Music needs to be distributed and promoted. Without this two-step process, you have no hope of connecting with your audience and driving interest and sales.
The problem is that you have to be smart about your marketing. You have to understand your target audience, carefully craft your message, and put an organized plan in place to come across as unified in your communication.
This is more work than a lot of people are willing to put in, which is why they resort to some of the following misguided marketing ideas. Here are several campaign strategies you should avoid:
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1. A Music Marketing Campaign Without A Plan
Being busy isn't the same as being productive. This is a truism in the workplace as much as it is a truism in marketing music.
If you're blindly posting to social media expecting to see the money come pouring in, you're missing the point.
What are your goals? Who are you trying to reach? What tactics and channels are you going to be using to spread your marketing message? How long will the campaign last?
If you don't have a timeline for your campaign, then it can't really be considered a campaign at all. By its very definition, a campaign is something that lasts a limited amount of time – it's a focused and concerted effort to gain visibility for your music.
So create a blueprint for your marketing campaign. Write it all down, and remember that your plan does not need to be perfect – but you do need to start with one to get anywhere.
2. Publicity Campaigns Not Aligned With Your Philosophy & Vision
You need to be hands-on with publicity campaigns, or your music is going to be promoted and talked about in ways you never wanted it to be.
Publicity in and of itself is a very good way to promote your music, and as they say, “even bad press can be good press.”
But it's a question of how you want to be represented. An experienced PR person knows how to run a campaign and get you attention, but that doesn't mean they know how to represent you in the light that you wish to be seen in.
And this really goes back to the core of your purpose. Who are you? What are you trying to accomplish? What's your vision? Why do you make music?
Without a clear understanding of these questions, your marketing won't be as effective as it could be. This isn't to suggest that this is easy – figuring out your vision is often the hardest part!
But once you know what you're after, you'll be able to make better decisions in connection with your music.
3. Social Media Only Music Marketing Campaigns
There is – or at least there should be – a bit of a distinction between “social media” and “social media marketing.”
Yes, it is possible to market your music with social media. But in general, approaching it in a conversational way allows your audience to interact and connect with you without feeling like they're always been sold to.
But putting all of your eggs in one basket and making an all-out attack on social media without a plan is misguided at best, detrimental to your career at worst.
There are many reasons why this is problematic, but here's a broad overview:
- You'll never reach all of your fans, no matter how often you post and how much noise you make.
- Contests and giveaways could get shut down unless you play by the rules.
- Social media sites are full of clutter and distractions that take away from your singular focus to promote your music.
- Social media platforms are constantly changing, and algorithm updates generally result in reduced visibility.
It's fine to make social media a part of your strategy, and I would even encourage that. But it's a far cry from a marketing campaign that includes other important channels such as radio, video, publicity, performance, and so on.
4. Spam & Splash Campaigns
In my mind, there isn't a worse approach to marketing campaigns than throwing as much as you possibly can at the wall to see what sticks.
Volume does factor into a marketing campaign – in other words, how often your message is broadcast out into the world. But you have to think carefully about who you're trying to reach and what kind of message is going to resonate with them.
Posting “buy our album” 100 times to your Twitter account is a surefire way to get un-followed and ignored. Writing an email that says “dude, this is how we make our money – you have to buy our album” is a good way to come off sounding desperate.
I often get press releases in my inbox, and inquiries on services I don't even offer. Why is this still happening in an age in which it has never been easier to learn about someone and connect with them?
Simple – this generation wants instant gratification. But I'm sorry to say that most of the time there is no way to instantly gratify your desires, and even if there are, they tend to be short-sighted, short-lived approaches to satisfaction.
Be willing to do the hard work of connecting with people. People like to be complimented. They like to be acknowledged. They like it when you start with “hello” and actually introduce yourself. They like it when you're thinking in terms of a “win-win” rather than just what's in it for you.
I can't stress this enough – don't try to be perfect. I know, all too well, how us musicians like to try to get all of our ducks in a row before putting ourselves out there. That could get you locked into an unhealthy cycle of planning and re-thinking, planning and re-thinking…
Don't be afraid to try. Your first marketing campaign won't be the prettiest, most well-executed in the world. But you'll have gained the experience necessary to do better in the future. You can't steer a parked car, but once the car is moving, you can make course corrections and adjustments as necessary.