Have you ever come across some indie band making fantastic music without anyone listening? The reasons for this phenomenon are diverse, ranging from location to branding. However, it is almost a certainty that this band does not spend as much time as they should on marketing.
Fair enough! Marketing seems like a big, complicated job that doesn’t have a whole lot to do with music or anything fun. While I agree that certain parts of marketing are annoying and tedious, I take issue with it being complicated and boring.
Becoming better at marketing your music is all about understanding what marketing means and changing your attitude towards it. Music marketing can be creative, fun, and even inexpensive if you go about it in the right way.
Let’s look at a few concepts you should have in mind when dreaming up marketing strategies, and then we’ll cover some specific marketing ideas you can use!
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Music Advertising Is About Being Heard
There is a big difference between creating great music and other people knowing you make great music. Many artists think that if their music is good enough, it will get noticed.
I think that if you are making great music, it will get noticed – assuming you’re marketing it properly. Otherwise, nobody will hear it, and that's the main reason why you should be marketing. Whether that means marketing your music to managers and labels before fans, or doing it the other way around is up to you.
At its core, your marketing efforts should be focused on two things: awareness and fan conversion with the goal of having your music heard.
There are so many new bands emerging all the time. Your first step is to stand out from the crowd and create awareness within both the music industry and with fans. They need to know that you exist.
Secondly, you need to convince them to listen to your music. Even giving your album or song away for free won’t necessarily guarantee people listening to it. It’s hard to get people to download free music, let alone listen to it!
Whether it’s industry or the general public, you’re just trying to convert more people into fans.
When you have this in mind, it becomes easier to market your music. How can you creatively get your music heard? How are you going to be different?
And this also makes it easier to decide whether or not a music marketing tool is worth using. Does this create more fans? Will this allow my music to be heard by more people?
Music Marketing Is About Relationships
Artists with great marketing strategies have great relationships with their fans. You get to decide what that looks like, but if you’re not fostering relationships with your fans, you are missing out.
I’m sure you’ve seen or even follow artists who always just seem to be talking at you or selling at you. This is a huge turn off. It’s like meeting somebody that never stops talking about themselves!
Artists who reply to fan comments, have fun with their fans, treat fans with respect, and create fun experiences for their fans inevitably have better fans. You want fans that are going to support a pre-order campaign, come out to shows, and buy merch.
Think of ways to market your music that get your fans involved, and give them an opportunity to interact with you.
You Might Have To Hire Help
If you don’t know how to fix a toilet, you call a plumber. If you’re feeling lost in the big wide world of music marketing, get help from somebody who knows what they’re doing.
In the beginning, this doesn’t necessarily have to be paid help. It’s often very helpful to get opinions and insight from another artist who is a few steps ahead of you. They can tell you what worked for them and even connect you with a professional.
You may find yourself in a position where you’re needing to hire a publicist or a professional marketer. These people can be expensive, but they can also take your marketing to another level that you could not reach on your own.
There’s also a lot to be learned from working with a marketing professional. If you’re paying attention, you can learn how a publicist works or where exactly a marketing professional invests your money, and then potentially avoid having to hire someone next time.
Social Media Is Not The Only Place To Promote Your Music
It’s been said so often that it’s almost a cliché. You must be marketing your music online. Social media is important. Your Spotify numbers are important.
What doesn’t get said enough, is that there are other ways to build fans. Consider once more what you’re aiming to do with marketing: create awareness and convince people to listen to your music.
There is so much content online. So much music! One of the oldest and best ways to get your music heard is still playing music live in front of real people.
The people that see you on tour or at a show are generally people who care about local/live music and will be much more willing to give you a chance. These are also people that buy albums and buy merch. These are potential long-term fans.
Spotify numbers and Facebook likes are fickle. They don’t always translate into revenue and they don’t always translate into real fans.
Touring is not fickle. It’s hard ticket value. It’s real people listening to your music and interacting with you in person. There is nothing that replaces that!
There are also many ways that artists connect with fans outside of the internet. Think of meet-and-greets, listening parties, contests, etc. These are all great ways to connect with fans in a physical way.
Do you remember when Taylor Swift was hand delivering presents to some of her long-time fans? How cool was that! It not only made those fans fall more deeply in love with Taylor Swift and her brand, but it also gives her the public impression of being down to earth and caring. Genius.
10 Advertising Ideas For You To Try
Here are 10 distinct ideas you can try to boost your music's exposure.
