Bent Out of Shape: The Art of Self-Promotion for Independent Artists

by Will Wallner
Posted Nov 7, 2012 at 11:05am

Yesterday was a special day for the United States, and for me personally. I just voted for the first time in the presidential election.

As I was voting, I thought about each candidate's campaign and couldn't help but think about the similarities between running for office and releasing music as an independent artist. Whether you're running for office or releasing your own music, it all comes down to self-promotion.

Having just released my first album last month, I will guide you through the process I went through to promote my album and create a buzz. In Los Angeles, I see many bands self-financing their recordings and releasing them independently. The level of success achieved always depends on how much work and resources you put into promoting your release. Regardless of genre, I believe this is true for all forms of modern music.

So let's start at the beginning. You've just finished your album and want to release it for the world to hear. The first step is to set up distribution. Distribution is the method for how the general public will be able to purchase your music. Lately, most people prefer to just release their music digitally through iTunes other digital retailers. Companies like Tunecore and CD Baby will do this for you.

After you have your distribution and release date, it's time to promote! Start by deciding what resources are available to you; by that, I mean how much money you have to spend on your promotion. It would be nice if we had the same budget as Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, but realistically you probably are looking at a slim budget. For that reason, it is important to spend your money wisely and figure out the best way to maximize your exposure. Here are some brief tips on how to spend your money wisely:

• Unless you have at least $10k in your budget, don't spend money on print or online banner ads.

• Consider advertising on Facebook to promote your page for as little at $1 a day. That's not a bad way to spend your money, as you can specify, in detail, your target audience.

• Don't waste your time or money on sending promo CD's and press kits to huge lists of media contacts. Instead, identify a few select magazines, website and radio stations that are tailored toward your style of music and focus your resources on those.

• Focus on building relationships with writers so you can get reviewed or featured in magazines for free, and maintain those relationships for future releases.

• Make a video! If you are a tight budget, you can just make a lyric video, but get something on YouTube.

• Make sure your social media and website look professional and are up to date. If you can't do it yourself, consider paying a student to help you.

It would be impossible to discuss in detail all aspects of promoting a release, but use these tips to get you started. The most important thing is to plan and be creative. If you have any ideas, leave me a comment on this blog post for other users to see. You also can email me at if you have questions or want to share ideas.

I was lucky enough to get signed to an indie label who helped me with promotion and financing for my release. In next week's blog post, I'm going to talk more about that and about how I got signed and how you should promote yourselves to record labels. Stay tuned!

Will Wallner is a guitarist from England now living in Los Angeles. He is the lead guitarist for White Wizzard (Earache Records) and in 2012 toured Japan, America and Canada. He recently signed a solo deal with Polish record label Metal Mind Productions for the release of his debut album, which features some of the most influential musicians from hard rock/heavy metal. Follow Will on Facebook and Twitter.

