5 Words To Avoid When Promoting Your Music
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When promoting your music, getting heard and seen is everything. Cutting through the noise, being the loud-and-clear signal, making sure that people know who you are and what you’re about. These are your goals – and you have a lot of competition.
This is life for the modern musician. For you.
The words listed below may seem harmless at first glance, but you need to rethink them if you want to separate yourself from the competition. Attention to the finest of details is what distinguishes the great from the merely good, okay, and rubbish. Using these words (or in some cases using them in the wrong way) can instantly lose you potential supporters – and even attract the worst kind of attention.
What follows may sound harsh, but it’s important. Music industry professionals are hypersensitive to the words that follow, and if you want to win them over, you need to think like they do. You need to understand how their brains work – and if you can do that, you’ll leave everyone else in the dust.
If you’re looking for just one single word capable of killing your credibility in a microsecond, this is it.
Imagine somebody setting up an online dating profile, and labelling themselves “undated”. Or “unkissed”. Or “unslept-with”.
If you came across that profile, would you message them – or would you move on as fast as possible? Would you imagine them to be the kind of incredible heart-stopper you’d actually want to date, or an awkwardly needy potential disaster zone?
Desperation is not attractive in any area. Desperation literally means that you feel hopeless – and this is not only unattractive to others, but also incredibly unfair to you.
If you’re willing to put the time and effort in, you can do good work – and if you’re doing good work, there is hope for you. It’s a question of commitment and perseverance, the willingness to keep chipping away over months and years.
Don’t feel desperate – just focus on getting the next thing done.
Instead of calling your band “unsigned”, say “independent” or “DIY” instead.
Independent and DIY musicians understand that in the modern music business, labels – the businesses capable of turning unsigned bands into signed bands – look for evidence that you can do something off your own back before they invest their money and effort in you.
Independent and DIY bands don’t wait for permission to make their music. They get it done; they do it themselves. They build a team, finding people to help them record an album, get it mastered, design the cover art, and market it effectively. They book their own shows, deal with everything that needs to be dealt with.
Then – if they’re doing good work, making good music – new opportunities arise. Not by magic, but through hard work and a dedication to quality.
Unsigned bands aren’t doing what they need to do to get signed. Independent and DIY bands are.
If you want to be on the winning team, changing your vocabulary is a good place to start.
Most bands are not unique. This is a tough truth – but it is the truth.
Unique is one of the most overused words in the music business. It triggers even the least sensitive bullshit detector.
If you tell someone your music is unique, and on listening to it they find it full of clichés and stock ideas – something that’s been done a million times over – they won’t thank you.
They’ll feel insulted, like you’re trying to fool them, like you’re assuming them to be stupid. Gullible. Easily swayed.
The result: One offended and permanently turned-off potential supporter.
If your music is genuinely unique, find a creative and unique way of describing it. Be as silly or as profound as you like – but be different. Don’t tell people you’re unique; actually be unique.
That said, if a reviewer or other credible source proclaims you to be unique, quote them on it. But outside of quotes, don’t tell people you’re unique.
It can’t be stressed enough.
Grab any random person off the street and ask them which character traits they associate with musicians, and you’ll likely hear:
When you describe your own music as “great” (or any other head-inflating word to that effect), you’re proving those people right.
Arrogance, cockiness, and pretension get people’s backs up.
They can even turn potential supporters into instant enemies.
A bit of humility can go a long way.
If you love what you do, and you’re proud of your music, that is great. But don’t beat people over the head with your pride.
Focus on providing value to the world, doing good work, and using the good feelings you get from your personal accomplishments to motivate yourself to do more. Help other people out and make them feel good, and you’re on the right track.
If you’re selling yourself, focus on the person you’re selling to.
They don’t need you to be super-confident – they need you to tell them why they should care.
Compare these sentences:
“We’re a great desert-rock band.”
“If you love deep grooves, huge riffs, and the thought of taking on a sun-baked desert highway in a high-powered roadster, you’ll love our new album!”
The first is all about you. The second is all about the reader. When you read those sentences, which did you care about the most?
As with unique, though, quotes from others are the exception. If someone gives you positive feedback, you have every right to be proud of it and share it around.
Returning to our dating site analogy, you wouldn’t sign up for Tinder and label yourself an “aspiring sexual partner” in your bio.
“Aspiring” is a word you see on every billboard and poster advertising a school, college, or university.
It implies that one day, maybe, at some point, you might get to be considered a real musician. But not right now.
The word “aspiring” implies that you need someone else’s permission to call yourself a musician.
But you don’t.
If you play music, you are a musician. That’s all there is to it.
If you’re an adult set on selling yourself, the word “aspiring” has no place in your vocabulary. “Aspiring musician” is the kind of label your parents and teachers would put on you as a child. Don’t stick it to your own forehead.
5) The next big thing
Okay – so this is more than one word. But it’s thrown around like confetti at a wedding, and it needs to be cut out.
More so even than unique and great, calling yourself “the next big thing” is exceptionally arrogant.
The really ironic thing about this phrase is that, for the most part, it’s used by musicians who are only just starting out.
It betrays arrogance, cockiness, pretension, and naivety.
It’s a phrase used by innocent first-timers – and most of the time, it gets them laughed out of the game.
If you’re new to the music business, you may have been brainwashed into believing that all you need to do is “fake it until you make it”. This is bullshit, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a fool.
Anyone with an experienced eye can spot a faker a mile off.
The good guys will spot the fake, and turn their backs.
The bad guys – the sharks who roam the music industry, sniffing hungrily for fresh virgin blood – will spot the fake, and home in for the kill.
It never ends well.
If you are genuinely the next big thing, then plenty of others will be saying it. Quote them.
If you’re the only one labelling yourself “the next big thing,” don’t expect to be taken seriously.
And watch out for the sharks. The music industry has a very high casualty rate, and you don’t want to be the next forgotten victim.
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