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Promoting Your Music Online: Unsigned bands finding new ways of reaching their public

fearlesslogoWith the recent rise of groups in the UK such as Arctic Monkeys and Arcade Fire, the internet is proving its worth more and more in the music industry. As traditional formats decline in use, the internet is providing independent musicians with a myriad of possibilities for promoting their music. Indeed, unsigned bands can reach their audiences without needing a record label.

Emerging artists used to spend most of their time down at the post office, licking envelopes, sending off cassettes and making further copies of their cassettes. Looking back, it seemed like the dark ages. Today’s indie music scene sees many bands sat at their computer screens, looking for new ways to promote their music. The emergence of several top bands over the last few months thanks to the Internet is proof that the cream will always rise to the top, and using the net, they have every chance of doing so.

Almost all artists have band pages nowadays. In fact, it seems to be the first step on the way to internet recognition. A band page will commonly feature a news page, a separate page for downloading music for free, a photos page, and a contact page. These band pages are, in effect, business cards for musicians. The website receives promotion on various music websites and forums, and the band can create their own image through web branding.

The majority of band pages are very simple. Some carry an internet radio feature on the home page, others allow you to simply download the music in mp3 format, others have lyrics and features on the group, but the intention is always the same: to get people to listen to the group’s music.

However, the limitation to a band page is that unless the band promotes itself through other means, i.e. through forums, internet radio stations, flyers at concerts, etc., the website will receive very few visitors.

The idea is catching on. Many listeners want to listen to one particular genre, and are frustrated at mainstream radio offerings. By finding an internet radio station that fits their needs, they are introduced to new bands. New bands, in return, are being given an audience that has already decided which genre they want to listen to, and internet radio stations. The potential to be heard is enormous; it simply requires time in front of the computer!

So while internet radio stations offer streaming music, people will always want to download music for free online. While the music industry is clearly unhappy about free downloads of mp3s or other music formats, listeners will always find ways of sharing their music, it seems. Emerging artists are today taking advantage of that by scouring the internet for sites that offer free music downloads, and literally giving their music away.

The disadvantage to this is that most people will not automatically download online music from a group that they do not know. Almost all sites that offer free music for download operate using a search engine, and users search directly for a group. However, word of mouth on the internet means that when a band is being talked about, people will actually search for that particular band. The best example of this, as mentioned at the top of this article, is the Arctic Monkeys.

Hailing from Sheffield in the UK, the Arctic Monkeys’ success is due entirely to word of mouth on the internet. Their music is pure indie. Raw, punky, and blessed with no shortage of attitude, the buzz around the Arctic Monkeys started on blogs, and started to snowball. They were offering free mp3 downloads via their own website, which was a very basic portal including downloads, photos, future concerts and latest news. Once the buzz started growing into a shout, their music was available on internet radio stations, music download sites, blogs linked to blogs linked to blogs… very soon, they became the first band to reach number 1 in the UK through internet downloads!

What started off as a music curiosity became a music event. The band were soon appearing on national television, and even on the news, as their album sold more copies on its first day of release than the first releases of Oasis or The Beatles.

What happened in Sheffield can happen anywhere in the world. The internet has brought bands and listeners together at an international level – the rap artist at his home in Seattle can reach the rap fan at his home in Singapore, the independent musician in New York can reach the indie fan in York… but it is also interesting how communities are forming at a local level.

The internet is providing emerging artists with opportunities to create a buzz around their latest concerts, generating an audience that would previously have taken a great deal of legwork to gather. Through mailing lists, online flyers, blog and forum entries, a music event can be publicised many ways. The more innovative a group becomes, the more chance it has of reaching its public.

Local music forums have popped up all around the world. Indie bands will always look for a solid local fan base, and it is thanks to the internet forum that they have found this. Using their forum post signature to promote their website, these bands post flyers, concert information and more, and even share information about how to find concerts, where to buy equipment, and recording techniques. When looking for a local community of listeners, indie bands can easily find local communities of bands who are doing the same thing. While seemingly these bands rarely get the chance to meet each other unless they are playing a gig together, the internet gives them the opportunity to discuss and promote 24 hours a day.

In truth, the internet is simply offering an extension to the old “local scene” that existed before it. Indie music has grown over the last few years largely because of the adaptability of independent musicians to the internet, and because of their community spirit. While prior to the internet, a local music scene would have been limited to a handful of bands, today it is much easier for a group to break onto the local music scene, as long as they have a strong website, a strong image, and of course, good music.

And in the end, the essential truths of the music industry will always bear out. If you don’t have the music, you won’t make the grade. Listeners are canny people, and they will always filter out the good bands from the average bands, regardless of how good the website is, or how persistent the promotion is. However, as indie music flourishes, so do the best bands, and if they are on the right internet radio stations, if they can create the right buzz around themselves, and if they can reach their audience, emerging artists today have every chance not just of increasing their audiences, but of getting a contract with a record label.

Written by Nathan Hallford

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