Promote Your Song by Promoting Yourself

(Image courtesy flickr user, Shashi Bellamkonda, CC 2.0)

(Image courtesy flickr user, Shashi Bellamkonda, CC 2.0)

Promoting yourself is hard. Even with a great song, the process of getting ears to listen to it presents challenges that will make even the most extroverted cringe.

Tim Ferriss has been called “The Greatest Self-Promoter of all Time” by Dylan Tweeny at Wired Magazine and with good reason. Tim is the author of no less than three best-selling books: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. He is also the Guinness Book of World Record holder of the most consecutive tango spins.

This is not a review page for Tim’s book but instead a review of the techniques he uses in promoting himself, his products and his brand. In addition to be an author, Tim Ferriss is also an investor and a business man: he is the founder of a nutritional supplements company, called BrainQuicken, which he later sold.

Recently, Tim Ferriss gave an Interview with CBS Money Watch where he discussed the 5 steps that he uses to promote his work and himself.

1. Pick your moment

If your product or your business model isn’t well-defined, don’t go after a big story. For one thing, you don’t want to call attention to the fact that your business isn’t quite there yet, and for another, you don’t want to blow your one shot at some serious coverage. “The New York Times is not going to write a piece on you twice,” Ferris says. Wait until you know your business is ready for the spotlight — and can handle a potential upswing in demand once the word gets out.

2. Start with the right audience

Ferriss knew that his books would appeal to people like him — 18-35 year-old tech-savvy males. So he identified 10-15 blogs that captured the attention of this demographic and hit those first. Having his story land on a blog like TechCrunch would put him directly in front of his target audience in a way that a spot on Oprah wouldn’t. “People in the same tribe will listen to you with less resistance,” Ferriss says. Plus, convincing a producer on a big show to feature you in a spot is nearly impossible without hitting the smaller outlets first.

3. Don’t make the conversation about you…

… at least not in the beginning. Journalists are as wary of an overly enthusiastic pitch as anyone. And they also tend to love beer and coffee. So instead of trying to sell himself, Ferriss would ask bloggers out for beers, then ask about their jobs and the tech landscape. When the conversation worked its way around to Ferriss, he’d wait for them to ask questions and develop their own interest. “I never played the I-know-what’s-perfect-for-your-audience card, ever.”

4. Find yourself a trend

Unless you’re making big news — a merger, huge profits, big scandal — reporters usually don’t have a compelling reason to write about a single company. But business trend stories run all the time. If a reporter can find at least three companies all doing this new thing X, a reporter has a compelling story. And there’s nothing wrong pitching a trend, and then naming your competitors as potential sources. It may seem counterintuitive, but “you need to get over it,” Ferriss says. “You need to view it as the rising tide raises all ships.”

5. Work up the ladder the right way

In the media world, there’s a chain of interest. Bloggers/online sites are at the bottom — it’s easiest to get their attention — and big network shows sit at the very top. “Whether it’s ‘Dr. Oz’ or ‘Good Morning America,’ to pitch those things right out of the gate is extremely difficult,” he says. “The way that you get around that is to create so much noise online that the next set of media needs to pay attention.”

But What About Promoting Your Song and Promoting Yourself?

I am glad you asked. Even though Tim Ferriss’ ideas are geared toward promoting a business, they do translate well into promoting your song and promoting yourself.

1. Pick your moment

Just like waiting until a business is ready before you launch, it is just as important to wait until you finish the song. Play it for your friends. Play it for strangers. Do they ask you what a particular phrase means? Maybe they just have a hard time understanding the main theme or idea of the song. Feedback from people you trust is a good polishing tool. Once you have polished the song it will be easier to promote. You will have confidence in it because it has stood up to the test of playing it for others. It is better to find out the flaws in front of friends than in the middle of a pitch or on a rejection letter.

2. Start with the right audience

If you are unfamiliar with the idea of “tribes,” it come from the book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin.

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.

Starting with the right audience continues with the idea of number 1, Pick You Moment. After you have been through family and friends, you should take the next step. Do you have a musical peer group? A musical peer group is an informal gathering of songwriters. The takeaway here is to escalate the exposure through the ranks. From friends and family to a peer group of semi-professionals to a wider group of peers on YouTube or SoundCloud polishing all the way.

Another aspect of audience might be the demographic of your end audience. Are you pitching a country song to a jazz crowd? Obviously the comments will be more helpful coming from the country crowd. Their ears are more used to the subtitles of that particular genre of music.

3. Don’t make the conversation about you …

… at least not in the beginning. It seems  counterintuitive when you are promoting yourself to not make the conversation about you. But the reality of promoting your song is that you are selling it. Not in the way a baker sells bread but in the way an investor sells an idea. You want the person on the other side to want to be in your corner.

The important thing to remember about selling is this: the best sales pitch is no sales pitch at all.

If you are sitting down with your publisher, or anyone for that matter, that you want to get behind you and your song, you definitely do not want to lead off with: “I have the greatest song in the world! You are going to love it!” This just doesn’t come off well when you are promoting yourself. Think of those guys in the middle of the mall who swoop down on you with their product in your face. You do not want to be that guy. Instead have a conversation with the publisher. Ask him/her if they have heard any good songs lately, or seen any good live music. If they know you, they will ask you about your songwriting. When they ask you they are more receptive. You should not have to hype it up. Let the song speak for itself.

4. Find yourself a trend promoting yourself ladder

What influenced you when writing the song you are promoting yourself? Was it another song? Was it a popular song? In the digital world there are many ways to be a part of a trend. Let’s say for example that your song was inspired (and hopefully not copied) from another song that is popular. On YouTube there is a comment section for videos unless the original poster has turned them off. One cool thing about the comment section is the ability to post a video response to a video. It could be something as simple as saying “I was quite inspired by this song and it moved me to write this song.”
Other people who like that song will see your video response and have the ability to share it with their people. Buzz is a good thing, hype is not. Promoting yourself does not have to be arrogant or base

Other people who like that song will see your video response and have the ability to share it with their people. Buzz is a good thing, hype is not. Promoting yourself does not have to be arrogant or base.

5. Work up the ladder the right way

All of these steps lead up to the metaphor of a ladder. Starting at the bottom of the ladder seems like taking the long way ’round each time but it is preferable to starting at the top and falling. At the bottom of the ladder are your friends and family and at the top your music publisher or the executive that makes musical decisions. Starting at the bottom and working toward the top will build your confidence and create a buzz. A buzz that you can mention when you get to the top of the ladder.


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