How to Promote Yourself as a Musician or Performing Artist

I recently asked subscribers a simple question…

“What would you like to learn more about in the coming months?”

My inbox was flooded for several days straight, and the bulk of the topics came down to promoting ourselves in one way or another.

Promotion tips and advice - Dave Ruch

So, in the weeks to come, I’m going to tackle as many of your questions as I can.

Here are the first five…

Promoting Yourself as a Musician or Entertainer

#1. Promoting a book about jazz music

Debbie’s email said:

“I wrote a novel about jazz. It’s out for pre-order in March 2018, full release in July. How do I get the attention of your subscribers? Can I advertise a link of my book in your newsletter? 

I told Debbie that I don’t rent out my list or advertise anyone’s products or services in my weekly emails, but I do have a few other ideas for her.

(And, hey, look! Now my subscribers know about your upcoming book launch…)

It can be daunting to try to figure out how to make the world aware of our (fill in the blank), and I’ve never promoted a book before, but my suggestion would be to do some targeted Facebook advertising.

I just did a quick search in the FB ads tool and found that there are 760,000 Americans between the ages of 18-65+ who have demonstrated an interest in jazz music AND non-fiction books.

(The “AND” is important, since jazz music had 19 million fans without that qualifier.)

I think you’d want to further refine the targeting from there, probably by age, type/era of jazz you’re writing about, authors similar to your style, other interests that would be a good fit with your target readers, etc.

If you want some help with that, start with the article linked above, or we could do a coaching call or two.

#2. How to get found in online searches for instrument lessons

Rebecca is wondering:

“How to optimize my Google My Business local search results in order to attract more piano students.” 

Hi Rebecca – for Google My Business, I would say that two things would be most important:

  1. a compelling photo, preferably of someone who looks like the type of student you want to attract (i.e. if you’re teaching mostly kids, an authentic – not stock – photo of you teaching a happy kid to play piano)
  2. including the words “piano lessons” in the name of your actual business (so, rather than “Rebecca’s Music Studio,” you call your business “Piano Lessons with Rebecca.”

Promoting yourselfWith those two things in place, I’d also try to get several variations of your geographic location listed in any descriptions there.

Example – If you’re in Dearborn Heights, a suburb of Detroit, people might be searching for “piano lessons detroit” or “piano lessons dearborn heights” or “piano lessons (the next town over from you).”

You want to appear in all of those searches, but keep in mind that these listings rarely appear unless someone is already searching for the name of your business.

To capture far more potential business (i.e. from people who are unaware of you), you want to make sure the title tags of your website’s pages are optimized for search. Here’s an article on changing your title tags to attract more of the right visitors to your website.

Hope that helps!

3. Booking house concerts

Corey was short and to the point:

“Booking house concerts.”

Hey Corey – I love doing house concerts, but I’ve never been real systematic about it. The ones I’ve done have always been “add ons” when I’m going to be traveling through to some kind of “anchor” gig or two and can afford to take a house concert to fill in an open space in the calendar.

So, my approach has just been to keep tabs on house concerts for which I might be a good fit, and then reach out as I see an opening in my calendar.

Reality check – house concert presenters typically have limited openings, schedule somewhat far in advance, and are absolutely flooded with requests from performers they’ve never heard of. The more advance notice you can give, and the more of a relationship you can develop with them over time, the better your chances (as with just about everything, right?).

One resource I would highly recommend spending $5-$10 on is Shannon Curtis’s book “No Booker, No Bouncer, No Bartender: How I Made $25K on a Two-Month House Concert Tour (and How You Can Too).

4. Mailing list organization & maintenance

Rivka says:

“Mailing lists. I’m terrible sorting them, finding new leads, keeping the old ones up to date, organizing, marking referrals, etc. I’d like to simplify and maximize my lists.”

Hi Rivka – I think what you are referring to is not mailing lists of “fans” who might come see your next performance or buy your new recording, but email lists of booking contacts, correct?

Here’s how I’d recommend simplifying:

  • sign up for any of the common email service providers (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc)
  • create a “group” or “category” for each type of contact you’ll be adding – if I remember your situation correctly, maybe that means “Camps,” “Historical Venues,” “Schools,” “Libraries,” etc
  • add all existing contacts into the software, flagging each one as one (or more) of the above categories

One you’ve done that, you can send an initial email to, say, all of the Camps on your list. This will automatically clean your list (hopefully it’s not TOO old), separating out the undeliverable addresses.

