YouTube Marketing for Artists

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.

Research Your Genre

Once you’ve chosen a specific genre for your musical act, you will want to begin the important process of researching your genre. To be able to authentically deliver a style of music, you must be familiar with the roots and history from which your new musical creations are born. How far back you travel is up to you. I recommend, at a minimum, searching through the past 10 years of music for your style. I also recommend becoming intimately familiar with other groups releasing new music similar to your style.

By understanding the past and being totally aware of the present, you will be in a uniquely educated position to create brand new music for the future. You will be less likely to unintentionally copy someone else’s sound as well as less be likely to rehash a phase of music that may have happened before you were paying attention to your genre (or perhaps even before you were born.)

When you are networking your way deep within the music industry, you will find that many of the key players, whose help you really need, have been working in the industry for more than 10 years. These industry veterans love to discuss music from as far back as they can remember. It can be a destructive force in your conversation to be asked to recall a certain group’s success with a particular album and be forced to say, I’m sorry I’ve never heard that music, or I’ve never heard that band. That was before my time, man.

Conversely, you can gain an edge and build rapport much easier with industry people by showing an interested and diverse background in music. As discussed in the Music Industry Networking section , many of the opportunities given are simply because an individual is likable rather than being the best individual. If you hit it off with a certain manager, producer or artist, you may find your big break lurking nearby.

One of the easiest places to start is http://www.billboard.com. Start with the chart closest to your genre, whether Hip Hop, R&B, Country, Rock, Latin, Pop or Dance. Christian Contemporary Music has its own chart as well. Take note of the variety of artists occupying the current top slots. You probably won’t know every artist on the list. It is absolutely your first priority to know everything about everyone who is making hit songs in your genre. It doesn’t hurt to have a cross-genre knowledge base as well.

Swipe each unfamiliar name right off the charts and Google them immediately. Find out who’s been working with them; who wrote the songs and who produced their records. How many records does the artist have on the market? Are you looking at a debut single or an industry legend that you simply have yet to hear? This is your education time. Once you begin to understand the current chart toppers, start the process of moving backwards in time by checking out the year-end charts. After that, be sure to look into the decade-end charts.

This is a great time to start listening to as much of this new music as you can to keep your musical taste buds up to date. You can find a lot of the current chart music right off www.billboard.com using the lala.com service embedded on the chart. For some of the older songs, you can easily find them on www.YouTube.com

Another incredible resource you can use to track down songs, styles and people in the music industry is http://www.allmusic.com. If you have a hint about a song you’d like to research, you can easily find more information about it in this vast database.

Music Industry Networking

Though this program is written to help give you the best shot of making it without depending on a major record label, you absolutely need to know how music industry networking functions day today. The people you meet along the way will make up the diversely-talented team you must have to help you accomplish your goals with your music. Just because you are an independent artist does not mean you need to do everything independently.

A large part of acting as your own record label is admitting when your skill in a certain area is simply not up to industry standards. It is the art of knowing that there is a better person out there, often a few blocks away, who is the right person for the job. Yes, you are an independent artist, but you are no island to yourself. It is unrealistic and unfair to expect major results from a complete do-it-yourself attitude. You are going to need the help of those around you.

The music industry works in a system of tightly knit circles. These people circles, while difficult to penetrate, are the main components of friendship and business dealings within the music industry. Each circle is composed of a few professionals in each field of expertise. For example, if you visit a major music city and meet an industry professional, you will start to see his circle exposed as you carry on a conversation.

Let’s say that you are talking to a songwriter named Mike. Mike’s song demos are typically recorded by a friend named Ethan who also plays guitar for many sessions in town. You then find out that Mike’s songs are published through a certain company run by Matt. Matt’s company places Mike’s songs with a famous artist named Rita. Rita’s recorded Mike’s songs on her latest album, which was produced by Fred. One of Fred’s favorite guitar players for certain themed pop tracks is Ethan, who he immediately hires to lay down the guitar textures for Rita’s song.

This is a simple example of how a music industry circle works. The circle eventually closes as certain people continuously work together. This is why the music industry can seem like a very small business at times. It’s not because there aren’t really 1000’s of professionals working in a crowded industry, it’s that the same people tend to work alongside each other for multiple projects time and time again.

