Tuesday, May 10, 2016

GENERAL : On Self Promotion

There are videos aplenty on youtube of helpful souls releasing animals back into the wild only for a predator (like a hawk) to swoop down (like a hawk) and devour the poor victim infront of the good samaritans' aghast faces. When you are an indie musician releasing a new album or EP the situation feels similar, except instead of anything dramatic happening the newly freed captive just sits there staring at you, being ignored by the world at large.

I hate self promotion.

Now before I go further, some caveats. With my various releases under my various artist names, I have been blessed with a small following of seemingly eccentric bilionaire fans - it's the only explanation I can give for why people will routinely spend much more on my music than I ask. I am eternally grateful to them for their far-too-generous support. Similarly, I am in no way ignored by the world at large - to give you some idea, none of my releases has broken triple figures in sales count, but neither have they failed to break double figures. I have a day job and so I can't complain about this modest success I have found from what is basically my hobby.

So please don't take this piece as a moan about deserving to be more famous. My intention is to examine the push and pull of wanting to reach more people, with the fear of being annoying.

Of the few messages and comments my work receives online, a common sentiment is that people are surprised I am not more well known. I expect this is true of many other artists, and in a perverse way I quite like the idea of someone stumbling unprompted on my music like Lara Croft finding the Atlantean Scion (though with less tiger murder on the way). But the point stands - how does one become more well known?

As I see it, there are a number of options available - get a facebook page, get a twitter account, get on reddit, get on twitch, with doubtless more I am forgetting. I have done all these things, to a point. I have around 140 facebook likes, 700 twitter followers, my music is available to streamers and youtubers (with a few notable examples such as Super BunnyHop and BananaRex generously highlighting my music to their fanbases).

But this is where I hit a bit of a wall. I don't know how to push these numbers further. Often the advice is 'Be shameless! Tell the world!' That's a great sentiment, but at what point does being shameless and telling the world become repellent behaviour?

This is probably quaintly British of me - don't want to cause a fuss and all that. And yet more caveats here - if I have sent you a tweet or a DM asking you to listen to my music and you haven't responded, this is not a jab - lord knows I find it hard enough to reply to the once-a-year emails I get from fans, let alone how much unsolicited contact the people I badger must receive. But how do I balance wanting to tell the world with not wanting to be a nuisance? I send a message to someone I admire, to someone I think would be interested in what I do, and they respond saying thanks and they'll listen to it soon - is it right to send them a reminder? Is that too far, too annoying?

Facebook seems a write off now - of those 140 followers I routinely receive... zero likes on posts. Twitter seems much better for ambient promotion (thanks in great part to the lovely bunch who follow me on twitter, and their larger count) but 700 followers is hardly walkin-around numbers. How do you grow that number, Without spamming the same tweet endlessly (New EP! Please RT!)? Or is it that simple? It certainly doesn't feel right - whenever I start to compose another variation on the same 'please rt' tweet, my spirit drops as I imagine everyone who follows me getting one step closer to unfollowing.

Is repeated self promotion on twitter as bad as I imagine? Do you hate reading 'Please Retweet!' as much as I hate writing it? Maybe not. Maybe I should keep tweeting until I notice my follower count drop, instead of fearing something that may not happen anyway. It just doesn't feel right. I feel like I'm making people hate me.

As for music blogs... An anecdote - a good while back, when I had just released a new EP, I sent a tweet to a music blog I enjoyed reading asking if they'd be interested in listening to my music. They didn't reply, but they did tweet out minutes later "Format least likely to be listened to by us = EP". That seemed like one heck of a confidence killing subtweet to me. Perhaps that's why I find it so hard to self promote - the fear that the world will look at my work and not even have the interest to rip it to shreds.


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