How do I promote myself as an artist?
Any way you can. Success in the music business at any level requires dedication, persistence, energy, and passion. It simply isn't good business to wait for an audience to find you. You must reach out to your audience and find them.
Do your homework. Read books and articles. Talk to successful artists in your area, and borrow their techniques. Most importantly, you must take charge of your own career development. Don't sit around waiting for a Brain Epstein to come along and make everything ok while doing all the work. You will likely be waiting a long time. Do it yourself!
How do I get my music on the radio?
Radio has always been one of the most difficult nuts to crack in the music industry, and with many radio stations now being owned by a small number of corporations that make centralized programming decisions - it's not getting any easier.
It's not impossible, though. Try making contact with college or public radio stations in your area (in the U.S. these are stations on the FM dial that have frequencies in the 80's) that play your kind of music.
Many commercial stations have local and new music 'specialty' shows (usually on Sunday nights). Find out who at the station is responsible for programming these shows, and try to get your music in their hands. The DJ's on these shows usually pick which music they play - unlike every other DJ you hear at other times, by the way. The days of DJ;s choosing their own music are long gone. Those decisions are now made by Music Directors and Program Directors.
Try to make friends and allies at your local stations. Go to the station and bring them food. Offer to play at any live charity functions they may be sponsoring. Be creative - if you can win them over as fans, they may bebable to help you along the way.
How can I build a fan base?
Get out there and work at it. Offer to play clubs for free that are reluctant to book you. If you win over the crowd (or bring a healthy crowd of your own) they'll have you back. Do this in an ever-widening regional circle, returning on a regular basis, and you will eventually build a regional fan base.
Build and maintain a database of ground and e-mail addresses of your fans. Always look for opportunities to add names to your mailing list. Keep them up to date on your gigs and any other important news. Offer free tickets, t-shirts or other incentives.
Put together a "street team" of fans in areas where you play who can help promote your shows, and spread the word. Many young, die-hard fans will work like crazy just to be recognized, included on the guest list, and be considered something of an insider.
When producing CDs for sale, be sure to include a Universal Product Code (aka a "bar code") and register your product with Soundscan (the service used to track record sales). This allows A&R research people at record companies to notice and track your sales from their offices.
Be creative. Go where your audience is. Does your music appeal to high school students? Play lunchtime shows at high schools. Or shopping malls.
Trade gigs with like-minded bands in your general region. Offer to have them open for you at clubs where you draw well. In return you open for them in their strong areas.
There isn't any one road map or required way to build a following. There are techniques that work well, but you are free to come up with your own ideas, too.
Do I need to hire an outside marketing company?
Probably not. It doesn't require an expert to do the kinds of self-promotion that many artists have used to achieve local and regional success.
If you do decide to hire a marketing or promotional consultant, make sure that your goals are absolutely clear, specific, and agreed upon by both parties. Most importantly, make sure that results are verifiable. There are quite a few unscrupulous radio promotion people out there, for example, who will generate false airplay reports. Make sure airplay (aka 'spins') can be verified by the airplay monitoring service, BDS. You should also personally call and verify that all radio stations that are supposed to playing your music, are actually doing so.
How do I book my own gigs?
Call club owners and bookers and send them a CD. Offer to play for free if they are reluctant to take a chance on you at first. Offer to trade gigs with popular bands from nearby towns. When you get a gig, market the heck out of it and get a comprehensive mailing list of your fans.
How do I get a booking agent to book gigs for me?
Booking agents can be hard to come by. Ask club owners and bookers at suitable venues for your kind of music which booking agents they work with. Make contact and send them a CD. All the better if you can show that you are already drawing well on your own.
Ask touring bands (signed and unsigned) that come to your town who their booking agent is. See if they will contact them for you, or simply give you their number. Then go to work.