Promoting Indie Media: Getting Started

Posted on April 6, 2010


Whether you are taking the do it yourself route in distributing your music or film by choice or by necessity really makes no difference. But how you do it, right from the beginning, makes all the difference. I was formally introduced to the modern version of the Renaissance that is going on now in entertainment marketing when I attended the Future of Music Conference in Washington last year. Since then I have been intrigued by the challenges and opportunities that face independent artists and have been thinking about various approaches that can be taken to achieve exposure for your work in a way that that offers maximum effectiveness on a DIY (translate small) budget.

Having been a freelance writer for many years I was already familiar with these challenges and opportunities from the perspective of a writer. The evolution of the distribution model created by the internet is pretty much the same for music, film and writing. The web put everyone from occasional blogger to seasoned journalist onto the same shelf in the global mall with roughly equal access to an exponentially growing market. Suddenly though, everyone expected everything to be free. So we went from a model where a few (in relative terms) media outlets such as book publishers, newspapers and magazines controlled the entire market and served as gatekeepers between aspiring writers and the mass market to a position where those gatekeepers were removed but those nice fat paychecks that went along with being published in the old days were gone. The same thing happened in music and now in film.

The old media structure tried to adapt and was reasonably successful. They relied on their established brand more than anything else and for the most part that served them well. The media giants still command the attention of the majority of the audience. Where they found it difficult to adapt was in earning the same kind of money as they used to for their products. With the market now open to anyone their command of the income stream via advertising was broken. Advertisers realized they could spend a penny a click to advertise on millions of independent web pages and reach the same audience as paying major media sites $10 a click for the privilege of appearing on their websites.

The ability to get paid for your efforts via web advertising was great. I had a climate change/alternative energy blog back then that was earning me around $300 a month from google ads. It was the most consistent money I had made from writing in a long time. The requirements were just to build a huge audience and keep that audience. I wanted something different though so I pretty much abandoned that blog after a while. I just had too many interests which didn’t go well together. I turned to writing articles on indie music and theater for to test the waters there. On that site I didn’t get paid but the exposure was pretty good.

That seems to be pretty much where we are at with things today. You either have to give everything you do away in order to try to gain exposure or else try to stick to your guns and sell what you create only to find that you don’t make enough to live on doing it. Big companies have the money to turn almost anything into a success. That is what it is all about isn’t it? It takes money to make money and with a nice bankroll you can turn a profit on just about anything. Any book on starting a business lists the main requirement at the get go as being capital.

The DIY model though assumes you have little to no capital to put toward marketing your product and many DIY gurus try to sell you on the fact that you can achieve huge success with your business (after all, you are a business) with “nothing down”. Think about that one. Yes, there are a lot of things you can do on a small budget but there are a load of infomercials out there trying to sell you the secret to riches on the web or in real estate or a hundred other areas. Do they work? My question has always been; if these get rich quick methods work so well then why do their originators have to spend the time and money to sell you the secrets? You would think that they already would have enough via their own utilization of the methods they are trying to sell you, wouldn’t you?

The first secret to DIY success is to see yourself as a business; to act like one and think like one. The second is to realize that operating a business takes work, lots of work. If you don’t want to end up spending more time on marketing your product than you do on creating the product then you have to realize you are going to need help. Help costs money. Writers have agents and bands have managers who can do most of the sales and marketing in order to free the artists time so they can devote more of it to producing their product. Who do filmmakers have to take on this role though? For the most pert you don’t see many film managers out there who do the job in the same way a band manager does and yet the needs are pretty much the same in both industries today.

In the next installment I want to take a look at the tools that are available to market your product on the web and off and begin to create real world models to illustrate how to best utilize each one on a small budget.