If you're an independent musician looking to grow an online fanbase, it's a good idea to start Tumbling. Since launching in 2007, Tumblr has become one of the internet's hottest blogging platforms, often exceeding 50 million posts per day. For up-and-coming artists, a strong Tumblr presence can be just as useful as Twitter or Facebook; just don't expect to become an expert overnight. Fortunately, Tumblr-savvy musicians are here to help.
1. Do Know Your Audience
"It's like a built-in collective of indie fans who have congregated on a particular website," says Brooklyn musician Amy Klein, currently of Hilly Eye, Amy Klein and the Blue Star Band, and formerly of Titus Andronicus. "If you're a band that's looking for that target audience to distribute music to, there you go."
2. Do Respond To Messages
Most Tumblr sites contain a feature that allows one to pose an open question to readers, or to respond to others. "It might be someone who'd want to interview you," says Klein. "Be friendly and polite to the people who take an interest in what you're doing."
"Recently a fan asked if he could buy me a pizza through Tumblr," says Rachel Browne of the Brooklyn-based indie band Field Mouse. "I said yes."
3. Don't Be Shy. Get Personal!
"Tumblr is like a diary," says Elizabeth Harper of synthpop act Class Actress. "It reminds me of Richard Harper from 'Boardwalk Empire' looking through his little scrapbook. George Lewis from Twin Shadow, a good friend, has a great Tumblr. He's always taking pictures (of everyday things like cars) and making videos. It's very personal, which I like a lot. It's straight from George."
"The more unusual, the better," adds Roxanne Clifford of UK indie-pop act Veronica Falls. "It seems that people want to get an insight into a side of the band that isn't obtainable through Facebook."
4. Don't Be Afraid To Go DIY
Tumblr can be a great platform for mobilizing your fanbase, regardless of how far-fetched your idea might seem. If studio fees seem daunting, Klein suggests asking followers for small donations in exchange for free copies of the music. "I thought it was crazy, but fans are really interested in having a personal investment and connection in the art they consume. "
5. Don't Treat Tumblr Like Twitter!
"We're not supposed to be relying on that instant gratification," says Harper. "I like Tumblr because it's a bit slower." To avoid flooding your followers' feeds, Tumblr allows users to submit posts to be published at a later date and time. But regardless of when your posts are going live, try to avoid more than two or three per day.
6. Do Know What Sort of Content To Post
Post tour dates and tracklistings elsewhere; quotes, photos, mp3s, and videos are much better bets for comments and reblogs. For example, Harper's most successful post to date was an ordinary image post. "Tumblr is a great place to post demos," adds Browne.
7. If You Do Post Longer, Be Sure To Dig Deep
Klein recently posted a somewhat critical essay examining pop star/online hot topic Lana Del Rey. "When you take an extreme opinion on Tumblr, you're also going to get extreme responses. I noticed when the piece was reblogged some were like, 'I totally agree with this!' and others were like, 'She's just jealous!'"
If you do decide to post something longer, be sure to condense what appears in the general feed via the "read more" break. Remember: long blocks of text make most Tubmlr users run and hide.
8. Do Follow Other Tumblrs
"Amy Klein, Kimya Dawson, Jenny Owen Youngs, Allison Weiss, Paul Baribeau, Toby Goodshank... all wonderful musicians and really good at Tumblring," says Browne. "It's inspiring to see how other musicians work, tour, write, perform, capture moments, and communicate."
Aside from musicians, plenty of venues, record labels, and other industry insiders have strong Tumblr presences; following a variety of accounts can be very rewarding for your act.
9. Don't Forget To Tag
Whenever posting, be sure to add a couple tags, so your content can be located more easily. Says Browne, "I always tag our posts 'field mouse', and follow that with what sort of media we're posting ('video,' 'demo,' 'song premiere,' etc).
10. Do Mind Your Manners
Just because Tumblr can be more personal than your band's official page doesn't mean it's more private. In fact, it's relatively easy to poke through the entire blogging histories of other blogs, even ones that don't follow you. A snarky photo comment is for all the internet to see… including those viewing a reblog of it.
Adds Chaz Bundick of Toro Y Moi, "Be careful of d--- pics!"