There have been a few questions popping up on reddit about how to start promoting your music as a producer or performer. I responded a couple of times and each time the reaction was very positive – and thus I am republishing my reddit comments here.
Granted I barely have time to promote my own stuff at the moment – but if I got serious this is what I would do. This is by no means an exhaustive list but this is how I would get started:
Build your “audience”
- Figure out who likes you music – do you have Facebook fans, Instagram fans, Spotify fans? What are their interests?
- Do you perform live? What do the people who go to your shows have in common?
- Do this as a written exercise – jot down on a paper or board the commonalities between those who like your music.
- Who is your “competition”? Is there an artist that you sound like, what are their fans like?
- What are your competitors doing to promote themselves?
- What channels are they promoting themselves on – and are seeing the most success?
Build Your Brand
- Who are you?
- What is your music about?
- How do you position yourself in the market?
- What is an emotion, or two, that describes your music? Do your visuals support these?
- Are you representing your music, or is it representing you?
- Always keep your messaging and visuals consistent with your brand “guidelines”
Evaluate Your Product
- Is your music niche enough to start building fans? Are you able to expand in the future and still keep your core fanbase engaged?
- Are you trying to do too much at the same time?
- Is there anyone similar to you with a popular track that you can emulate to build exposure for yourself?
- How will you release your music? Will it be digital only, or physical as well?
- How will you distribute your music?
- What is your goal? Is it to sell music? Is it to get streams? Is it to get people to your shows? Is it to get heard by a large label and get signed?
- What is the right approach for you to promote your brand?
- What kind of messaging will resonate with your audience?
- Which channels does your audience use most and where are they most likely to be receptive of your music?
- What kind of realistic budget do you have to promote yourself?
Once the above pieces are in place, the rest gets easier. You the above questions to write out the beginning stages of a business/marketing plan. Once that is in place, start thinking about the tactics you will use to promote your music.
This is where we really get to the cooking part – these are the tools you will use to build and strengthen your brand, and generate revenue.
- Website – every artist, imho, needs a website – even if it’s simple. If you are indie, you will rely on low-cost high impact campaigns and your website should be your central hub. Some people will say you should drive people directly to social media, but I would disagree for two reasons: 1. you don’t have control over social media sites – they can change anytime and all of your efforts will be wasted and 2. your website is extremely flexible in what you put on there, and how you deliver it. Your website can also be your database <- this is extremely important. Setting up a site is easy – and I always recommend WordPress because it’s open source, so it will never change on you, unless you want it to, it’s free, it’s easy to set up, it’s easy to manage, and you have full control over it.
- Content – this is huge. You will need to start working, diligently, on creating GREAT and CONSISTENT content – this can be audio, video, written, imagery, whatever your audience responds to best. The type of content you create will more or less decide which social networks you use, also. Focus on adding value with each piece of content you create: Are you letting fans know more about you? Are you talking about your process? Do you have an amazing personality which shines through your content? Do you have access to other artists your audience might care about?
- Email – first thing you should do once you have your website up is start working on an email database – this will be one of your primary low cost tools to reach your audience when you have news, new releases, AMAs, pretty much anything. You will build your database by converting people on your website, using forms.
- Social – you will want to set up profiles on as many social networks as you can – you don’t need to manage them all, but you should set up a profile anyway (you never know which will fold and which will take off) – you will have your brand name reserved in case you do decide to use it. Now that you have profiles set up, focus on 1, 2, 3 key social media places where your audience is going to interact with you – if you don’t yet know this, you can test all of them and see where you’re getting the best results. You will use social media in the same way you use email, to reach your audience and bring them to your website – where you will try to convert them into your database.
- Partners – do you have a label who supports your music and promotes it? Are you doing things on your own and using a distributor – do they have options to promote you? Can you get on compilations with good visibility?
- PR/Blogs – this has been the best way for me in the past, personally, to reach a large and targeted audience. Research blogs which feature music like yours, build a database of their journalists or submission emails and send them personalized messages when you have something new you’re ready to release. You can gain an enormous amount of momentum with a feature on a major blog. Once you have a feature, include it in future emails to blogs to let them know you’ve been featured on big blogs to build credibility. When you are showcased on a blog, make sure to make a post about it on your own website, also.
- Running your own label – be your own A&R, find amazing emerging artists and help promote them, elevating yourself in the process. This is a whole other ballgame, so I won’t get too deep into it.
There is also a whole world of paid promotion/ads that you can leverage, but it will take forever to explain, and you’re probably not there yet.
Imparting Final Wisdom
This will be a lot of work – and you have to be 100% committed to it, it has to feel natural for you to succeed <- this may come with time. The important thing is to make sure you answer the critical questions first, and the rest should fall into place. In marketing, preparation and planning is the first key between success and failure. The second is time and effort. You can have the best plan, but if you do not execute on it consistently you will fail. You have to plan and set aside time to work on music, and also on marketing. It’s more than a full time job, most likely, if you are at all committed to success.
Reddit user /u/moogular responded to my original comment with a few interesting additions. They are paraphrased below.
- Don’t worry about putting out a full album. An album is a great way to build credibility, but is no longer “required” to release your music. The focus is mainly on singles now, so you are fine with releasing one or two tracks at a time. This is obviously much faster and easier since you don’t have to master an entire album to make sure everything is consistent. “Think of each song as a “product” with a life cycle of 6-8 weeks. During these 6-8 weeks, stagger content related to the song (music videos, interviews, recorded live performances) and make sure they are getting the visibility needed. “
- Make sure your music sounds good. Even if the overall creativity is so-so you can stand out with a high quality of sound. There are many good producers out there, and no one notices them because their sound is average or good. Only the best quality of sound will get noticed – be vigilant in making sure your music sounds good.
Resources and Books
As for books, I don’t know of any specific to music, but marketing anything follows the same basic principles: product, place, price and promotion. Read Positioning by Jack Trout and 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. Read HubSpot’s blog and do their Inbound Certification – digital marketing 101.
As I mentioned, this is not a complete guide, but is a good start to get you thinking about some of this stuff. I probably could, and maybe should, write a book on this – but once you jump into it you should start figuring out what works and what doesn’t for yourself – that’s the exciting part of marketing, the testing and the trial and error.
Best of luck on your exciting new adventure.