Are You Guilty? – 4 Ways Indie Musicians Are Killing Social Media

Guilty As Charged...

This guest post was written by Joshua Smotherman (@midtnmusic), co-founder of the Middle Tennessee Music blog.

In an ideal world I would wake up in the morning to a fresh cup of hot coffee. I would enjoy it as I check my e-mail and skim social networks to check up on friends and my favorite bands.

I would immerse myself in an online community of music lovers, songwriters, and musicians sharing, caring, and building with each other… NOT blasting commands to “check out my new hottest thing”.

I see enough billboards on the interstate.

In this world:

  • Bands would stop acting like rock stars and start acting like leaders
  • They would build self-sustaining tribes
  • They would listen to their fans
  • They would understand that growing organically will always win over view counts

As a music blogger, my inbox would NOT be full of one-liners and YouTube links I only see as distractions. Whatever happened to “connecting” with someone?

Unfortunately, this world does not exist. From where I’m sitting, the average indie band sucks at using social media and its ruining it for everyone else. Most importantly, your potential fans.

What are we doing wrong, you say?

Oh boy…where do I begin?

Me, Me, Me Marketing

You might have been raised in a world of billboards and commercials, but using social media as a one way street is killing your promo game.

It seems too many people are missing the social half of the phrase, social media.

You need to engage with fans and listeners instead of blasting them with links, videos, and nonsense about buying your album.

Sadly, most bands qualify [as what the marketing world refers to] as spammers.

Engaging is easier than you think and should come naturally (assuming you are not a recluse).

  • Share albums, videos, and news about other music you enjoy or local bands you play with. Ask others what they think.
  • Share news related to the music industry or issues that reflect the personality of your band and use them to engage in conversation.
  • Instead of posting links to the same videos and songs repeatedly, post clips of the band working in the studio or upload a demo mix and allow fans to share their opinions so you can take the art to another level. Involve fans in your process(es).
  • Network with bands in other areas to create an atmosphere for gig swapping and collaboration as well as cross promotion of content.

This list goes on but the takeaway here is engage in a way that results in feedback and interaction.

Build a community.

Focusing on the wrong metrics

Your follower count means nothing unless you see conversions.


More important than a follower, view, or like:

  • How many fans have signed up for your mailing list?
  • Do you pass around a mailing list signup sheet at your show?
  • How many people have you met at shows? (You do hang out with the audience after the show…right?)
  • How many people have bought a CD or t-shirt?

Stop putting all your energy into increasing numbers on social sites and focus on converting the followers you have into loyal fans.

Use social media to funnel music listeners to your website where you attempt to convert them into a mailing list signup, song download, or merchandise sale.

Would you rather have 1,000 likes or 100 fans spending $1,000 on music, merch, show tickets and crowd funding campaigns?

Show me the money!

Repeating yourself on every social network

Sending your Twitter feed to Facebook then copying and pasting it to Google+ so the same message appears on every site is a horrible idea.

So is auto play on audio embeds but that’s for a different time.

You are not expected to know marketing, you make music! Allow me to guide you on this train of thinking…

People who use Twitter are different than people who use Facebook and the people who use Google+ are not like the others.

It is imperative you consider these facts when developing a social media strategy and act accordingly.

Make sure you actually use social media as a music fan before deciding how to market your music using these tools. Follow bands who are in a position you would like to be in and see how they use each network. Notice what works, what doesn’t work, and then perfect your plan of action.

Posting several updates to Twitter every hour (depending on the nature of the updates) is more acceptable than posting to Facebook every 15 minutes.

When you over saturate a person’s FB News Feed, they hide you from their feed. Or worse…unlike your page or mark your posts as spam.

A general guideline is try to retweet, reply, comment, and share relevant content from others more than you broadcast and peddle your own wares.

Sell Without Selling

If you focus on building a community around your band instead of acting as a bulletin board, you will start noticing the true power of social media.

You will not see overnight results.

