If those classic lyrics evoke images of manipulative music moguls, then you’re not alone. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore. You can promote your music online without anyone else taking a slice of your pie.
Why Promote Your Music Online?
Kevin Kelly wrote that you only need 1000 true fans to make great living doing what you love. At the time of writing, over 3.2 Billion people around the world Internet access. That’s over half the world’s population. There’s a great chance that your 1000 true fans are in there somewhere.
Thanks to the social media, it has never been easier to promote your music online and reach your true fans.
The Impact Of The Internet On Music Promotion
The music industry still generally works the same way as it always has. But the Internet is changing the balance of power in two main ways:
- Raising awareness
Gone are the days of hoping an AR scout will notice you. Up and coming bands are now able to promote their own music. This lead to an explosion in new artists promoting themselves. Many of them choosing crowdfunding instead of relying on funding from labels.
But it’s not all rosy and this has introduced some new challenges. There are now more places than ever for people to find new music. This fragmentation requires a lot of effort to publish your work. The lower barrier to entry also creates a crowded marketplace for new artists. It’s hard to get heard above the noise.
Of course, you need to make great music. That’s a given. But engaging fans in meaningful conversations online can increase your chances of success.
Create A Marketing Plan
Why You Need A Marketing Plan
With more artists choosing to promote their music themselves, success won’t happen on its own. If you want to succeed, you need to think like a business person and create a plan.
How To Create A Marketing Plan For Your Music
A marketing plan doesn’t have to be scary. Think of it as a checklist to help you cover all your bases and maximise your chance of success.
A good music marketing plan should cover the following:
- Your target audience – Think about your “perfect” fan. Where are they, how old are they, what other artists do they like, where do they consume music, and what will they pay for?
- Analysis of the current market – Find out who else in your genre is seeing success. What are they doing? What doesn’t seem to work for your market?
- Clear goals – This is the core of your marketing plan. What do you want to achieve, and by when?
- An Action Plan – Without a plan, it will be very difficult to track progress towards your goals. Map out the next 6 months and exactly what you will do each month.
- A Budget – Decide up front how much you’re going to invest in promoting your music. Make sure you track your actual spending to make sure costs don’t escalate.
- Track Everything – Every platform offers tons of data about who listens to your music, and how often.
- Regular Reviews – Review progress weekly or monthly. Are you on track? Does your plan need to change?
Aim For Reach First, Revenue Later
It can be tempting to target channels that can deliver revenue straight away. Of course you need to get paid. But it may be helpful to play the long game. Your first priority should be to reach as many people as possible and turn them into devoted fans. The money will follow if you’re good enough.
Do The Work
My old boss used to repeat the same phrase on a daily basis: “Plan your work, and then work your plan”. The best plans are useless if you don’t put them into action. Remember this is an ongoing process. It needs consistent hard work and determination if you want to succeed.
How To Raise Awareness Of Your Music Online
Your main aim in converting people into loyal fans is show them that you exist and convince them to give you a try.
The key to raising awareness of your music online is to post as much share-worthy content as possible. Creating enough content can be a lot of work. Make sure you reuse and repurpose as much content as you can, while tailoring it to each specific channel.
Get Your Own Website, App And Blog
Your own website and app needs to become the destination for all your fans. From here you can sell tickets, promote your latest single, or share photos from last night’s epic gig. You can (and should) do this on social media too. But having your own site/app means you have full control over your platform
As everyone seems glued to their mobile phones these days, you must optimize your site for mobile. Building an app for your band might be a good choice too. Again, this is easy these days.
Link your site to your social media profiles (and vice versa) to enhance your credibility. Humans are social creatures and tend to follow others. Seeing that lots of other people like and follow you will create “social proof”.
If you’re stuck for content to write for your blog, try posting about the backstory behind one of your songs. Or try some of these great ideas for musician blog posts. There are no hard and fast rules so experiment and see what works for you.
Actively Engage On Social Media
Building relationships with fans is vital in the long run. Social media is the perfect platform for attracting and engaging them. Keep fans in the loop. Post and promote content regularly and respond to their comments and questions.
Social Media Strategy For Musicians
Before you get started, it’s helpful to have a social media strategy for promoting your music. Many people get put off by the word “strategy”, but it’s a fancy word for high-level plan. The simplest social media strategy is Adam Ivy’s “33% formula”. This suggests that your output should comprise:
- 33% brand focused content – Gig shots, promos, etc.
