With the influence of Youtube and social media outlets such as Instagram, never before has the individual artist and entertainer had so much power to control their own narrative. Promoting your work is simply a few clicks at a keyboard, and, before you know it, you have laid the foundation for an entire business. One with you as both the talent and CEO.
In this post, I wanted to give you guys an idea of how I got started promoting and creating my own content; and the kinds of setups I used to help get me closer to where I want to be.
Mind you, I am not a millionaire, multi-hundred thousand follower influencer; by any means. But, in the space of a few months, I was able to gain an insta following of just around 12,400. For a good amount of that time I was able to maintain a dedicated engagement rate of 30%.
That is solid stuff for any aspiring artist’s purposes, and is super useful when you are trying to appeal to a niche. It lays the foundation for you to represent brands, or take people off app, creating “back-links” or pathways to your other websites.
Tools and tricks of the trade
Whatever your medium is, video, audio, blog, or live engagements, there are always the first steps every content creator needs to take in order to move toward that goal of growing their channel. I want to help inform artists about the kinds of things that worked for me, and help you avoid some of the smaller (and bigger) mistakes that I made along the way.
There’s no question about it, Instagram has become the standout platform for the way people share their daily lives in photos and short videos.
As a singer/songwriter, I wanted to expose my music and my personality in small, digestible bites that could flash in and out of people’s feeds and grab their attention (perfect for my ADD streak).
There are plenty of high ticket items that large influencers use to curate the most sleek, professional photographs; like high-priced cameras, hiring photographers, and rolling out major, targeted advertising campaigns. But if you are like me, and want to grow an audience organically and consistently, there are only a few items you need to get that really help you stand out.
- Have a smart-phone with a decent forward and backward facing camera. Instagram is mainly built around casual users who capture their day-to-day from the point of view of their smartphones. All of its dimensions and file sizes are optimized for phones like the iPhone and Galaxy S (among others). In this respect, a small upgrade can take you a long way; and without having to shell out for expensive cameras and editing equipment. I use an iPhone X, and have been for the better part of a year and a half. I don’t think that I will require another upgrade for many years to come, and the quality is great.
- For musicians who need to have free use of their hands, a good tripod with adaptable phone mount is a life saver. In the beginning, I simply went on amazon and chose the most inexpensive tripod I could find; from China. After a few weeks, it became apparent that the poor quality material made the mount inconsistent. That led to sagging and shifting of the phone (often having it fall over on me in the middle of a take). This kind of prompted me to dig in a little-bit and upgrade to a more establish tripod, like the JOBY GorillaPod 1K Kit with a cell phone mount (both pictured below). I initially bought the tripod for a heavier camera that I was using, but when I found out I needed a bit stronger tripod, I found out that it worked great for keeping my phone steady and secure.
- Lighting can be kind of important; especially if you want to do videos/pictures that feature your face up-close. One of my favorite ways to connect to my follower/audience is to do regular live-stream video feeds; taking requests, playing songs, and joking around with them as I go. For that, you want to put you best foot forward. Luckily, I didn’t have to really break the bank to get a really good options! I use something like this cool selfie light that my girlfriend picked up for me around 10 bucks (she’s the best).
And that’s kind of a great kicking off point for artists/creators to get their feet wet. As you progress, get more feedback, and grow your audience, you can kick things up a notch as you see fit…but as for equipment, this setup has treated me very well.
For the serious, audience-minded artists and content creators, Youtube is the natural next progress toward effective self- promotion. Some of the worlds current star talents got their start picking up a guitar and strumming/shouting in a Youtube video (Biebs and Carley Ray Jepsen among them).
But as the platform has evolved, so has the quality of content that has come along with it. Thought it’s not unusual to see a one-off phone video go viral, more likely than not, the videos that gain the most consistent viewership employ some relatively sophisticated toys. But not to fear, you frugal minded starving artists, with a little bit of persistence, you can find a quality sweet spot.
- The camera provides the most noticeable aspect that your viewership is going to come into contact with — video resolution. This tool is also probably going to represent the larger chunk of your operating budget. Great quality video adds an air of polished legitimacy to your program. The standard go-to tool for content creators in the Youtube space, is a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. These cameras combine the optics of “single reflex” cameras (used in professional photography) with digital imagine sensors (instead of film). this means that you are going to be able to program all of the settings to feature yourself just the way you like, monitor your content in real-time, and store/transfer that content digitally.
These kinds of cameras can run a prospecting creator thousands of dollars, and using them can involve hours of technical know-how. The camera I chose stands out as being one of the most celebrated go-tos on the Youtube platform, in the Canon EOS 70D. The best thing about this tool, is that it runs the gamut, including all of the neccessary features like an adjustable monitoring screen, multiple lens options, video and image optimization software, and HD 1080p quality picture. Better yet, since there is now a generation step up from the 70D, there are serious deals to be found on camera bodies and body packages. This was one of the main cameras of popular bloggers like Casey Niestat for many years.
- For vlogging, I pair this camera with a sturdy tripod in the JOBY GorillaPod 3K Kit. This ensures that you can take the camera with you wherever you go; mounting it where you need. Or you can use it to capture yourself, without needing a second person to take footage. 3K just means that you are able to mount a camera rig that is up to 3 kilograms, which is important when you consider adding flashes or microphones.
- As a singer who also has a penchant for the world of podcasts, I wanted a fairly dependable mic that I knew worked, but that didn’t go too overboard on price. There are a lot of good, cheap options for you to consider, but I went with the Blue Yeti USB pro edition, because I could plug it right into my computers and start creating on pro-tools/garageband. I know for some vloggers on Youtube, especially those who find themselves out in the field, they find that the camera mounted Rode VideoMic is the way to go. These are called “shotgun mics” because they record in a cardioid pattern, only in front of the space where they are pointed. This is great for interview style vlogging and live video recording alike.
So, blogging obviously holds a place close to my heart.
If you have the gift for effective writing, you can help to make changes in places where things really matter — in people’s minds, and in their ideas. Blogging is a great way to get the word out, and to connected yourself to a larger world within your niche.
It is also a super great marketing tool! You can use a blog to promote your art, or to help promote brands that appeal to your subscribers.
If you are an expert in a field, and you want to create a resource for people to come back to use again and again, blogging is one of the best ways to go about it.
For me, the best platform available to create and maintain your blog site is WordPress (it’s what I use to write this blog). They have various options, ranging from the free personal blogger to the committed business subscriptions. No matter which you choose, the value you get in analytics, user experience, availability of themes and apps, ability to monetize your content, offerings for advice, and SEO optimization blow the costs out of the water.
Regardless of what medium you are working in, the best way to market yourself, and your art, is by creating content that people enjoy on a consistent basis. Let them know when they can hear from you, and what you have coming down the pike.
Also spend a good amount of focus building up your core group of followers. A strong base is great to be able to count on as a springboard for new ideas, without having to worry about a fickle response. Find whatever that means to you! For me, as I said earlier, that mean engaging with the 20 or so dedicated listeners to my live stream jam sessions. The more you put your art in front of people, the more people are going to remember.
I hope some of these tips and products were helpful to you guys. If you have experience with any of them, let me know!