Add a Comment

Similar Guitar News

Art of Anarchy — with Scott Weiland and Bumblefoot — Premiere "‘Til the Dust Is Gone" Music Video (4/15/2015)
Today, presents the exclusive premiere of "‘Til the Dust Is Gone," the new music video by Art of Anarchy. The band—let's call it a "mega group," actually—features vocalist Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots, Velvet Revolver), gui...
Art Garfunkel Sets European, U.S., South Korea and U.K. Tour Dates (2/6/2015)
Iconic singer ART GARFUNKEL has confirmed a wide array of tour dates for 2015 including treks through South Korea, Europe, the U.S. and the U.K. The four various legs begin February 14 in S. Korea and run through September 24 in Scotland (full ...
Andy McKee “Art of Motion” Live — Exclusive Video (11/3/2014)
Recently we posted a live video of fingerstyle master Andy McKee performing his track “Mythmaker.” Today we’re excited to share another video; McKee’s “Art of Motion,” a composition from his 2009 release, Dreamcatcher. The clip was filmed backst...
Metal Mike: Just Sign Here — The Art of Protecting Yourself As a Musician (10/31/2014)
One important topic for musicians is the world of written agreements and how one’s services relate to the industry they work in. Let’s get the first thing out of the way: Most musicians hate talking about business and money. Or, should I say, th...
It Might Get Weird: Om Is Where the Art Is — Shawn Bowen’s OmCaster (9/3/2014)
The Om symbol means so much to Shawn Bowen that he has four tattooed on his body. When he decided to design a custom guitar to play with his bands Didges Christ SuperDrum and Stones of Madness, it was pretty much predetermined that he would mak...
The Recording King USA Custom Banjo Shop Creates One-of-a-Kind Art Pieces (8/7/2014)
Recording King's USA Custom Shop produces exquisitely crafted collectors' banjos handmade in the USA. The Custom Shop combines all the essential elements of classic Pre-War style banjos into one-of-a-kind instruments. Recording King's custom pr...
Exodus Reveal Cover Art for New Album, 'Blood In, Blood Out' (7/31/2014)
Legendary thrash metal band Exodus have revealed the art for their upcoming album, Blood In, Blood Out, which will be released in the fall via Nuclear Blast. The cover was illustrated by Swedish artist Par Olofsson, who also created the art for...
Art Garfunkel: the 10 records that changed my life (3/19/2014)
Read more about Art Garfunkel: the 10 records that changed my life at Recalling the
Steel Panther Reveal Cover Art, Track List and Release Date for New Album, 'All You Can Eat' (1/13/2014)
Steel Panther will release their third full-length album, All You Can Eat, April 1 in the U.S. via Open E Records (through distribution by Kobalt Music Group). The album will be available for pre-order online starting Tuesday, January 14. The d...
Paul Gilbert Discusses the Art of Shred Guitar (11/6/2013)
From the GW archive: This interview was originally published in the December 2010 issue of Guitar World. The legendary Racer X and Mr. Big guitarist chats with Guitar World about the art of shred guitar. GUITAR WORLD: For flat-out, unapologetic...
Art Guitar Exhibition ends this week (10/21/2013)
Read more about Art Guitar Exhibition ends this week at Graphic guitars for a great causeMarlow Art Guitars and the West London Art Factory have teamed up with a host of emerging artists including, Inkie, Pure Evil, Patrick Fisher...
School of Shred: Paul Gilbert Teaches an Isightful Lesson in the Art and Science of Lead Guitar Playing (10/15/2013)
When it comes to shred, few guitarists can rip like Paul Gilbert. As the driving force behind shred-progenitors Racer X and the chart-topping late-Eighties outfit Mr. Big, Gilbert dazzled with his unhuman fretboard range that included wide stret...
New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art Adds Custom PRS Guitar for Its Permanent Collection (10/11/2013)
On October 7, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City accepted a PRS guitar into its permanent collection. The presentation, a gift from Warren and Kateryna Esanu, included a public performance and guitar demo by PRS artist John McLaugh...
Five Weird Pieces of Art Based on Guitars (10/2/2013)
Luthiers are artists, and some guitars are real art. But what happens when an artist tries to make an actual piece of art out of a guitar? Sometimes it's functional — and a masterpiece. But sometimes it's a piece of, well, junk. In the photo ...
Corey Taylor: the art (and curse) of songwriting (9/19/2013)
Read more about Corey Taylor: the art (and curse) of songwriting at ACOUSTIC EXPO 2013: "I jump out of bed – mind racing, ideas buzzing, s--- popping out of a secret chamber in my freaky brain – with a bastard melody so stuck in m...
The art (and curse) of songwriting (9/17/2013)
Read more about The art (and curse) of songwriting at ACOUSTIC EXPO 2013: "I jump out of bed – mind racing, ideas buzzing, s--- popping out of a secret chamber in my freaky brain – with a bastard melody so stuck in my head that I ...