The key is to stay consistent, focus on creating great music, and communicate directly with your audience.

If you create a community of loyal fans, they will want to support you.

Your community will become your sales force and all you need to do is be yourself and continue giving fans a band worth loving.

Consistency allows you to reach a tipping point where fans begin promoting your music for you by wearing t-shirts, playing CDs at parties, and recommending you to their friends.

It is hard to conceive this when you are starting at zero, but 6 to 12 months down the road you will notice things happening simply because you remained persistent.

While fans are busy promoting your music, you need to seek out gig opportunities, blog reviews or interviews, and other chances to put yourself in the presence of tastemakers who can expose you to their audience.

Bloggers, journalists, booking agents, and other industry personnel will not give you their attention unless you have proof of a loyal, engaged following.

Buying followers or views might help you manipulate chart rankings and other metrics, but they will never replace the power of community. If you have 5,000 page likes but no one is liking, sharing, or commenting on your updates; we all see right through you.

So can the people who can expose you to bigger audiences of music fans.

In closing:

  • Build your tribe
  • Nurture your community
  • Stop acting like a corporate sales machine

You might also be interested in this panel discussion concerning Marketing, PR, and Promotion on a Budget hosted by Indie Connect NYC which discusses mores things indie musicians are doing wrong online.

How Have You Avoided Killing Social Media?

Let us know below what you have done to overcome these four social media killers above (or any others that you’ve experienced) in the form of a comment below!

image credit: bigstockphoto

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Artists Take Note: 5 MORE Unforgettable Fan Experiences

Fan Experiences

This article was written by Corie Kellman (@coralman808), Director of New Artist Relations for Cyber PR®

If you are new to this series, make sure you check out the first installment of “Artists Take Note: 5 Unforgettable Fan Experiences”. Since my last top 5, I’ve been to dozens of shows, read hundreds of tweets, and talked to many about their fan experiences.
…And here are your top five this month:

5. I had a happy hour drink with a drummer I met in Nashville and we of course talked music for a little bit. We had a conversation about the bands we were into when we were kids and our experiences getting autographs as teens; something that in our memories meant everything in the world to us when it happened. He shared a story about how in his teenage angst he wrote a letter to Green Day, stating something along the lines of “Your music rocks! Anytime anyone says you suck, I stick up for you and tell them you don’t.” (Surely this is not verbatim, of course) – And, he also asked them to send back a autograph. One day, he checked the mail and there it was–– an autograph from Green Day. It’s been over 15 years since this experience, but it’s a memory he won’t forget.

4. Fall Out Boy played at the Ryman recently and towards the end of the show, Pete Wentz started to talk to the crowd. He thanked bands of his youth that he went to see as a kid that inspired him to start a band to be, hoping to be the next Misfits, and then he invited the youth in the crowd to start bands, and challenged them to be the next Fall Out Boy. He pointed to a kid in the crowd and said, “Yeah, you! You rock– I noticed you!” The guitarist grabbed a few bottles of water from near the drum kit and handed it down to a a couple of exhausted looking teens. Before leaving the stage that night, Wentz stopped to sign autographs at the front of the stage and threw his baseball cap into the crowd as he took his final walk off the stage. I just knew that those few things made all those kids night, and they will go home and remember it forever and someone in that crowd may start the next big punk or rock band because of the experience they got at that concert.

Fall Out Boy

3. I sat down with an old friend of mine in Memphis, TN before his show on his first southern tour. We started talking about his strategy. His band, SNAFU, is a trasher punk band, which I have absolutely no experience in. He schooled me, telling me in his genre to get respect, it was all about becoming involved in the underground scene and building fans one by one in basements and garages, and storage units. He talked about how every fan that likes the music means so much to the success of their tours. He told me that if a kid comes up to the merch table and doesn’t have the 8 bucks for a CD, he gives it to them for free. He knows the value of that fan’s word of mouth is more valuable than the $8 for the future of his band.

