Ok, finally back to writing more about the experience with my DIY album:
Doing DIY music is not easy, and the main difficulty is not coming up with the music, but to get your music out there. This is what we all commonly know as ‘marketing’, but a lot of musicians may not understand that. Even if they believe their music to be very worthy of sharing, without the right channels to get it out there to the masses, it totally defeats the purpose (unless you just relish playing it to yourself and sharing it with a close bunch of friends).
The essence of DIY usually means there is no strong cashflow to pump into buying radio or TV advertisement for publicity, hence there leaves no space for a DIY musician to be humble or reserved about publicity. The basic channels you need are:
If it’s difficult to come up with a website, starting with a simple blog like Blogger is good enough. A website is more organised, but a blog can keep your supporters (old or new) updated about your current activities and get to know you beyond your music.
I’d recommend this website if you’re serious about selling your music beyond Singapore (in bigger countries, shipping can be easily arranged cross-state). There’s a fee and commission involved, so it’s up to you to weigh the pros and cons.
And even if you have the above, it’s not enough to just have a web presence. It is also essential to arrange for performances so that people who support you can catch you in the act, and hopefully you’ll be able to get their friends (or passerbys) to like your music as well. Be thick-skin and contact free performance spaces like Arts House, UrbanClap!, which are constantly looking out for volunteer performers. Also, remember to tap into tertiary schools like NUS, NTU, Ngee Ann Poly, Republic Poly, etc. If you are able to secure an act with the school, they will do free publicity for you and your music using their school network. Sometimes you may even get lucky with student DJs who want to interview you and stream it over the school radio network! One thing though, please don’t expect to get paid.
If you need a holiday at the same time, and are adventurous, research on indie festivals around the world. (Example).
– Media (music reviews, contact DJs)
I was actually counting my blessing because I already got to know a few DJs well before I launched the album, and from experience, they’re usually more than happy to help out local musicians. Even if you do not know them personally, try asking around to see if your friends know any DJs or music reviewers for newspapers or magazines, and get them to help you pass the CDs to them. Try to get radio airplay, or radio interviews. Do not stinge on giving Cds away for this group of people! Also, the truth is, sometimes even if the music review does not turn out to be as excellent as you hope it would be, getting the exposure is probably worth more than anything (well unless they really thrash your music then erm, you may consider labelling your music ‘alternative’).
Be thick-skin and give retailers cold-calls to tell them you would like to sell your albums on consignment. Usually they’ll take 80-100 at any one time, but it’s a good start. If you’re lucky, you may even be roped in to perform at events they organise in malls! The funny thing that happened to me was, my friends sms or called me to tell me they actually shifted my cds to more prominent spots in the shop. Or requested for the sales assistants to do so, or played my CD in the stores while they were there. I was so touched…I mean…I wouldn’t be thick-skin enough to do it myself for sure! I guess that’s what friends are for? Haha.
You’ll noticed that it probably takes skin the thickness of an elephant to do the above. It wasn’t easy, and sometimes I even get bewildered responses from the other end, like I’m crazy or what. But the key to success is often one word – perseverance. Never allow yourself to be put down by people who do not understand what you’re doing. Simply put, they really do not understand what you’re doing.
Most music reviewers or DJs will need a media kit (i.e a photo of your album cover, a short writeup on yourself and your music, and basic information like your contact details, website etc). Take the time to do a good one. If you’re not good with writing, ask your friends for help. It is as good as your cover letter for a job interview.
Last but not least, if you need anything, just google. Everything is out there.
(And omg did you know googler is officially a verb used by the French!? Je google, Tu googles, Il google, Nous googlons, Vous googlez, Ils googlent. That is so funny!)