Chapter 3: Megan Slankard: How to promote your music
Text: Tirza de Fockert
For many artists, promoting their music is one of the toughest aspects of the job. In her career of fifteen years, Megan Slankard has picked up a few tricks when it comes to successfully getting her music noticed by radio stations, magazines, and most importantly a receptive audience. The singer-songwriter – and creator of the hilarious web-series inDIYe – played her first paid gig when she was only fifteen and sold over 35.000 copies of her four albums. She shares with us some of the most valuable marketing tips she learned along the way.
Megan Slankard performing Show up live
Make sure you have a name that is findable. Because people are going to want to find you. Say you call yourself Toast, which is a cool name. Toast is delicious. However, if you type in Toast in a search bar, you will find pictures of bread. People won’t find your band. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of the best stage names, either. But I can say it is unique. I sold a lot of CDs because I was on a fashion make-over show on TV, and they played my music in the background. They only said my name once. But people are smart. They would type in Megan and the name of TV show and I would come up on Google. I am pretty much the only person with the name Megan Slankard. It is not a great like stage name or anything, but I have been marketing myself under Megan Slankard for fifteen years, and it works well enough.
Your website has to be your home. Social media like Facebook and MySpace and Friendster are amazing and super important. But they always change. For the longest time, MySpace was my website. What happened to MySpace? People weren’t able to find me, because I never updated my actual website. So keep your website updated and fun, and make sure everything is on it. Your best music, your best pictures, everything. Facebook can be the place where you interact with your fans. But it should always point back to your website.
A good mailing list is more effective than how many friends you have on Facebook. Social media always changes. You need a place that is safe, where you can control the content completely. You control who it goes to. When you put something on Facebook, it won’t show to most of your friends. But if you put it out on your mailing list, everyone who sees the email will at least see the title, even if they delete it. That is why at every show, I ask people to sign up to my mailing list. That said, one has to do more than just collect the names. A mailing list is a constant work in progress. You have to keep adding the names to your actual electronic list and regularly send out news about news about your band and about future shows. I found that keeping mailings to about once a month is a good way to keep people updated and interested without annoying them with too much info.
inDIYe part 1
Not being able to define my genre is one of my biggest marketing issues. Not so long ago I was playing a big music festival in Austin, Texas. People from Pandora asked me: “If we would play you on another channel, what band would we play you with?” I froze. I had no idea. I need to figure that out. It is important, because you want to know where to push your music. If you’re pushing your music to everything, you are just a little fish in a gigantic pool of music. The easiest way to find out is ask other people. “If you would compare me to five other bands, Who would it be?” Ask a bunch of people. If a couple of them name the same artist: use that band.
You have to figure out what your demographic is. Who are you trying to sell your music to? Who are you trying to sell you as a package to? Figuring that out takes time, so take notes after every gig. Do market research, and put it in a document on your computer. “When I play in these kind of bars, people don’t pay attention because there’s a TV. And when I play in these kinds of bars, people don’t pay attention because it is the wrong kind of demographic. Maybe bars are not for me. Maybe I should play in coffee shops.” It helps you pick and choose what is good exposure. Say you get offered a small gig that pays $150 for three hours, but nobody listens to you. You can also play a big unpaid gig in front of 3000 people who are in your demographic. They could buy CDs. Maybe you won’t make 150 dollars, but maybe you will make more! Maybe you will not make anything, but maybe 200 people will sign up on your mailing list. That is 200 people who are interested enough in you to want to know more. They might come to other gigs. I think that is the ultimate goal. To have someone come up to you and say: “I saw you at your last gig and I am coming to this gig because I love what you do.” And sometimes that is more important than money. Building an audience takes time, but in the long run it will mean a healthy career and more money in the future.
When you release an album, give yourself enough time to promote it. With my first three albums, I wrote the music, recorded it, and released it straight away. It is a natural impulse. I was really proud and excited, and I wanted to show it to everyone. But I never got many reviews. For A Token of The Wreckage, my fourth CD, I finished it, and sort of sat on it. I had my album, I had beautiful artwork, and I wrote a business plan how to release it. My publicist sent out hundred albums with press releases to magazines and radio stations. We got a bunch of great reviews and write-ups that we got to use in the initial release of the album. If you have some good reviews, you can put them on your website. Put a quote on your album packaging or promo material. People will see that quote, and it helps legitimizes what you are doing. People are busy. They first need the opportunity to find you, so they have the choice to listen. You have to show them you are worth it. Grab their attention before they have time to put your CD in a pile. Getting press and radio play will help people hear your music. It is like a little ladder. Every step helps you further.