2. Though a bit over-the-top and don’t encourage you to be giving your personal number out to all your followers, on July 11, Nick Cannon tweeted his number to his Twitter followers. When Jimmy Fallon brought up this stunt, Cannon replied, “That’s how much I love my fans. . . Call me anytime!” This is certainly out of most artists comfort zone, but the idea that he was ready and willing to connect with his fans is a great state of mind to be in.

Nick Cannon

1. Inc. Magazine posted the article “3 Superfan Strategies From Pearl Jam” noting their exemplary treatment of their fans. The article explains, that their team understood how important their fans are. They set challenging goals for themselves early on and, “Over the past 18 years, those goals have developed into a strategic superfan operation with roughly 200,000 active members.” The article also shares 3 important principles: 1. Invest in your superfans, and they’ll invest in you., 2. Trust your superfans with your brand, and 3. Never act like a rockstar. This article is a must read.

What unforgettable experiences have you had as a fan?

Share your stories and experiences with us in the form of a comment below!

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Sound Advice TV – Derek Sivers on Crafting The Perfect Pitch

This video was originally published in 2008, but it still remains as relevant than as it is today (and still remains one of the topics I am asked about most).

No matter what social network you decide you love or hate, or how often you blog, or how many shows you perform in a year, or how many different kinds of bundles you are selling through your website, there is one thing that is an absolute must that YOU (yes, you!) must think through first…

What is your pitch?

Every artist, band, entrepreneur, company and brand needs a strong pitch.

This is your differentiator. Your ability to give people a frame of reference. Your verbal business card.

OK enough said from me. Derek lays out the concept of The Pitch so beautifully here that I’ll leave it to him to take it over from here…

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Critical Mistakes That Can Destroy Your Music PR Campaign [Repost]

Oh No!

This article was written by Jon Ostrow (@jon_ostrow) and originally appeared on the Disc Makers Echoes blog.

Online music PR takes patience, follow up, and a three-phase plan

For any emerging brand (yes musicians, this means you), a music PR campaign is a great way to spark new conversations, build visibility within key markets, and grow your overall influence over a long-term. The problem is, your budget may be tied up in basic costs such as recording, production, touring, rent, food, etc.

Working with an established, professional publicity or marketing firm might be the ideal, as they will have a proven process and a network of strong media connections, but unless you have a few thousand dollars available in your budget, you may need to design your own publicity campaign.

A self-propelled music PR campaign can absolutely be effective if executed properly, which means you’re effective at managing the three key phases:

1. Pre-PR phase: Planning
2. During-PR phase: Pitching
3. Post-PR phase: The Eagle Has Landed

Unfortunately for those new to digital publicity (and even for those with experience) there are several pitfalls that can derail the success of a campaign.

I’ve outlined several mistakes that must be avoided in each of the three phases so that your time and efforts are maximized.

Music PR Phase 1: Planning

Ineffective (or unrealistic) goal setting

PR is meant to do three things for you:

1. Build conversations with potential fans
2. Increase overall visibility with a target market
3. Establish influence within a market

Will success in these three things lead to sales in some way? Hopefully. Is the purpose of PR to increase your bottom line? No.

Unfortunately there is no guarantee that PR will lead to an increase in sales, as the feature placements (blog features, podcast features, magazine features, etc.) only guarantee that you are being seen by more people who could potentially become your fans. These placements are only the beginning of a much bigger sales funnel.

With that said, setting unrealistic goals will kill ANY PR campaign, as it sets a campaign up for failure from the get-go. Setting effective goals is a critical staple to Pre-PR planning!

Underdeveloped Branding

As a full-time digital publicist, I receive inquires on a daily basis from independent artists who would like us to do their PR. When exploring each artist to decide if we are the right fit for them, we look at the music (obviously), but we also take a look at their overall branding with almost equal weight. This includes the messaging in their bio and the assets that they have available for the promotional work, such as photos, videos, and the look and feel of their website and social networks.

