1. Make sure your music is ready to be promoted on Bandcamp!
Ok, this might seem obvious but take the time to make sure you feel good about the music you are making because the most important person you need to serve is you. Your art is an expression that originates from you and is unique to you.
It feels good to connect with people that enjoy your music, but remember that you begin the creative process by yourself or within a band. The small and sacred circle is where the magic takes place, and ultimately where you end up after the music is exposed and shared. No matter how big of a fan base, your inner circle will always be the source of your strength.
I have heard countless superstar bands and artists totally dislike something they released while fans loved it. The musicians live in a private universe where making the music all begins with listening to your inner voice and guidance. The entire premise of making art is to express yourself beyond the judgment of others, to open up to the creative beast within.
Trust your instincts.
Years later your contentment is found in being true to yourself. Fame does not necessarily bring peace and happiness. But bringing the creative force inside you to light does!
2. Picking the right music genre for Bandcamp is critical for determining your promotional success
Let’s make one thing clear; music genres are just words made up to categorize. No band or artist truly fits one entirely. In fact from a marketing perspective, the categories are less about what your music sounds like and more about what types of people identify with those categories.
The Bandcamp music genres are a marketing term that helps you reach potential fans that are browsing. It is not a word that needs to describe your music. It’s a label that describes the fan.
For example, if I was a new company making fresh organic salsa where would my product be placed in the supermarket? If you guessed the Mexican food isle with all the jar pasteurized salsa, you're wrong. My salsa would be in the refrigerator fresh vegetables and produce section possibly near the fresh ripe avocados. And on a nearby display, there might even be a particular brand of tortilla chips on sale.
These items would be together because the potential customer who buys fresh organic salsa is the type of person who buys fresh produce. They might make fresh guacamole themselves. Placing it near avocados targets the same demographic as the fresh salsa. Some tortilla chips are even placed nearby to complete the suggested action. You won’t find all the chips in this location just one small stack of one brand. This brand of chips may be organic or have something that draws the targeted consumer.
So the music genre you pick is determined by where you think your fans will be not necessarily the sound of your music.
At Raven Guide music promotion services, we recommend that when someone asks ‘Who do you sound like?’ You respond with bands and artists that represent your fan base. Would a fan of that band buy your music? If so that's a band to link and target your marketing plan around.
When we were promoting a particular artist, we chose ‘folk’ as the genre and ‘indie folk’ as the sub-genre because that's where the fan base was. From a stylistic perspective, we could have put it in singer-songwriter or acoustic music, but those have very different fan bases. We would have missed the mark in finding the demographic, even though musically speaking those genres were correct.
If you haven't read our article, The first steps to promoting your music on Bandcamp go check it out. It is a very technical how-to guide that shows you the best way to set up your album on Bandcamp. Without following Bandcamp's algorithm rules, you won't be giving yourself the best chance to succeed.
3. Take the time to understand your fan base so you can promote your music on Bandcamp effectively
Who likes your music? Answering this can be a tough one if you are just starting out. Your friends and family don’t count because they can’t remove you from the music. Fans of your music in regards to marketing and branding are people that don’t know you at all. They create their idea based on the music, period. Understanding those people gives invaluable insight into the demographics and interests of your fans.
At Raven Guide, we use a Bandcamp marketing system that we designed to find fans. It works by testing in tiny batches which might be your buying personas. We explore databases of proven Bandcamp music buyers and build catalogs that we think might work. Then once we establish these potential fans, we target them in small numbers slowly building on what we keep learning. Eventually building a foundation of fans within the Bandcamp community.
Music is like all forms of media; you must target the right demographic to get results. Bandcamp is a music platform that contains groups of music buyers, each unique in their musical tastes. Finding the groups that will connect to your music is critical. If you can break into the community most likely to purchase your music, you are going to stand a better chance of success. As soon as a few key members of the Bandcamp community start to buy your album, others will follow suit. Think of it as cliques with leaders, if you can get the influencers to bite on your music than the followers are next.
Be as mindful as you can when fans come to your music. Look at the qualities and interest of them. Find common denominators that they have. Search for the underlying thread that causes fans to respond. Once you have a sense of that, begin to look for creative ways to reach them both online and in public. Listen to the undercurrent that they are picking up and responding to in your music.
4. Promote your music on Bandcamp with robust imagery
What images are likely to draw the attention of the types of people that are into your music? You want your album artwork to be something that potential fans of your music would click on digitally. It’s important to focus on creating album artwork that will look great even when reduced to a tiny size. More often than not a potential fan will be seeing it on a smartphone.
Remember that your intention is to get the attention of the person who would be interested in your music. The image should invoke one to want to click on it. When we design an album cover, we primarily think about how it will cause a reaction. We usually do a few unique album artwork versions and run A/B testing to see what image responds better. By using metrics, you have statistics to verify what artwork will do best.
