I uploaded my first song and began “marketing” online sometime in 1999. I had no idea what marketing was, why it’s important, or how it works. I just loved music, loved making it, and wanted to share it with people.
Logging onto ICQ, AIM, IRC chats or message boards to connect with people all over the planet was the way of the digital landscape before social media…
Yes, there once was an Internet without Google, without Myspace, without Facebook and YouTube… We didn’t even have smartphones back then.
Even though people were listening to my music, liking it, and I was mailing CDs to Australia and Canada from my parents’ house in a small farming community outside of Manchester, Tennessee (now known as Bonnaroo City); I still knew nothing about marketing.
I wasn’t collecting email addresses or organizing contacts. I had a community growing around my music but I had no website or central location to communicate or engage with these fans. I knew nothing about mailing lists or email marketing.
As time passed, people grew up and technology changed; ICQ accounts went inactive, forums shut down, and contact with those first fans faded until it was lost. Damnit, I regret that!!!
I still think about those friends but I have no clue how to get in touch with some of them. Others I have (thankfully) reconnected with on FB and other channels.
Between 2004-2006 life took a few turns. I found myself moving around the U.S. (Florida and Louisiana). On my own with a pregnant girlfriend (my oldest son was born just before Hurricane Ivan hit the Gulf Coast in 2004), hardly any money, and no stable access to the Internet; I completely lost touch with the digital world.
I still had music though.
When I finally came back online sometime in 2007, everything had changed. There was this new thing called Myspace and it was all the rage.
I setup a profile for my band, uploaded photos and music and began adding friends and engaging with people. Social media was now taking off.
Sidenote: With Myspace, I actually had a lot of success building a community. I was sending out multiple CDs to people all over the US every week. My CD Baby statements actually had sales and streams showing up every month… but then Myspace needed to make more profits; they began changing things, integrated with ReverbNation, and everything went downhill after that. Now no one talks about or even links to Myspace anymore.
Back at MTSU completing the pieces of 2 degrees, I began working in the campus library. This is where I discovered Bob Baker and his book, “Guerilla Music Marketing Handbook” (affiliate link).
Once my brain processed the information in that book, I was more determined than ever to build an audience around my music independently. My imagination began running wild. I found more books, more authors, more blogs, and tapped into an abundance of information regarding marketing using social media. I was consuming everything I could.
I spent the next several years learning, reading, experimenting, dissecting, failing, retrying, and immersing myself into marketing my music; mostly using the Internet but we were also performing in Middle Tennessee, doing radio interviews, getting newspaper features and so on.
By the time I graduated MTSU I was working for an indie music publisher/label on Music Row in Nashville. I ended up leaving that job to build my own business working as a coach and consultant to small business owners, indie artists and indie labels showing them the ropes of websites, social media, email marketing, and more.
Other bands and artists started to notice my hustle. Then they started asking me for help. One of my professors found out what I was doing, introduced me to some friends in Nashville and I was soon being paid to teach people and small groups about Facebook, Google, YouTube, websites and more.
Currently (as of October 2015),
- I am starting from (semi-)scratch as a solo artist (previously in a group).
- I co-founded Middle Tennessee Music.com in 2011 with C Bret Campbell,
- launched Sactown Hip Hop.com in 2013,
- and was named CMO of Unlimited Sounds Publishing & Distribution, LLC. I also have publishing and distribution agreements with UL Sounds as an artist and producer.
This guide represents all the knowledge, experiences, successes and failures I have had marketing music as an indie, DIY musician…without a budget.
I will also share a list of services and tools I use in order to spend less time online and more time with my family (my wife plus 3 kids) as well as creating new music.
Three singles I have released over the last months have been collaborations with songwriters from Canada and Australia; all because of this thing called the Interwebs.
Like I said before, there’s never been a better time to be an indie, DIY musician.