Some musicians like to dis on social media and internet marketing.
"If you pay for advertising on Facebook, you might as well just be throwing your money away," some of them might say.
About a year ago, local act Grand Commander's Sam Damask was saying the same things. Today, however, Damask says people who think advertising online is a waste of money probably just aren't doing it right. In November, Damask spent only $1 to go through a monthlong course through Indepreneur, a site that teaches independent musicians how to market their work.
That month, Damask put out his single "I Hope You Die in a Fire" along with a video for the track and implemented some of the strategies he'd learned. Now, Grand Commander recently put out another single called "Reach the Moon," but because of some of the techniques he learned through that monthlong trial, people are still buzzing about "I Hope You Die in a Fire."
The song was put in Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist and recently surpassed 300,000 streams.
"A year ago, I was the one saying, 'Oh, Facebook is worthless. They just want your money and your information,'" Damask says. "Then, I take this course that says, 'Hold on. Here's your strategy,' and everything just changes."
Of course, artists are successful because people like their work. But a lot of success does come down to strategy, Damask says. For example, "I Hope You Die in a Fire" is a song about a bad relationship, so, naturally, Damask targeted his ads for the release toward Facebook users who had "It's complicated" as their relationship status.
"One reason why a lot of people think that advertising on Facebook and Instagram isn't worth the money is that they don't fit their audiences to people who want to hear what they have to say, so they spend a lot of ad money that goes out the window," he says. "But, once you figure out your audience, (the cost of your advertisements) drop."
Additionally, Damask says, once Facebook figures out your audience, "lookalike" audiences can be created, where the site's machine learning will show millions of potentially interested people, through the parameters of, say, anybody who's watched 95% or more of "I Hope You Die in a Fire."
Once you have a little bit of knowledge about online and social media marketing, it takes some experimenting to figure out how to turn that information into an abundance of streams or views of your work. These experiments are not always successful, Damask says.
"I had no idea what was going to happen with 'I Hope You Die in a Fire,'" he says. "I just did a test, and it was successful, but I have a bunch of other tests that completely failed, you know, headlines, images or videos that nobody likes. It's just about the willingness to experiment with the technology and get in there long enough to understand how it works."
Some of the success of "I Hope You Die in a Fire" can be attributed to what Bob Ross would call "a happy little accident."
Because he can include the track and artist name in the title of his Facebook posts, Damask left this information out of the video for "I Hope You Die in a Fire." However, he didn't realize that Instagram doesn't operate the same way. So, when the video went up on Instagram, there was little to no information on what the song was called or who it was by. This acted as a filter, Damask says.
"When the video went on Instagram, that acted as a filter because the people that really liked it commented, 'What's the name of the song?'" Damask says. "So what happened is I ended up having a really high save-to-listener ratio, and I think that triggered Discover Weekly to put me in the rotation earlier than normal."
Damask says online and social media marketing can be really beneficial to many musicians, but it's hard to know where to start because everyone just wants your money, he says.
His latest release "Reach the Moon" is about wanting to escape all problems. Around the time Damask wrote the song, he was having trouble with one of his teeth. This is because he had just spent a hefty sum of money on a failed root canal, which was going to cost even more money to get fixed.
"At the time, I was just imagining being somewhere else," Damask says. "For me, when I wrote the song, it was about a tooth, but it can be about anyone going through any life challenges or pressures, especially when it comes to money."
So, if you've just undergone a failed root canal or are going through some financial struggles, you might see an ad for Grand Commander's new song. For Damask, the release of his two latest singles, along with his growing knowledge of how to properly promote his work, marks a new beginning.
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"It's like a fresh start without having to worry about money," Damask says.
Today, Damask is still taking courses to learn even more about how to promote his work online.
Listen to "I Hope You Die in a Fire" below: