Music marketing is an essential skill for any artist looking to grow a fanbase and make it in the music business today. In this post we’ll break down some of the main areas involved in putting together an effective marketing strategy to promote your music.
Here’s a bit of a breakdown of the different areas we will be covering:
- Streaming Optimisation
- Paid Advertising
- Smart Link Services
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
- Music Submission
- Influencer Marketing
- Playlist Promotion
- Sync licensing
- New technology – Web3
- Buying Views / Streams
- Agency Services
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 smaller end of the spectrum – so we’re not going to be going into too much detail on major label approaches that require massive budgets.
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 some of the different areas…
This is an extremely important area that almost underpins most of the other marketing strategies. In fact this became so important to be aware of that we actually put together a course to cover it in more detail.
Basically, the streaming services (Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud, Youtube Music) run on algorithms, and these algorithms help them work out whether an artist is popular or not, what genre they veer towards, and what sort of listeners may like their music.
They want to keep recommending people music that they will like, and steer them away from stuff they won’t.
These streaming services will learn about what sort of people like your music from the sort of people you send to your music.
Everything you do as part of your music marketing should keep this in mind. If you mess it up it can make things so much more difficult to correct, and can stop you from getting that early traction.
If you’re interested in the course you can check it out here.
Paid advertising seems to be one of the most active areas of investment for artists trying to get in front of their audience.
To get started advertising on these channels you’re going to need to have some budget to invest, but this can be as little as a few dollars per day.
Facebook / Instagram
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram allowed artists to build audiences on these platforms over the years, and then slowly started making it harder for updates to reach fans organically – with the end result being even big artists that have strong followings on these platforms using digital advertising to get in front of their fans.
Using Facebook and Instagram as an example – the way paid advertising works for musicians is that you target people by relevant interests – for example your genre of music, or artists similar to yourself – and you show them an advert which is either your music video, or cover art with the song playing in the background, or even a video of you speaking to the camera hyping up your track (we have seen that this can actually be far more effective at converting people).
Hopefully you’ll have got your targeting right and these people will be interested and click on the advert and then get sent through to whichever streaming platform they listen on (this is done with smart links, which I’ll cover later in the article).
You’ll also want to try multiple different interests and genres to compare which ones perform more effectively and result in more fans and streams.
You can start small with this, just put a few dollars budget in each day and track the results. The aim is that the longer you run the campaigns and the more data you gather, the more you’ll be able to fine tune your results.
Also once you have enough people going through your campaign and clicking on your songs, Facebook can use it’s AI to create lookalike audiences and reach people who are similar and much more likely to listen and engage with your track, making the whole thing much more effective.
We’ve seen massive differences in how much clicks can cost per stream – sometimes it’s a few cents per click, other times it can be 10x as much. To get it right you really need to have your targeting dialed in, and your advert needs to be enticing and encourage users to click.
Tracking has been made much trickier as of late when iOS14 was brought in to stop tracking people as easily, but there are different workarounds usually explained by whichever link service you use.
If you want some more detailed explanation of how to set up these campaigns for yourself there are a couple of great resources. Andrew Southworth is a musician who is very active on YouTube and is quite open about how he runs all his campaigns – you can check him out here.
If you are looking for a more step by step approach to setting up campaigns you could also check out Spotify Growth Engine by John Gold – we think the course is great and we do get a small commission if you purchase through that link.
There are also some much more expensive courses out there, but in essence they all follow the same basic principles of running paid advertising to get your music in front of people.
As with Facebook and Instagram, you can also advertise your music on YouTube to people with relevant interests. This works in a similar way and so it’s worth a test if you have the budget.
Here’s a great video from Burstimo giving you a bit more information on YouTube Ads for music videos, as well as a couple of great tips at the end.
We haven’t had loads of experience when it comes to paid advertising on Soundcloud. I don’t know why but it just feels like they have made the whole thing a little bit harder to access.
To quote Soundcloud:
‘Promote on SoundCloud is currently available to artists who have tracks that are monetising on SoundCloud through SoundCloud Premier, Repost Select, or the Repost by SoundCloud subscription. As an artist, you can only promote your own monetising content.’
