How to Promote Your Music
Promoting your music online is one of the areas most musicians struggle with. We get it – you’re artists, not marketers, but it’s an essential skill to learn if you want to progress in the industry.
This is especially true if you’re just starting out and don’t have access to a music marketing / PR team to help you build a fan base.
Effective music promotion can help get you in front of your audience and start to build the momentum required to get your career off the ground.
It can be confusing knowing where to start, so in this article we’re going to give you an overview of some of the most common music promotion services and platforms you can use to get exposure.
We’ll dig into detail on these platforms in other posts, but this article should give you a quick overview of each of the areas of music marketing such as:
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Music submission
- Influencer marketing
- Streaming services
- Paid promotion
- Paid advertising
- PR / Promotional agencies
Depending on your level and budget, some of these approaches are going to be more accessible than others. While artists at all levels will use each of these areas to promote their sound, we’ve tailored this article towards the lower end of the spectrum – so we’re not going to be going into too much detail on high level approaches such as radio plugging or expensive PR campaigns.
With that being said however, do understand that your music career is similar to most things in life and will require investment up front to make it successful.
We’ve also put together a resource on the best music promotion tools and software to help you if you’re looking for a specific tool.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of investing time over money, but if a small investment opens up new doors then it’s definitely worth considering.
Now, let’s dig into to some of the different services….
This goes without saying – social media platforms are essential for any artist looking to build an audience.
We’re going to make the assumption that you’ve claimed your artist name on these platforms and your profiles are filled out.
We’re not going to go into too much detail here, instead we want to offer a couple of tips to make your social media promotion more effective.
Some platforms are more effective than others – understand where your target audience is most active. In our experience Soundcloud, TikTok and Youtube are the big hitters when it comes to sharing music, whereas Twitter and Instagram are less so.
Be aware of which platforms work for you and don’t invest too much time into areas that don’t provide a return.
Use tools to make life easier – promoting your music across multiple channels can be time consuming. Consider using social media management tools to speed up the process. We are fans of Hootsuite, but if you want to shop around for different tools, the guys at Wordstream have written an article on the tools available.
The benefits of email marketing are perhaps less obvious than social, but in our opinion can be even more effective.
Email gives you a much more direct connection with your fans and helps you cut through the noise. While a social media post is more of a broadcast to your audience, an email goes directly to their inbox and will often get much more attention.
This can be used to keep fans updated about new releases, upcoming shows and offer more exclusive content that can’t be accessed elsewhere.
Building an email list is fairly easy and doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact there’s plenty of services out there that offer free plans for those with low subscriber counts such as:
This is a technique that will influence a lot of what comes later in this guide. The holy grail of music promotion is when you’re being organically picked up and promoted by different radio stations, playlists curators and influencers.
However, for most artists this just isn’t realistic, especially when you’re starting out.
For this reason submitting music should be part of your music promotion routine. Whether that’s submitting a track to influencers influencers to review or promote, or submitting your track to a Spotify playlist you want to be on.
We’ve written a complete guide to music submission that should answer all your questions on this topic
Influencer Marketing – blogs and channels
This is an area we’re big believers in. The last decade or so has seen a massive shift in the industry and influencers now play a big role in helping your music reach a larger audience.
These influencers are the people who run music blogs, YouTube channels and playlists on streaming services, often with thousands of subscribers. They have active, and engaged audiences who happily consume the new music they share.
The great thing with influencer marketing is that these people have already done the hard work of carving out an audience within their specific niche. You already know that their audience is interested in house, drum and bass, techno, or whatever the genre is you’re targeting.
Connecting with influencers is one of the most effective forms of promoting your music. Building one relationship can result in exposure to thousands on new potential fans overnight. The downside? It’s not always that easy.
We’ll be going into more detail on how to reach out to influencers in future posts, including music promotion services and music video promotion, but in the meantime our recommendation would be to start keeping track of influencers in your genre who you want to make contact with in the future.
Streaming Services – Spotify, YouTube Music, Apple Music, Deezer etc
The way people consume music has changed, and streaming services are now an essential part of any artists marketing approach.
Aside from the obvious fact that you need to be on these platforms when your audience tries to look for you, they also help to increase your exposure to new people through a couple of different ways, and are an additional source of income (check out our Spotify royalty calculator).
Similar music / recommendations – a lot of streaming platform users rely on the service to provide them with recommendations based on the type of music they listen to. These services use algorithms to help understand what music may be of interest to listeners. When your music is listened to and liked by existing fans, the platforms will suggest your music to listeners with similar taste.
Playlists – Users of these services curate playlists which they share with friends and other users. If your track isn’t available you’re going to miss out on a potentially large amount of exposure (see our guide to Spotify playlist submission and our list of the best Spotify playlists for more actionable advice).
For a more in depth look at promoting your music on Spotify check out our detailed guide here.
So how do you get your music on these services?
The most common way to do this is to use a service which gets you placed on each of these sites. Three of the major players are CD Baby, Tunecore and DistroKid, but we have also seen RouteNote mentioned as a free alternative.
There’s a great post by Ari Herstand ( @ArisTake ) who seems to have done one of the most comprehensive digital distribution reviews we could find online. We would recommend taking a read through this if you’re still making your mind up.
Paid Promotion – Buying views, reposts etc
There’s countless number of sites and listings across the web offering music promotion services. No doubt you’ve come across these and been tempted by some of the promises they make.
While we’re not completely against the principle of paying for plays we do recommend you be considered in your approach. 1,000 plays for $5 seems like a great deal, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
Our concerns revolve around two areas – audience and quality.
Audience – Who exactly will the audience be for these 1,000 plays. Are they going to be engaged listeners who are likely to turn into fans? Probably not many, if any.
