While the internet has made it possible for literally anyone to release music for the world to hear, most independent artists actually struggle to get anyone to listen.
Does this sound like you? You used to believe that great music would sell itself, and if you built it they would come. So you finish mastering the best track you've ever written, release it to Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and every other site online, and find that in your first week you got 11 streams (mostly from your friends and family).
The problem is that great music does not sell itself, because nobody even knows your music exists in the first place to listen to it. So now you're probably wondering how to promote your music?
Let's look at some proven music marketing techniques you can use to promote your music. I've used these exact methods to generate almost 400,000 streams on Spotify alone in the past 2 years.
1. Social Media Marketing
I know you've probably heard this one before, so let's get it out of the way. Social media is one of the most powerful free music marketing tools you have at your disposal, but to get results you have to do it the right way.
The exact platforms that are the best for music promoting change every year (or month in some cases), so i'll provide you with some general guidelines you can use to crush it on any platform.
- Have a great profile. This means a great image, bio, header image (if there is one), relevant links (if they have them), and make your name as consistent as possible across your social media channels.
- Post regularly. Follow the standards of the platform. On Instagram and TikTok daily content is pretty standard, and on YouTube weekly is pretty standard.
- Match the platform. On YouTube you wouldn't post a 15 second comedy video, you'd put that on TikTok. Similarly you probably wouldn't make IGTV your main platform for 15+ minute video content, you'd likely use YouTube.
- Don't exclusively promote your music. You want to use social media to actually be social. Yes promote your music, but use most or all of your posts to provide value in some way. As GaryVee says, 'Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook'. Basically this means provide value and develop a relationship with your following for most of the posts, so that when you actually ask them to check out your music they care enough to listen.
At this moment in April 2020, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are the main platforms of choice for most musicians. Wondering what the heck you should actually post?
Here's how I made over 50 social media posts for 1 song.
2. Playlists, Blogs & Influencers
This has become a hot topic over the past few years, and most things you read online will tell you that Spotify playlist promotion is the way to promote your music in 2020. While its not the best way in my opinion, it is very powerful if done correctly. Another perk is that it can be done for free, or at least very cheap.
Your future fans are already out there, congregating in various places on the internet. They're reading music blogs, liking posts by influencers on Instagram, and listening to curated playlists on Spotify. Some of these sources might have 100 people, others might have 100,000.
But how do you get your music in front of these people? Here are some proven tips to do it:
SubmitHub is a site where playlist owners, blogs and influencers congregate to allow artists to submit their tracks for consideration. You read that right, these are people who literally want you to send them YOUR MUSIC so they can decide if they want to share it to their audience.
You get 2 free submission credits every 4 hours. But if you pay per submission the curator has 48 hours to listen to at least 30 seconds, and if they decline you they have to provide at least 10 words of feedback - if they don't do this you get refunded.
In fact, i'm on there as a Spotify playlister, and that link will take you to my SubmitHub page.
This method is free, but super tedious. I know of one person who used this method to get over 1 million streams, which skyrocketed their music career.
For blogs you'll do a search for blogs in your genre, or look up reviews of artists that sound like you. Once you find the blogs you try to find their contact information, or find them on social media. Then you'll pitch them your track.
For Spotify playlists its a little harder. Search for playlists that feature music similar to yours, like '2020 EDM Jams', or 'LoFi HipHop'. Some playlist owners will feature a link or contact email in the playlist description, but most will not. For the ones that don't you'll have to try and search their account name online or on social media. Once you track them down you pitch them your track.
To be up-front, you'll want to submit to at least 100 of these people and you should only expect about 10 to even bother replying, and at best 3 to actually share your track. But if you have the time and the work ethic, you can pull this off.
You can hire playlist or blog promotion companies to do this grunt work for you, and many of them are genuine and have relationships in place with these people. However there are a lot of scams, and a lot of inflated numbers.
Typically placements made by these companies are not very engaged, which can actually hurt your track from so many people skipping it when its out of place. Tread lightly here.
3. Paid Ads
Some of you might be about to stop reading, but hear me out because this in my experience is the most effective and reliable way you can promote your music. For as little as $5 per day you can make a substantial difference in your growth as an artist.
