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How to Promote Your Music on MP3.com for (Almost) Nothing
Article by David Nevue - Midnight Rain Productions - April 29th, 2002

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Internet Music Promotion 101

In one of my recent articles,
Selling More CDs Online: A Three-Pronged Approach, I stated I was able to generate over 50,000 song listens at MP3.com using 'basic, simple, inexpensive' promotion strategies. This comment generated a few inquiries from readers. Namely, what exactly do I mean by 'inexpensive' promotion? Am I talking about the promo auctions MP3.com offers? Because those aren't cheap.

Out-Charting Alanis
Before I outline my own MP3.com promotion strategy, let me share with you some of my personal results. On April 11th, I hit a milestone with my music on MP3.com, generating over 10,000 song listens in one single day. That's right, over 10,000 song listens in one day. On that same day, I sold 16 MP3 CDs, had the #1 and #2 songs on the Classical charts, and nine songs in the Easy Listening Top 40. One of my songs was the #11 song on all of MP3.com, topping both Alanis Morissette and Hoobastank. Guess how much I spent, out-of-pocket, for that kind of visibility? Absolutely nothing. Zero. Not a dime. How did it happen? One word: Exposure.

You see, success on MP3.com is all about exposure. As you begin your promotion campaign on MP3.com, throw out any notion that your end-goal is to make money. If your only reason for being on MP3.com is to make money, you will surely be disappointed. Or, at the very most, your success will be short-lived. However, if your intent is to create
name recognition, to create a brand for your music and to create exposure and industry opportunities for yourself, that is something that is reasonable and achievable.

Building a Foundation
That said, how can you promote your music on MP3.com for 'almost' nothing, as the title of this article says?

The first thing you must do is lay a foundation of song plays. You need to create a means by which your songs are being listened to every single day. How?

#1) Get Your Fans Involved!
You have fans don't you? Do they know you have an MP3.com site? Have you created an MP3.com station for them to conveniently listen to your music when they want? Are you keeping them informed through an email list? Are you uploading new music for them to give you feedback on? Fans are a very powerful asset to any performing artist. Most people are
very emotionally attached to the music they love. Take that emotional energy and use it to your advantage.

As you gain exposure at MP3.com, more people will find you and your music. Many of them will e-mail you from your artist page to tell you how much they love it. Respond to them, build a relationship, and by all means get their e-mail address. Add them to your fan e-mail list, and send them your newsletter once a month. Let them know when you upload new songs to MP3.com. Create new CDs and promote them via your e-mail list. Not only will new fans from MP3.com take part in what you’re doing, but old fans from your pre-MP3.com days will as well. Imagine if one of your favorite bands uploaded new music to MP3.com that you could download or listen to for free? Wouldn’t that excite you? Well, it will excite your fans, too.

Use MP3.com's tools to create new CD compilations, Internet-only CD releases, or even ‘best of’ CDs. This will encourage your fans to buy CDs via MP3.com, and that’s good. Because the more CDs you sell, the better your chart position, the more playback earnings you’ll make, the more new fans you’ll hear from, and the more CDs you’ll sell. As you can see it’s an ever-widening circle which can, if your music is worthy of it, take on a life of its own.

#2) Create and Promote Your Own MP3.com Radio Station.
I suggest creating your own and promoting it through a network of web sites and newsletters. I promote my station, '
Solo Piano - Whisperings', through our own web site network as well as our various email publications. In the article mentioned above, I talk about the 'three prongs' of promotion. I use all three prongs to promote my music. Also, see my articles, MP3.com: A Case Study For Musicians On The Fence, and Selling Your Music on the Net: Key Strategies to Success for more on the general topic of online music promotion. For a very detailed, step-by-step guide to online music promotion, see my book, How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet.

Artist Cash Is NOT Money!
As you generate song plays via fans, stations, and MP3.com chart positions, you create 'Artist Cash'. That is, the 'money' you earn through MP3.com's pay-for-play program (this requires that you are signed up as a 'premium artist'). However, you must not think of your Artist Cash account as real money. Think of it as 'credit' earned to promote yourself on MP3.com. This is a necessary mind-set to have as you take the next step, using the MP3 Promo Auctions, to promote your music.

MP3.com Promo Auctions
Now that you have built a foundation, let's talk about promotion. Once you have built up your Artist Cash you can begin working the MP3 Promo Auctions. The MP3.com promo auctions are a tool, that when used correctly, can help you create a brand for yourself on MP3.com. I use them regularly, and so does most everyone that finds any level of success on MP3.com.

However, it costs money to bid on these auctions. Sometimes, a LOT of money, which is why you
don't use your money to bid. You use your Artist Cash earnings. You have to throw out the idea that Artist Cash is money. It's not in your pocket yet - it's just a number in the MP3.com database. Forget about it as money. It's not real. It's promotion credit!

That doesn't mean you throw your Artist Cash earnings blindly to the wind, bidding on everything and anything that comes along. You still have to be wise with your credit. Watch the promo auctions every week for your particular genre and get a feel for what promotion spots usually go for. Take the time to
investigate and observe. When I first started using the auctions, I watched the artists that won, bookmarked their stats page, and then kept an eye on what effect, if any, the promo spot had on their earnings. You ought to do the same thing. Watch and learn from others mistakes.

