By Lisa Henderson
“The power is, quite literally, in your hands.”
Gone are the days when drummers could simply drum. Part and parcel of being a modern drummer is growing a brand, networking, and exposing the world to your talents. The good news is the Internet has leveled out the playing field; nearly every drummer now has the same resources available. The bad news is this means there’s more competition than ever before to land those all-important gigs.
With an abundance of platforms and tools at your fingertips, the power is, quite literally, in your hands. The challenge is knowing how to use those tools effectively in the time that you have, so you can get down to the important bit: drumming.
Tom Tom Magazine asked three drummers, who have gained stratospheric success, for advice on building and maintaining an online presence. YouTube sensation Meytal Cohen reveals the secrets to her success with breaking the Internet and crowdfunding her chart-topping debut album ‘Alchemy’. Secondly, touring U.S. Session drummer who played with the Darkness, Emily Dolan Davies, gives insight into practical promotion. Lastly we’ll hear from 22-year-old Bloc Party drummer Louise Bartle who’ll share her tips on savvy social networking. While each drummer has met very different goals, there are five common denominators to all of their successes.
- Be Consistent
If anybody is the prime example of this, it’s Meytal Cohen. After garnering millions of hits on her first YouTube video, a cover of System of a Down’s “Toxicity,” the sticks woman committed to uploading two videos a week. For seven years, she posted covers every Tuesday and every Friday. “It really comes down to dedication, building a body of work and maintaining a consistent upload schedule that viewers can look forward to,” Cohen tells us. By consistently posting, she was making sure the momentum she had gained from the first video never fell flat. The bottom line is, if you’re out of sight, you’re out of mind, and you’ll be quickly forgotten in the mass of other drummers. Posting consistently will make sure you’re a constant presence on the Internet.
- Share the Love
Maintaining an online presence isn’t just about showcasing your skills; it’s also about being part of a community. “I focus on other people, musicians, drummers, and how awesome they are, rather than what I’m up to most of the time,” says Emily Dolan Davies. “Also giving information freely. I’ve experienced people being so secretive about how they do something, but I try to be as honest and open as possible so people can hopefully relate to sometimes difficult things and feel inspired. I also hope that it then gives them support and strength in what they’re doing. I find it really fulfilling to be honest.”
Aside from making some awesome friends and being part of the drummer community, you never know what opportunities may come from supporting your fellow hitters. This is when the phrase “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” comes into play. At the very least, one of your drumming pals might promote something you’ve done, therefore introducing you to some new ears. But at best, you’re a name that a fellow drummer can recommend if they’re too busy to take on a gig themselves.
- You Have to Use YouTube
YouTube is the one platform a drummer cannot do without. If Bartle or Dolan Davies hadn’t uploaded videos, neither of them would have landed their career-changing gigs. “The whole reason that [the Darkness] even knew about me was because of a video I’d posted on YouTube four years prior,” says Dolan Davies.
“Bloc Party viewed my playing through YouTube initially and decided to have me audition for the band,” Bartle remembers. “When I have been asked to play other gigs, I have often been asked for any video content that I have.”
Speaking on her success on YouTube, Cohen notes: “YouTube provides a stage for any artist to put their work out there and gain recognition. It’s an amazing tool, which can be used as a launch pad to anything you wish to create. This platform allowed me to do what I love full time. I was getting better and better, practicing my favorite songs, while obtaining a large following and making a name for myself.”
- Build Relationships with Fans
This may be the most crucial piece of advice for emerging drummers. Don’t make the mistake of being so focused on promoting yourself to get seen by “important” people that you neglect the people that are truly important, the fans. It’s vital to remember just how powerful a fan base can be. In Cohen’s case, it helped her achieve some mammoth goals. “I was able to fund my debut album Meytal – Alchemy through Kickstarter. The album charted number one on the Billboard’s Heatseeker chart. And as a result, my band and I got on a full U.S. tour opening for a legendary metal band, none of which would have been possible without the support of my fans!” says Cohen.
Gaining a following is something that happens automatically. Cultivating a relationship with that following is something you have to develop and to which you must dedicate time. There are plenty of ways to interact with fans, from hosting competitions to simply tweeting people back.
- The More Platforms You Use, the More People You Reach
When we say “platforms,” we don’t just mean a host of social media sites. There are so many different ways to reach new audiences and promote your brand. From writing blogs to podcasting and using endorsers to help boost posts. There are no limits to what you can do. But the more you do, the better.
“Different people like different streams, so someone on Instagram may not be on Twitter, or someone on Facebook isn’t interested into looking at a website,” Dolan Davies tells us.
And of course, one drummer’s preference may differ from the next. “I have found Instagram to be a good source to showcase my drumming and music,” Bartle says. “It seems to be a place where musicians can discover one another. It gives a quick opportunity for people to see my playing and browse through various clips of me playing songs and little solos.”
This interview first appeared in Tom Tom‘s Digital issue.
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