I've been looking forward to writing this piece, especially after the previous entries on what to do in the world of music photography. This subject is something I've given a lot of thought and practice to over the years. We're talking about self promotion and how it is vital to your role as a music photographer.
SELF PROMOTION IS SURVIVAL
Write those four words down and memorize them. Whenever you are in doubt or self conscious about promoting your own work, go back to them until the meaning sticks with you. Self promotion is survival. Self promotion is survival. Self promotional is survival.
I cannot stress this enough. You better be prepared to be Vince McMahon when it comes to your work because no one else is going to go that far for you.
If you do not self promote your own work then why should anyone else do it? You have to be the one that gets out in front of everything and put your creation into the world. You have to take charge. You have to be the driving force.
It doesn't matter if people tell you they hate the fact you hype your work. It doesn't matter if people look disgusted with what you're doing.
Forget them. Leave them in the dust. They are worthless. You don't need them in your life.
That might sound harsh, but that is coming from experience. You have to be aggressive about this. I have zero apologies for telling that to people who have the audacity to blast someone for promoting their own work. Their worlds need to be shattered by the truth.
Building your brand
Some people might scoff at the concept of "brands", but, well, like I said earlier, forget them. They are of no use to you right now.
You must build your brand to suit what you want to do in terms of music photography. Your brand is your identity. Your brand is what you put out into the world.
Determine what you want people to think of when they hear your name in regards to music photography. Determine what they want to see. Determine what they want to feel.
Choose colors that suit what you want. Create a logo that tells people this is who you are. Craft an identity that establishes your place in this crazy world of music photography.
Promoting starts at the show itself
Once you've determined what you want to do with your brand, it's time to get to promoting. There are numerous ways to get the word out about your music photography. Promoting really starts at the concert/show level.
I encourage everyone to promote themselves while waiting for a show to begin. This can be accomplished by mingling in the crowd, passing out business cards, or simply striking up conversations with the crowd. Business cards should have your website address, contact information, and something visually striking to get people interested in what you are doing.
When you go into the pit and have a few moments before the act takes the stage, you can talk to the fans closest to the stage. They are the ones that have been their the longest and are most likely the ones that will be most interested in your work. I've gotten to the point of passing out custom made wristbands to fans up front. The wristbands have my website address on them, and I've discovered its far easier for someone to check a site on a wristband than it is to check a site on a business card received at a concert.
I wear a wristband with my website information at all times in the event someone sees it and strikes up a conversation about it. I can then easily give the wristband to them so they'll be able to visit the site when they wish to do so. The photo you see on this page is of me wearing one of my wristbands.
Don't stop there, though. Get creative with ways to promote yourself at a show. I've seen people make custom t-shirts and have their information or logo on the back so, when they are shooting, the crowd is seeing all of those important details.
Now, of course, sometimes you wont' be able to do this based on the restrictions of the show. You do always have to play within the rules given to you. The general idea, though, is to tell people "Hey, here is where you can see photos from tonight's show. I'd love for you to check them out when you get a chance".
If you can't do that, step aside and get out of the game now.
Promoting after a show is the most important
When the photos have been edited and transmitted to the outlet who has sent you to the show, it's now time for the real promotion to begin.
You need to have a solid strategy for how you promote your work after a show, especially if you are able to distribute the photos online without any contractual restrictions. This strategy includes your website solution along with a social media solution.
All promotion should be done with the intention of driving people to your website. That is your top goal. You want people there to see the work of your most recent show, and, in a perfect world, stay around to see all the other work you have done. Everything should be done with that in mind.
That being said, I'll probably do a separate piece on website construction and design for music photographers at another point in time. There's a bunch to go into in regards to that, including things like search engine optimization. Until then, though, remember that having a website or stable online presence is key.
To get people to your website, you need to drive them through social media and any other outlet you can find. That means having, at least, an established Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram presence. Tumblr is another good method to use. Maybe Youtube, Pinterest, or another outlet works best for you. The user names need to be uniform across the board and, they all need to link back to a central website.
If you don't like using social media to promote things, I'm sorry. You're in the wrong field. That's the reality we live in so you best get with the program now.
My usual schedule works something like this:
- After editing and transmitting, I post 1-2 sneak preview shots on Twitter and Facebook. This gets people excited and knowing that the full galleries will come the next day.
- I will build the website gallery the following morning. This includes uploading the photos and writing a brief recap about the show.
- I'll also do a blog post to go along with the gallery. The blog post will link back to the gallery in multiple ways because that's just one more site people can find out there that will link back to your primary work.
- I'll then push the gallery through Google+, my Facebook page, share it to my profile, do a Twitter announcement, and then put up a couple shots on Instagram.
- I'll then share it to various other Facebook pages, such as the ones for the band and venue. I'll also include the band and venue in any tweets about the gallery for possible retweets.
Now there might be some variations to this schedule, but this is what I typically do for each gallery I put online. It's a method I'm happy with implementing and results have been positive. Most importantly, though, everything I do is linking back to my primary site.
You, however, need to find a method that is comfortable for what you are doing. Tweak it to suit you and your needs.
In closing... you should get to promoting
I've probably just scratched the surface on what to do in terms of promotion yourself and your work as a music photographer, but I hope this is a good idea of what you should be doing.
Besides, you should be out there promoting your creations and what works for you instead of relying on what works for someone else. As with anything in photography, you have to get out there and do the work yourself.
I hope this has helped and, as always, if you have more specific questions, I'll be happy to answer them.
Be on the look out for my next advice post as I'll be discussing what to do in terms of getting rejected.