This post is written for musicians, much of it applies to all bloggers.
As a musician you deserve to be successful in your art, but marketing yourself and your music doesn’t always bring results. Blogging is one way you can build a posse of fans who are genuinely engaged with you.
You may think blogging is a waste of time for musicians, and it can be, if you don’t do it “right”.
Here are some tips to get you blogging effectively:
1. Write about your culture. Blogging is a way of sharing your culture… when you share your culture you attract like-minded people who are more likely to buy your music and come to your shows.
So write about the music and artists you like, the venues, parties and festivals you go to, the goings-on when you are touring, the stuff you use (instruments, gear, clothing), places you like, films you see, books you read, political issues that stir you, causes you care about, anything you care about.
2. Interview other musicians. This is a great way to get more readers, because the person you are interviewing will put the intervew out on their networks.
Also, it subtly shows your website visitors more about who you are as a person and an artist.
The interviews could be text based, where you send the person questions and they send back their answers, or audio or video of a face-to-face interview. Or you could go high-tech and record a Skype call, audio or video. Personally I find video interviews more engaging than audio, but it depends on what you find works.
3. Invite guest posts. Ask other musicians to contribute a “guest post” now and then. They could write about anything you think your readers (or potential readers) could relate to.
They will most likely publicise the post to their own followers, and it helps you get content on your site. Also, along with interviews, it makes you a “hub” in your chosen community.
4. Write about other musicians. Do a whole post that is a review of a gig you enjoyed, or a recording you love.
Include a link to the artist’s website, and send them a message with a link to the review. They will probably tell their friends, bringing you some visitors.
5. Write about music festivals, from small one-day ones to large ones. If you have been to a festival, this is an awesome thing to write about – lots of people want to know all about festivals, everything from the music and the people to the stalls and camping ground.
And you took some good photos you can use, didn’t you?
6. Use a light background for your text, preferably white. Musicians often go for dark websites, because they think it looks groovier.
If you have a black or dark-anything background, your text will be more difficult to read. This isn’t such a problem if you only have small chunks of information on your website, that people skim over, but if you have extended text that people settle in to read, the dark background makes it so difficult many simply won’t.
That’s the last thing you want when you are trying to encourage visitors to read your well-chosen words.
7. Use short paragraphs, only a few lines long. Long blocks of text are very difficult to read on a computer screen, and will discourage readers even more than a dark background.
8. Give your articles a visual structure, so the reader can see where they are on the screen easily, and they’ll be more inclined to keep reading. And the sad fact is that most people reading your blog, including your friends, won’t read every word – instead they will skim over your text. So you’ll need to give them visual hooks, to hook them in. Like the hook of a song.
You can do all this in a few ways:
a. vary the length of the paragraphs
b. use sub-headings
c. include quote or highlight boxes
d. occasionally put smaller images on the left or right of the text
e. put some of your info into a list
9. Open comments on your blog. Comments help you develop a relationship with your readers – for a musician these are potential fans who, if you engage them, might buy your music or come to a gig. Also, getting comments is very encouraging… you know how much better it feels to get lots of comments on your Facebook updates than not get any.
A healthy number of comments is also very important for giving you as an artist “social proof” i.e. it shows that lots of people are interested in you, so therefore you must be good! Having a Facebook Page badge on your website with a large number of Likes does the same thing. Often people just need a little bit of social permission to take action (i.e. take the time to read your post, to leave a comment, to buy something).
Comments means you will have to deal with comment spam, but there are numerous plugins that do a good job of this. I use Akismet and WP Spamshield for WordPress, and I have always found spam manageable.
10. Encourage comments. It helps to encourage comments – you can say things at the end of each post like “Please leave a comment”, or “I would love to hear from you in the comments section below”.
You can ask a question at the end of each post. Don’t be over-specific – if you ask “what’s the best music festival you have been to?” and the reader has never been to one, they might be suddenly struggling for something to say, when they had actually been planning to say something else. Invent a question that’s easy for everyone to answer, e.g. “Have you been to a music festival?”
Also, conscript you friends, cousins and aunts to leave comments, until you have a regular readership. People are more likely to leave a comment if there is already one or two there.
Having said all this, don’t stress if you don’t get any comments, we can’t all do everything.