From my experience, the music must be good, but so must the branding. An artist can have great music, but when it comes to a music PR campaign, if the photos don’t pop, the bio doesn’t weave a compelling story, and the videos look under-baked, getting media makers to sign on for a feature becomes incredibly difficult. Each of these components is an extension of your online brand and will do just as much to help (or harm) you as does the quality of your music.

Lack of Targeting

Far too often I see artists compile their target list of media makers to reach out to, and it is just a list of the biggest 1% of blogs in the world (i.e. Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan, Gorilla Vs. Bear, NPR), along with blogs in the wrong genre and even worse, blogs that focus on the hyper-local (and they are not in that location).

It is very important to understand that the type of music you play (specifically the music you are promoting NOW), where you are from, how old you are, how big your fan base is and what passions drive the influence of your music dictate which blogs you should, and should NEVER be targeting.

Music PR Phase 2: Pitching

A Bad Elevator Pitch

The purpose of an elevator pitch is to create a quick description in a sentence or two of your sound that not only gives people a frame of reference (who might you may sound like), but also to paint a strong, compelling picture of your sound that is so intriguing they want to go check out your music: “The raw power of Led Zeppelin meets the danceability of Lady Gaga.”

On the other hand, a bad pitch gives no frame of reference and isn’t at all compelling: “Eclectic Pop.”

And a word to the wise, using obscure artists is fine if you are SURE that your intended audience will know who it is. If they have to ask “Who?” once you’ve given your pitch, you’ve already lost them…

CCing (or BCCing) everyone pitched

This is a HUGE no-no if you are trying to get any media maker to work with you. Besides the fact that CCing dozens of people at once shows an utter disregard for respecting privacy, it actually goes against US anti-spam laws. BCCing people, although respecting people’s privacy, is still considered spam.

Another major issue with BCCing people is that it leave no opportunity for you to personally address each media makers, which can play a critical role in establishing new long-term relationships with media makers.

If you are going to pitch media makers you don’t know, it is always best to check their website for a submission guideline, and then email each one directly with a personalized introduction and sign off to the email.

Poor Timing

Timing is everything when it comes to PR, because the hot topic at any given moment within an industry (or around the world) can dictate how relevant your story will be to a media maker’s audience.

SXSW is a great example of how music PR efforts can be affected by timing. For a week or two in mid-March, much of the music blogosphere has its eyes on Austin to see who the best up-and-coming acts are. Unfortunately for those NOT heading down to Austin, it means a lack of interest from many media makers. If you’re not going to play SXSW, don’t schedule your PR efforts during this time.

When you dive into your pitching, make sure that you do some research in the surrounding area, look at industry-news, and check the calendar for any significant holidays or events.

Overly Hyped

I can think of nothing that will damage a PR campaign more than when an artist is overly hyped. Not only do most media makers not care, but most often they won’t even believe you when you say that you sound like “nothing they have ever heard before.” Especially because, if you’re being honest, it probably isn’t true.

With the exception of the biggest blogs in the world (i.e. the Pitchfork’s of the world) most media makers are ONLY doing so because it is their passion. Most don’t make any money at all from it. It is always more effective to approach media makers genuinely with a story that is not only honest and compelling, but speaks to creating value for THEM and THEIR audience.

Not Following Up

PR is a process and the results are in no way immediate. Once an initial pitch is sent out, it may sit for days in the abyss of the recipient’s inbox before it is seen, if it is ever seen at all.

Very often I’ll hear back from media makers that I have pitched three weeks later saying they were so glad I followed up because they had missed my other emails.
And that right there is your problem. By not following up, you are leaving your pitch up to the unknown. People may see it and respond, or they may delete it, or maybe they just missed it entirely. Without following up, how will you ever know?

From my own personal experience, the only way to make an effective pitch is if you follow up on a weekly basis for a few weeks (typically three or four weeks after the pitch is sent).

