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Arts & Culture

Promote Yourself: Top Tips on Becoming Evil Incarnate

minute read

If you are an artist, hopefully, this can give you a glimpse into what the process of promoting can look like (emphasis on 'can,' not 'should'). If you aren't an artist, perhaps you are a sadist who enjoys reading about other people's misery.

October 2, 2023

Being an artist can be gruelling.

Contrary to popular belief, artists aren't just weightless creatures that spend their days chasing butterflies in fields or kicking their feet in the air. A more accurate depiction would be a painter crying at 2 a.m. in the studio, second-guessing everything after countless hours of labor, or a writer spending years coming back to the same script only for them to wonder if it will ever be good enough to present to a production company.

Artists have the incredible ability to reach inside the deepest and most intangible parts of themselves and retrieve something beautiful that can be experienced by others. The wonderful thing is that art isn't born just from ideas but from the artist's journey itself. Despite the inherent rawness or beauty a work of art (or artist) possesses, 'success' isn't certain. The creation of the product is only half the work– an art career isn't sustainable if there are no hands, eyes, or ears waiting for your next project. Getting your work to your audience is the remaining part of the job.

In September, I released a single titled, ‘Again, Do It!’ from my upcoming album. Thus my search began, for ears specifically, but I remain open to any limbs in general.

If you are an artist, hopefully, this can give you a glimpse into what the process of promoting can look like (emphasis on 'can,' not 'should'). If you aren't an artist, perhaps you are a sadist who enjoys reading about other people's misery.

‘Jessikah Babe? Never heard of her.’

The ideal way to promote one's music would be to tour, but since that isn't an option for me right now, I started promoting with what I've got– a laptop and ten fingers.

To start the process, I made a list of radio stations, music magazines, music blogs, and playlist curator avenues that would potentially be interested in my music. I sat down at my kitchen table as fresh as a daisy at 11:30 a.m., ready to take on the world, and a full 15 hours later, I finally dismounted from my perch at 2:30 a.m. like Gollum, feeling nothing short of morally reprehensible. It felt underhanded to reach out to people with carefully calculated e-mails and shiny press kits to convince them to want me. Especially since I did it for 15 hours straight.

Nobody prepared me for how violating it would feel to not only be a salesperson for my work– but also the product being sold. After years of developing myself and my craft, it's morbid to have to put on the proverbial fishnets in an attempt to get someone… anyone… to want what I had to offer. Unfortunately, it's not enough to plainly present your work and say 'Here it is!'

I wish it was. That's why the whole promotion process feels so manipulative and dishonest.

I started my day writing blurbs for my website and making my press kit. That is when the tightrope walk began. When advertising yourself, you want to avoid coming off as arrogant, but at the same time, you don't want to be too vague or dismissive about what you have to offer. When it came to selecting press photos, I felt like both the beauty pageant child who didn’t want to be there and the overbearing beauty pageant mother. Once I finished tailoring my website and press kit, I began sending off the e-mails. I sent one e-mail after another and before I knew it, I felt like one of those desperate mall kiosk salespeople that follow your eyes as you try to avoid them. At this point, I wished someone would have shot me with a tranquilizer dart and put me out of my misery.

My villain era.

After I had reached my e-mail sending capacity, I took to Reddit to promote my song. There are subs dedicated to placing music on Spotify playlists, and many of them run off an algorithm. Once your song gets enough upvotes, it automatically gets placed on one of these playlists until it gets cycled out. The downside of these subs is that they are bursting at the seams with other desperate musicians promoting their music, so it isn't exactly a yellow brick road paved directly to fame.

After a while, every upvote button, subject bar, and comment section felt like a slot machine and made me feel more discouraged and exhausted than when I began. Sharing my music in these wastelands started with the sentiment of ‘please graciously lend your ears to my song, good sir’ and slowly devolved into ‘peepee poopoo listen to this!’ Shockingly, ‘peepee poopoo’ got more attention than my other posts did (thanks to the attention-grabbing title no doubt), cause it’s all about setting yourself apart, baby!

I was still in greedy salesperson mode when a precious and innocent user who made Minecraft music videos commented on one of my posts saying something along the lines of, ‘Great job with the music video. Wish I could do something this artistically good.’ Instead of just saying ‘Thanks!’ and moving along, I elbowed my way into his long-term memory archives by turning it into a 'meaningful' interaction so that he wouldn't forget about me and my music as soon as he closed the app. Satan himself possessed me and responded ‘Can I see some of your work?’ even though I didn't particularly care.

He responded with, ‘Omg, you’re one of the few people who ask back =) Here’s a link to some of the stuff I’ve made.’

At that moment staring vacantly at my screen like a hedge fund, I felt I proved to myself that I had what it takes to apply for a work visa in the United States, pay the appropriate fees, get accepted, get the necessary documentation, find an apartment in a nice neighborhood, book a one-way ticket, board the plane, land, unpack, apply for a job at a health insurance company, wait a couple of days until I hear back, get accepted, sit down at my desk on my first day, put away my lunch, boot up my computer, roll up my sleeves, and promptly deny health coverage to children dying from cancer.

