Top 10 Mistakes Musicians Make When Marketing Online

Posted September 6

In the old days, bands didn’t have too many avenues to hit when promoting their tunes and shows: Street teams put up flyers, local radio stations teased shows, friends tricked other friends into attending open mic nights with the promise of hot chicks/dudes and beer. Now, bands have the ability to remind us — repeatedly and in ever-increasing degrees of frenzy — that their new single is out and available for purchase (PLEASE BUY IT OR I WILL STARVE/FREEZE TO DEATH/CRY OH SO HARD!).

In many ways, such access is a good thing: We always know when our favorite band is in town! We can be among the first to hear their new album! We totally got RT’d by Lil B!

In other ways, it’s really freaking annoying. Bands are passionate and rarely sleep, a combination that makes them liable to hit social media with the ferocity and desperation of a 15-year-old girl who has just been dumped by her first brace-faced boyfriend. (There’s a chapter called “My Band” in Demetri Martin’s This Is a Book that perfectly and depressingly encapsulates this state of affairs.)

We spoke with a bevy of music industry professionals about the biggest blunders bands make when attempting to promote themselves online. Check out their biggest screw-ups below — screw-ups that are not exclusive to the musically inclined, by the way. So take heed, non-guitar-toters; we’re basically just talking to anyone online with something to plug.

1. Don’t invite the world

“I live in New York. Please do not send me a Facebook invite for your show in Chicago, Cincinnati or Chattanooga, and please do not send me an invite for any raves in Goa.” — Ariel Hyatt, head of Cyber PR

2. Don’t be greedy

“When I follow you on Twitter, please don’t auto-DM me asking me to also follow you on Facebook (and please do not ask me all in CAPS). Try to understand that one social channel is enough, and feed me where I want to eat.” — Hyatt

3. Shut up sometimes

“Ideally, artists should be posting at least once a day and naturally a few times throughout the day if they’re into it. But just like with anyone, we do not need to have our entire feed flooded with constant posts that aren’t really relevant to why we are fans of the artist.” — Emily White, co-founder of Whitesmith Entertainment Inc. and Readymade Records & Publishing

4. Be a freaking human being

“We’re happy to support artists we follow and love, but the tweets can’t just be constant sales pitches. And the best artists or teams figure out ways to sell or promote their music in creative ways that aren’t quite so blatant. Instead of ‘Buy Here,’ I love it when artists have conversations with their fans and ask for support in exchange for creative packages. I contribute $5 a month to Zoe Boekbinder and unexpectedly received a custom T-shirt and handwritten card on the back of a Pippi Longstocking paperback cover this week.” — White

5. Don’t be a tag tease

“I can’t stand it when musicians get on Twitter and send me stupid or irrelevant @mentions to gain my attention. They want me to notice them, but they go about it all wrong. It does more damage than good! Pay attention to what is being said, and if you are inclined, add something worthwhile to the conversation. Don’t simply say, ‘Hey @MadalynSklar, go Like my Facebook.’ It will not prompt me to do anything other than wish there was a delete button.” — Madalyn Sklar, head of GoGirls Music

6. Don’t lie (to yourself)

“The first mistake I’ve seen is that bands draw overly ambitious analogies about what they sound like. ‘We’re like My Bloody Valentine meets the Velvet Underground!’ No, you’re not. Nobody is. Be realistic. This also goes for startups, which tend to make outrageous claims. One service I wrote about recently claimed that they were going to crush Pandora and Spotify, and so my article was all about disabusing them of that notion. If they’d never made such ridiculous claims, I would have viewed what they are doing more generously.” — Eliot Van Buskirk, editor of Evolver.fm

7. Don’t spell stuff wrong

“Another mistake: Don’t be ridiculous, inane or ungrammatical. Get someone who writes, edits or copy edits for a living to look over what you’ve written before you send it out. You don’t want to end up on Folder Rock.” — Van Buskirk

8. Don’t flog the blogs

“For a period of time at Hypebot, a musician was commenting on numerous posts, always attacking the writer in extreme terms and then ending the comment with a request to download his free album followed by a link. This made him look like a self-serving a-hole. The smarter thing to do would have been to make sincere comments in response to posts — without going overboard — and then make sure that his signature linked out to his website or social media account.” — Clyde Smith, blogger at Hypebot

9. Don’t pretend we’re friends

“Don’t send me a sincere form letter. If it’s a copied-and-pasted thing, don’t let pride get in the way of just starting the message with ‘Hey everybody!’ or something like that. Don’t try to trick me into thinking you only sent this message about your new awesome video to just me.” — Eric Victorino, the Limousines

(Editor’s note: Same goes for mass texts. Also, don’t send mass texts.)

10. Don’t blast blindly

“I remember a publicist who would find every e-mail associated with any website I had, even those with nothing to do with (what I write about), and add them to her mailing list. This was particularly annoying because I had an account designated for (music) publicity and actually checked everything that came through. This particular publicist even had a tagline that went something like, ‘Don’t complain, even God got this.’ So she was obviously getting a lot of complaints and not responding in a productive manner. When I called her on this behavior, she became abusive in her e-mails and killed any chance of getting any publicity for any of her artists.” — Smith

This column originally appeared on CNN Tech as part of Brenna Ehrlich and Andi Bartz’s Netiquette column series.

Image courtesy of Flickr, craigCloutier