Recently I ran a Spotify music marketing campaign for a new single for $300 and got the following results in 14 days:
- 43 Spotify followers
- 570 Listeners / 1,300 Streams
- 68 user curated playlist placements
- 69% save ratio (super high)
- 40 Instagram followers (lots of DM's)
- 68 email contacts
In addition to this, after I stop running the ads the song continues to perform well, because so many people listen again and again. Also eventually Spotify notices this great data and starts to promote the song on algorithmic playlists like Discover Weekly.
The exactly campaign I used involved using Facebook Ads to run Instagram Story ads to people who were most likely to like my music, and I sent them to Spotify. The details are worthy of their own entire post, but luckily for you I made a video where I break down the entire ad creation process.
If that wasn't enough for you, I also made a video where I break down the details of the results of this exact campaign.
Now while that is a core part of my music marketing strategy in 2020, there are many other important tips and methods you can use. I'll be going through these in a more rapid fashion.
4. Have A Website
Every music artist should have a website. I personally use Shopify, but i've also used Wix in the past. Squarespace and Wordpress are other options. All of these require essentially no prior knowledge, and all of them will do what you need them to do. Namely:
- Have information about you as an artist
- Have links or embeds to listen to music
- Offer a way for people to buy your music or merch
- Have a way to host a blog (more on that later)
- Offer a way for people to sign up for a mailing list
Speaking of mailing lists...
5. Have a Mailing List
Having a mailing list is crucial. Even if it isn't necessarily a way to promote your music per se, its a way to turn someone who has never heard of you into a die-hard fan you can contact forever.
Social media sites are great to create a following, but you don't own that traffic. If you get an email address you can contact that person for as long as they want to stay on your mailing list, and you can completely control the manner in which you communicate with them.
I use SendInBlue currently to manage my mailing list.
6. Have a Blog
What are you reading right now? This is my blog. While it isn't on my music website, its still tied to my brand and has links across it for you to watch my content (notice those YouTube videos). You probably found this blog post by searching on Google, or perhaps someone linked you to it. Either way, I got you to come on my website and enter my sphere of content for free.
Yes I had to spend the time creating this blog and all the peripheral content, but for zero actual cost it gets new people to come to my website. You can do the exact same thing for your music website. Talk about the music gear you use, talk about how you filmed your last music video, talk about the places you've played shows at, or talk about your life.
This site and blog are created using Shopify, but in the past I did it in Wix.
7. Make a Podcast
It doesn't have to be about your music, in fact it shouldn't be. But even if you start a popular podcast about Basketball, you can start using your own music in your podcast episodes and encourage your audience to check it out. This is a long game, but it can work.
8. Start a YouTube Channel
This is very similar to the social media marketing method I talked about at the beginning of this post, but I thought it deserved its own section. If you're a music creator, you should have a YouTube channel. At a bare minimum, post your music on there with album artwork as the visuals.
In my case my channel is all about teaching music creators how to make better music, and get that music heard. This allows me to show all the cool music products I use to make my music, the production techniques i've learnt over the years, and the ways that I actually promote my own music. Then, hopefully, when I release my music videos people are inclined to care enough to at least check it out on YouTube. Some of these people also listen to my music on Spotify and elsewhere!
Of course, if you're reading this you're the exact person who would love my YouTube channel! Especially since you might have already gotten value out of the videos i've shared in this blog post. I upload videos every Tuesday and Friday.
9. Play Shows
I kept this last because a lot of you are music producers, and thus don't care much about shows at this time. But as a teenager I was in bands that played shows, and it was a great way to get exposure.
Not only is it a great way to find new people, especially if you're playing with other bands, its a great way to generate content to put online. You can get pictures and video from shows, and local news coverage will often share your shows. You can offer incentives for people that share your content online to get free tickets, or give out free downloads in exchange for people signing up to your mailing list at the show.
Plus, its a prime spot to sell merch since there is no shipping involved.
10. Always Learn More
This one is more of a tip than an actual music marketing technique, but its SO important. The exact tools and tactics you use change all the time, so if you don't change you'll fail. Whether you subscribe to my channel to learn more for free, or go out and buy a bunch of music marketing programs, keep your eye on the future of music marketing.
Promoting your music in 2020 is a competitive endeavor, but people are having success. You have to be persistent, you have to be innovative, and you have to be smart. Always be willing to learn new methods and adapt with the times.
Remember, independent music creators are the future of the music industry. Don't get trapped into a mindset that you need a label to have success.
Here are some free music marketing learning resources you should check out: