Book Review: Your Band is a Virus
The rise of digital-age DIY music-making has seen a parallel rise in self-marketing. E-mail, web sites, blogs, streaming audio and video, social networks, mobile apps and other internet-based channels have provided independent musicians direct access to millions of ears and eyes. But the lower barriers to entry have also overwhelmed listeners in a flood of music and promotion. Record labels that once served as gatekeepers of publicity and distribution are now distinguished more by size and budget than actual guardianship of access.
Inexpensive digital audio recording has made every musician a studio head, and YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Sonicbids has turned them into publicists. Being good at making music is admirable, but getting it heard requires a level of savvy few musicians come by naturally and a level of self-promotion even fewer musicians are willing to undertake. Today’s opportunities for connecting with fans dwarf those of yesterday’s envelope-licking home-brew fan club. Mastering the current crop of techniques and in-spots, and keeping current (MySpace, anyone?), is essential to expanding your footprint and growing your career.
Unfortunately, while the opportunity is large, so is the complexity. Riding to the rescue is an ecosystem of advisors that can help you hone your independent promotion. A number of books, including Jay Frank’s Hack Your Hit, Ariell Hyatt’s Music Success in Nine Weeks and David Nevue’s How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet provide techniques for harnessing the power of the Internet to make connections with listeners.
James Moore’s entry in this genre is a plainspoken guide to the rich promotional channels of the Internet. He spends a little time outlining Band 101 basics (recording, biography, photos, press releases, etc.), but the heart of his book is about building your presence on the web and using a variety of viral techniques to expand your fan base. On the plus side, Moore’s done a lot of research and provides a lot of detail; on the negative side, it may prove overwhelming to the average musician. Frank’s and Hyatt’s approaches were lighter on detail, but broken into bite-sized tasks that are more easily digested.
Moore provides advice on building websites (including some rudimentary help with search engine optimization), optimizing your use of Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, digital distribution, blogging (and leveraging blog aggregators like Hype Machine), managing mailing lists, podcasting, crowd funding and more. He offers Internet-age spins on classic marketing techniques, helps you weigh various sales models (including the value of free), and ventures off the Internet to briefly mention film and TV placement and royalties.
The last third of the book is a collection of guest-authored articles, resource listings and interviews with industry players. There’s a lot of valuable information here, but even more so than with the earlier parts of the book, you’ll have to spend some time breaking down the advice and mapping it to your own career. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for musicians who want to spend their time making music rather than marketing their wares, the lack of spoon-feeding may inhibit developing any real marketing inertia.
Both approaches – bite-sized tasks and deeper detail – are useful in teaching musicians marketing. The latter, in this case Moore’s approach, is more likely to have an impact as background reading to the task-oriented books of Frank and Hyatt. Moore’s book should make great tour-van reading, providing food for thought and ideas for discussion, rather than highly-structured, actionable items you can tick off a list in short order. You’ll need the latter to get you started, but you’ll want the depth of Moore’s suggestions to keep you going.