No matter what kind of artist you are or what genre of music you produce – metal, hip hop, jazz, classical, acoustic or many others – unless people are listening to you, you’re not doing it right.
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We’ve all heard the often-used phrase ‘if you build it, they will come’. And, if you’re in the arts industry, you’ll know how ridiculous a statement this is.
Because simply putting your music out there won’t guarantee it gets heard. There is so much music on offer from professional musicians, amateurs, and those in between. There are so many genres, and each genre has an equal amount of sub-genres! In short, there’s no end to the music you can unearth online.
This is fantastic news for music fans. Who wouldn’t want an endless stream of new music to discover?
However it’s less fantastic for artists like you trying to get your music heard in a crowded marketplace. This is why having a solid strategy for promoting your music and building your fanbase is so important.
Music promotion used to be relatively simple. Performing live was the prime method; sending tapes or CDs to music magazines another. But when the internet became mainstream, a whole new world of potential listeners arrived – literally.
There are now over 3 billion internet users across the world, and a huge portion of these users – like me and you – are interested in discovering new music. Thanks to the emergence of social media and streaming video, the internet has made it incredibly simple to both get your music out there and promote it to people who may enjoy it.
But it’s not all good news. Surprise, surprise, thousands of other bands and artists in your genre have had the same idea. Suddenly the online music industry is a very crowded and competitive one indeed.
Ultimately you need to find a way to stand out from the others.
Creating great music and having a professional image is certainly a good start. You need to be sure the music you’re producing sounds awesome, because most of the time you get just one shot to impress your target listeners. If they hear a dud, you’ll be struck off their Spotify list before you know it!
But after creating good music, you need to get it out there. The good news is that there are endless ways to promote your music online. There are hundreds of useful websites to explore and – as well as exciting – it can get pretty overwhelming.
So we’ve focused on ten of the best strategies for online promotion that can work for any band or artist:
With so many other avenues of online music promotion available (many of which we’ll explore shortly), you may feel setting up a website isn’t worth your time. However this online staple is perhaps the most essential part of your online promotion. It will become the hub for your music – giving you an official place to control your image and message.
When it comes to developing your website, you can go down a few routes. Unless you are an expert in programming as well as music, paying a professional web designer to build a tailor-made website from scratch to your specifications is the ideal scenario. This should be explored if you are serious about promoting yourself online and building your fanbase.
However professional website design can be expensive and, if you can’t afford it, there are cheaper ways to get a quick website up and running. One way is by using a free service such as Wix, who have fully-customizable dedicated website templates specifically for bands and artists, which can help promote and sell your music in an easy way. Instead of buying another acoustic guitar, save the cash and invest in a website!
When you have your website up and running, ensure that you keep it fresh and current – upload new songs, new videos, tour dates, news and photos as often as possible. Keep ‘em coming back for more!
Blogs can be powerful resources, used as either stand-alone tools or extensions of your website. In addition to sharing pretty much anything, search engines such as Google love blogs, and you can watch your results page presence increase the more you blog.
Whether you’re a band or an individual artist, you can use a simple blog to talk about anything you want your fans to know – discuss new music you are working on, the release of a new album, new tour dates and important announcements. But with blogs, you can also go deeper into the emotional and creative process of making music.
Think about writing a weekly blog about how your new album is coming together. On the road? A daily tour journal full of photos and stories can be a gripping read for fans. You like tweaking your gear? Post a video on how you restring your electric guitar. You can also use the blog as a general vent for your feelings, be it joy, anger, sadness, optimism or whatever. It’s your blog – as long as it’s relevant and entertaining you will find your readership will grow.
You don’t need to be a marketing expert to know the power of social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Sharing music, photos, blog posts (see above) and news about you or your band can really complement the other music promotion you do.
These days, Facebook is pretty much essential. Building a group of enthusiastic fans on your Facebook page isn’t difficult, although the organic reach of your posts can be limited due to new Facebook restrictions. You can beat this by paying a small fee to boost your posts to your fans and beyond, which can be well worth the relatively little amount of cash.
On Twitter, using hashtags on your tweets is crucial. There’s no need to flood the tweet, but adding general genre-specific tags like #folkmusic #indierock #metal or #jazz will help boost your exposure, as will participating in specific global hashtags that allow fans to discover music, such as #NewMusicMonday or #NewMusicFriday.
Meanwhile, if you’ve not tried Instagram go set up an account! It’s such a simple photo sharing platform and works wonders for increasing your online presence. Take a few casual pics in the studio, at a gig, or just chilling out, and watch the likes come pouring in!
We’ve discussed blogging already, but in addition to having your own blog it’s important to reach out to other music-specific blogs for maximum buzz creation.
The best news for artists is that music blogs always need content – they survive on writing news, reviews, and interviews on both established and new artists. So be newsworthy, find an angle, and get in touch. These guys are very unlikely to come to you, so you must go to them!
Start by reaching out to some local music blogs, before building up to big international blogs like Consequence of Sound or Resident Advisor. Ensure that the blog you are approaching cater for your genre and have featured similar sized artists to you in the past. Genre is important here because there’s no point in sending an announcement about your insane new heavy rock album to All Hip Hop!
Still downloading music? That’s soooo 2005. It’s all about streaming these days. Having your music on streaming sites such as Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal is critical in getting your music heard by both fans and – most importantly – potential fans.
