A band’s online presence is more important than ever. Keeping an audience attentive and satisfied, however, requires acts to adapt to new techniques and an always-evolving Internet culture. This isn’t easy: As every band bum-rushes Web 2.0 with reckless abandon, a plethora of ineffective strategies and vexing habits plagues musicians everywhere. The trick is to be professional and personable—and for the love of all things rock 'n' roll, don't do the following:
1. Force fans to “like,” send a tweet or join an email list before hearing any music
If no one has heard of your band, preventing a potential new fan from falling in love with your music works only to your disadvantage. Plus, it’s also inconvenient for the listener, no matter how quickly the “like” button can be clicked. The Internet age breeds a short attention span, and listeners will turn away if not given immediate access to your product.
What to do instead: Offer an incentive.
Give a reward (such as a free download) if they follow through with a “like” or tweet after listening. With this angle, everyone can hear the music—and listener interest can still be gauged through the incentive, which means everyone wins. People love free stuff and by giving them something beyond an online stream, they can spread your music to their friends faster.
2. Mass-tweet at everyone relevant to a keyword search
In this post-Myspace era of music promotion, mass messages of any sort are a thing of the past. It’s impersonal; it shows a sense of desperation and a willingness to spam; and it’s a transparent trick that will quickly alienate potential fans. No one wants to get a robotic statement such as, “Hey, we’d really love it if you check out our tunes! :-).” It isn’t an inviting tactic; in fact, it banks on user ignorance. Fans want to feel like they’re connecting with bands, not like they're part of a marketing scheme. Twitter breeds a different culture, one which demands personal interaction that feels real.
What to do instead: Engage your fans.
Take the time to follow people you think may be interested in your music and engage them in conversation. Reply to their tweets with thoughtful responses that will show them you’re interested. Knowing there is a real person with emotions and opinions behind a band account makes the experience much more distinct and allows fans to get the connection they seek in musicians. Giving that personal feel will breed a loyal fan base, because they feel connected to you beyond the music.
3. Spam another band’s wall
On no occasion is it okay to write on another random band’s wall telling them to check out your new tune. These are your colleagues, and passively marketing on their space is nothing less than rude. If you were a car dealer and your friend who owned the lot across the street came over and started trying to sell his cars to your customers, would it piss you off? Yes. Don’t burn bridges with bands you haven’t networked with yet. They may become your best contact, if given the right opportunity.
What to do instead: Ask them to tag you.
If you are good friends with a band, then shoot one of the members a message and see if they’ll put up a post about your new release. Consider it a friendly endorsement and be sure to repay the favor when they release something new. It creates a sense of community and solidarity among bands in the local scene and helps you get your new material out there. Even beyond bands, talk to your friends and see if they’ll help post about your band for you. Every bit helps.
4. Lofty goals: When everything is a numbers game
Fans like your Facebook, follow your twitter account, join your e-mail list, tag you in their statuses and even add your “street team” page, but because you won’t release the b-side until you have 1,000 more fans on every site in existence, they’re continually sucked into your fruitless hype machine. Do not force your fans to bring you higher numbers every time you have two sentences of news about what’s going on or a half-baked remix/b-side to release. Numbers matter; fans understand that. But, as mentioned in point one, forcing them to complete a task every single time you have something new becomes frustrating. Fans can only “like” your page once, and they are not your marketing drones.
What to do instead: Balance your give and take. Make your goals reasonable.
There is material that deserves to be marketed with number goals, but learn that not everything you release should be withheld. Music fans are savages, and if you’re not giving them new material, someone else will. Pick and choose your battles for holding back. When you find something worthwhile, though, don’t expect an unreasonably large increase. If you’re a band with 500 “likes,” don’t make your goal 2,000—it’s not happening. Keep it reasonable and something fans can view as possible. If they’re not convinced it could happen, they won’t even try. Motivate them and pull through.
5. Nag nag nag nag nag nag nag
A band that fills up Facebook and Twitter feeds begging for support is not only annoying, but also aggravates fans. It’s akin to when a three-year-old keeps pulling on his mommy’s arm to buy candy in the checkout line at the grocery store. Eventually, he starts crying and everyone just wants him to shut up and go home. Marketing and begging are two different territories; be sure to keep in check that you are the former.
What to do instead: Stop.
This is an easy fix: Stop doing it. If you find yourself constantly talking about wanting to get tagged and getting more fans/followers/etc., slow your roll. Instead of nagging, share interesting and relevant content that your fans will want to read and share. Be immersed in your local scene and the scene at large. Show fans you are aware of relevant topics, too. Your growth will then be organic and due to listener interest in your music and outlook on life instead of pity.