Ensuring that your work is promoted well is as important as the compositional and mixing process in regards to getting your music recognised, and self promotion is something I made sure I understood before I started releasing my own music. Over the course of the last year, I have been utilising social media to promote myself as an artist and make myself known amongst musicians and producers in the same genre as me. I have done this by regularly keeping my artist social media outlets fresh and filled with musical content to prevent it from stagnating, and by making sure my work is tagged with buzzwords such as “jazz”, “soul”, and “piano”. This has granted me the attention of numerous musicians and producers in the same field as me, including the keyboardist of the Plini band (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plini). Instagram is a very effective tool for promoting music, as it averages over 1 billion active users each month, with 500 million of those users using the site every day (https://newartistmodel.com/instagram-for-musicians-5-tips/).
That many users being active on the site is the reason for Instagram being one of the best methods to gain traction online and obtain a following. Additionally, Instagram allows me to show my personal side, alongside my artist identity, through personal photos and tagged photos. This lets fans connect with me on a personal level, not just through my music, and will make the artist – fan relationship stronger than if I only post music related content. Promoting your personal identity alongside your artist identity is important for growth, as doing so will help you develop a strong, loyal fanbase.
Another way I promote my music is through an app called Discord, which is a social media app that is comprised of chatrooms that you can create and join. There are numerous chatrooms that are music related, which I found through various links on Youtube videos and posts on various social medias, that consist of music promotion, meeting and familiarising yourself with other people in the industry (the music Discord channels I am a part of are generally based on Lo-Fi hip hop music), ranging from complete beginners with production to artists such as Kudasai, Potsu, and SwuM for example, who are all artists that have found a large amount of success with their music. Having the opportunity to be in communication with these successful artists, as well as familiarise myself with producers with a similar level of ability and following as me, inspired me musically by a great amount.
In each of these servers on Discord, each member of the server (some of these servers having hundreds of members) are given a role upon joining. The title of these roles changes between servers and are generally gimmicky and fun to match the laid back environment of both Discord and Lo-Fi music. However, something this tier system has in common across all the music based Discords that I have seen is that you get a “rank up” based on your contributions to the server and if you are an established artist or not. Since I promote my work and partake in feedback channels frequently across all the servers I am in, I have gained a “rank” above the majority of the other members of the server. Additionally, being a verified artist on multiple major streaming services and frequently posting my music on Soundcloud helped me “rank up”.
Whereas this rank doesn’t give you any other privileges on the server aside from a different hue to your username, it shows the other members that you are one of the higher members of the server. This results in my self promotions on servers getting more traction than if I were one of the beginner ranks, regardless of how the music actually sounds. Whereas this ranking system may seem predatorial at a glance, anyone is able to gain a higher rank by putting in the time with their production and frequently using the server. After a year of using the servers I was a part of frequently, I became a higher ranking consistently across all of them, especially in some where I was featured as a verified artists among few others, those others being the previously mentioned “big names” on the servers. Whereas my following pales in comparison to theirs, putting in the effort on these servers has put me on a level footing with the big producers, which has in turn granted me a lot more clout and attention on these servers, which causes my musical following to continue to increase across all my streaming platforms, and the cycle slowly but surely continues. Discord and the servers I am a part of are my biggest form of self promotion, and the more I continue to promote on them, I continue to grow exponentially. Despite gaining the same results with both, promoting through Instagram and Discord are different and should be treated differently. Whereas Instagram is a page dedicated to your work for fans to follow, Discord puts every member of a server on a relatively similar footing. The ranking system establishes a level of hierarchy to some extent, but for the most part every producer on a server is given a voice, and Discord servers about music are more of a community than simply an artist – fan relationship. Purely promoting in a Discord channel is not enough to be recognised, as you’ll simply be seen as using the Discord in an attempt to gain success. I’ve become acquaintances with many producers across multiple Discord servers and helped many people with mixing / production feedback, not because I wanted success from it but because I wanted to help producers that were in a similar situation to me however long ago. The connections I formed and the humbling experiences I faced across the servers are what moulded me into the artist I currently am, and if I had simply tried to promote my work in Discord servers and not participate in any other way, then I wouldn’t have found nearly as much success and personal growth.
The third aspect of promotion I learnt about over the past year was distribution and artist image. I went through the process of a few artist alias changes and musical styles over the last 1-2 years, beginning with ambient songs, then progressing to sample based Lo-Fi hip hop music (both of these under my old alias “Sampa Beats”) and then finally progressing into my current artist identity, and starting my new artist identity with my EP Bloom & Gloom. A trend across these changing identities was that I wanted to keep my face hidden from view, mainly because I believe that a disconnect from an artist’s personal life and their public identity is important, even down to the level of their personal appearance. I believe this is especially important in regards to self promotion because it instantly makes you stand out from a crowd. In a modern era where you can find out someone’s name, appearance, hobbies, friends, and personalities relatively quickly on social media, not giving out that information makes you seem more mysterious and by extension interesting, and this is useful when creating an artist identity. Withholding important information that lets someone determine who you are will keep them interested in you, and using this psychological phenomenon under the guise of an artist identity will make you gain popularity. It is important to show some part of yourself however, as the idea of a person behind the act has to be intact (for example, my artist profile picture is me walking down some stairs with the camera faced at my back), but the sense of familiarity and recognisability (showing your face) must be hidden. Additionally, making sure that your artist photographs are of a professional quality is important, as record labels will turn down artwork that is blurry, un-square, pixelated, rotated, or anything that includes a price or logo (including the logo of the streaming service / label you are submitting your work to). Additionally, making sure the artwork is your own is an absolute necessity – anything sampled or reused will not be accepted by any label or streaming service. The artwork is the first thing a consumer notices when they see your work, so it is integral to getting your work noticed that you have a good quality piece of artwork for any music you submit that reflects your work and your artist identity.
I believe that these three methods of self promotion that I have done myself and highlighted in this essay are fundamentally important to getting your work recognised and gaining traction. Had I not promoted myself using these methods it is unlikely that I would have anything near the following I currently have, nor would I have the connections to other producers in the community that have helped me grow as an individual artist.