If you’re on one of these platforms then you can sign up to start promoting here: https://promote.soundcloud.com/
We’ll let Brandman Sean do the talking when it comes to Soundcloud promotion:
Paid Advertising on Spotify
Technically still paid advertising, but very much a different approach is Spotify Marquee.
These are the banner ads that appear on desktop or the pop ups on mobile. It’s currently in beta in the US as of Feb 2022 but expect it to be rolling out soon.
This is probably aimed at more mid tier artists who already have some traction on Spotify and want to push this further. Pricing is on a cost per click basis and the minimum spend is £200. For more details head over to the pricing page.
Smart Link Services
Smart Links are services that actually came about to solve the problem that people came across when they only had one link to provide on their social media profiles (e.g. Instagram).
A smart link provides a link that you can put in the bio and it acts as a mini website of sorts, linking to multiple different places.
This is obviously great for artists or record labels who want to share a link to a track, but don’t want to have to share a link to each of the different streaming providers. Directing listeners to your smart link will give them an option of different links for each platform, allowing them to choose their preferred one.
They can also give you an opportunity to track clicks on these links which can be useful when putting together your paid advertising campaigns and tracking listener behaviour.
There’s a wide range of different providers out there – Linkfire, Linktree, Feature.fm to name a few. We’ve put a bit more information in the Smart Links section in this article on music promotion tools.
Email marketing is probably one of the most powerful, but underused marketing tools that artists have at their disposal.
We mentioned earlier about how social networks tend to restrict organic reach, meaning that only a small percentage of your followers will see your updates. This doesn’t happen with email – you can reach a much higher percentage of your audience, and the interaction rates tend to be a lot higher also.
While it might seem like you own your audience on Twitter, or Instagram – in reality you don’t, and it could be pulled away from you at a moment’s notice.
Email also really comes into its own when it comes to monetizing an audience. A huge fanbase on Spotify is great – but you really have no way of communicating with those fans. Email opens up a direct line of communication. You can ask for feedback, let people know about upcoming tour dates, or new merchandising you are releasing.
The whole process helps convert what would have been casual listeners into true fans.
So how can you factor this into your marketing?
You always need to be thinking about how you can be capturing email addresses – and also give a reason for people to provide their email in the first place.
Some smart links services (like feature.fm) also allow the option for a sign up box at the top of your smart link page which is a useful addition.
You can also change your objectives with your advertising campaigns to target email addresses as opposed to clicks on streaming services.
For example instead of running an advert to direct people straight to your track, perhaps you offer them a free early release download if they sign up to your mailing list.
Another smart way we have seen of approaching this, is to run advertising campaigns on Facebook or Instagram that encourage people to message you to hear a new track, instead of trying to send them off to Spotify. This opens up dialogue with your fans and allows you to build a connection that goes beyond just a simple stream of your track.
This is great for those of you starting out who have the time to put into building fan/artist relationships.
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 Mailchimp.
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 the major social media 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.
There’s a lot that goes into keeping these platforms updated and for those artists that don’t have a team to help manage it all, it can feel overwhelming.
We’re seeing more and more examples of artists getting burned out trying to keep active across all their social media profiles.
Our advice would be to not spread yourself too thin. You’re better off building a fan base on one platform, than working on a few half heartedly.
Some platforms are more effective than others – understand where your target audience is most active. In our experience Soundcloud, TikTok, Instagram and Youtube are the big hitters when it comes to sharing music, whereas Twitter is 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. If you want to shop around for different tools, the guys at Wordstream have written an article on the tools available.
When you’re starting out, music submission is going to be a key part of how you promote your music and get in front of new fans. Whether it’s to blogs, YouTube channels, influencers, radio stations – you’ll want to approach this in the right way.
We’ve put together a guide on music submission which should give you a few pointers on how to approach things which you can check out here: https://audiohype.io/resources/music-submission/
It’s worth being aware of the different etiquette involved in putting your music in front of people, as the right attitude will make the whole process much more effective.
