Independent artists don’t often have access to unlimited money. If you do, then you should have no problem whatsoever buying up all the advertising you could possibly want and launching your career to the billboards. Without great music, however, you won’t make your money back – and will probably stop trying – at some point. For the rest of us with a limited budget, we need to stretch every marketing dollar to the absolute limit. Even better, we need to take advantage of free marketing wherever we can find it. Right now, there are many ways to get your band in front of people and build fan conversions instantly. Because the internet is constantly changing, you need to take note of the principles behind these current recommendations rather than the specifics involved.
YouTube is one of the best ways to get your artistry in front of people for absolutely no cost. Why did I say “artistry” instead of “songs”? There is a distinction here that many bands fail to make. You have two aspects to your musical act. You have your songs and you have your artistry. Your artistry is the way you interpret your songs vocally and musically. Bob Dylan wrote some amazing songs, but arguably wasn’t the best artist for interpreting them. Some of Dylan’s best songs were reinterpreted by other amazing performers and helped to immortalize Dylan as one of the most influential 20th century music legends.
Why distinguish a difference between artistry and songs? YouTubers want to find two things musically. They want to find new artists and they want to find songs they already know. This poses a problem for the independent artist. YouTube really doesn’t make songs popular; it is currently a reactive marketing channel for artists. The music videos that become popular quickly are songs that are already promoted in other ways. Big radio hits, songs featured in movies and songs featured on television shows are all prime candidates for YouTube popularity. So, YouTubers are always searching for their favorite songs. At the same time, they love to discover new talent.
The problem is that while YouTubers want to discover your amazing artistry on YouTube, they really won’t be able to find you unless you are performing songs that are already popular. That means you can never really take advantage of free YouTube marketing, unless you perform cover versions of other popular tunes. If you think your act is too special to perform covers, then go ahead and skip this post. I’m not going to spend any energy convincing you to take advantage of the free exposure and fan base-building that YouTube allows if you use it correctly.
Let’s get this right out in the open. There are three types of artists:
- Artists whose success rests on their ability to perform songs.
- Artists whose success rests on their ability to write and produce great songs.
- Artists whose success rests on their ability perform well-written and greatly-produced songs.
The 3rd type of artist will probably have the longest and most lucrative career. The 2nd type of artist will have an incredible recording career, but should steer clear from the stage. The 1st type of artist will have a very hard time making it as an independent artist and tends to need huge teams of people making up for their lack of overall ability. Ever wonder why the person you know who sings better than anyone on radio, but doesn’t have a record deal? Being a great musical performer is about 5% of this business. Musical genius goes far deeper than being able to sing vocal riffs really fast.
If you are a natural performer, you can easily use YouTube to help build your fan base. If you aren’t the best performer, but still have a great overall product to sell, you probably want to stay away from exposing yourself on YouTube in this way. If you can sit in a room with a small group of people and sing a simple song with a guitar or piano or track and take everyone’s breath away, you should definitely consider using YouTube as a viable base builder. If your artistry takes more context to get the full picture, and you don’t really perform well outside of your track productions, you definitely don’t want to worry about YouTube at this point.
If your musical artistry really nails that wow factor, you can do some amazing things while building a YouTube fan base. YouTube is comparable to American Idol in the sense that you can use the service to build an audience for your artistry and then use that audience to help promote your own album when you release it. Some very successful artists have been built from this style of career-building. They did this while only singing covers in their own unique way. YouTube allows great performers that same exact launch pad.
If enough people fall in love with your artistry on YouTube, it won’t matter that they discovered you by searching for their favorite Britney Spears track. They now consider you to be one of their favorite artists and will give your new songs a legitimate chance when you have them available for release. For already established artists, a carefully-timed and strategic YouTube campaign will help build audience awareness of your already existing career. Even Hayley Williams performed a cover of Lady Gaga’s, Bad Romance, in order to build crossover fans and to expose her name to the mainstream. It wasn’t bad timing either with her featured performance on B.O.B.’s Airplanes later in the year. If you are willing to step outside of your artistic comfort zone, you’ll discover how to run a successful YouTube campaign without losing your artistic integrity.