Music Marketing: The Best [and Worst] Ways to Promote Your Music
Music marketing is often overly-complicated and easy to get wrong. Many artists still don’t market their music, under the (completely false) assumption that “good music markets itself.” I decided to test a variety of music marketing strategies to see what would work. I found this article by Yael Keon called “54 Ways to Promote Your Small Business for Free.”
Musicians don’t often consider themselves a “small business,” but you should! Also, as a session singer, I am an actual business with services to provide, so I figured I could try these and see if they work.
I’m going to use most of what she wrote here, but my intent of course is not to copy her work. I’m putting a musician spin on it and also letting you know what worked and didn’t work for me. Hopefully this will give you some music marketing ideas you can use for yourself!
Music Marketing Strategies – What Works and What Doesn’t
This project was a huge undertaking, and admittedly some of the tasks fell through the cracks. I’ll give you my honest opinion on all of them, along with what I could have done better. Again, here is the article so you can see them all for yourself. These results are my own and unique to me, so your results may vary.
Here is a video I made to kick off the project and review what I would be doing:
If you decide to try any of these, send me a tweet and let me know how it’s going for you!I'm taking the music marketing challenge! Click To Tweet
Content Marketing for Music
Creating content is obviously something musicians do a lot. As a blogger and vlogger, I have to create content all the time. It can get exhausting, and sometimes I either have so many ideas I don’t know what to focus on, or I have no idea what to do. This article did help me come up with ideas to create new content.
1). A Blog Post That Teaches the Beginning of Something
My post on “5 Things to Think About Before Hiring a Session Singer” shows the beginning stages of working with session musicians. If you’re an artist, you could blog about how you start writing songs, how you start your concerts, or how you prepare for a studio session.
2). A Blog Post That Supplements Your Product or Service
My post here is about how to work with session musicians and guide them to getting the best performance. An artist can blog about the meaning behind a song, or how certain merch was created.
3). Create a Portfolio
I have a reel already, so I didn’t do this. If you don’t have a reel, you should! Either make a reel with snippets of your original music, your covers, or a video reel of live performances.
4). Create a Challenge
On my YouTube channel, I created this challenge to have people join me in marketing themselves. I’m extending that challenge to you here. Take this challenge with me! Let me know how it worked for you. If you’re a band, you can create a challenge to have fans design a logo, go on a scavenger hunt, or something that will create buzz for your music. Create a special hashtag for it also!
5). Make a Free eBook, Checklist or Workbook
I made a checklist for hiring session musicians, which you can get by joining the Melluminati here. I have other ebooks and workbooks in my VIP library once you join us! This one might be tough if you’re a performer, you might not have any reason to make one of these. Don’t feel like you have to do all of them! Focus only on the ones that will benefit you the most.
6). Create an InfoGraphic
I made this infographic about harmony intervals:
An infographic about your band or album would be really cool! Not many musicians do this and I think it’s a good opportunity to give your fans interesting facts in a visual way.
7). Make a YouTube Video
I made multiple videos throughout this project, but the one I made specifically for this was my cover of “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan:
A cover video is always a solid idea, but any video where you show your personality or music is great! If you’re not sure what to make, I have a whole post of YouTube ideas for musicians here.
8). Create a Quiz
I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think this one did anything for me. I did make one here, but the program I used is buggy, has frequent malfunctions and doesn’t really give me any returns. People can give me their email, but I have to manually enter it (which I’m too lazy to do) and they also can skip that section, so it’s kind of pointless. You can make one about your album in exchange for something free, maybe? I just recommend finding a good quiz creator, because the free ones are pretty hit-or-miss.
The Worst Content Marketing Ideas for Musicians:
I couldn’t really find anything to make a Slideshare on. I don’t think many musicians have a large fanbase on LinkedIn, and I spend the least amount of time there out of all social media platforms.
Personally, I can’t stand webinars so I didn’t make one. I meant to write a vanity/roundup post but never got around to it. I also don’t know that it would apply to regular musicians.
The last two (link & repurpose) are things you kind of have to do often, not just a one-time thing. These definitely can be super effective and you should make a practice of it! You can also repurpose songs by making acoustic versions of them or new genres.
Here is my video recapping Content Music Marketing:
Social Media Music Marketing
Social media is probably THE most important and effective marketing for musicians. There will still be some that are better or worse than others, though. Here are my results:
1). Add Social Media Sharing Buttons to Your Website
I had already done this, and I’m pretty sure most websites have social media icons as a standard feature. If you don’t have them, you absolutely should and you can probably get a free plugin to do it!
2). Use a Consistent Profile and Image Style
I made a whole video of a photoshoot I did just for this task:
While I do think it’s important to have consistent imaging, I tend to get bored with the same 2 photos everywhere. I think as long as people know it’s you, you should be good!