The next thing I would do, once you’re up and running, is create a data field for each contact (similar to first name, last name, company name, etc) that says “Relationship,” and for each contact, put a “Y” there if you have an existing relationship with them, or “N” if it’s a cold contact.

That will enable you to personalize your group emails further – if you don’t know them personally, you could address each email as “Dear (Company Name),” whereas if you do know them, they get one that says “Hey (First Name).”

You could do a similar thing with those who’ve hired you and those who haven’t, and talk to each of those two groups differently in your mass emails.

Finally, in terms of adding new people to the list, try this tactic – it’s magic!

PS – Or maybe you were referring to physical (snail mail) lists? If that’s the case, I’d organize them the same way, and include any pertinent additional info (did they book you? how much did you charge? how did the gig go? when do they make decisions for the coming year?) in a “Notes” field.

5. Getting established in a new market

Shane said:

“Any tips / discussion about how to enter a new market and start building a base for performing opportunities. I will be relocating halfway across the country sometime in the coming year, and will thus need to start the process of building up contacts and opportunities in an entirely new region. I’m primarily an opera singer, however, I’m also interested in getting more into a recitalist approach, and would be looking for all manner of venues to perform, from company events to fundraisers, etc. I’ve done everything from singing for fundraisers for arts organizations or Relay for Life teams to church gigs, weddings, funerals, etc.  So I’m open for any and all suggestions, and since it’ll be an entirely new region of the country, I’ll be happy to look into other avenues I’ve not previously explored, either.”

Hi Shane – Personally, I love challenges like this, but of course, they can be pretty daunting too.

I don’t have any experience with the opera singing market, but I think the same general principles will apply. And, since you’re open to exploring new types of opportunities, I might have a few ideas for you.

First of all, I would approach this as a fresh start, and an opportunity to be “the new guy in town.”

I would go out of my way to “pad” my website and promo materials with the most sterling performance credentials, testimonials, accolades, etc. that you have.

In other words, make yourself sound as experienced and professional as you possibly can without being phony, “braggy,” or dishonest.

I don’t know what size the market is that you’re moving to, but if it’s anything smaller than NYC or LA, you’ll probably be able to make a bit of a splash simply by being a new commodity.

(We all love the new shiny object, don’t we?)

From there, I would make a point of connecting with the local, regional, and even statewide arts councils right away – there’s lots of advice here on what arts councils can do for you.

A face-to-face meeting is best, so try to get an in-person appointment, or a phone conversation as a backup plan.

Next, how about GigSalad?

Are there entertainment agencies in town that should know about you? People who book musicians for weddings, etc?

Do you have a website? I would put the name of your new town or region in the title tags, on the home page, and a few other places on the site a good 3-6 months before you move – it takes Google a little while to find that info and show it to people looking for “wedding singer Orlando” (or wherever you’re moving).

Set up a free Google My Business listing like Rebecca did.

I’d also use Google to look for libraries, fine arts series, arts centers, and other venues that offer a slate of performances throughout the year, and start developing relationships with them.

Good luck with it, and I hope you’ll keep us posted!

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About The Blog

The Largest Online Gathering of K-5 Classrooms for Connected Educator MonthSince leaving a white-collar marketing job in 1992, Dave Ruch has been educating and entertaining full-time in schools, historical societies and museums, folk music and concert venues, libraries, and online via distance learning programs.

Along the way, he’s learned a great deal about supporting a family of four as a musician.

The Educate and Entertain blog provides articles, tips, encouragements, and how-to’s for regional performers (in any region) interested in making a great full-time living in the arts.

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9 Responses to How to Promote Yourself as a Musician or Performing Artist

  1. To help Corey – there is an organization called “Concerts in Your Home” that, for a fee, links performers and venues. It seems to be used by a lot of songwriters.

  2. I downloaded Yoast SEO but can’t seem to find a place to change the title tag. Do you have to have premium?

    • Hi Michael – title tags are fully editable in the free version of Yoast. Are you using a WordPress site?

        • OK, just go to the page you want to change, click “Edit” like you normally would, then scroll down past the bottom of the page’s content to find the Yoast SEO section. You can change the meta description and title tags to anything you want. Yoast has great support documentation on their website too, if this is still unclear.

          • I don’t think I can just edit. I have to user page builder to change anything. I’ll check again to see if I’m missing something.

  3. Dave, thanks for responding to my question about marketing my upcoming jazz novel, and I will read up on the link you provided. You are an inspiration, a self-made guy! Much success to you in 2018!

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