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Selling Out or Self-Promotion? The Thin Line Musicians Cross for Fame

Every artist wants fame and fortune without losing themselves or their souls. I've been to these crossroads several times and had to refrain from taking money that wasn’t good money! The problem is that many artists don’t know how to stay away from those crossroads, making them fearful about the business in the first place. However, is the industry in your way, or is it that you don’t know yourself?

What is Music Promotion?

Music promotion is simply creating awareness of an artist's raw talent and creating a refined artistic expression of the raw talent in a packaged form (audio recording) and letting the masses know that it exists in a material state.

What Music Promotion Used to Look Like

Prior to the internet, music promotion was simple. The artist creates an audio product and uses media outlets to promote the product. Media outlets at the time included radio, magazines, newspapers, and television. The media promotional period usually lasted 3 months after the release of the album, and media spots would continue throughout the promotional tour dates 6 months after the release of the album.

What Music Promotion Looks Like Today

Today, music promotion is an ongoing process that uses some of the same media outlets if you’re big enough but mainly social media. There is no specific promotional period. When using your own platforms, your music promotion campaign is done using two methods of content: talent showcasing and the artistic expression of it. This means videos displaying your raw talents and videos displaying the artistic expression of those talents (i.e., music videos).

What is Self-Promotion?

Self-promotion is expressing an awareness of who you are as a person to the world by telling the story of yourself. Music fans love to know where you came from, how you got to where you are now, and where you’re going. Self-promotion digs deep into your character traits and your journey to create a self-image that you ultimately display to the public.

What Self-Promotion Looks Like

Then: The promotion of self came from radio, television, and magazine interviews.

Now: These interviews have become public and personal podcasts, blogs, or collaborations with other influencers online. These media outlets showcase your persona and story that you choose to display and tell to the public at any given time.

Why is Self-Promotion Necessary?

Self-promotion is necessary for fan relatability. If fans cannot relate to you, they cannot promote you through word of mouth, the most valuable promotion anyone could ever ask for. Selling music by itself is an extremely hard task to do without a mascot. So, this is why promoting who you are is necessary.

How Do You Become a Sell-Out?

In the words of Will.i.Am, “selling out is the action of selling outside of yourself or the normal product that you were supposed to sell.” This is normal nowadays, but it is maintained by making sure that whatever the artist is selling is “on brand” or “authentic” with the persona and artistic expression of the artist.

Reaching Whore Status

Though selling outside of yourself and artistic expression is natural, becoming a whore usually happens out of desperation and the need for direction because one feels incapable of selling themselves. This usually happens for money or to refrain from failure or falling off in this industry. Fame is a hard habit to keep going, and if you were to drop your fame pills in the dirt, you’d do whatever to pick them up, dust them off, and keep taking them for the fear of the loss of everything. This is usually when you see artists making fools of themselves in media stunts, selling products that sacrifice integrity, or just straight getting naked for money.

Losing Your Soul

Imagine picking two flowers: one you pull up by the roots so you can transplant it, and the other you clip the stem, disconnecting it from its roots. That’s the equivalent of what’s happening. The artist has accepted selling products and doing actions so far from their original character that they have lost their souls. This usually happens by a contract they have to abide by for the things they were desperate for—fame and money—to satisfy their hunger.

What Happens If You Promote Yourself Too Much?

If you promote yourself too much, your public persona will lean to that image of yourself that you display. The public will not know you for your initial talent, which is music. So when you’re starting, you always want to push your narrative through your music and talent so you don’t stray too far away from who you are.

What Happens If You Only Promote Your Music?

Only promoting your music is great initially; however, music doesn’t sell itself. An artist and their personality have always sold music flawlessly and always will. Even if you’re in the sync space. Promoting music by itself decreases relatability, which decreases word of mouth, which ultimately makes it hard to promote.

How Do You Balance the Two?

Artistic expression is going to be what it is. However, to balance it and not become a clown while promoting yourself, you must create a narrative—something real PR agents have been designing for years. The narrative allows you to keep your story in check and lets you turn up the juice, dial it back, and go in different directions. Controlling your story’s narrative is the ultimate way to survive fame.

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Balancing the Two

  1. Will increase public acceptance

  2. Which increases word-of-mouth

  3. Which ultimately gives you access to the success you were seeking

Running Wild with Your Personality

  1. Gets you fame

  2. Removes your talent from the picture

  3. Can ultimately put you into whore status or cause the loss of your soul


If you were struggling with promoting your music and yourself, you now have the means to accomplish this balancing act with a little more ease to increase your star power.


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