on media, technology & digital culture

Exposure for Musicians In The Digital Era


Somebody, I guess it could have been anyone, said that the Internet couldn’t survive on its own. It needs the real world to sustain it, because without it, there would simply be no content.  The Internet and everything that happens „on it“ is a natural continuation of real life events. News portals obviously cover events that happened in real life, music portals review and cover musicians, etc. Whatever it is, it has to happen somewhere else before it reaches the digital world.

Myspace was a good idea but it was poorly executed. Still, it gave us the Arctic Monkeys, Lilly Allen and Soulja Boy. I guess we can be thankful for that. But for every Lilly, there are a million untalented John Does, who keep uploading their stuff on Myspace even though they don’t get any plays, don’t play any venues and are just sort of hoping to be discovered. It’s OK to make music for yourself but, honestly, if you want to get discovered – you have better chances waiting tables at a Karaoke bar.

YouTube gave us Justin Bieber and a bunch of other teenage stars that I won’t mention here because they didn’t egg anyone’s house or got thrown in jail recently. Now, Biebs is a talented guy, there is no doubt about it. But his story is very misleading. Today, you have a million kids and their parents uploading videos, hoping they’ll be the next JB. But that’s not going to happen.  The chances of that happening are one in a million. Plus, most new coming teenage artists dive into obscurity a year after their first single. Even if your kid is one talented juvenile, nothing will happen unless, by some odd stroke of luck, Usher’s talent scout spots him in a myriad of other videos, like he did Bieber. It’s like playing the lottery; only you also have to be talented to win it.

Soundcloud is probably the most promising sound management service out there. It has a simple interface, with a somewhat obscure and annoying comment section. Regardless of its minor flaws, Soundcloud is a step in the right direction because it focuses on music and nothing else. The negative aspect of Soundcloud is the fact that you can buy plays, downloads and votes. This is something a lot of untalented musicians have started doing because they aren’t getting any plays, hold zero gigs and just aren’t very talented to begin with. That’s why most of David Guetta’s, Skrilex’s and Deadmau5’s fans are from Mexico City. Meanwhile, artists like Swayzak are doubtful of continuing their music careers.

Facebook was thought to be Prince Charming, the savior of all bedroom producers who have trouble reaching their audience. However, FB ads cost money. The more fans you have, the more money you have to spend on advertising to reach them. It’s a simple scheme, designed to benefit Facebook, not your average bedroom artist. Keep in mind that 10% of Facebook users are not even human. In addition to that, a fair amount of people will like your page for the wrong reason (they liked the picture, confused your name or cover art with something else, liked it because their friend like it, etc.). Everyone who likes your Facebook page is not a fan, he’s just curious.

So, what should an artist do? Should he give up altogether? Should he abandon all hope that he or she will ever be heard? Not really. An artist needs to stay persistent and educated throughout his career. Being an artist is not a get-rich-quick scheme. People have to understand that a lot of artists gained recognition only after they died. You have to take that risk if you want to keep doing what you’re doing. On a more practical note, here are 11 tips to get your stuff heard:

  1. For starters, make one great track. Seriously, one track is enough. Don’t go pumping out twenty average tracks per week because most people do exactly that and that’s why they remain on the verge of mediocrity. After you made that one great track, make 7 more, even if it takes you two years to make them. Hell, Pretty Lights just took two years to make just one album. The Prodigy takes anywhere between 2-7 years to produce an album. Keep that in mind.
  2. After you reach a certain level of decency in production, organize a gig and invite everyone you know. Even it is just 50 people; make sure all 50 come to the party. Get a venue that’s big enough to fit exactly 100 people. Spread the word, spread the buzz, advertise, make flyers, and tell everyone you know to tell everyone they know. Word of mouth. Do it.
  3. Compile a list of 20 record labels and send them three of your best tracks. Email each label individually. Follow up after two weeks. If they don’t respond, follow up again. Brick walls were made for people who don’t want it bad enough. Creating a unique postal package and sending your demo in it is not a bad idea either.
  4. Use your Facebook page on a daily basis, providing your fans with information regarding new musical innovations, cool stuff related to music, new projects you are working on, great tracks that inspire you, etc.
  5. Radio play. Send demo’s to local and national radio stations and then call them for feedback and possible airplay.
  6. Send your tracks to video game developers and tell them why you would like to work with them.
  7. Make a video that’s so shocking and emotionally compelling it’s bound to go viral. Good luck with that.
  8. Get a good visual identity. You want a name that’s short, memorable and a logo that is visually appealing and in line with your music. Image is KEY. Look at Justice, Daft Punk, Prodigy, etc.
  9. Enter at least fifty remix competitions before you decide to quit. Many of them are rigged, but most of them are worth a shot.
  10. Go partying at least once every two weeks. Dance your ass off, come home and work on a track.
  11. Build a small studio with at least 1 computer, 1 analog synth, 2 active monitors, an external soundcard and a midi controller. You don’t need more than that.

Is there anything else you would like to add to the list? Some tips from your own experience? Something that helped you along the way?


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