The benefit for you is that if you become friends with Mike and start writing songs, the chances of you getting a song placement though Mike’s publishing company to another famous artist are now entirely realistic, that is, if the material is good enough. Instead of trying to break through the door and being turned away by the publishing company run by Matt, your new songwriting friend, Mike, has recommended your best songs to his publishing company. Why would Mike do that for you? It is because he knows you (or possibly because he co-wrote the song with you).

Either way, you now have a cut that’s being placed with a famous artist. You didn’t graduate with a degree in songwriting to get a publishing deal; you simply made the right connection at the right time. This is how the industry works. The guy that gets the work is the guy that is known and liked by someone already in a working circle. Sometimes different circles touch each other as certain producers search for different sounding talents from other producer friends, but most of the time if you know one professional; you then have access to 25 more professionals.

Who makes up these circles?

There are three main central figures on which networking circles are based. On the creative side, you have the producers and popular artists. On the business and marketing side, you have the record company executives. Somewhere in between business and creativity are the song publishers. There are many smaller networks constantly evolving around other professionals as well. Take a look at the following chart that depicts the music industry networking.

Record Executives
A&R People
Publicists
Radio Promoters
Marketing Executives
Producers
Engineers
Mixers
Mastering Engineers
Session Players
Singers
Artists / Bands
Vocal Coaches
Songwriters
Publishing Companies
Song Placers
Demo Producers
Demo Singers
Performing Rights Organizations

Critique Your Songs

If you want the best songs in the world, they are going to need to be slowly crafted, re-crafted and forged into perfection. Most hit songs end up with at least one re-write. Many times this happens at the production phase; but most of the time, the songwriter has a few revisions of his own before the song is even ready for production. You need all the help you can get when determining the viability of a new song as there is nothing comparable to hearing a song for the first time and being able to make objective observations about that song. You absolutely cannot afford to miss details about your song that could easily have been heard by a pair of fresh ears.

There is something incredible about asking people for their opinions; they always seem to enjoy giving them for free! If you ask somebody to invest time and energy into your music project, you might not get the response you want. However, if you ask the same person what they think about your song, you are almost guaranteed to get a response. That’s the great thing about having song demos. Once they are recorded, you can get anyone and everyone to give you feedback. Feedback from a music fan is just as legitimate as feedback from a real industry professional. Producers tend to give really helpful feedback. Other bands will simply fall over in disbelief if you were to ask them for their opinion.
A self-critique can be even more valuable if you are able to objectively observe your own work. Ask the same questions you asked when you analyzed other hit songs. Hold your song to that same standard and see how you measure up. Songwriting is an endless process for the true independent artist and he/she needs to understand and master this song-crafting method.

Hopefully, you can use your own network of people to help accomplish this task and it never hurts to have an extra opinion on a song; especially if you are about to drop some serious cash on hiring a producer to cut the song with your act. Re-writing a song on tracking day is the worst thing you can do to a producer and it will more than likely cost you more money in the long run as the process gets more and more drawn out. Last minute re-writes are not beneficial.

Don’t be fooled by the stories of legendary bands that had barely any songs ready as they were making their first record. Maybe the lead singer didn’t have the words finalized and was indeed making up lyrics in the microphone as he was singing. Back when bands had huge record deals, this was fine. But now, in this age, the production will be on your dime. If you want the biggest bang for your production budget, you must plan to make your songs as good as you can before you go into production. It’s just a bad idea to wing it. So get some help and get the songs up to their fullest potential as soon as you can!

A Subscriber is Marketing Gold

On YouTube, your entire goal is to build subscribers so you can push out your original content to an entire network of people that already know you and love your music. Every time you post a new video, your current subscribers will be notified via e-mail and when they visit the homepage of YouTube. You can also send updates to these subscribers so when you release an album, you can post a video update and send a message for everyone to go purchase. And to think, you got all of these subscribers for free. Once you build up a huge subscriber base, you can later remove all of the old cover videos and have only your original content on the channel. You can close the chapter of your career as a YouTube cover artist and no one will be the wiser.