I’m going to take the liberty of a keyboard smash right at this moment just to feel like I have some sense of humanity again K;AHJSDF AWEOIRQ OIAJF!!!

In the end, I actually enjoyed the Minecraft music videos, so I'm not completely evil incarnate. I don't want to experience the public self-flagellation that is self-promotion ever again! But... it is a necessary evil.

Selling my soul to playlist curators and fellow musicians.

In trying to make it into Earmilk’s prefrontal cortex, I stumbled upon a handy little gizmo called ‘SubmitHub.’ SubmitHub is a platform that allows you to send your music to websites, playlist curators, radio stations, blogs, and even influencers! I spent a couple of bucks chucking my song into different streams to see where I’d get a bite. So far, I haven't captured any interest, but I have gotten some valuable feedback from the people I sent it to. The general consensus seems to be that 'Again, Do It!' has some 'rocking grooves.' After I blew my money (ten dollars to be exact) and was left wondering where else I could squander my fortunes, I stumbled upon SubmitHub’s ‘Hot or Not’ rating system.

‘Hot or Not’ is like a glorified discussion board you see all the time in college where you have to comment on someone else’s post to get a grade. 'Hot or Not' randomly selects another user’s song, you listen to it, provide feedback in the comment section, rate it on the ‘Hot or Not’ slider, and move along to the next person. After you rate a certain amount of songs you get credits, and your music is shown to others to get rated. I thought this was an interesting (and free) way to promote my music, so I got to work.

The easy route would have been to fast forward through key moments of the song, drop in a few quick notes, and be on my merry way. However, I was conscious of the pitfalls of this whole gimmick and didn’t want to be ‘one of those people,’ so I tried to think of comments that weren’t surfacey and put some actual time and thought into my responses.

Even that air-tight plan turned into a nightmare of its own when it became just as convenient to drown the other musicians in deranged compliments and flaming praise, sprinkled in with a few spirited moments of CAPS LOCK!! At one point, I told a musician his stuff sounded like he was the kind of guy that would live in a mushroom, which wasn’t a lie because I truly felt that way and it did require me to think beyond the surface, but there are no consequences in ‘Hot or Not’ and I am permitted to make such comments. I could roll my empty skull across the keyboard for all they cared and still get my credits.

I got an email notification from the highly esteemed ‘Hot or Not’ less than an hour later and I was informed that I received my first comment on my song! Like a complete idiot, I actually let myself get excited for a moment. The commenter stated my opening lyric and said, 'Yes this is very good I can see the room for imagination here yes very moody and positive song.’

Ohhhh, so you listened to the intro and pressed skip? I'd rather be told I sound like I live in a mushroom.

The takeaway.

The biggest takeaway I got from the process is there isn't just one correct way to promote one's music. It requires a great deal of intuition and pattern recognition... and undeniable talent present in the work. Even if this first stint of promoting my music hasn't churned up immediate results (unless my song has suddenly hit the Billboard Hot 100 between now and checking my phone five minutes ago) it has shifted how I approach promotion in the future. One media outlet I spoke to, for example, doesn't care to write about singles since there are plenty of those to go around but is more inclined to do write-ups about albums. That piece of information alone made me do a reassessment of my process.

You have to spread your energy and resources wisely between maintaining your already existing fan base, acquiring more fans, networking with other musicians, and getting the attention of the industry as a whole. One of my greatest anti-inspirations for maintaining a fan base are the people who host live streams and say, 'I'm gonna wait a few more minutes for more people to show up before I start!'

No! If you have even one fan taking the time to show up and give you their attention, you better be putting on a good show. That mindset will grow your fan base, not waiting until they magically appear in your palms.

The psychological warfare of advertising unfolds.

Do you know why I wrote this article in the first place? Of course, it was a cathartic way for me to express my genuine distaste for promotion and advertising, but that's not all... this article was a long-winded piece of advertising to make myself memorable to you and to build a nest in your brain.

Do you know why I’m making this confession to you? To establish trust with you dear reader/piece-of-meat so that you are more inclined to support me because you believe I am honest and only ever have your best interests in mind. Establishing trust is essential in acquiring a customer base. You are a fool and I have swindled you.

There is nothing more cold and unfeeling than a face plastered on a billboard, no violation greater than the five seconds stolen from you before your YouTube video, and nothing more fraudulent than the photoshopped teeth in the before and after photos of toothpaste commercials. Regretfully, I have joined the ranks of these Decepticons and this article is my badge of honor. Please don't take for granted your civilized existence– I left my dignity behind in the aforementioned Reddit comment section. This conclusion is a call to action for you to go kiss someone you love, and whatever you do, please don't sell them any products! Xoxo, kiss kiss, hug hug, peepee poopoo, lovebombing, and world peace!


Jessikah Babe

Editor's Note**_ Listen to Jessikah's newest EP and find more of her work here!

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