- 33% personal life posts – Show your human side, including pictures of you
- 33% Things that you enjoy – What makes you excited? This could be anything relevant. From your collection of comic book figures, to a serious political message or cause. Whatever makes you, you.
As already mentioned, you should aim to reach as many people as possible so you need to be on all the key platforms.
Twitter is a great place to start and is a mature platform. Getting your account verified on Twitter can go a long way to build credibility. (Edit: they’ve paused manual submissions for the moment). There are so many ways to promote your music on Twitter, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use lists to curate different groups (favourite bands, potential collaborators, respected critics, etc). Twitter sends a notification to these people when you add them to a list.
- Share reviews from respected music critics and they may start to take notice of you
- Tweet for a track can work once you have built up a small following. Your followers can then amplify your latest track
Think Instagram is no good for getting your music noticed? Think again. It’s a popular platform perfect for sharing visual content. Anything from photos from your latest gig, promo shots, album covers, fan art and so much more.
Then there’s Instagram video, which lets you post short videos of up to 6 minutes. Perfect for sharing you bringing down the house during your last set.
Last but not least, Instagram offers a paid ads platform to amplify your message and find new fans.
Check out this guide to promoting your music on Instagram here.
Another big player is Facebook, with the main advantage being its size. Create a band page, share your photos and share your tour schedule.
Reddit is a bit of a dark horse can be a goldmine for promoting your music online. There are dozens of subreddits (discussion threads) dedicated to music creation and promotion. You can even get feedback on your latest rough cut before going back to polish it up for release. Here’s a great guide to get you started on Reddit.
Optimise Your Social Profiles
Each platform has a different purpose and audience, so each needs a tailored approach. To optimise your profile:
- Ensure images are the correct sizes and resolutions
- Link out to all key pages – your latest tour info, merchandise, tickets, etc
- Make the most of the real estate available – adding your latest promo in the header image, etc
- Keep it up to date – check it as often as possible to make sure it’s current
Don’t forget to make use of relevant hashtags when posting on each platform to help get noticed. Add tags such as #music, #metal, #blues, #musicmonday to get your music some extra visibility. Here’s a huge list of music-related hashtags you could try.
As with everything on social media, don’t be too spammy and make sure you add value to the conversation.
Build An Email List
Building your own email list is essential in the long run, so get started as soon as you can. Direct email is a great way to compliment your social media content. You have the added benefit that unlike social media, your email list belongs to you.
Platforms like Facebook are notorious for tweaking their algorithms without notice. With email, you’re in total control. To get people to sign up, you’ll need to offer them something of (perceived) value in return. Use offers such as “sign up for tour updates”, “get exclusive tracks free”, etc.
Try to send emails no more than once per week to avoid looking spammy. Include new relevant content, such as :
- Info about your latest track
- Links to new videos
- Upcoming tour dates
- New merchandise
Approach Music Blogs
Music blogs are still the tastemakers in many genres and you should approach them for a review.
The main watch-out here is to ensure you only target those blogs that operate within your genre. Some blogs cover all genres. But you’ll have more success at first with specialist music blogs immersed in your genre. Here’s a list of music blogs to get you started.
Video has been a major part of music promotion since the launch of MTV back in the early eighties. It’s still just important today. Visuals add an extra dimension to your music, and online video platforms distribute your tracks. It’s a double whammy.
Youtube, Facebook Live and Periscope all offer the ability to stream live. This is perfect for broadcasting your next gig or hosting a live session from your studio or garage. If you’re not ready to perform live yet, try recording a unique cover of a popular song and adding some visuals.
Create An Electronic Press Kit (EPK)
An EPK document is a perfect way to get more gigs, or possibly a record deal.
These need to be high quality and should contain:
- Your Bio
- Links to your audio files, website and social profiles
- Press quotes, reviews and testimonials
- Contact Details (duh!)
You can build your own Electronic Press Kit using an online EPK service such as ReverbNation. Or, if self-aggrandising isn’t your thing then you may want to enlist some professional copywriting support. Producer Hive’s musician bio writing service is very highly rated.
The beauty of online advertising is that it allows you to target specific audiences. This means your ad is only shown to people interested in your type of music. You also only pay when someone clicks on one of your ads. This can make advertising online an effective tactic to get your music noticed.
You can advertise directly with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google. All these sites offer paid ad placements. Or you could save time by using an ad network which publishes your ads across hundreds platforms at once. ReverbNation’s ad platform is tailored to music promotion so would be a decent place to start.
Start with targeting based on audience demographics (age, gender, etc), preferences and behaviours. After that, you should consider retargeting. This involves showing specific ads to people who have visited your site and not made a purchase. For example, you could retarget users who visited your ticket page, but left before buying.
