It’s hard to get your music on the radio. No matter how great your CD or how perfect for the station’s format your single might be, you’re always going to run up against the Music Prevention Department. But these days, there are other options.
One of the most successful methods of music promotion is radio airplay. It’s the perfect model: multiple repeated opportunities to hear and grow to like a song in a delivery platform that is free, portable and comes packaged with the words of people who, by their very demeanour, implicitly recommend the music they play to you.
Of course, we’re all very cynical about radio these days. We’ve noticed trends in terms of the kinds of music that gets played, the kind of commercial heritage the artist has, and the kinds of marketing spend that has gone into getting that artist noticed.
But if we boil music promotion via radio down to its component parts, we start to see ways in which the model can be replicated:
1) An audience
2) An opportunity for that audience to hear the music
3) A way in which that audience can take the music with them
4) An enthusiast saying “check this out — it’s really great”
5) A track record for the reliability and appropriateness of that enthusiast’s opinion
In other words, opinion-leaders who cater to a specific kind of music listener, and regularly provide that music listener with music to listen to in a convenient form. Sounds like you’re talking about the mp3 bloggers.
MP3 blogs are exactly what they sound like: regularly updated websites from which music can be downloaded as mp3s. The authors of these blogs build reputation and audience day by day and the listeners come to value their opinion about music they might not otherwise have encountered — which actually, for our purposes, puts them in a better position than radio for independent promotion.
They may not have hundreds OF thousands of listeners, but they do have hundreds OR thousands of listeners that are actively seeking to learn about new music, and who actually take seriously the endorsement of the expert. They know that the blog’s author is the one doing the choosing — and the music’s not just there to keep you from one ad break to the next.
So — in order to get mp3 blogged, you need to know which of the mp3 bloggers are likely to want to talk about your music. You still have to fit the “station’s format” (or whatever we should call the blog equivalent). Fortunately, this has been made very easy.
Here are three sites you need to investigate immediately in order to get your music in front of the new breed of tastemakers.
1) The Hype Machine — Anthony Volodkin’s Hype Machine is a superb aggregator of mp3 blogs, and as such is both one of the most useful sites for adventurous music lovers, and one of the most helpful sites for independent music promotion on the planet. You can search by the name of an artist whose work is similar to yours, and it will give you links to all the blogs currently discussing that artist. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed of any search that you do on the Hype Machine — or even to the entire site. A clever trick: copy the RSS feed into iTunes as a new podcast feed, and you’ll receive every new track from every blog you like automatically. Hot and cold running free music.
2) Elbo.ws — another mp3 blog aggregator. This one’s a little more nicely laid out, and comes complete with a forum for discussing matters arising. Again, there’s a search function and a helpful FAQ for mp3 bloggers, prospective listeners, and those who would like to get their music featured.
3) Monkeyfilter’s MP3 Blog Listing — a Wiki page listing most (if not all) of the major mp3 blogs, categorised into genre sections. Very simple layout — and more blogs than you can eat. With a selective deployment of computer hours, you can troll through this lot and find the mp3 blogs most likely to be of use to you. You’ll find that eclectic is the biggest genre.
And once you’ve found the mp3 blogs you think will be likely to support your music to the right kind of listener, the rest is up to you. Get in touch. Build a relationship. Ask the best way to submit music — and be realistic. While the entry hurdle might be significantly lower (and substantially cheaper) than getting onto the radio, it’s still not a guaranteed route to exposure. But if they like your music, you’ll find the mp3 bloggers to be very supportive.
Yes, they’ll give your music away for free, but they’ll also link to your site, your download shop, your eBay store, your songs in iTunes or whatever. And you’ll find that many of the early adopter users of mp3 blogs tend to also be opinion leaders of a sort in their own, smaller groups — an important point, and one that I’ll come to in a later post.