11. Reply to each comment that you get (unless you are getting hundreds or something, in which case you don’t need to read this post). You can reply to each one separately, or you can do all your replies in one comment. e.g. Hi John… Hi Jan… Hi Billy…
This makes commenters feel they are being heard, and encourages commenters to come back to your website to see if you have replied to them. It also gives other readers the impression you are accessible – it’s like watching someone being interviewed on the telly… you feel more familiar with them even though you did not speak to them yourself.
12. Leave comments on other people’s blogs, and leave your URL in the ‘website’ box (not in the comment). Your comment should be about the article you are commenting on, rather then being self-promotional.
You can start practising by leaving a comment on this article :)
Target other niches as well as music – everyone like music. Such as: mummy or daddy blogs, clothes/style blogs, vegetarian, craft, sustainability, simple living, writing, self-development, tech and personal blogs. These bloggers are likely to be more experienced with blogging than the average musician, and might be more likely to engage with you.
This is actually the FASTEST way to get comments on your own blog, because usually the other blog owner will reciprocate by leaving a comment on your blog. And make sure that when someone comments on your blog, that you check out their URL, and if they have a blog, you leave a comment.
Include the http:// when you leave your URL with comments.
Some of the other blog’s readers could well come and comment on your blog, too, because they liked your interesting comment and your little picture (Gravatar), and have clicked through to your blog.
13. Set up a Gravatar. Go to gravatar.com and set up your little picture which will be your signature on most of the blogs you comment on, including your replies on your own blog. A friendly or interesting face probably works best for this, rather than something arty and elusive, and you might want to prepare your 80px X 80px image first and sharpen it if it is blurry.
Having a good Gravatar makes it MUCH more likely people will click through when they see your comment on other people’s blogs.
14. Get visitors from search engines. If you write about, say, a music festival you played at, and people out there on the internet do a Google search for that festival, there’s a chance your article will appear in their list of search results, and a chance they’ll click through to your blog post, and enjoy what you have to say.
It’s GREAT when this happens – you potentially have a new fan, or at least someone who comments on your blog.
You can encourage this to happen with the wording you use. For example, if you are writing about a festival, have the name of the festival in the title of the post, rather than something like “Had A Great Time Last Weekend”. Search engine robots crawling your blog can pick out the difference between a title and regular text, and they pay more attention to titles.
Also name your image files and titles with something relevant to the topic you are writing about e.g. gibson-guitar.jpg rather than photo3.jpg. This is all behind-the-scenes, but the robots see it, and someone searching for gibson guitar might land on your post because they found your nice picture of a guitar.
It also helps you get search engine traffic if you write about things people are likely to be searching for information about e.g. festivals, instruments, venues, bands, genres, gear, recording, mixing, songwriting, making videos.
15. Install statistics on your blog, and look at them regularly. I have both StatCounter (free version) and Google Analytics (free) set up on all my websites.
These tell you how many visitors you have each day, the pages they are looking at, and whether they have come from a web search or another website. If visitors are coming in from a link on another website, you want to know about that.
16. Write out your posts in a plain text document, not MS Word, and copy and paste them into your post editor when you are ready. Word puts all sorts of invisible code into its documents, which can play havoc when pasted into a blog – that’s why some blog articles have weird little symbols in them, or odd formatting.
Mac users can use TextEdit and Windows users can use NotePad – both set to Plain Text format (do bold, italics etc once your text is in the post editor).
17. Your posting frequency. I’d suggest you post once a week or at least once a month, if you want to keep momentum up, but I don’t believe it’s the end of the world if a musician leaves their blog resting for some time.
18. Publicise your posts on Facebook, Twitter etc (well… that’s a no brainer).
Why do a blog
Writing a blog and doing commenting is quite a lot of work. But as long as you are predisposed to it, I’d suggest it is an excellent way to go if you wish to market your music.
I have seen musicians be quite uninterested in even the most simple of DIY internet marketing tasks, yet they will spend a LOT if time and go to HEAPS of effort trying the old-fashioned approach, such as doing radio interviews, getting their music on radio, getting themselves written up somewhere, but it all gets them not very far – maybe they get a few downloads on iTunes.
They can’t get past the idea they need to get “out there” to the masses, that they need “exposure”, but they don’t have any way of gathering those masses into their fold so they can develop a relationship with them, such as by interesting them in their blog and newsletter.
Cheers – Robin
Guitar photo by fernando garcia