We would take a look at past submissions and gauge the level of feedback and the sort of people interacting.
Quality – As soon as you get into the realm of guaranteeing plays it raises a red flag on quality. If anyone who has a fiver can get a track listed, the level of quality is going to be questionable. Ask anyone who runs a successful channel and they will tell you that high quality control is essential when it comes to growing and maintaining an engaged following.
Far too often these services sound great on the surface, but offer no real benefit to growing your audience. More often than not these plays are going to be from at best an unengaged audience, and at worst, fake profiles generating fake plays.
But what about the vanity side of things? Does it look good to have some initial plays on your track?
Ultimately if you want to break the terms of service – that’s your call
We can completely understand the desire to have some activity on these accounts and it may suit you to try out a couple of these services to get some view to start with
As it’s a grey area, we’re not going to list any services in particular. But if you want to do a bit of searching around you’ll easily come across these offers.
Paid advertising is where you pay to promote your music on the different social media channels – the main platforms here being Youtube, Soundcloud and Facebook.
Spotify also have an advertising platform, but this is focused on larger brands at the moment. They are currently working on making it affordable for all levels.
To get started advertising on these channels you’re going to need to have some budget to invest, and this often puts this approach a little bit out of reach for musicians just starting out.
Because of the way advertising campaigns work on these platforms it can often take some time to gather data and refine your approach.
This is why we don’t recommend artists go down this route with a one off investment or a small amount to put in at first.
It can take time to understand the systems, and advertising in this way often gets more effective the more data you gather.
For example you can start to see which adverts gather more subscribers, what type of demographic results in the most new fans etc, and tailor your adverts as time goes on.
We would recommend you get other services running effectively before venturing into the realm of paid advertising, but for those of you who do want to give it a go, here are some links to the advertising section for each platform.
- Soundcloud – https://advertising.soundcloud.com/
- Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/yt/advertise/
- Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/business/products/ads
- Spotify – https://spotifyforbrands.com
PR / Promotion Agencies
The right music marketing agency can bring dramatic results in terms of exposure and audience growth.
These guys have spent time building relationships and connection within the industry that helps them get your music in front of the right people.
However all this expertise comes at a cost – a cost which is often out of reach for most artists.
If you’re in a position to work with an agency you want to make sure you pick the right team to work with.
You want to find an agency that has a track record of working with your genre and also understands the changing landscape of the music industry.
The way music is shared and marketed today is constantly changing and evolving. A promotion agency that still uses the same approaches they used 5 years ago isn’t going to cut it.
They need to be constantly adapting – building new contacts, and promoting via emerging channels.
A few good things to check if you decide to go down this route:
- Examples of promotional activity within your genre
- Contacts they have across different medium – e.g. dj’s, youtube channels, radio stations
- What sort of results do they feel they can achieve for you
- How are they going to report on performance – you need to understand your ROI
There’s a wealth of companies online offering music marketing services.
A few major players are listed below:
There’s a lot of debate over the role that radio plays in this increasingly fragmented marketplace. While some reports discuss the decline of radio amongst the youth, others show its resilience as technology progresses.
Whichever side you’re on, radio promotion is definitely an area where the traditional approaches still apply.
Getting played on the radio isn’t easy and still very much works on relationships. It can be a tough and unrewarding route for an independent musician to go down.
There are lots of radio plugging services out there which offer radio plugging services, but it’s an area where results are often not guaranteed.
Our advice to new artists is to not place too much focus on radio plays. If you focus on building your audience in other areas you’ll increase the chances that your music finds its way to the gatekeepers of radio.
Many artists rely solely on social accounts to build their online presence – e.g. facebook pages, soundcould profiles.
While these are arguably more effective tools for growing an audience, they do have one flaw…
You own very little, if anything, you place on these sites.
While the chance of things happening to the likes of Youtube and Facebook are slim, they do happen. Remember Myspace?
Soundcloud may be out of the woods for now, but you never know what things will look like a few years from now. If you lost your SoundCloud account today, how would you reach those fans?
These platforms are great for growing your audience and promoting your music, but you shouldn’t concentrate all your promotional activity on just a single one.
Divide your attention among the ones that work for your audience, while also using your website and email list to stay really connected to your die hard fans.
Building a website doesn’t have to be difficult, there’s a variety of services out there designed to help artists get started, not to mention the ease of tools like wordpress and the variety of themes available that mean you don’t need to be an expert in web development to get something set up.
If you’re looking to give it a go yourself here’s a couple of articles that will help you get started:
The last thing on our music promotion list is branding. Depending on the platform, good branding can help you appear more professional, and increase the chances of your music getting shared.
Branding covers a whole load of areas online – such as your logo design, album artwork, profile covers and much more.
In our experience you can find some great designers online without breaking the bank.
While there are plenty of professional design agencies around, quite often prices can be out of reach for artists just starting out.
We would recommend heading over to one of the many freelancing sites and sending out a few test projects to gauge the quality of the design work.
Once you find a designer you’re happy with you can start to build a relationship and use them on an ongoing basis.
In our experience we like both Fiverr and PeoplePerHour. Fiverr is great for one off gigs, but the quality and level of service is often lower – you get what you pay for! With PeoplePerHour we’ve found it much easier to build ongoing relationships with the same contractor.
So that’s our overview of some of the best music promotion services and platforms you need to be using to maximise your promotion efforts.
It’s not an exhaustive list, and there’s plenty more detail to go into on each of these areas. We’ll be doing this in future posts – so make sure you’re on our mailing list!
We’ll be keeping this post updated, and adding new ideas and links in. So feel free to share some of your favourite services, and let us know any other platforms you are having results with and we’ll get them included.