I’ve briefly touched on the importance of Tumblr in other posts, but I’ve yet to dive into what exactly Tumblr can do for your band’s promotion efforts. This ultimate guide will hold your hand through the sign-up process and take you all the way through to a point where you can use Tumblr DAILY to promote your music and gain new fans. Before you know it, your micro-blogging platform will be a major part of your promotion efforts.
Register an Account
It probably goes without saying, but first you have to register an account with Tumblr to use it. No shit.
From the home page, click on the link in the upper right hand corner of the page that says “Sign Up.” Enter the email address you use for your band, choose a password, and finally a username.
Username Choice: The username should be something as close to your band name as possible. If your band name is “The Smithsonians,” you damn well better make your username “thesmithsonians” or “thesmithsoniansband.”
There are 2 main reasons for this. First, it distinguishes your page as the “official” page for a particular purpose. If and when a fan tries to find you on Tumblr, being able to guess your username as your band name makes things less confusing, right? Secondly, for purposes related to search engine optimization (SEO), using your actual band name as opposed to something arbitrary makes Google happier all around. It should make sense that your band’s Tumblr URL matches the band name. Throwing curve balls at it (I’m looking at you Justin Vernon – whose Twitter URL is twitter.com/blobtower, not twitter.com/justinvernon) only works if you’ve got some clout and people aren’t trying to hunt you down via search engines.
Avatar Choice: Sometimes it’s easy to get carried away with a luxurious and flattering full band photo, but just like I’ve mentioned in a Twitter profile optimization post, you should be aware that people are only ever going to see your Tumblr avatar as a smaller representation of a much larger image. These guys have figured out an exact science to optimizing the perfect Tumblr avatar, so I’m going to redirect you over here (Choosing the Perfect Tumblr Avatar) to learn more about different avatar styles that you can utilize.
Tumblr, like just about any other “DIY blog site” gives you the option to create pages for your blog. There are a few default pages that your Tumblr blog will come with that don’t need much changing (things like the Archive button and the Ask function), but I do recommend adding one page in particular that will be used as a point of connection for your band.
About Us: Adding a page called “About” or “Who We Are” is paramount. Not only will we be using this page as a miniature bio for the band to give people an elevator pitch about who your band is, it can also be used to post links back to your website. I recommend putting a link to your main website and an additional place (like Bandcamp) of where to listen to your music. A short sample bio that you can use is something like your Twitter profile of:
“Hey, we’re [insert band name], an indie-punk band from Detroit. Our music is free to listen to on our website. Thanks for checking it out [website URL]“
It’s short and simple, which is why it’s perfect. People’s attention spans are short on the internet. Remember that.
Here’s where we’re going to get a bit creative. When you’re editing the theme of your blog to not only decide what kind of “look and feel” you want for your page when people visit it, you’re also given the option to edit the “description” of your page. This is the text that shows up directly below the title of your Tumblr. We’re going to use this section to do some serious promotion.
If you don’t already have your music uploaded for streaming on either Bandcamp or Soundcloud, go ahead and do that now. The goal of having your music streaming somewhere online is to be able to grab/use the embedded player to put on your Tumblr page for even more exposure.
On Soundcloud, if you grab the HTML5 embedded player code, you can copy it directly into the “Description” section of your Tumblr page. The player code looks like this:
"<iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F2078891&color=ff6600&auto_play=false&show_artwork=true"></iframe>"
This does two big things. First, whenever people visit any part of your Tumblr page, your player will be there for them to listen to your songs. Secondly, it makes listening to your music a lot easier than having to visit a separate page on your Tumblr page to see what you’re about. It’s like having a safety net for the people who don’t click the “About” page to see who you are.
Now that you have your page set-up and optimized to get listens/downloads of your album, how do you actually attract traffic? There are two primary methods that I recommend using, and a bit more abstract method that you can try if you’re feeling daring.
Tumblr is all about community. Following other people’s blogs will send them an email to tell them that someone is now following them. Of the people who are notified of a new follower, a good portion of them will take the time to see who that person is and what they’re all about. They’ll be redirected to your page, see your music, and take a listen. Not rocket science, right?
To find people to follow, you should make a list of about 50-60 bands who make similar music to your own. The similarities don’t have to be spot on, as people tend to have a pretty broad sense of music tastes and not everyone is going to be 100% into what you’re doing. Having a substantial list of similar artists to work from will allow you to vary your promotional efforts so you’re not following/interacting with the same group of people every day who like the same few bands.
Go to the Search bar in the top right of Tumblr and start searching for posts related to the bands you wrote down. Follow people who post about these bands.