There was a separate task in this list to create Facebook and Twitter cover images, but I combined the two together.
3). Create Specific Images for Promotions
I did not do this one, but I want to mention it because I think this is a really important one for musicians. If you have a single and a music video coming out, make sure your photos are different! If you use a photo for your single and then the same exact photo for your video, people might think they already checked it out and don’t need to do it again. Make sure you differentiate them enough that people know you have something new!
4). Put Your “Business Page” as Your Workplace on Your Personal Facebook Profile
I did this but then I chickened out and made it private. I just don’t see why my great-aunt I’ve never met before needs to see (or cares) where my fan page is. It’s weird, I know I’m being silly about this, and there are plenty of reasons to do it. You might not be able to if you have a different day job, or if you’re just a paranoid weirdo like me. If it works for you, have at it!
5). Create a More Memorable Bio Description
I did not do this and I definitely should. Bios are a great place to market your music and let everyone know what you have coming up. While you could write one bio and paste it in every social media platform, there are actually ideal ways to post on each. Here is an article that will help you maximize each profile. I plan on getting around to this eventually, I just didn’t yet.
Other tasks that kind of go with this one: Add a Link to Your Opt-In on All Your Bios, and Create a “Pinned” Post for Facebook and Twitter. I did the latter but not the former because I haven’t re-written my bios yet. For musicians, you’ll obviously want to link your newest album or single everywhere!
6). Join Pinterest Group Boards
This is only a good idea if you have a blog, but you NEED to do this if you’re a blogger! Musicians don’t really need these, as Pinterest hasn’t proven very effective for music marketing. It’s essential for blogs though, so if you did the content marketing above, you should definitely find Pinterest Group Boards! There are plenty of music-related ones out there.
7). Make Facebook and Instagram Live Videos
The original article said “Periscope,” but obviously we can tailor that to modern times. Post backstage videos, impromptu jam sessions, or anytime you can’t get a song out of your head and want to share with fans! I made one Instagram Live for this challenge and never did it again. My goals are a little different from music artists, though.
The Worst/Least Effective Social Media Marketing for Musicians:
Obviously, the old ones just aren’t usable (RIP Google+), and then some of these are also kind of obvious. I’m sure we’re all already hashtagging and retweeting, and sharing images that support our personalities. I’m not saying they aren’t helpful per se, but these aren’t what I would call “effective marketing tactics” for musicians.
I guess you could schedule Q&A times, but I would use caution here. You might have no one show up which would suck, or you might have haters show up and hassle you. I don’t think this should be a regular thing, either. You could do it before releasing music or something if you want, but holding regular “office hours” won’t work for musicians.
Finally, again, I just don’t think LinkedIn is a great platform for creatives. I could be completely wrong though. If you love LinkedIn, please let me know! I’m always curious to see what works for other musicians.
Here is a video I made to recap Social Media Music Marketing:
Email Marketing for Musicians
I didn’t do any of this, because I was in the process of revamping my blog during the time I was doing this challenge. Almost every music marketing guru claims that email is extremely important for musicians, so we should all definitely do these tasks! I just haven’t done any of them so I can’t tell you what worked and didn’t. But here are the suggestions, along with my ideas/opinions on them:
1). Customize Your Footer in Your Normal Emails
Admittedly, I could have done this but chose not to. I guess I could add my social media links, but I don’t want to. If you want to do this, I guess it couldn’t hurt. I could just see situations where this wouldn’t be a good idea (contacting someone about a day job, etc). I don’t know, try it if you want!
2). Follow Up New Subscribers with Other Content They Might Be Interested In
I guess other songs they might like?
3). Write Emails That Contain Something They Can’t See Anywhere Else
My blogger friend Justine Perry does a great job with this. She sends emails about personal stories behind her lyrics. I recommend subscribing to her list if you want to see how it’s done!
4). Send Out Promotions (But Not Too Often!)
That last part is super important. I know musicians want to email people every time they have a show, but if most of your subscribers don’t even live near the venue, maybe filter it or post only on social media.
5). Follow Up With People who JUST Purchased With a “How to Use the Product” or Other Relevant Additional Information
Obviously, you won’t need to write someone to tell them how to listen to a song (although that might be funny if you do it right!) However, a thank-you email would be cool and maybe you could also give them more info on how the song was made, along with links to the video or your social media.
The Worst Email Marketing Ideas for Musicians:
I absolutely do not recommend following up with people who bought your album and asking for feedback. At best, this can seem like you’re fishing for compliments. At worst, you might hear things you don’t want to hear.
I am toying with the idea of creating an online course, but overall I don’t recommend this for musicians. The market is SO saturated with online courses that people can get overwhelmed, and unless you have something people can actually learn, I don’t recommend spending time on this. I know I sound hypocritical, but I’m actually doing market research on my idea now so I won’t release it unless I’m sure it’s great!