Savvy musicians will use anything and everything to build a lasting presence in the music industry. Just because you may see a few embarrassing YouTube videos posted of less-talented musicians, doesn’t mean you will appear the same way. Trust in your own ability to gain fans from your performing ability and use YouTube and its existing popularity to your advantage. It’s just like how certain artists used American Idol to their advantage. Some of the most commercially successful American idol alumni never even won the contest. They simply used the exposure to launch their own career, which they had planned all along. If you approach YouTube as just another part of your plan, you can easily exploit it for what it’s worth and not have it detract from the artistic integrity of your overall vision. Follow the trending crowds on the internet and you will get your exposure for absolutely nothing!

Time Your YouTube Campaign

The best way to build a huge base in very short amount of time is to post a new video every Thursday at 1 p.m. The weekend is currently the heaviest traffic times for social network websites, including YouTube, so you are timing your video’s first 48 hours to occur right at the start of the weekend. Not only are more people using the internet during this time, there are considerably more user interactions on social networks. This means great things for your YouTube video’s ability to win the relevant keyword battle with other competing videos.

Construct A Plan For Your Image

You’ve broken down your favorite artists. You’ve immersed yourself in a world you never knew existed. You now have to start making decisions. The toughest part is narrowing down a specific stylistic direction for your image. Many artists have a difficult time with this task, so this is a perfect time to bring in a personal stylist to help you make good decisions based on your personality and body type. It certainly doesn’t hurt to be educated on fashion – which is why I didn’t recommend you to visit a stylist as the first step. Also, note that there is a distinct difference between a hair dresser/stylist and a legitimate stylist. The one you want will take care of your entire wardrobe, in addition to recommended relevant hair styles.

Your overall style will be affected by some major factors that are specific to you only. One of the first contributing factors is your character and personality. You need to deeply understand who you are in order to make relevant stylistic decisions. Most people actually don’t take the time to understand themselves, so you might want to take a personality test to help you decipher your deepest character traits and leanings. There are many free personality tests online. Otherwise, here are some general questions you can ask:

• What are my dominant personality traits?
• Am I an extrovert or an introvert (outgoing or shy)?
• Do I naturally attract others?
• Do I relate to other people or use them?
• Am I laid back or overexcited?
• Do I impose my will on others?
• Do I anger easily?
• Am I naturally rebellious?
• Am I kind to other people?
• Do I genuinely care about the people around me?

Once you understand who you are, you need to gravitate toward styles that fit your personality. For instance, cutting edge flamboyant fashion styles fit well on an extroverted and dominant personality. The stronger the personality, the more the boundaries can be pushed. It makes no sense for a shy, laid back person to wear extremely trendy fashion pieces. The laid back artist will generally wait for a style to roll out to his region before assimilating it, so cutting-edge fashion simply does not fit the personality. An artist like Jack Johnson could never push stylistic boundaries like Adam Lambert does. Similarly, Ingrid Michelson would never pull pieces directly off the runway as Lady Gaga is famous for.

A music fan should easily be able to tell what type of music you make simply by looking at your image. If you look like a simple-minded dude off the street, you need to be playing singer-songwriter acoustic styled tracks. If you are a walking advertisement for Versace, you need to be pumping out the newest sounding music productions in the whole of the music industry. If you play music that hipsters will enjoy, you need to look like a hipster. If you simply can’t stomach the type of fashion that follows your style of music, you probably should look into a different style.

Unless you have a specific strategy in mind to alter the fashion landscape for your style of music, I recommend establishing a style that is already conducive to your selected genre. Choosing certain pieces for your fashion style is also greatly affected by your body type. It’s much easier to hire a stylist to help you be as objective as possible about your body style, but if you insist on doing this part on your own ask these questions:

• How tall am I?
• How hot am I? Am I cute? Am I average? Am I ugly?
• Am I the next sex icon?
• Am I the girl next door?
• Am I a heart throb or an everyman’s man?
• Am I a nerd or a jock?
• What are my body proportions? Head? Chest? Waist? Butt? Legs?

The goal is to recognize similar body styles while doing your research, so you will tend to pick pieces that fit your body style. You never see overweight people in skinny jeans on television or in magazines. That’s reason enough to say that you, if your legs are wide enough, should not attempt to wear skinny jeans. Skinny rockers have every reason to. If you want to look consistent with your style of music, you might need to alter your body image. Possibly work out. If you want to do dance music, you better be in the shape of a dancer. If you want to do indie rock, you better be skinny enough to wear the jeans. If you are selling sexy pop music, you better have a body that’s good enough to show.

