If you’re like most musicians, you hate promoting yourself. If marketing makes you feel like a sell-out, a fraud, or a cheesy used car salesman, the good news is here. Read on for the #1 solution for musicians who hate to self-promote.
Most of us associate marketing and self-promotion with bragging, or with being arrogant, awkward, or inauthentic. We don’t want to be seen that way.
And you don’t have to. You can promote yourself and your music effectively without coming across as narcissistic or obnoxious. And without getting either defensive or apologetic.
Change your mindset
I know. Easier said than done, but it IS possible to engage in self-promotion in a brand new way. One that it is honest, generous, and engaging.
I love the real-world perspective on this that Veronika Palovska offers. (This is from a newsletter piece on self-promotion she wrote several years ago, and which is, as of this writing, unfortunately no longer available online. In it, was this . . . )
“We’re afraid of self-promo because we don’t want others to think that we’re bad people. We want everyone to like us.
And that’s normal.
Now, let’s think about egoists: people who brag, boast, and thump their chests. Why do they do it?
It’s the same reason. They want others to like them.
The thing is, both shameless self-adulation and the fear of self-promotion focus on the SELF. The motivation is the same: to control what others think of you.”
But in fact, Veronika writes,
“You have little power over other people’s opinions.”
And the sooner you realize and accept this fact, the freer you’ll be.
Newsflash: Your music isn’t going to be for everybody. In the same way that everyone you meet isn’t going to be your BFF.
Veronika includes this quote—
“‘No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won’t care.’
— James Altucher, Choose Yourself
So, instead of trying to appeal to everyone, you can save your time and energy and focus on your 30 percent. The rest doesn’t matter.
And instead of focusing on the self, you can shift your attention towards something bigger than you.”
In short, Veronika advises us to . .
“Take the ‘self’ out of self-promotion”
It’s not about YOU. It’s about your music, your mission, and making a contribution—by connecting with OTHER people.
This means being real, being open-hearted, human, and vulnerable in your communications. Knowing full well that you’ll be rejected by some. Because, as you know, rejection is part of the game. In fact, it’s part of your job as a professional musician.
The best way I know to reframe self-promotion is to see it as openhearted invitations made to others to experience your music. You are inviting them to have a shared experience with you in your performances.
Here’s the logic behind this mindset solution of genuine connection-based self-promotion:
You love your music, right?
You want to share it with other people, yes?
And my guess is you also want to make a contribution to the world.
So stop worrying about being judged, and instead, focus on your mission.
This doesn’t mean blasting people with your list of upcoming concerts or news about your album release.
Instead, real promotion and marketing is about reaching out and connecting with people, human to human. It’s about treating others with loving kindness—not as prospects or numbers.
You are inviting them to connect with you—it’s their choice. Nobody owes you anything. But you can make the generous offer, you can invite them in.
How do you find your audience?
How do you find that 30%—your “niche”? Start with inviting your friends, colleagues, your students—your immediate circle—and build a community of people through providing content that people value. The idea is to cultivate a supportive circle of people who care about you and your work. These are people you care about as well. It’s personal.
This isn’t about amassing anonymous FB ‘Likes’ or Instagram followers. It’s too easy to imagine that we need to have a huge following or have important influencers on our side. We don’t.
That’s right, we don’t need a million YouTube fans or TicToc followers. We DO need what Kevin Kelly famously described outlined as 1000 true fans.
To get there, as Seth Godin likes to say, start with the first 10 people who know and trust you. If you play your music for them do they say thank you and move on? Or do they insist on bringing 10 more people to hear you? If they insist on bringing 10 more people you are set, you are on your way. If they say thank you and move on, you need to either improve your music, or find the right 10 people. It’s all a work in progress and inviting people in is how we learn from and grow our community.
You can do this.
But you can’t get there unless you change your thinking. So let me underscore . . .
The #1 Solution for musicians who hate to self-promote: Adjust your mindset and then take the needed action.
Repeat after me: self-promotion IS PART OF THE JOB OF BEING A MUSICIAN. This means designating specific times during the week: making appointments with yourself to do the networking, to make the needed phone calls, to go to other people’s concerts, to reconnect with individuals by email and social media. There’s no short cut, no magic bullet. It’s just consistent work done day by day by day.
To put this all together, here are Veronika’s fabulous takeaways (altered a bit for musicians):
“✭ Self-promotion isn’t selfish. You’re here to make a contribution—to share your gifts with others, so you need to help them find you.
✭ Your music needs you and the world needs your music. It’s an essential part of your mission to promote it.
✭ Shifting the focus from your self to your mission will help you feel less awkward when you share news about your music.
✭ No matter what you do, you can’t control what others think of you. Concentrate on being of service to the people who get you and need you (your 30 percent), and forget about the rest.
✭ If you worry that you’re arrogant, you aren’t arrogant. Arrogant people don’t give a damn.”
Thank you, Veronika!
Follow these tips so you can adjust your mindset and take the “ick” out of self-promotion—and instead feel generous and excited about connecting with people.
For expert help upgrading your promotional materials, check out Get the Gig, my signature in-depth video program plus monthly live editing sessions. Get the Gig is designed to help you get your promo package in top form: from your Bio, Publicity photos, videos, to your website and your email pitches.
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Here’s to your brighter future,
Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well