In a similar method to following, instead of following the user who posts about a certain band, you instead like their posts. Liking is less effective than following because people often opt out of emails notifying them of new likes of their posts because they’re much more commonplace than new followers.
A lot of Tumblr users have what’s known as an Ask/Submit feature on their blog. The Ask feature allows you to send a private message to Tumblr users, either anonymously (in most cases, unless they’ve disabled it) or publicly. Additionally, there’s also a Submit feature that a small number of blogs have that allows people to submit content to their blog on their behalf. They of course have to approve the submission, but if they do, it’ll jump straight to their blog to be shared with their followers.
Now, depending on how daring you are in regards to reaching out to strangers, you can utilize the Ask/Submit features of Tumblr to get your content seen by a number of other users.
“Hey, we were browsing through your blog and saw you liked XYZ Band. We’re called “The Smithsonians” and wanted to share some of our stuff with you since we’re often compared to XYZ Band. Look forward to hearing back. Best, -[Your Band Name]“
You can also submit your newest music video or song to thousands of pages as well to get maximum exposure when the video hits. Unfortunately, there are limits to the amount that you can engage in all of these techniques.
Currently, there are some limits in place on Tumblr that prevent mass-spamming of the site (and for good reason). Although it would be great to reach all of your potential fans overnight, there are of course limits in place to help thwart those efforts.
Maximum Follow Limit: 5,000 People
Maximum Daily Follow Limit: 200 People
Maximum Daily Like Limit: 1,000 Posts
Maximum Hourly Ask/Submit Limit: 10
There are not currently any limits on the number of people you can unfollow on a daily basis or the number of posts you can like in total.
Side Note: I suggest reading this post (Dominate Tumblr in 48 Hours) about Tumblr Promotion to get an ever better idea of how best to utilize the above promotional functions. There’s a lot to cover, and figuring out every little advantage you can utilize is key.
Responding to Messages
Just like with any other social network, I highly encourage bands to personally reply to every private message they receive. While they may be few and far between, starting conversations with people who reach out to you is paramount to success. Ask what type of music they also listen to (for research purposes) and explore their interests. Starting conversations when people reach out to compliment or talk to a band they’re now a fan of goes a long way. It shows commitment to your fan base and also helps reinforce your name in their brains if they may have otherwise not put your stellar tunes on their fancy-shmancy iPod (or whatever you kids are calling them these days).
I suggest posting at least once or twice a day, not just to keep your followers happy, but also to keep your blog looking “fresh” when new people stumble across it. Tumblr has a Queue feature that allows you to queue up to 300 posts for posting at a later date. From the Tumblr Dashboard, clicking on the “Queue” on the sidebar once you have posts queued will bring you to a separate menu where you can not only see your posting queue, you’ll also be able to set the posting frequency. I set this to 2 posts a day for my bands and let it run. Then, once every few days, I log on to Tumblr and find cool new posts to queue up. I generally do about 10-15 posts at a time so that if a band is on the road, they don’t have to log on to their social media sites every day to stay updated.
Anytime you post original content to Tumblr, you should make sure you set a source URL and click-through URL for the post. This URL that you set ensures that whenever your post gets circulated around the site, anytime someone clicks on the post to see where it came from, it leads straight back to your Tumblr page. By default, Tumblr links back to the post URL itself; something like “yourband.tumblr.com/post/88284653879.” Changing this to lead back to the simpler Tumblr URL of “yourband.tumblr.com” forces all new visitors to the site to land on your Tumblr “homepage” as opposed to just a particular post of yours. Give new visitors the full picture of you, not just a post page.
Just like with any promotional efforts, where you draw the line is entirely up to you. I hear from some artists that they want to try every promotional technique in the book in order to achieve “success,” while others don’t want to seem like a social media fiend and want to keep their posts and following to a minimum. Where you decide to call it quits with your promotional efforts is entirely up to you. When you start liking/following/interacting, keep things slow and get a feel for how Tumblr operates.
In a post I did less than a week ago, I mentioned the fact that you can easily integrate your Tumblr blog onto your band’s website so that you don’t have to maintain two different “blogs.” Take a look at that if you want to use your Tumblr blog on your website and not just have yet another site to check.
TumblrTips: A site that posts regular updates about tips and tricks on how to optimize your blog, embed certain content, and much more.
Tumblring: Another site that just has a plethora of resources on how you can use Tumblr more like a promotional tool than just a social media site.
Billboard Biz: Billboard magazine wrote a short piece about the dos and don’ts of Tumblr for musicians.
Why Tumblr: A short overview of EVERYTHING Tumblr does.
Best of luck, -Sunshine