We have all seen bands passing out flyers on the streets and flooding social media with their music trying to create a brand image, but when does this go too far? Self-promotion is the most inexpensive and quickest way for musicians to gain followers, but to make this work you have to differentiate yourself from others and attempt to be “heard by the masses” through all the clutter around you.
The first person who came to mind was Macy Gray at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. She was wearing a dress stating when her album dropped and “buy it!” written across her backside. Was this a fashion faux pas or genius advertisement? Since Gray was already a well-known musician she knew she was going to be photographed in this dress, which of course would end up all over TV and magazines. Unfortunately, people must have felt some dissonance with this approach because this album only sold 593,000 copies in the US, compared to her On How Life Is album which has sold 3.2 million.
More recently, a female artist by the name of Amanda Palmer has promoted herself on the website Kickstarter. This is a website where projects of all kind are brought to life through the direct support of others. Kickstarter states, “Since our launch on April 28, 2009, over $800 million has been pledged by more than 4 million people, funding more than 45,000 creative projects.”
Here, you can see the video that Palmer made for the site, asking for money to create her first album after breaking away from a major label. While her original goal was only $100,000 she ended up with $1 million and counting. Palmer was successful because she broke through the clutter on the internet and did something different that people noticed. She is also fulfilling her fans needs by letting them contribute to the success of her music.
Musicians will keep using self-promotion weather it is passing out flyers, using social media, wearing dresses with album dates or even receiving money off Kickstarter. There will always be newer and better methods to promote music, and people like Macy Gray and Amanda Palmer have paved the way for these innovative ways.