Which Promo Auctions?
In terms of the auctions, the best buy for the money, as far as I can tell, is promoting using the 'Messenger' promotions. The reason it's so good is that you can decide ahead of time what your bid limit is (what you think it's worth) and then go for it. If you don't get the top bid, you don't lose any money. If you win, your song recommendation gets emailed out to a few thousand people. That generally results in a
short-term spike in your stats and earnings. The plays you receive however, will help boost your song, to a limited degree, on the MP3.com charts.

most effective auction, as far as I can determine, is the 'genre' page auction. If you win the #1 spot in your genre, you'll see a significant spike in your stats for the first week, which will boost your song on the charts, and that initial momentum will keep feeding your earnings for two or three weeks thereafter. However, there is a serious disadvantage to bidding on the genre page auctions. It's going to cost you a good chunk of your Artist Earnings, and if you bid high to get the #1 position, but lose, you will have spent a lot of money to be in position #2 or #3, which, in my experience, usually aren't worth what you end up paying for them.

The genre auctions are
excellent if you get the #1 spot, but if you don't, then you're left paying too much for the lesser spots. The nice thing about the Messenger option, as well as most of the others, is that if you don't win, you don't lose. You either get it, or you don't.

How Much Should You Bid?
The amount you can expect to bid is going to vary depending upon the genre, and even the week. Sometimes promo spots go for a lot, sometimes not too much. This is why you need to spend your time investigating other artists results before you actually start bidding. Watch and learn. Then, be ready to pounce on an auction when a good deal is available.

What I generally do is figure out how much I'm make in a given week from MP3.com, and set aside 75% of that for bidding. If I don't win that week, the next week I can bid that weeks earnings, plus the previous weeks. So, the first week maybe my limit is $40, but the next, I'll be up to $70, the next, I can opt to bid up to $100-$120 if I want, and so on.

I use the Messenger auction most frequently, bidding on those just about every week. Sometimes I win, sometimes I don't. About once per month I go for the genre spots.

By using this method I've been able to generate, on average, 1000-2000 song plays a day. And in my mind, the promotion is basically free, since I'm Artist Cash to bid, which isn't real money.

So, when I say 'inexpensive', that's what I mean. I've spent very little out-of-pocket cash on MP3.com promotions. It's all been earned promotion credit, what MP3.com calls 'Artist Cash.' That's how I go about doing 50,000 song plays in a month.

The 'Cumulative' Effect
The whole MP3.com auction thing takes a few weeks to get into the
swing of things, and you may want to make an up front financial investment (
after you've done some investigating) to get the ball rolling. However, once you do, you can keep it going with a a little financial 'push' now and then. The effect you will see on your stats is cumulative. After one auction, your stats might go up a bit, after the next they'll go up a bit more, and so on. If you continue to promote yourself, over time you'll find your average song plays per day continues to grow.

It's Still About The Music!
Everything I've told you so far might give you the impression that anyone can buy success on MP3.com using these steps. This is not true. Your music still has to be
quality music that people will want to buy. Why? Because if your promotion efforts don't result in the sale of MP3 CDs, you'll dig yourself into an Artist Cash hole. When you sell an MP3 CD, it give your songs a boost on the charts, and not just one song, but every song on that CD. If you have twelve songs on your album, and make a sale, all twelve songs get a chart boost. That means more song plays, and more earnings. Sell three CDs, and your music goes up the charts that much more. Sell twenty or thirty in a month and you're doing well. If you're not selling MP3 CDs in spite of all your promotion efforts, it's going to be much harder to stay on the charts and you'll end up in the hole. The charts are where most of your song plays are going to come from, and that's where most all of your exposure to new listeners is going to be.

You've also got to keep making music, because the more songs you have, and the more CDs you can offer to your fans, the more CD sales you will make, and the more songs you'll have climbing the charts as you make a sale. This is all cumulative, and all contributes to a gradual increase in song plays, CD sales, and exposure.

The Difference Exposure Makes
So, how did all this result in my reaching over 10,000 song plays in one day? It's the result of pure
exposure. Through my involvement in MP3.com auctions and the resulting CD sales and chart positions, I've been able to create a recognizable brand name within my genre. And the good people over MP3.com that make up the featured playlists see my work, listen to it, and regularly include my songs in their featured genre playlists. On this particular occasion, they featured one of my songs in their Classical/Jazz newsletter with my picture and a short blurb about my CD. This newsletter went out to thousands of MP3.com Classical/Jazz fans. Many listened to the featured song (and my other songs), and bought the CD, pushing ALL my songs way up the charts. This resulted in over 10,000 song plays the next day. Had I not been promoting my music on MP3.com, creating exposure through the various means mentioned here, I am certain my music would have never been noticed by the MP3.com staff, and never chosen to be featured in their newsletter.

Remember, promoting on MP3.com is all about
exposure, not making money. As a direct result of my time promoting my music on MP3.com over the last 18 months, I've had my music used in film projects, presentations, radio programs, and I've even had the opportunity to negotiate a couple contract offers from distributors.

If your music is good music, and music that people will pay to own, you can take the very same approach as I have and with time, wisdom, and a little persistence you can do the very same thing.


David Nevue is the founder of The Music Biz Academy. He is also a professional pianist, recording artist, full-time Internet musician, and author of the book, "How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet."

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