One aspect of career-building aspiring music artists tend to ignore the most is self-promotion. Marketing yourself as a musician can seem like challenging work, but a few general guidelines can help you go a long way.
Now, we know, we know – thinking about marketing sometimes can feel terribly, well, clinical, especially if you come from a field which has, for a long time, been deeply resistant to change. When it comes to classical music, discussions of public image and promotion have always felt secondary to the quality of the work itself. However, it’s become clear that good marketing in classical music should not be a sweetener but a necessity in recent years.
As the music industry in general strives to keep up with listeners’ tastes and needs, classical music mustn’t lag behind the curve. Many of the classical world’s leading figures have already embraced the sort of promotional strategies championed by pop artists. These activities include:
turning to social media to engage with their audience,
regularly posting updates on their activities,
re-designing their digital spaces to reflect current trends.
Strategies like these might seem quite simple and self-evident at first glance. That’s why it’s easy to underestimate their impact.
So, what are some things to consider when it comes to marketing yourself as a musician?
All the World’s a Stage
The first – and glaringly obvious – a benefit to strengthening your digital presence as a performing artist is that, suddenly, your audience almost instantly becomes broader and more varied.
Sharing what you do with others, whether it’s in the form of sleek performance announcements, behind-the-scenes snapshots from rehearsals, or even short practice videos, has a definitive impact. Regular social media activity and website updates increase exposure. This, in turn, may bump you to the top of somebody’s FYP.
Small tip: keep in mind that your profile or homepage functions as a Polaroid of sorts – a quick snapshot of who you are and what you’ve been up to. To capture people’s interest, make your page as visually impactful as possible.
Classical music has had a bad rep for gatekeeping for quite some time now – and you probably already know how much of an uphill battle the struggle to rectify that might seem sometimes.
Suppose you had to list some gatekeeping hallmarks of the classical music world. In that case, you’d probably start with things such as formal concert attire, the clinical language of many reviewers, or the stiff stage attitudes. However, in recent years, the lack of adequate digital marketing has also (unintentionally) functioned as an audience repeller of sorts.
Research conducted by the League of American Orchestras revealed that around 90% of classical concert-goer first-timers have no desire to go back. Pursuing this issue further, a research project based around audience habits of the California Symphony (Walnut Creek, CA) uncovered some surprising facts. Those unwilling to attend more than one of their concerts cited reasons much different than what was expected – unfamiliar repertoire. The orchestra’s executive director Aubrey Bergauer shared her insights: “It turned out everything else about the experience was off-putting, from trying to get information online to figuring out the unspoken rules about when to applaud.”
Difficulties that can sometimes follow a simple Google search concerning concert dates or orchestra tour venues often come from an organization or individual artist not having a robust digital footprint. Therefore, by making sure your profile is approachable, interesting (above all, make it fun!), and reliable, you are sure to reach your intended audience – and then some.
Regarding our previous point – keeping things light can sometimes have the opposite of an inviting effect. Remember to reconcile your wish to engage with a broader audience with a firm sense of who your core following consists of.
As Adrian Smith hilariously showcases in his article on how not to write about classical music, stuff like forced quirkiness, relying on cliches, or attempting to define classical music as way deeper than it actually is, is more likely to dissuade interested listeners than to attract them.
In other words, keep things real and be as genuine as possible.
Diversifying is Key
Social media sites have shown to be amazing platforms for connecting and sharing what makes you tick. However, there are several points to be made against relying exclusively on Facebook/Instagram/TikTok to market yourself as a musician.
For one, social media algorithms are notoriously tricky. All it takes is an update to completely disrupt your usual engagement rates – which can not only wound even the slightest of egos but also seriously damage your audience growth.
Additionally, the essence of social media consists of short updates, which makes for a pretty messy overview. Scrolling endlessly through an Instagram profile to learn about an artist’s most recent gigs, or see what they’re working on at the moment, is still considered an inconvenience by new fans, critics, and agents.
Lastly – with social media’s uniformity and basic profile limitations, it’s tough to make yourself stand out in a crowd.
That’s why it’s still crucial for aspiring musicians to have well-designed, and regularly maintained websites. For anyone who takes an interest in what you do, your website will be the first destination to visit.
A good website will have all your necessary info neatly organized and presented in an eye-catching way. And when it comes to presentation – websites remain the only digital spaces that can be entirely custom-designed. Feature as many videos as you want, or feature none. Write a 2000+ words biography, or arrange your past performances as a drop-down menu. Choose a design that aligns perfectly with your aesthetic.
This is not to say social media marketing is useless – far from it! Both types of channels have their advantages, and musicians should maintain both.
Think of your online presence as the most basic of counterpoints – with a sweet melodic voice in swift motion (social media) followed by a steady basso continuo accompaniment (websites).