exposure |ikˈspō zh ər|
• an act or instance of being uncovered
The unseen artist yearns to be seen. The unheard musician needs to be heard, and the under budget company wants to under pay everyone. While this may be more of my more cynical points of view, I’d like to start off by saying that while promises of “exposure” in exchange for goods (in this article, for the sake of argument, we’ll use a track off your recent, self-released record) is usually a scam, that is not always the case. My tour mate Shaun Ruymen has a track in the new movie “You Again”, and he most certainly has a great chance of exposure. The opportunities for exchanging your music for real, mass exposure are out there, rare as they are.
That being said, I move on. MOST of the time, when promised exposure in exchange for use of your track, chances are it’s because there’s no chance of being paid. And in most areas of the music business where there is an audience (a real audience, where you will really get said exposure), there is usually money. The PROs (performing rights organizations like ASCAP, BMI and SESAC) are close behind, ready to collect your royalties. Rarely will you find an opportunity that gives you REAL exposure with no money attached. You have more chance of finding a gig that pays really well but doesn’t offer much of a new fan base, or exposure. (Like college cafeteria shows and ski resorts, for example. Paying the bills [and dues] but not necessarily getting your music heard the way you would like.)
The thing about the word exposure, is that it is just “an instant”. Extreme exposure can give you 15 minutes of fame, at best. What your music needs is to be steady, ubiquitous, available, and constantly pumped into listeners ears. You know how to do that. And if not, here are my 6 tips:
1) Tour. Hit the road and get new fans. Done and done.
2) Share. Give away recordings of new songs you did in your bedroom for free. Write a blog about what you’re up to. Let the world know you love what you’re doing, or when you’re struggling, or that you’re succeeding past your wildest dreams!
3) Co-write. Two heads are better than one. Two records are too.
4) Hire an intern. Have this person’s sole purpose to be to get you exposure- write articles about you and send press releases. Pay them a % of your CD sales and don’t take them for granted. Bring them with you when you make it big.
5) Get out of the house. Go to shows. Go to music conferences. Make friends with the panelists. Get on a panel next time. Your name gets in every brochure and website about the conference.
6) Go to the movies. Look on craigslist for recent auditions for movies. Get in touch with the directors/producers and offer your music. The more music you place in films, the more likely you get a film going to Sundance. Always make sure to get a little money for your music, even if it’s just $100. (I’m personally training the indie film industry to respect how important music is in films, thus to pay for it like they would an editor or director)
In the end, it’s about attaching value to your music, not letting “the industry” take advantage or undercut that value, and finding the balance between trading your value for something else of equal value. Often times, exposure is an unknown, unreliable empty promise that you cannot forward to your tax guy at the end of the year. Seller beware.
PS. Get it in writing. Before it goes to air on national television, before it gets sold on someone else’s compilation CD and before you lose an opportunity. Do not be afraid to take a stand for your music and its value.