Ask Damian Erskine: A Series of Questions on Promotion and Life as a Musician

I was recently emailed a list of questions by a student working on their dissertation. I enjoyed the dialogue and thought they might be useful to the general public as well. With his permission, I’m going to make this weeks post our quick Q&A.

1. In your experience what has been the most effective way of self-promotion?

A: The only way I’ve been able to effectively promote myself (without a budget for people to help me) is through an online presence. Not only is it important to maintain a certain amount of saturation but, in order to really make anything happen for you, one must develop relationships with people online. I think a lot of people forget about the social part of social networking. It doesn’t mean anything if you are only shooting out information about gigs, etc., unless they are already fans, most folks tune that stuff out pretty quickly unless there’s also a personal connection.

2. What is the best way to raise artistic profile?

A: I’d have to say the quality always speaks for itself. When what you are doing is of a higher quality than a decent percentage of what’s out there, you’ll make a dent. We are saturated by every person that has a band. There’s no difference from one Myspace page to the next, with exception to the music in the player. That’s got to speak for itself.

3. Have technological advances helped or hindered artist development?

A: I think it has certainly helped. More control over our destiny is nice, but it’s also flooded the market. It’s also made merchandise closer to obsolete than it’s ever been for all but the top percentile (the huge bands).

4. Is having an online presence important?

A: Definitely. Even if you’re already touring a lot, you still need to be visible to the world. It’s expected these days.

5. Are record labels still necessary for the promotion of an artist/album?

A: Well, yes and no. We don’t need them like we did, but nobody can match their budgets, and they’ll always be able to do more for an artist than they can do for themselves.

6. How has the economic climate affected DIY musicians?

A: There will always be music. There are fewer corporate gigs but, in times of crisis of any kind, the arts always seem to take over and define the times we live in. Sometimes there’s more corporate work and, therefore, big budgets for music (as well as arts societies, etc.) and sometimes it’s more about the art than the dollar and more creative forms of music seem to take off and re-inspire the market eventually.

7. What advice would you give to someone leaving an academic facility and wanting to pursue music as a career?

A: Stay in school and become a professor! Well, I’m only half joking. The truth is… it is very hard. A lot of people think they want it but don’t truly want to put in the obsessive work necessary to both develop as an artist of any kind and promote yourself. It has to be your very first priority in life for it to work. Your passion has to be both your work and your release.

Have a question for Damian Erskine? Send it to [email protected]. Check out Damian’s instructional books, Right Hand Drive and The Improviser’s Path.

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  1. great 411 damian. i would suggest this video. very telling as well as helpful.