The goal is to create artwork that calls people to click and find out more about your music. In a music platform such as Bandcamp often an image is seen before hearing the music. Many bands and artists who release vinyl disregard the critical aspect of online album sales. Digitally the artwork is small and is only appreciated in full size when the vinyl record arrives. Design all artwork to fit well on a smartphone, and you will have the best possible results on Bandcamp.
6. Using the power of limits to grow your music's fan base
In the beginning, the hardest thing to do is to acknowledge the limits. The boundaries of your current situation contain the tools necessary to help you on your way. Remember the same energy that helped you create the music is the same energy that can create the next opportunitiess.
Don’t worry about trying to be on every social media site or selling your music on every platform available in the world. Start with the things you already have in place. If you have a robust Facebook community of friends, work on exposing your music to them. But be respectful and courteous to your Facebook friends. Spamming to death about your music is not attractive and often pushes people away.
Keep your posts intriguing or funny and only often enough that they will grow to desire seeing the post. Be careful not to keep promoting the same thing. Stay humble this is your community, and they will walk away even easier then they came. Never underestimate the intelligence of the audience.
Do not just start a Twitter account because you think you should. If you are interested in developing a solid fan base on Twitter, you are going to need to have a passion. You will need to have a marketing plan for carrying it out or hire someone that does. At Raven Guide, we have used Twitter in ways outside the conventional format. Creating content that people would love to share has benefits in drawing people passively.
Don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy. It takes time, and you will need to enjoy the process.
Our system of promotion primarily focuses on selling the artist music on Bandcamp. We have established a method and database that allows us to sell direct to potential fans. By targeting select areas, we aim our bands to stand out as a top seller on Bandcamp. This positioning brings more fans and media publications directly to the artists. We work in this independent music selling platform because we know it well. Bandcamp is our community that we have worked. We don’t try to compete with iTunes because that’s not our niche.
7. Grow your music fan base by allowing others to help
Often when any new enterprise is building, we do every facet. We get used to managing and doing all the things it takes to bring a creative vision into the world. Due to this, we become accustomed and conditioned. It’s important to keep an open mind and be flexible in having others help you towards your goals. As a musician and creative strategist, I have myself turned down countless opportunities due to being unable to get out of the way.
I was unable at the time to have the perspective that people wanted to become more involved in my musical endeavors. My tunnel vision and over-reliance on the self-blinded me to the chance encounters. And because of my conditioning, I just assumed that had to do everything myself.
I remember once a friend of a friend was very into the music I was making. He wanted to take me to meet a record label president that he knew well. I kept putting off the meeting because I was in the middle of a new album. I thought that when I was done with the new album, I would be ready to meet him.
The friend of a friend that wanted to help me didn’t need to hear my new stuff; he was already a fan. But my conditioned nature couldn't see the opportunity. Months went by making the new album, and I forgot about the possible meeting. Some time later when wisdom had entered my life, I remembered this as one of my negative responses to an invitation.
We are often the biggest obstacle that stands in our way. Stay open to the possibilities!
8. Use a small performance space to grow your fan base
When playing live, focus on creating an event. Look for opportunities to play in the type of atmosphere that fits the music. Find other ways to tie your music into a preexisting event. One project I was involved in connected strongly to the yoga community. We found yoga teachers that were interested in having live music for the class.
A yoga studio was an excellent way to perform in an intimate setting for 20 people that were a targeted demographic. The results were much better than playing for a random group of 20 people at a bar or coffee shop. The yoga class participants had a much greater response rate. The class also become a special event where people felt they were lucky to be in this yoga class.
The biggest key is to sell out and fill the space you play. With a small yoga room, it was very easy to fill the class and even make some people not be able to attend because of space. A sold out event creates more demand for the next time. "Hey, you missed out."
You don’t need to fill a concert hall to create anticipation and desire for a show. You just need to fill whatever space your in. Think of creative ways to make something special that people would want to attend even if they don’t know about your music yet. It could be a guest speaker or a conference, the possibilities pertain to the uniqueness of your musical project.
It’s better to make a substantial impact on a few people than to try and reach as many people as possible. Building a solid foundation of loyal fans brings support. From this base, expansion and upward growth are possible.
Don’t be afraid to book a show yourself and build an event around it. For many young bands and artists, this is a great way to begin. These days there are a lot of people that enjoy live music outside the conventional bar or coffee house format. All ages art galleries can be great or community performance spaces. Within these types of venues, you can often get more creative in how to showcase the music. The limits of a local bar have a standard in how they do things and often that standard is driven by the bar sales you generate for them.