Music PR Phase 3: The Eagle Has Landed

Not Building Relationships With Your Supporters

Any feature can be a one time thing if you let it be that way. However, if you take the time to build a relationship with the media maker, there is no end to how often and how long they may continue to support you.

If you leverage each feature you get into a relationship, the promotion for each project you release in the future becomes that much easier to execute (not to mention the results of which will be far greater). On the other hand, if you DON’T leverage each feature, you’ll have to start from square one every time you release a new project…

Here are a few great ways to turn a one time feature into a new relationship with a valuable supporter:

1. Follow up with the media maker and thank them for featuring you
2. Share the feature on all of your social networks and tag the media maker whenever possible
3. Include the media maker in a #FF (Follow Friday) tweet
4. Share OTHER features theirs on a regular basis

Not maintaining a presence where you are featured

As mentioned earlier, the purpose of PR is to build new conversations with potential fans. Believe it or not, but the features themselves (i.e. a blogger writing about your music) are often not enough to get a conversation stated.

You need to maintain an active presence on any and every place you are featured so you can directly interact with anyone willing to join the conversation. THIS is how these conversations will eventually be turned into more fans — and down the line, into more sales!

Not monitoring the virality of your features

Quite often, media makers will be involved with a network of other media makers either in a similar niche or similar location and they will support each other. This can lead to posts being mentioned in other places, or even fully re-published on other websites.
By not monitoring the virality of a feature, in other words not monitoring where ELSE people are talking about you because of a single feature, you are once again missing critical opportunities to build your fan base.

A great way to do this is to set up Google Alerts for yourself so that any time your name (or your name + your single, or your name + your music video title) is mentioned online, you will be notified via email.

This article was written by Jon Ostrow (@jon_ostrow) and originally appeared on the Disc Makers Echoes blog.

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Ariel Hyatt’s Social Media Food Pyramid

Social Media Pyramid 2013

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This is an oldie, but a goodie! With social media growing at such a rapid pace, we decided it was a good idea to revisit my social media food pyramid and update it for 2013.


Here’s Your Social Media Food Pyramid

It happens to me all of the time when I teach artists social media.The face goes blank, the frustration begins to settle in and then the artist says it:

“I just don’t have anything interesting to say.”


I’m shocked by this every time.  You are an artist; you do things we mere mortals are totally enamored by: you PLAY MUSIC, you write songs, you perform them in public!

So PUHLEEASE, do not tell me you have nothing interesting to say. I ain’t buying it.

All you are missing is a System for Social Media Success.

Luckily, unlike sheer god-given musical talent, social media is a learnable skill.

The inspiration for this hit me while I was teaching my system to a client in my kitchen…


Now, I’ve been told they don’t actually teach this in school anymore… but for those of you old enough to remember, do you remember that chart they brought out when we were in 2nd grade to show us how to eat well-rounded meals? I have re-tooled it for you so you can now participate on Social Media healthily! And you won’t even have to think about it – just follow along…

You wouldn’t eat only bagels all of the time.  They are a treat once in awhile, but they are not healthy to eat every day – and a diet of only bagels would be boring!

Most artists are only serving their audiences bagels all of the time. Plain bagels. Over an over again.


We want a burger, or a giant green healthy salad, we want some candy.

We want the protein but you keep serving bagels, bagels, bagels!

These are five things that when used in concert with one another can help you ratchet up your social media effectively and manage it easily.

Use these as a guide to mix and match them to suit your comfort level (just like your diet, eat what feels right for you)

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Digital Press Conference 2013

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 2.19.04 PM

Due to your continual support and commitment to us throughout the years, we want you to join us for our summer 2013 Digital Press Conference (DPC)! This is an exclusive invitation that we are extending to our devote bloggers, podcasters, Internet radio station programmers, vodcasters, video show creators, online freelancers, and technology companies. At the DPC we showcase the top clients in our Cyber PR® roster who play throughout the day’s event.

So what’s in it for you?

