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Exposure Is Overrated

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

"I've got amazing music, I just need to figure out how get more exposure."

Who among us hasn't had a thought along these lines. As a lifelong musician, publicist, and radio promoter, I've worked with and talked to hundreds (maybe even thousands) of bands and heard this sentiment countless times.

When I think back on my nearly two decades (oof) in music, I see one consistent differentiator between artists who made money and artists who didn't. I promise you, it's not exposure. It's also not industry connections, good looks, or trying to make trendy, relevant music.

It's community.

Obviously, I'm not out here claiming that promotion isn't an essential tool for releasing albums, but nothing creates more growth and opportunity for a band or artist like community. In fact, the very best promoters take their cues from community building.

Community can take the shape of passionate fans (even one or two real ones is a great start), friendly bands who love what you do, local music writers and radio DJs, or local promoters and talent buyers. Basically anyone who is excited about what you do. I see nurturing these relationships as the single most important work you do as an artist, after making music, that is. At the risk of cheapening the rich and fulfilling boon that community around your music can be, I'd go so far as to say nurturing your community the most powerful marketing strategy available to you.

The crazy thing about community is that you can't really fake it. You can go network with other bands, but unless you're really passionate about their music, it'll just be weird and gross. One great way to build community is to be a fan and to show up. Don't bother networking with artists and labels unless you truly love what they're putting out. Following music that brings you joy is a great way to find yourself among your very favorite people--the kind of people who are most likely to get excited about what you're doing.

The very best way to build community around your music is to pay attention to who supports your work, connect to them somehow (social media, or getting them on your email list, if that seems right), and shower them in gratitude and support. Show the love back. Comment on their posts and call them out by name from the stage. Make it so that being your super-fan the most fun thing ever, and watch your list of super-fans grow.

So back to exposure. Exposure is only as good as what you do with it. Exposure that comes from promotion leads to periods of increased activity. But the goal of these exciting periods is to convert the people who hear about your music into community members, who will shout out and buy your records for decades to come.

Sending out your music to hundreds of college radio DJs and hounding them to add your record to ratio rotation is great. Having your record chart in the top 200 on the NAC charts is great. But by now, you should know intuitively that this is only the first step.

Here at Little Red Radio, in addition to maintaining an exhaustive list of radio station contacts, we maintain another essential tool, which is a list of college radio DJs social media accounts. This way, when we see that one of our artists is getting airplay, we're able to have them directly follow the DJs who are showing them love so they can start a relationship of their own.

We also create animated reels and TikTok videos that show when an album is charting so our artists can co-post with stations and DJ's. This helps add celebratory points of contact between a band and a station, exposes the band to station's listeners and DJ's friends who might not have caught their music, and gives the band's followers the pleasure of watching one of their favorite local bands blowing up on the radio in other cities.

My point in sharing this is to illustrate that every action you take as an artist can be more powerful if you take a step back and rethink your plan with the primary goal of building community. Say it back - exposure really doesn't hold a candle to community.

Hope these ideas are helpful! If you love what you're reading and want to sign up to get notified when we post new helpful articles, sign up for our email list!

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