Written by Jahlil (Jawzilla) Kirby
I know the struggle of having a dream, putting in the work, spending hard earned money on studio time, then posting it online to receive ... 50 views. It's even more frustrating seeing other artists have more ease getting support and more views than you. Here you will learn the business side of making yourself heard.
1. Be ready to expand. Have a catalog of content ready and really polish yourself up the best you can before you try to promote yourself. Remember, you're going to have a much harder time promoting what doesn't exist yet and you have to think about if the listeners might want more. It might not be a bad idea to see what successful artists are doing to promote themselves that you aren't. This can be artists as big as Macklemore, who performs around the world, to artists that are local. Every artist offers something you can learn from. One of the reasons OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) and Tyler The Creator blew up is their originality and their amazing energy that goes along with their performance. Developing your skills and raising the quality of your music helps a lot. There are a lot of people that won't give artists a break and expect artists to have professional quality and be up to par before they even give them a chance, so keep that in mind.
2. Social media offers tremendous opportunities to network and market yourself. Instagram is a great tool to use. Through the power of hashtags you can find people anywhere on Instagram that might be willing to work with you, creating opportunities to collab, share shows, and give shout outs to get to audiences you didn't have before. Join a group on Facebook! There's tons of groups you can join that allow you to network with people from all over the globe. There's definitely more social media platforms you can use but Instagram and Facebook are two solid platforms to start off with. You just have to stay up to date to find newer platforms and see what works for you.
3. A solid way to expand your audience is to reach out to your community! This can be going to open mics and building yourself up from there if you're making zero noise at the moment. Working with other people builds a group that will give as much as you and others put in. A major example of this is the BEASTCOAST movement in NYC. A$AP MOB, Pro Era, and the Flatbush Zombies are the 3 top groups coming out of this movement and major artists today like Joey Bada$$, A$AP Rocky, and A$AP Ferg are a few of the artists that came out of this collective that all do shows together, do songs together, tour together, and show overall support of each other openly. You can't deny the success they've received from it.
4. Using promotion isn't always a bad thing. More things than you know actually fall into this category. This may be free or may cost some money; but be careful not to get hustled. Ensure that the promotion technique is legit and gives you real results that don't just look good or give you numbers that aren't really there (like buying views). If you're still in school, this can be performing at your school assembly and gaining the support of your friends and peers. This could be sending your music to radios stations (e.g. college and local radio stations) to hopefully get played on air. This could be sending your music to blogs to try to get them to promote it on their page.
Tunecore is an example of a service that helps distribute music but it is NOT free. And of course theres the face to face word of mouth technique that if done correctly works really well. Building a street team is one example of this technique and can work great if the strategy is well thought out and the team is managed well. Even Tech N9ne has a street team and it's success speaks for itself. This means that you don't need to be signed to a label to gain a following. Other resources like a manager or a publicist aren't one hundred percent necessary, but they can be amazing tools to help you grow if you find the right people and can afford their services. There's a lot of options you just have to find them and experiment with what works for you and the audience you want to attempt to make your fans.
5. Understand your audience's vibe and meet them halfway. Some of you decide your own line between selling out and appealing to other audiences. The most important thing about spreading your music is knowing who to spread it to while staying true to your craft. If you make Punk or Hip Hop, you'll more than likely have more success promoting at a skate park than your grandmothers bible club. One method could be finding some artists that you sound like or have a similar vibe to and reaching out to fans in that field. Instagram is a great tool for this. When you know who's listening to your music or who you want to listen to your music, you can better form your sound to their liking and have better success with the outcome of your music.
Jahlil (Jawzilla) Kirby is a regular at Totem Star and is interning with us through the SPOKES, the youth leadership body of Youth Speaks Seattle, Totem Star and the Arts Corps Teen Leadership Program. Check out Jawzilla's music HERE.