Influencer Marketing – Blogs, Channels, Gatekeepers
This is an area we’re big believers in and should definitely be part of your marketing strategy. 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 Spotify playlists, often with thousands of subscribers. They have active, and engaged fans 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 of new potential music fans overnight. The downside? It’s not always that easy.
There are different ways to approach influencer outreach.
One way to do this is to use tools designed to make this easier to connect and pitch your music to influencers – think Groover, SubmitHub or Playlist Push. These tools generally take a fee to help push your music in front of influencers, who can then decide if they like the track or not and wish to post it to their followers.
This can streamline the process – but be warned that you are likely to only get a very small approval rate and some questionable feedback. Music is subjective, and not everyone will like your track – but it can be good to get some quick feedback.
Build Your Own Database
Another way to go about the process of influencer outreach is to build your own database of people who could help you out and work through this list, contacting them.
In the same way you used similar artists and genres to target people with paid ads, the same principle applies here. Find channels that have posted tracks from artists similar to yourselves and look to see if they have contact information. Reach out following the advice in our submission article and see what they say.
This is the hard part that most artists won’t do. They are too busy creating, and don’t put in the effort to push their music. If your music is generally good, you should get some reasonable responses.
Be humble, respect that someone has taken their time to listen to your music. And remember – these people don’t owe you anything.
Playlist promotion is really just another form of influencer marketing – whether the influencer is an individual who has curated a playlist, or Spotify themselves.
We’re not going to go into too much detail here as this is covered in our Spotify promotion guide which covers the topic in detail.
In summary – don’t expect playlists to be the be all and end all of your marketing strategy. Tread carefully as you can easily mess things up for yourself!
PR / Publicists
The right PR agency or publicist can bring dramatic results in terms of exposure and audience growth.
These guys have spent time building relationships and connections 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 or publicist 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
If you don’t know what sync licensing is, it’s the process of synchronising music along with video – for example in film and television.
Given how large some of these audiences are, getting synced can expose your music to a massive new audience who can potentially Shazam your track and discover you.
But in order to use music in their TV shows, films, or adverts the creators need to acquire the approval from the rights holders – this is usually granted in exchange for a fee. The fees can be quite large in themselves with films often paying $10-100k and commercial campaigns paying up to $250k, even smaller placements in video games or TV can be in the thousands.
Generally most productions will have a music supervisor who is in charge of arranging and securing these placements, and it’s these people who you’ll want to be reaching out to.
In order to reach these music supervisors it’s a case of doing some internet sleuthing and trying to find out who the specific supervisors are for upcoming songs.
You’ll also perhaps need to adapt your music style so it’s more suitable for placement – perhaps having multiple different versions of tracks to choose from. Going down this route requires a real focus on trying to become an artist who gets placements, and it’s certainly a way to make a living as an artist.
It does however require that you get into the mindset of producing for sync as there’s quite a lot to it. I’m no expert on the matter, and simply wanted to introduce you to it as another area to consider as part of your music marketing plan.
If you want to read into it more just search for how to get started with sync licensing and you’ll find plenty of guides. Here’s one from Damian Keyes who also runs a great YouTube channel.
Collaboration & Community
If you’re serious about building up a decent fanbase, collaboration and community are going to play a serious role.
I’ve lumped these two together because there’s a lot of overlap.
Firstly let’s talk about collaboration and how this is a dominant theme in the music industry today.
Go and take a look at the most popular tracks on Spotify at any given time and I guarantee a large amount of them will feature multiple artists.
Collaborations are a great way of exposing artists to new audiences. If you can get two artists in a similar genre to jump on a track together – you’ve essentially doubled the amount of visibility that track is going to get.
Record labels take full advantage of this and will line up artists on their roster to get them to work together, but when you’re independent it won’t just line up for you, you need to go looking for similar artists who are open to collaboration.
One of the ways to do this is a tool called Vampr – it’s designed as a social media platform for musicians to connect and collaborate which you may want to check out.
But probably one of the best ways to get some collaborations on the go, is by joining or creating a community.