I also don’t know how you’ll make the last one work for you. Writing potential listeners could be a good idea but I feel like your email list will do this already. I don’t recommend spamming people to ask them to listen to your music. That almost never works and will waste your time!
Here is my recap on Email Music Marketing (and why I didn’t do it), along with the upcoming segment:
Networking for Musicians
I absolutely cannot stand networking. It always seems super fake and forced to me, but I do think it can have its benefits.
1). Participate in Facebook Groups
This is certainly a good idea, but most of the groups I know are quick to shut down spammers. If you simply go in and flood pages with your single and don’t contribute to any conversations, they’ll remove those posts and might even ban you.
2). Join in Twitter Chats
I didn’t do this because I don’t even really understand what this is? But I guess this could be a good way to meet people and get your music out there
3). Comment on Other Blogs or Videos
I *highly* recommend this one! When musicians support each other, it’s great for the community as a whole. However, please do not comment something generic like “Check out my song!” on everyone’s post. No one likes that and everyone can tell you’re spamming.
Another suggestion was to comment on “competitor’s blogs,” but I’m including both of those here. I really don’t like the idea of competition, especially among musicians. Just find people you like and comment on their stuff!
4). Ask Your Friends and Family to Spread the Word
I didn’t do this and in my video above, I told this story:
When I released my album, my dad commented on it on iTunes. It was a very sweet comment, but he said something like “WOW WHAT A GREAT NEW ARTIST I’VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE” – which would have been great except his username very clearly indicated that he was my dad. I asked him to remove it and he did, but his new comment and username were not much less obvious. I love my dad and love that he would support me like that, but I would advise you to make sure your friends and family aren’t obvious about their help.
You can make a “Street Team” with friends and family and ask them to do certain things like promote your upcoming show or single, but I recommend making this worthwhile for them. My friend Todd Alsup took his street team (including me) on a vacation in exchange for helping promote him in that area. We got to go to Milwaukee Pride and had a great time, and it was worth it for everyone involved.
5). Guest Post on a Successful Blog For Your Industry
You don’t necessarily have to guest post, but you could do an interview or something. If you do enjoy writing and have a story, a guest post is a great idea! (I’m always willing to consider guest posts and interviews if you want to contact me).
6). Ask to Be Interviewed on a Podcast
This is a great idea, and you’ll have the added benefit of them likely playing your song. Here is a directory of music-related podcasts.
7). Make a Coffee Date
This is a great idea for musicians to meet potential co-writers, producers, or anyone who might be able to help your career. I think there’s no harm in reaching out to someone, whether they take you up on the offer or not. Make a list of people you’d like to know better, then reach out and see if they’d like to meet up!
An additional idea was “Get Together With Other Business Owners Who Serve the Same Market But Sell Different Products.” I think this fits with the coffee date one. Most musicians “serve the same market but sell different products” so it works here.
8). Offer to Speak at Events or Workshops Where Your Target Customer is in the Audience
I would alter this to say “offer to perform,” unless you do have topics you can speak about. I’m sure you’re already out trying to get gigs, but if there’s some type of event or workshop happening near you, you might try contacting them to see if they need entertainment!
The Worst Networking Ideas for Musicians:
You *can* participate in forums if you want (I think Reddit might have a few good boards) but this involves a lot of effort for very little turnout. People usually don’t want to leave the site they’re on to go listen to something.
The directories idea is only a good idea if you’re a local band that plays weddings or something. Otherwise, I absolutely do not recommend putting your address online. Obviously a recording studio would want to do this, but I have friends who record out of their homes and have had creeps show up. So I would just be careful if you do decide to do this.
Getting a review from influencers could be a good idea, but it isn’t easy to do and many won’t do it for free. If you have connections to a celebrity (even better if they’re a musician whose fans would also like your stuff), by all means see if they’ll give you a shout out. I’m sure they get asked to do that often though, so don’t be surprised or offended if they won’t.
I’m very biased about attending meetings/workshops because I absolutely hate them. I have social anxiety, so if you don’t and you like meeting people, feel free to get out there. I would remember, however, that this one isn’t likely to get you a ton of fans or work. You’ll have to talk to each person individually, get them interested in your music, then remember to listen later. Of course that’s entirely possible, but it’s a lot of effort for little turnout. If you’re a wedding band, a wedding expo might be a good idea to try!
For business awards, I just don’t think a lot of musicians would qualify for this. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it, but you might need a different angle. Perhaps you could win an award for something else and *then* mention your music, I don’t know.
Here is my final video recapping the whole project, but focusing mostly on the networking tips:
Hopefully these music marketing tips will help you gain some fans!
There are so many ways to handle music marketing that it’s nearly impossible to cover them all, but I think this list is a great resource. Again, the full list is here if you want to check it out.