The timeless and everlasting art of self promotion is something that’s pushed onto each and every one of us day in and day out. Even more imperative, as many of us here are offering something to others, is that we must find the often hazy line of the shameless and stay as far away from it as possible. Over the past couple of years I have discussed this topic with a friend of mine on occasion to try and figure out what exactly makes something shameless and what we have to do to stay as far away from it as we can while still allowing the right people to find us. Promoting yourself, band, or business is extremely important and taking advantage of promo items can be a great asset in helping you do this effectively and it is also very cost effective.
When the MySpace glory days were upon us I can say with certainty that anyone who was active inevitably ran into the friend request from a random band on MySpace and after adding them as a friend there was a polite message left in your comment box to “Check out their latest album.” Initially it was this phenomenon that had the gears turning in my head because all of those bands sucked. I then realized that all of the music I really loved from the unheard artist recording in his attic to Radiohead were never promoting themselves. Not in the way at least that these other bands were. It wasn’t just a couple bands here and there that this happened to work out for, it was all of them and I listen to an unusually large amount of music. There was only one conclusion I could draw from this observation which seemed to invariably link to the shameless.
Promotion > Product
What I came up with simply is that the promotion of the shameless is greater than the product they’re selling. Whether that be a new album or someone offering services. It seems that when you switched the equation around so as the Product > Promotion then other people would promote the product for you more or less. Like an equation balancing itself out the product isn’t good enough to sell itself so it needs embellishment and inevitably the promoter will increase their promotion to make up for the lack of value in the product, whether they realize they’re doing it or not. We’ve all seen film trailers that list all the reviews and awards it has and people who constantly talk about their band or want you to check out their artwork. Why is it that almost all of the time those things suck? Why is it the best restaurants in a community, the best artists, the best of anything are so successful by not doing anything the shameless do?
Word of Mouth
When I was in sales(starting a sentence like that makes me cringe) the one thing I did with my team that so many others failed to realize was that word of mouth promotion was our best promotion. Why is word of mouth promotion better than anything else? The credibility and trust in someones friend is always going to trump everything else, always. Who is ever going to promote themselves and say, “I suck. Don’t listen to me, we’re awful.” No one(unless that’s your angle) is going to do that. So what’s the point in telling people that you’re awesome? Of course you think your product is awesome, you made it, so when you tell others how awesome your product is you instantly have turned on the sales pitch which turns people off. If your best friend tells you to check out a band you probably will. If a band tells you to check them out, there is a much greater chance you won’t. So how then, if you’re not supposed to tell others to look at your stuff, do people find you?
Availability and Relationships
You have to be available. Somehow people have to be able to find you even if you’re obscure and from there focus on relationships with people, real relationships. By that I mean invest time and emotion into it and don’t predicate any part of the friendship on what you’re doing or selling. These people are going to look at your stuff, and if it’s quality they’re going to be your biggest promoters. If it’s quality you will never have to ask them, they will feel the need to tell others about it and as I said above their credibility with their friends is greater than your credibility with their friends. The only interest the shameless have in relationships is if it’s going to help them out. I may have thoughts on the non existence of altruism and inherent self interest but that doesn’t mean all of my relationships are based on what I’m getting in return. Make it mutual, at least.
Focus on Quality
Ultimately you must have something others will promote to their friends and for that to happen it needs to be damn good. My advice then to all of those bands and anyone who is feeling guilty about pushing themselves onto others is to take all the time you’re spending on promotion and reinvest it into becoming a better musician, a better writer, a better artist, designer, developer, whatever. That is the best promotion investment you can ever make. The rest will take care of itself. Now to take my own advice, I’m off to figure out how to use these damn semicolons and stop using commas.