1. Start A Kickstarter Or PledgeMusic Campaign
I was always unsure about the benefits of a pre-order or crowdfunding campaign, but since launching one successfully, I have become convinced.
A campaign is a great excuse to post a lot on social media, it’s exciting for fans because you’re actually making something, and it really gets people engaged.
Once they give you their money, they feel much more connected and involved with you as an artist.
These campaigns also force you to get creative with content and engage with your fans. It’s super fun and you also get paid for your work!
2. Try A Small-Scale College Radio Campaign
Large commercial radio campaigns are extremely expensive and usually a waste of money for independent artists.
College radio on the other hand can be fun, inexpensive, and worthwhile. Especially in your local area or in areas where you will be touring.
Basically, you’re going to put together a little package with your CD, a note about which songs are the singles, and a note about the release date. Make it look nice and consider including a few little extras like T-shirts, buttons, or stickers.
Then, you follow up once or twice with a phone call and hope to get spun. You make a very small amount of money from these spins, but it can be worth it if you get the DJs promoting your shows.
3. Aim To Get Placed In High Traffic Spotify Playlists
Getting placed in popular Spotify playlists can immediately expose your music to thousands of new listeners. Spotify has become the new radio in that sense.
Unfortunately getting on playlists is a bit of a challenge. Of course, you can start by just sending your music to the curators of playlists that you might fit in. This probably won’t be terribly effective, because these people get a ton of music submissions.
You’re better off trying to get placed in some lesser-known playlists and building your track record that way. Work your way up to the big leagues!
4. Collaborate With Other Musicians
In the R&B and Hip-Hop community, it’s very common to collaborate and cross-promote. For some reason, this is done less in other communities, despite the obvious benefits.
Not only will your music be cross-promoted to another artist’s fan base, but you’ll also open yourself up creatively to new musicians and new ideas. You never know what songs or ideas will come out of collaboration.
5. Make Connections With Your Local Media
While local media can seem like small fish, getting locals on your side is great way to build buzz and kick start your album cycle. If a band comes out of their city with a bunch of local buzz, it makes for a better story and a quality track record for larger publications.
There’s this strange phenomenon in the music industry. Some industry must show interest before anyone wants to admit that they’re also interested.
It’s much easier to get a local magazine or blog to review your album than Noisey. However, it really helps to have positive press reviews when you’re trying to attract the attention of larger media.
6. Schedule Your Posts For Optimal Organic Reach
You can use the Facebook Insights to figure out when the optimal posting time is for your fans. Then, plan out your posts and schedule them to be posted at the proper time.
You can also see what kind of posts test well with your audience and customize your posts to the platform and your audience.
7. Make Use Of The Unique Features On Different Platforms
When Facebook introduced Facebook Live, it started taking priority in people's newsfeeds. People online would also receive a notification. That’s crazy!
You literally have to pay for most of your posts to get exposure on Facebook, and then on this one specific type of post Facebook literally lets people know for you. Amazing.
Different social media platforms have different features that are way better at reaching people. Instagram’s Live and Story function, Facebook Live, etc. Take advantage of these functions and get creative! They have a much wider reach.
8. Experiment With Different Live Formats
Local venues are always putting on different events to bring people out. In my city, the most popular venue does these cover nights called Bands as Bands. So, a popular local band would cover all Coldplay songs or something.
These shows are great for exposing you to music lovers in your local scene and connecting you with other bands. My band also plays a live band karaoke event that gets great attendance.
While you may not be playing your music, you are at least putting yourself in front of local music lovers and making connections. Very important!
9. Contests And Voting
While contests and voting can be a great way to engage your fan base, there comes a point when it gets annoying. If you’re having people vote for your band in a different contest every month, that will turn people off.
There’s also something that is visually unappealing about bands having people voting for them all the time. It reminds me of battle of the bands, which are usually terrible. It’s best to associate yourself with high quality contests only.
10. Create A Brand And Stick To It
Brands only work if you’re consistent. Stick to certain color pallets, fonts, and aesthetics and people will start to identify your music with your brand.
Making your brand easy to maintain is essential. It’s very helpful to be able to make your own graphics, make your own videos, etc. Having to spend big money on branding every month will quickly drain your bank account.
Final Word Of Advice
Marketing isn’t something you’ll do once a year. It’s a year-round affair, and it’s essential that you have continued focus on it.
It’s also important to feel good about everything you’re putting out. As soon as you start marketing, people start consuming. Don’t let your first impression be a negative one.