There is only so much promotion you can do

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I write a lot about strategies for a musician — digital strategysocial media strategyemail strategyrelease strategy — and the world wide web is full of more advice for musicians than you’d ever have time to implement. It’s overwhelming. This is a theme to which I hope I’ve devoted enough time even as I talked about strategies. There is one huge piece of wisdom to understand:

There is only so much promotion you can do.

No, really. Meditate on that. Let that become your mantra. Do what you need to do but leave some space to breathe.

When your band or your music project is new, you’ll have more energy. Go do all the promoting you can then. But as you settle into a groove of writing, recording, and playing live, don’t punish yourself by thinking that you still have to do all the promoting you did when you started. Don’t think you’re missing out on that crucial Tumblr audience or not hanging enough flyers.

There is only so much promotion you can do.

You’re going to find other bands in your peer group that seem to have more energy than you. They’ll always be promoting. Their Instagrams get more likes than yours. They seem to book better shows. Don’t let this discourage you. More importantly, don’t let it make you think that you should be doing all they’re doing.

There is only so much promotion you can do.

Haven’t you noticed that those individuals with all the advice about “never stop dreaming” and “always be promoting” don’t seem to create anything but hustle? That attitude is poisonous to art. Do what you should. But don’t let the promotion consume you. Often bands have a strong personality or two who naturally gravitate towards that promotion, but (probably more often) bands are full of introverts who are unnerved by having to talk about themselves as an object. That’s okay.

There is only so much promotion you can do.

Since I’ve been writing this column for SongCast, I’ve focused on making music for the long term, not flash-in-pan success. Music, and art itself, isn’t sustained by chasing lightning. I focus on the slow burn and how to avoid the burnout.

This past week on Bukowski’s birthday, I saw someone share a line of a poem of his as writing advice: “unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket…don’t do it.”

I prefer Picasso’s advice:

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.

That work you’re doing in anticipation of inspiration is your art. If all you work at is promotion, that’s what you’ll become good at, not the art.

There is only so much promotion you can do.


Todd A has a Twitter profile and an email list. But that’s it. Read more of his thoughts on making music in the 21st century at the SongCast Indie Artist Insider.

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