There’s loads of communities out on the web for all different kinds of genres, and getting involved in these communities will often lead to opportunities and relationships that will help further your career.
Whether it’s a subreddit, or a discord channel, there will be people who want to share and discuss the sort of music you are creating. There are also going to people creating the same genre of music who want to share their stuff and get feedback in the same way you do.
By joining these communities and adding real value (don’t just self promote), you will find you start to build relationships that can help your music grow.
New Technology (AI, Web3, Metaverse)
Technology is advancing so fast it can be hard to keep up. But with new technology comes new opportunities.
The early adopters of new technologies often find themselves in less saturated markets, which can give your music a chance to break through noise a little bit easier.
Think of the first artists on Myspace back in the day, the artists blowing up on TikTok, and now the artists who are adopting newer technology such as AI, and Web3 to help them stand out from the crowd.
One of my favorite examples of this in action is the career of Soulja Boy. He’s continuously been at the forefront of new technology and new ideas and it’s been what helped him gain success in the first place.
I highly recommend this video from Patrick CC that shows you how leveraging technology can be a real asset as an artist.
The best advice in this area is to be keep up to date with new technology developments, dip your toe in the water and see what interests you.
Paid Promotion – Buying views, reposts etc
There’s countless sites and listings across the web offering music marketing services. No doubt you’ve come across these and been tempted by some of the promises they make.
1,000 plays for $5 seems like a great deal, but it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.
The 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 bot plays.
But what about the vanity side of things? Does it look good to have some initial plays on your track? It’s not worth it in our opinion.
Ultimately if you want to break the terms of service – that’s your call
But as we’ve mentioned before, the chances are you’ll get burned and you’ll confuse the algorithms – making it much harder for you to gain traction with your music marketing further down the line. Or in the worst case you can actually have your music removed from the streaming services.
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, but when done effectively can be a massive boost to your music marketing efforts.
There are lots of companies 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 hope on striking big on the largest radio stations straight away, just put together a decent EPK (electronic press kit) and start sending it out. There are loads of smaller radio shows just looking for new artists to build relationships and promote.
Consider local radio stations, or niche ones in your genre. There are plenty out there that focus on new artists such as BBC introducing.
Going straight to radio rarely happens. 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 music fans?
These platforms are great for growing your audience and marketing 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, there’s so many tutorials on YouTube – find a teacher you like and follow along – it’s really not as confusing as you think.
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, on all the different aspects of your music marketing.
You could consider hiring someone on a site such as Fiverr or 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.
Alternatively why not try a tool like Canva that can help you design your own content and give you much more control over your online branding.
When trying to do all of the above becomes a bit too much to handle yourself, one of the things to consider is hiring an agency to help with music marketing.
If an artist signs to a major label, they will often have the support of the label for a lot of the above areas. If you’re independent you’re going to be juggling a lot.
Hiring a marketing agency to deal with some of the services we’ve discussed can seem an attractive proposition. It can free up your time and resources to make music, but as with most things, a decent service will come at a cost.
The quality of agency services will vary dramatically. I’ve spoken with artists who have used different marketing services and it’s safe to say there are a lot of mismatched expectations when it comes to music promotion.
The first thing to realise is that there is massive competition out there. Not only does your music need to be high quality, but your timing needs to be right, and you’ll need a lot of luck.
Spotify streams and YouTube views will not pay the bills. The vast majority of paid for advertising services will not provide a direct return on investment, which is why it’s important to have an overall bigger strategy that you are investing into.
If you want to work with a marketing agency, the best advice would be to reach out to them, ask them about their services, do your research and start with a small investment to see how you get on.
Congrats if you’ve made it all the way to the end! Hopefully this has given you a bit of an overview of the different marketing and promotion strategies you can use to get your music out there.
I’m sure it’s not a complete list, and there will always be new things that come up, but investing in some of these will help you grow as an artist.
So many people are making music today, but a small percentage of them are actually putting in the work to get it heard. It’s likely that the very best thing you can do for your music career is to shift more focus on marketing your music, as opposed to creating more of it.
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