We asked producer, musician and events manager Dawn Elder to share her wisdom with today’s singers.
Dawn Elder is owner of Dawn Elder World Media & Entertainment Enterprises, a US-based production and media/entertainment firm. She is also the founder of the world-renowned International Friendship Festivals and Peace Through Music series, which have helped to bridge cultural divides in the United States and abroad.
Elder has received numerous honors and awards for her music productions, multicultural events and television broadcast specials – and we think she is the perfect person to offer counsel on how one can promote their music with integrity and success.
What is a foolish way for musicians to spend money on promotion?
Just buying advertising on Facebook and expecting folks to show up… or spending all your promotional dollars on one print ad.
Why? Don’t we all need some advertising?
Remember, a newspaper promoting your band without an article will not get folks to your gig. If you buy an ad in weekly, make sure you have also asked the best picks editor, and or have pitched the writers at the weekly to at least do a little write up on who you are, what type of music you perform, etc. And if they won’t then, make your ad say it or explain it.
So you are saying we can’t rely on an ad?
Don’t assume that even an incredibly gorgeous ad will bring people to your show. I often hear, “I spent all my budget on a weekly ad or I bought an ad on Facebook, hey I boosted it, etc.” That’s NOT good enough; don’t assume that people will see or hear what you hear in your music. Make your promotion count: get people out so they can hear / see your creativity and talent. Media platforms have developed in recent years, but the game is still to get them in the door. It is still your best opportunity one to sell them on your music; sell yourself.
What are some examples of networking opportunities for singers?
The best network is other artists, fellow singers, fellow musicians. They are usually the best source for work. One artist hears about another and tells another musician. Be flexible. Check out other bands and be supportive, going to shows of fellow artists can be a great avenue for singer-songwriters. You never know whom you will run into. Also, find your local regional musicians organizations and seek out other music industry shows, i.e. NAMM- BMI, ASCAP NARIS, etc. (these are showcase opportunities).
A social media FAIL by singers / musicians?
Jumping on a trending topic before fully understanding the topic just to be a part of the conversation. Commenting without a clear understanding on thinking it will bring you more followers can actually work quite the opposite way.
So, you would like singers to be more thoughtful when they are in online conversations?
Take the time to think about what you are writing and/or tweeting about. You don’t always need to comment on everything, take a breath, look deeper in to the subject and if it really moves you feel free to comment as the comment will be from the heart. I guarantee your followers will show you the love.
You seem to be advocating a degree of humility…
The biggest fail I see is when a band or musician or artist becomes too overconfident. This is true not just in social media but in general. Most importantly be true to yourself, represent you own artistic spirit. Be a leader…
When do social media posts become SPAM?
Wow – this happens all the time… (I do not like getting all these invites all the time) try to cultivate your audience and your e-mail lists. Otherwise they will be deleted very quickly.
Does a singer need to get on YouTube?
This is a tough one: yes and no.. With so many virtual platforms and opportunities you will need to have several channels. The new Facebook – doesn’t promote YouTube links. So you will need to upload directly on Facebook. It is now important to look at several areas (Video on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) – you need it all.
Do you have an example of a local musician getting opportunities through social media?
Well I really don’t see that happening as much now as I believe you mean. It is more about networking. I think this can be a band and or artist opportunity on social media. I have so many bands that reach out or write to me on social media. And every once in a while the timing, their approach or just their pure and simple to-the-point-requests catches my eye. I try to listen in the order I receive things and I really hate turning anyone away, but it can be overwhelming. And I find I sometimes need to take a few weeks off and or break from social media :)
So social media is not necessarily a golden bullet?
The best opportunity always is good music, solid foundation (artist wise) and good consistent social / marketing media campaign. As for ‘going viral’, these days it is not as easy as it may seem.
What’s your top tip for singers to spread the word about their music?
It is still getting it out to Film / TV and Music Supervisors, local DJ’s and local broadcasters (can even be NPR-BBC PRI). Join a good music rights agency such as BMI ASCAP; my preference happens to be BMI – they are really doing great things for artists in the realm of TV-film, video, and gaming.
Any more tips on this kind of networking?
Get to know your local-regional representatives. The best way to be heard is still in TV, film, gaming and even in infomercials. These are great avenues for songwriters / singers and it is still the best way to see a pay check for your efforts. Be sure to know your rights and understand the process of song writing and the credits, splits, etc.
What has changed most for performers in the last 20 years in terms of career / marketing / promotion?
YOU NEED TO DO THIS ON YOUR OWN. You can’t expect labels to do it for you. No more is it about the artist having it all done for them. The difference is you must promote and take an active role in your career marketing and promotion.
OK – that sounds like a lot of work – is there a good side to this?
The good news is now you can now be creative; you can quickly establish your own label, publishing company and distribution. The vast avenues of distribution available are just a click away for your music. But most importantly don’t just sit back and just expect it to happen. Plan, create an outline and follow it, make it a daily regimen and be diligent with your craft; first be the very best you can be, then allocate time for your marketing daily: media, press and overall time to reach out to new fans and new opportunities.
It is imperative you have a strong work ethic about your craft. And finally LOVE WHAT YOU DO… the best success is working on something you are passionate about. You will have success if you believe it will happen.
It seems to me that you are speaking of a number of quality traits that it takes to succeed…
- Strong Foundation
- Mastery of your craft (be the best you can be)
It takes not being afraid to fail or scared of the unknown, meaning you are willing to take a chance. Be willing to give as well as take… Remember – a gift given is much more rewarding than one received.
See Dawn’s previous article: How to Promote Your Singing – Locally
Dawn Elder is a composer, producer, director, artist manager, and creator of over 1000 events spanning a broad spectrum of media, she has worked with some of the top names in entertainment, from American icons Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Beach Boys, Sting, Grover Washington, George Clinton and Carlos Santana, to the most celebrated stars of the African and Arabic-speaking world, among them Fairouz, (Lebanon) Kazem al-Sahir (Iraq) Khaled (Algeria), Mory Kante (Guinea/Mali), and Fela Kuti, and King Sunny Ade (Nigeria). Elder has developed and directed television documentaries and concert broadcast specials for major networks in the U.S. and abroad, including ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and LBC, and ANA/MBC. Behind all of Elder’s enterprises lies a fierce humanitarianism and a dedication to the principle that culture, especially music, has a vital role to play in bridging misunderstandings between contemporary societies. See her Website.