If done well, retargeting can be more effective than typical display advertising.
Use A Music Promotion Service
Going one step further, you could enlist the help of a music promotion service. These guys work with you to create paid ad campaigns for sites like Spotify and SoundCloud. They can be useful if you’re not confident in your marketing abilities or don’t have a lot of time to spare. Beware, avoid people selling cheap services on sites such as fiverr.com. Look for reputable providers like those in this list from Omari.
Collaborate With Other Musicians
Collaboration with other artists can be a great way to get exposure to new audiences. It can also boosting your credibility. There are so many ways to collaborate that don’t necessarily involve creating any new music (although that can help!).
Sharing each others’ social content or new tracks in your networks is easy. Sharing the bill on tour can help fill venues (the best way to get repeat bookings) and get you noticed by more people.
Pro Collabs has a service to help find collaborators from all over the globe.
Submit To Wikipedia
A Wikipedia entry can boost your credibility while also providing further exposure. However, that credibility comes at a price. It’s hard to get a wikipedia page accepted, especially for newer artists. Build up some momentum in other ways before trying to get listed. Here are sometips to help you out when submitting your wikipedia entry:
- Be Neutral and Balanced – this is not the place for hyperbole or self-promotion. Stick to the facts.
- Get someone else to write it – Wikipedia wants neutral, unbiased entries. An established wikipedia contributor is best. Definitely not you or anyone else connected with your band. Writing your own is the quickest way to get it deleted.
- Include everything – Band history, key personnel, full discography and track listings. All it.
- Information must be verifiable – References from reputable, independent 3rd parties are essential. Get as many of these as possible and it will benefit more than your wikipedia band page.
Play Live As Often As Possible
At our peak we were playing three gigs in a week while holding down day jobs. Playing live isn’t strictly “online”, but it can play an important role in online promotion.
Playing live is an excellent way to hone your craft. It also helps connect and understand what your audience responds to. Do people get bored during your fourth guitar solo in a song? Do they sing along during that hook-laden chorus? Use that feedback to improve future recordings. At the end of the day, it’s all about making great music that people love.
Live gigs are also a source of online content. Each gig should be able to provide tons of photos and video for your web site, blog and social media. A well planned tour should fill your social media calendar for months.
How To Distribute Your Music Online
In the old world, everything was in black & white. Amps were still analog. Artists recorded songs and record labels distributed records to local outlets.
Now, the number of places people can find your music keeps growing so you need to be in as many places as possible. You also need to make sure you get paid.
You can approach each of these platforms yourself, which is time consuming. Or you can sign up with one of several music distribution partners.
The Top 9 Music Distribution Platforms In 2019
- YouTube – accountable for almost 50% of all online music streaming
- Spotify – (87m+ paid subs, 191m+ active users)
- SoundCloud – 175m monthly active listeners
- Pandora / Rdio – Only available in the US, but still boasts 75m active monthly users
- Apple Music / iTunes – 56 million active monthly users
- Last.fm – Latest estimates seem to suggest around 25m unique monthly users
- Bandcamp – user stats aren’t available but Bandcamp has paid artists $317m in total
- Deezer – 14m monthly active users at last count
- Google Play – had 7m subscribers in 2017 but likely grown since then. May merge with YouTube Music.
If want to save time, you could use a syndication service to push your music to the above and 100’s more for a small fee. Here are some of the better services that you might find useful:
Prepare Your Data To Help People Find You
Distribution services make it much easier to upload and distribute your music online. But here’s still plenty of work to do even after you’ve cut your latest track.
Regardless of platform, you need to add plenty of data about each track you upload. This will Make sure everything is consistent. Use a spell checker.
This list should give you an idea of what you’ll need to prepare your music for upload and distribution:
- Artist/band name(s)
- List of Primary/featured artists and collaborators
- Song and Album Titles
- Songwriter, publish and payment/royalty splits
- Extra metadata such as whether the song is a cover or includes explicit lyrics, etc
- Cover artwork
- Release and pre-sale dates
- Written descriptions of your music
- Payment method – so you can get paid
- Label and copyright information
CD Baby has an excellent resource that covers this section in much more detail.
While there’s no magic formula for success in the music industry, following the steps in this guide should increase your chances.
Create a plan and work it hard, be consistent, and don’t give up. Persistence is the key. Build up your social following online, share awesome content and push your music onto as many platforms as possible. You may find yourself making a comfortable living from something you love.