CreativityMusicMusic Business

Why Is Self-Promotion So Challenging for Musicians?

Is self-promotion the most difficult aspect of creative work? For me, it seems to be. Why is this? We can start with some general reasons that are not specific to creative endeavors.

  • We never want to appear egotistical in any way, shape or form. We pride ourselves on being humble.
  • We have a negative view of politicians, sales people and marketing people. Right? These are the folks who don’t really like us, they are only interested in selling their product or service. They stretch the truth or omit certain information. They try to use human psychology to their advantage. Boo!
  • We are uncomfortable in the spotlight

What about self-promotion is so difficult? It’s the “self” part; the egocentric nature and seemingly aggressive pushiness that makes us cringe not only when we attempt it for ourselves, but when we observe others bragging in a self-centered manner. – Why Taking The Self Out Of Self-Promotion Is The Best Way To Promote Yourself, Forbes, Bonnie Marcus

Then, there are additional reasons to add when we are talking about creative work, i.e. art, music, writing, etc.

  • The work has a very personal aspect to it which makes promoting it that much more uncomfortable. It can feel like you have cheapened the work if you promote it.
  • Creative work is very subjective, so the creator will be doubting its value and asking questions like, “Why should I bother promoting this? It isn’t even good.”
  • In contrast to the previous point, many other occupations have a more quantifiable way to measure success that gives the person some hard numbers to promote themselves with. As a project manager you could point to the revenue that your projects have brought to the organization. As an athlete, you have your stats. As a lawyer, you have your win percentage or dollar return.

So, how can we overcome this? Hire someone to do it? That would probably work if you have the budget for it. Otherwise, I think this function requires some sort of mind hack. You need to trick yourself into doing it. Or, maybe make it into a game.

I recently read a wonderful blog post titled, Marketing Is An Artform. It recommends adopting a mindset where you treat the marketing of your art as artwork in itself. This is what I mean by mind hack. You are resetting some deeply ingrained beliefs about self-promotion. You are tricking your mind into enjoying this process by applying the same skills and approach that you would take to your art.

I also like the advice laid out in this post titled, 5 Essential Rules of Self-Promotion. For me, my own blog addresses his first rule, It’s Not All About The Work. With this writing I am trying to share an experience and the knowledge that I have gained. I am not necessarily writing this for self-promotion, I just enjoy it. I hope it creates an accompaniment to the album that I just released.

Both of the aforementioned articles come from a creative field that is not music. However, when it comes to internet marketing and promotion, I see little difference in the underlying strategies for any type of creative work.

Lastly, it can be easy for the challenge of self-promotion to lead to negative emotions such as frustration, jealousy and resentment. It is important to recognize and resist this. On that note, I will close this post with another important quote from The Artist’s Way.

As blocked creatives, we often sit on the sidelines critiquing those in the game. “He’s not so talented,” we may say of a currently hot artist. And we may be right about that. All too often, it is audacity and not talent that moves an artist to center stage. As blocked creatives, we tend to regard these bogus spotlight grabbers with animosity. We may be able to defer to true genius, but if it’s merely a genius for self-promotion we’re witnessing, our resentment runs high. This is not just jealousy. It is a stalling technique that reinforces our staying stuck. We make speeches to ourselves and other willing victims: “I could do that better, if only …” You could do it better if only you would let yourself do it! – Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

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