These generalizations may seem harsh, but so is the music business; except for the fact that you don’t have the benefit of a record label screaming at you to lose 25 pounds and then sending you off to boot camp to get in shape for a music video shoot. You have to take control of your own image and make the right decisions from your own motivation. Ask yourself every morning, “Do other people want to look like me? Do other people want to be me?”
If the answer is, “no,” do not stop working until you can honestly answer, “yes.” Your success as an influential artist depends on your ability to influence people.

Gather Your Intelligence

Hopefully you have enough inspiration and rationale to actually go through your websites and magazines and choose specific looks and hairstyles that match your personality, musical style and body type. You now need to cut out images, print off web sites and snap photos of clothing at retail outlets (if you can sneak your cell phone in as a camera) to build a personal fashion gallery for use in the execution phase. Keep a scrap book or visual diary. If you have a hard time with this, seriously consider getting help from a professional stylist. We’ve mentioned it three times in this chapter for good reason.
Every member of the band needs to perform this process by himself. However, the lead singer will set the tone for the rest of the band. The leader of the band must appear to be the most extreme version of the band’s style. It is a noticeable authority conflict when a band has two members that seem to compete for the visual draw. Usually you see this in many bands’ amateur photo shoots. It’s even worse when one person looks like he’s rebelling against the visual direction of the band and maintaining his independence. If so, that person should probably start his own band. Needless to say, the fashion of the group works from the top down, so make sure to find a solid direction for the leader of the band before spending any time on the rest of the group.

Make a list containing the basics of your new look. For example:

• 2-3 pair of pants
• 5 basic first layer shirts (t-shirts)
• 2-3 jackets
• 2 pair of shoes
• Socks or hosiery
• Belts
• Necklaces, bracelets, rings, hats, sunglasses
• New hair cut/color
• Body modification (E.g.: tattoos, piercings, cosmetic surgeries)

Once you have a good sized list containing the essentials of nailing your new image, you can plan a shopping trip.

Fashion Culture Immersion for Artist Image

Style is something that can be learned and assimilated by total immersion. If you want to be ahead of the curve as an artist, you need to be ahead of any trends before they reach mainstream status. As a leader of your genre’s culture, you are required to be on the cutting edge or you will be labeled as an imitator. If your fans are better dressed than you, you definitely have a problem. They look to you to push the boundaries. Your fans need to be looking to you to lead them in all areas of life including fashion, character attributes, politics and even religion. Musicians hold incredible influence over the people they play to.

There is a huge difference between being trendy and being a trend-setter. Musicians can lead trends or they can attempt trendiness. You have the power to do either, so why not immerse yourself in fashion culture? You will certainly hone your eye and affinity toward great style that will allow you to creatively incorporate new and exciting trends to influence your fan demographic. You can lead or follow with your image. For your best interest and longevity as an artist and musical icon, I suggest you lead.

One of the first aspects of fashion culture immersion is the magazine stands. For many years, magazines were the de facto standard for the dissemination of new fashion trends. Even though the internet has connected many industries and permanently changed the landscape, fashion is still highly dependent on the publication press. Depending on if you are a male or female and the genre of music you have decided to produce, here are some suggestions for reading and subscription.
You can also closely follow music specific magazines as listed in chapter one. The next thing you can do is start visiting, following or subscribing to the web’s current hot-list of fashion web sites.

If you happen to live in a larger city, you will want to visit popular retail outlets and department stores that carry some of the recurring name brands you’ve seen on your quest for fashion. Some boutique clothing stores will carry some of the brands; however, each boutique store’s inventory is subject to the preferences of the owner and typically remains at manufacturers’ suggested retail price (MSRP) without any discounts. Boutiques do, however, typically set the pulse for a certain city’s fashion vibe. If an authentic regional style is your intention, they are a great place to find unique local items you won’t see anyone else wearing.

This retail scavenger hunt is not a shopping trip. You are only trying to gather ideas and inspirations so you can accurately build a new look that matches the music you previously recorded. Once you’ve immersed yourself for a few weeks, you will notice your eye has become critical of every person around you. You will be constantly judging how well a person understands style by their choice of clothing, head-to-toe. You will also probably start to notice the deficiency in your own style compared to the standards set by fashion designers and other entertainers. No worries though, because you are about to remedy that situation.