For example, Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature generates playlists based on listeners’ existing preferences, allowing them to discover new artists that suit their tastes.
Of course, by having your music feature on a popular streaming site you also get that royalty payment, which is certainly a nice boost – but the real value of streaming is in building your fanbase. Off the back of this you can sell music, merchandise, concert tickets and more.
Heard of Justin Bieber? Carly Rae Jepsen? Susan Boyle? While these artists may not necessarily be first on your Spotify playlist, they all have YouTube to thank for their success in some way. We’ve talked about dedicated music streaming services, but YouTube is still the world’s top streaming resource – which is why your own YouTube channel is so essential.
Uploading music videos and gig footage are two obvious ways to take advantage of YouTube, but you can also use the platform for both informative and interactive means, as further ways to grow your fanbase. For example, song tutorials (where you provide some online lessons for your music), lyric videos, live Q&As and rig rundowns are popular, while posting up cover songs of the biggest tracks is becoming a great method of finding new viewers. If you can find a creative way to cover a song, all the better.
Just like other streaming sites you can certainly monetize your videos, but the subscribers and fans you gain from this promotion is what’s really important here.
An Electronic Press Kit is vital for gaining exposure from the media – whether online or print. Where some of the other ideas in this article focus on building your fanbase directly through interaction with fans, the EPK is tailored specifically towards the media.
The good news is that they are pretty simple to put together. On your website create a separate page solely for the EPK, then write a concise but informative band/artist bio – list your achievements, history and a little about your actual music. In addition to a short bio you’ll need to include a list of easily downloadable music files that offer a good taste of your music. Some good quality, high-resolution photos and videos are essential too.
You’ll definitely need to include contact details so the media outlet, blogger or venue booker can get hold of you, and always link to your social media pages so they can see how you promote yourself and interact with fans.
Finally a couple of quotes won’t go amiss. Have bloggers, journalists, fans or previous bookers said something great about you or your music? If so, get the best quotes on the page!
No-one pays for advertising these days… do they?
They most certainly do. Paid-for online advertising can be a very effective part of a digital promotion strategy, along with a good website, EPK, blog and social media presence. You don’t have to spend a small fortune either – as little as $5 a day can get you decent coverage to support your push for a bigger fanbase. That’s less than a pack of new guitar strings!
Something worth checking out if you like the sound of advertising is ReverbNation’s Promote It tool, which makes it pretty hassle-free to place adverts on major music-specific websites you care about – MTV, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon, Pitchfork and more.
Parting with hard-earned cash can seem like the last thing you want to do, but it’s a very small price to pay to get seen by potential listeners.
While social media is great, you need to rely on both your target reader being online at the time you post your update, and accept the fact that sites like Facebook will only allow a small percentage (around 5-10%) of your fans to actually see your post – unless you pay to ‘boost’ it.
Which is why an engaging email that arrives safely in the inbox of your fans is an effective method of communication, especially if they ask for it. Sending a regular weekly/monthly newsletter to fans who share their email addresses with you can be an excellent way to reach them and promote your music – and one which is often underused by musicians. These newsletters – which can easily be sent via a tool such as MailChimp – can include everything from news and tour dates, to exclusive tracks and competitions.
Are you struggling to get a good mailing list together? Organizations like NoiseTrade allow you a platform on which to trade a digital copy of your album for an email address. Or you could run a competition on your website for free merchandise/gig tickets, and use the email addresses you collect from entries. Finally, ensure your website, blog and Facebook page has a newsletter subscribe button!
Do you see other bands in your genre as friends? Or as competition? Or a bit of both? Either way it’s a sensible move to look at collaborating with them – especially if they are more established and have a bigger fanbase than you do.
The reason is simple – when they promote your collaborative track/s on their social media pages/websites/emails, their fans will soon hear about you. Enter a brand new audience for your existing catalog of music.
You may have local bands who you’d be comfortable collaborating with (which is also great for finding gig partners), although online platforms such as ProCollabs allow you to find like-minded musicians from across the globe to collaborate with, as well as offering a variety of project management and productions tools to help things go smoothly.
When broken down, these ten strategies don’t sound too difficult. But the only way to know if they will actually work for you and your music is by trying them out.
Start with the ones you already know (Facebook and Twitter perhaps), then work up to the others that seem more daunting (direct email and approaching the media). Learn from your mistakes, fine-tune your methods, then go again.
That last point is the most important part – ‘go again’ or ‘persist’. Because sending out a few tweets or a couple of Instagram photos, and approaching two bloggers isn’t likely to end in much success.
It’s rare that your first blog post will be read by more than a handful of people, and it may take 20 attempts at approaching music bloggers before one even responds to you. Online promotion is an ongoing process.
However, don’t spread yourself too thin – in addition to promotion, you still need to concentrate on making good music! If you are in a band or group of musicians, share the promotional workload between you. It’s trickier if you’re a solo artist, but at least you know your persistence will end up benefiting you in the long run.
Don’t forget to keep performing live whenever possible, especially in festivals or concerts where other bands are present. In addition to making some cash, this can really complement the online promotion you do, and will help you build fans who will spread the word of your awesome music.
Good luck (and don’t forget to thank GuitarFella when you become famous)!