During the event we have stations set up throughout the Cyber PR® brownstone to meet, interview, and party with our artists, and of course, us, the Cyber PR® team. It’s a great way to connect and acknowledge hard working musicians and new media makers in a social environment, so together they can capture exclusive content and create meaningful relationships.


Wednesday, July 31st
1pm – 8pm EST


The Cyber PR® Townhouse

389 12th St
Brooklyn, NY 11215


Gatsby’s Green LightGatsby's Green Light

  • Banjo and rhythm infused Earth-funk laced with wit and block party performance fun.
  • A hefty 30% of their music sales go to sustainability organizations like WLA and NOFA. They play often in support of education and the development of a strong community and clean local food and energy supply.
  • Their mantra for music is to open our hearts and minds and propel us all forward in closer conversation and community.

Spark & EchoSpark & Echo

  • Is just the chicest and sweetest husband and wife dollhouse rock outfit.
  • Their music brings poetry and wild stories from the Bible that have been tucked under the table and rejuvenate them for another generation.
  • Visions of sparkling wheels in the sky, hunger and thirst, and legends of love and compassion as visceral as death are weaved with enduring melodies and driving rhythm.


  • Coffee shop grooves from the beatnik era is the atmosphere Roswitha effortlessly conjures with velvety jazz and sensual dulcet vocals.
  • The flourishing mystique of her latest album has culled her comparisons to such iconic femmes of grit and allure as Sia, Florence Wench, Adele, and Björk to name a bare few.
  • She’s a woman with many footnotes. As an accomplished violinist she is a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, has appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, in the movie August Rush, and at the Latin Grammy’s.

FireDean & The Brooklyn Garden ClubFireDean

  • The topic of horticulture is part of the extended metaphor that veneers the deep-seated sensitive meaning of their music.
  • FireDean’s voice sounds like Tom Yorke’s at his croakiest and the passion is reminiscent of Yorke’s more acoustic driven sounds on Pablo Honey.
  • FireDean & The Brooklyn Garden Club are a triad that use such a vast assortment of instruments such as the moog, lap steel, mandolin, glockenspeil, cajon, and triangle to advocate their identity.

Scott KrokoffScott Krokoff

  • Scott Krokoff’s sound is the Advil for your worry. His chin-up kid attitude encompasses everything you’d look for in an ideal mix tape for a road trip.
  • Scott plays Americana-flavored folk rock wisped with a steady soul that recalls the cool down era of 70s when singer-songwriters reigned.
  • Two years in a row now Krokoff’s guitar strums were featured During NBC’s The Today Show’s 3rd annual NY Yankees Hope Week segment.

Greater AlexanderGreater Alexander

  • Greater Alexander paints soft pastel musical landscapes with his honeyed croon and plush guitar. The strum of his guitar is like flipping through Holga photographs of lovers and loved ones.
  • The guy with the 30 different odd jobs and the realization that life is a flux of the highs and lows strings together beautiful odes to simpler times for our anxious tendencies and suffocated minds.

Steve SchultzSteve Schultz

  • It’s captivating to hear the fervent soul of an average joe with 88 keys that hasn’t been tainted by the fame and the corruption of mainstream success.
  • If Ben Folds and Bruce Springsteen got together for a mid-afternoon jam hungover on diner coffee it would sound pretty damn close to Steve Schultz.

all work and no play makes jack a dull boy

Kent GustavsonSteve Schultz

  • Gustavson is a revivalist of the 60s Greenwich Village sing alongs of peaceniks in loft apartments. His bare bones style and ingenuity is a throwback into the contemporary folk canon of 20th century America.
  • He is the first to write a comprehensive biography of rock ’n’ roll progenitor Doc Watson. A Bluegrass musician whose influence has shaped such icons of modern music as Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia, Ben Harper, and Robert Plant.
  • Gustavson’s biography <i>Blind But Now I See</i> has sold 5,000 paperbacks and 25,000 e-books and is a winner of the Next Generation Indie Book Award and a finalist in the Foreword Book of the Year Awards.

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