply, even free, if you’ve got a bit of creative talent. Many sites will let you upload your designs and they’ll take care of the rest. They just take a cut of any sales.
Here are some good places to start:
Just think. Even if only 20% of your fans bought a t-shirt or a keyring you could dramatically increase your profits. That’s why if you go to any gig you’ll always find a table at the back where someone (often the band members themselves) are signing records and selling t-shirts. It’s a great way to connect with fans and promote your music.
Right, that’s it for the music guide. I could probably write another 5,000 words on this because it’s such a vast topic but this should be enough to get you started.
One thing I want to stress is that before you do anything at all make sure you complete step 1. It might sound obvious but you want to make sure your music is a) easy to find and b) easy to buy and download.
I’ve lost count of the times I’ve come across bands I really like live in small venues, on YouTube or the radio, who don’t have their music online for sale in an obvious way – if at all. It’s a lost opportunity!
2 Quick Announcements…
1) I hope you enjoyed this article. You should have everything you need to do this yourself, you just need a bit of time and patience. I’d recommend tackling each step separately – one a day or one a week, rather than everything at once so that it’s not quite so overwhelming. But look, I know some people are put off by websites and anything technical and no amount of encouraging will change that. I totally get it. My mum, my siblings and a lot of my friends are the same. With that in mind at some point in the not too distant future I’m thinking of offering an Insider’s Edge ‘Do It For You’ service. I’ll work with you and get you up and running online for a fraction of the price of a dedicated ‘web design’ company and without the ego or stress.
2) REALLY BIG ‘WOW’ NEWS. If you’re reading this and thinking: “I don’t have a band… or a product or anything to promote…” this is for you. Canonbury are working on a very special, top secret project aimed at anyone with a passion (it could be sport, health, music, gardening, anything) who doesn’t necessarily want the faff or limelight of setting up products, or producing anything but would like to find a way to profit from their interest. I’ve had a sneak peek and this is a fantastic, inspiring offer – quite unlike anything I’ve ever come across. I’ll keep you updated…
If you enjoyed this article and have any tips, comments or thoughts, I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.