Analyze Image

Carefully studying and analyzing previously successful artists is one of the best ways to fully grasp the common principles you will need to understand when establishing your own music career. Image is no exception. Only by going deeper into each fashion sub-culture will you understand how to apply the perfect visualization to your new sound.

Listen to your new productions. Hopefully by doing your genre research, you hit your mark and have created a sound that fits perfectly in your target genre. It’s important that the artists you choose to analyze are also relevant to the style of music you play. Although, you will certainly increase your stylistic ingenuity by breaking down any artist, you still want to develop a modern taste for the culture of music you are about to start influencing; so be specific and choose artists whose music sounds similar to yours.

Use the Artist Fashion Profile Worksheet as a guide to what questions you need to answer when breaking down an artist’s image. If an artist goes through a reinvention, you might want to break down the different phases separately. Here are some of the questions you will be asking in order to fully explain a given artist’s visual representation during a certain point of their career:

1. What year was the image relevant?
2. What age is the artist?
3. Where did the artist originate?
4. What is the genre of music?
5. Dominant theme’s for certain albums? (e.g.: Britney Spears’ circus ringmaster theme for Circus; My Chemical Romance marching band themes for The Black Parade)
6. What is the overall fashion style or sub-culture?
7. What are the unique trademarks or recurring fashion pieces?
8. Are there any discernable performance antics?
9. What are the dominate character attributes?
10. How do the other band members compare with the lead singer?
11. Do they utilize unique photo styles? (e.g. vintage film, vignette, high-pass filters, black & white)

The point is to try and understand the importance of creating an image that literally brands the complete musical experience. Some of the top selling albums in any given genre will have a consistency of branding throughout the merchandising. Whether you are looking at posters, t-shirts, websites, album covers or promotional photo shoots, you will notice continuity between these on larger acts. This is how big labels market products effectively. You need to start recognizing professional standards in fashion and image so you can effectively replicate it when you are branding your own music.

Demo Your Songs

The demo process might be different than what you had in mind. A demo in this context is not a five-song homemade CD that you prepare to send to record labels. Your song demos are for you and for your producers to have a basic snapshot of your songs in order to critique, re-write and discover your best potentially recordable songs. The song demo typically consists of one acoustic instrument (like a guitar or piano) backing a simple lead vocal. Usually the demo sounds pretty bad when compared to a commercially-released recording, so sound quality is the least of your concern. The guitar track might have some mistakes and the lead vocal might have quite a few out-of-tune notes. This demo track should never leave the privacy of the artist/producer relationship. In fact, you should establish a written agreement between you and your producer that he won’t share it with anyone should your relationship go sour.

If your band is more involved on the production end, it is totally acceptable to try and fit the instruments into place during this phase of the writing. Especially if you are writing rap, hip-hop, dance or any other beat-heavy style of music, the production takes more of a central role to the sound of the song and should be represented as equally important on the song’s demo. Bands also might want to begin making rehearsal tapes for use in critique of the song, as well as for the performance of the song. This will help in deciding the song’s potential for translation both in the live arena and in the studio.
The whole point of making a demo is to be able to hear your song played back for its continual development. You should have about 20-50 songs that need a simple demo, so this should keep you busy. In the future, you will probably streamline this process and create simple demos immediately after writing each song. This is the fastest way to keep fresh material flowing as you don’t even have to really memorize the song to get the demo recorded immediately. Sometimes, the best critiques are made after forgetting that the song exists and then coming back to listen to it with completely fresh ears as if you weren’t even the one who originally wrote the song.

Some people record demos on mp3 recording devices like a Zoom H4N digital recorder. Some people use simple audio interfaces and laptop computers with a microphone attached. It doesn’t really matter what you use as long as the sound is clear enough to determine melody, lyrics and chords. Most bands have at least one guy that knows how to press record on a simple home studio setup. If you don’t, you might want to start looking for entry level producers in your local area who offer low cost song demo recording. If they know you will be using them for all of your future demos as well, you might be able to negotiate an attractive deal to knock out quite a few demo tracks all in one session. Assuming you can’t get it done for free, try to get your demos recorded on a per-hour fee basis; but only if you’re fast. This is why such recordings are called scratch vocals. They are not the final, polished product.

Once you have these demos recorded, you can start the painful but liberating process of critiquing and rewriting.