Thanks to the internet and today's easy-to-use software, getting your music made and in a place where anyone can hear it is no problem at all. However, because every bedroom-based artist and his dog now has a MySpace page, it's more difficult than ever to get people to listen.
Like it or not, it isn't just about the music – it's about getting yourself noticed. If you're looking for ways to stand out, may we suggest the following…
1. Shoot a video
Every website worth its salt now carries video, and that means you absolutely need a video to go with your music. But forget about hiring in Godley & Creme - the great news is that they're nowhere near as hard or as expensive to create as they once were. With a cheap video camera (£200) and video editing software, you'll have something half decent in no time.
The editing software will quite often resemble your music sequencer, so you'll soon be mixing, blending and adding effects just like the pros. As for the content, well that's up to you, but staring moodily across wind-swept moors and stone circles should be off the agenda. Try something different or play to your strengths. If you have an unusual image then focus on that. If you're a great live band than simply film a good gig. If you're ugly, use CGI! There are so many great packages out there that you can make even poorly-shot stuff look presentable, so you really should go for it.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? Everyone, but the most notable example in the internet age is OK Go, who famously made a set of oddball videos and have clocked up millions of YouTube hits.
CHECK OUT: OK Go, Here It Goes Again
HOW MUCH? The price of a camera.
2. Rope someone famous in
With millions of reality TV Z-listers all vying for attention, there's a good chance you know someone – or know someone who knows someone – who's famous. At least a little bit, anyway. And the less famous they are, the more likely it is that they'll want the extra exposure that you can promise them by appearing on your song or in your video. Got someone who used to be in a second-rate sitcom down the road from you? Washed-up soap star holed up in your local? Ex child TV star working in your supermarket? Get them in your video, write a song about them, get it out there. It's an instant story that could help sell your songs (and ultimately your soul, but we won't go there).
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? A Tribe Of Toffs famously roped in a UK weather presenter for their song John Kettley Is A Weatherman, which reached Number 21 in the UK charts.
CHECK OUT: Any reality show, particularly those on satellite TV, for many willing participants.
HOW MUCH? As little as a cup of tea or a pint, as long as there's the promise of more exposure.
3. Shock tactics!
Probably only for the desperate, this, but what the hell. Think of something that will have Daily Mail readers spitting into their Ovaltine. Being incredibly juvenile here really does help, but we loved Aphex Twin when he superimposed his hairy head on to a bikini-clad body for a cover (or did he?). Think along the lines of the Oxford Student Union and you'll get the drift. Court controversy, light the touch paper and stand back. Remember: there's no such thing as bad publicity.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? The Sex Pistols and Frankie Goes To Hollywood demonstrated that being banned by anyone will certainly help your cause.
CHECK OUT: Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Relax
HOW MUCH? The price of some (possibly leather) outfits, some fake blood and guts and other liquids.
4. Get a musical gimmick
Roping in a celebrity is a great way to go down the gimmick route, but if you think this cheapens your art, be a bit clever and go down the musical gimmick route to achieve notoriety. Shortest track? Longest track? Bowel-moving bass? You know the score. Use your music technology knowledge to create something that will spin into a story.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? Electronic music legend John Cage caused a furore in 1952 by composing a completely silent piece of music called 4' 33''. Amazingly, Mike Batt was accused of plagiarism by Cage's publishers after he produced a track of silence and claimed he wrote it.
CHECK OUT: Your mind.
HOW MUCH? A good idea? Priceless.
5. As recommended by…
'Best dance track of the year so far!'. Sounds good, doesn't it? And it's simple to get someone to comment on your music. Maybe that Z-lister you roped in for the video might say something. If not, get a quote from a magazine by sending your demo in. You can even get feedback from forums. Just don't lie, make sure the quote is a good one, and it wasn't simply you or your mum that said it.
Word-of-mouth recommendations are the cause of many band signings these days, because human beings, particularly of the A&R variety, are notoriously lazy and would rather someone tell them a band is good than them have to trawl through a bunch of demos and decide for themselves. So get someone to say something nice. Now.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? Arctic Monkeys.
CHECK OUT: The demo pages in magazines or our forums after you've asked for feedback.
HOW MUCH? The price of a stamp – or nothing.
6. Go insane
There was a guy on a forum who would open up threads with comments like 'MY MUSIC IS GOING TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD'. He was shot down in flames, of course. But he posted so much, to so much angry response, that he actually generated publicity for his music – you simply had to check it out to see if it was as good as he said, or as bad as everyone else said!
This kind of tactic is annoying, and we're still not sure if this guy was playing people or if he really was mad, but he got results.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR (OR NOT)? Julian Cope has always acted rather eccentrically, Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac famously lost a large slot of his life, and Brian Wilson once built a sandpit in his studio.
CHECK OUT: Forums. There will always be someone on there who is pretty deluded about their music making and life in general.
HOW MUCH? Doesn't matter. If you're truly mad you won't care.
7. Get messed up
As Bill Hicks pointed out: if you're anti drugs, then chuck out your record collection. Indeed, many classic recordings were made under the influence of just about everything, so there's a good argument for breaking the law, getting high and making music. But be warned: for every classic album there's a shambolic mess that 'sounded good at the time', so while it might seem like a great idea, we're not advocating becoming a drug-crazed fool and landing yourself in trouble.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? Too many to mention.
CHECK OUT: The tabloid press.
HOW MUCH? Possibly your life. Just ask Dave Gahan – and be thankful that you actually can.
8. Get some help
It's all very well generating your own publicity but, let's face it, you're too busy losing it, getting messed up and making music for that, so, if you have faith in your art, get someone else to promote it. Get yourself a manager or a PR company. Both will spin stories for the media and both will cost, but you gotta have faith.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? Just about every pop star has benefited from a manager but there are plenty who will tell you that they were ripped off. Just learn the difference between 'net' and 'gross' before you sign on the line and you should be OK…
CHECK OUT: Showcase International Directory
HOW MUCH? 20% (of your net profit!).
9. Get on TV
Nowadays it's almost hard not to be on TV. There are now so many channels with so much airtime to fill that getting on the box is much easier than you might think.
Be warned, though, TV can be the quickest way to stardom but also the fastest way back down to obscurity, so if you play with fire, expect to get burnt and end up on a 'where are they now?' show.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? Anyone on X Factor (for a week or two), and all those soap stars who get themselves short but sweet record contracts.
CHECK OUT: Any channel, anywhere. Go online, track down production companies, find out where all the auditions are and get your whacky ideas together. Shudder.
HOW MUCH? Probably everything you ever stood for.
10. Get a weird look
What do you think about when we say: 'Marilyn Manson'? Is it his pumping goth music or the fact that he looks like he's going to kill you? And what about that band of 'monsters' who won Eurovision a couple of years back? Do you remember the tune? Thought not. They have a look that gained them notoriety but almost at the expense of their art – so you have to tread a fine line here. An image is essential, so push it as far as you can without detracting from your sound. The more extreme, the bigger the headlines, but for longevity you might want to tone it down just a bit.
WHO'S IT WORKED FOR? As a way of covering up the tunes, Sigue Sigue Sputnik pulled off a corker.
CHECK OUT: Any band that's performed in masks.
HOW MUCH? Very often your dignity, but you must suffer for your art.