As an artist in today's music industry, it's vital to understand the use of DIY Music Marketing.
It can often seem impossible to get fans that actually care about what you do.
Especially without spending money, or an incredible amount of time you don't have!
That's why, after 6 years of trying, failing & finally getting success we wanted to share how we did it.
With the techniques we're going to share in this simple guide, you'll begin to develop knowledge that you can use to to create your very own swiss army knife of music marketing tools that last in today's music business.
Knowing Where to Put Online Promotion Efforts
Making music is already hard enough as it is…
You spend hours perfecting a track, mix & master, only to upload it to SoundCloud and get a measly 10 plays.
We've been there & it's excruciatingly painful. It sends you into a spiral of fear, doubt & critical thoughts. And, even though you know your music is great, no one pays attention.
There's a few people out there who will tell you that you only need good music, & people will come to you.
And, while having good music is necessary to success in the music industry, it's not that simple.
That's why we've broken this down into 5 sections of importance:
The 5 Most Crucial Things You Need to Do
- Make great music.
- This goes without saying – to get new fans, you need to have great music in the music industry. And, if your music isn't good enough, no strategy in the world is going to save it.
- It doesn't have to be the level of your favourite producer yet, but if it's clearly out of key or you're still having timing issues; work on honing your craft.
- Release consistently.
- To create any kind of success, you need to be consistent. Like with exercise, dieting or getting better at anything in general, consistency is always key.
- It doesn't have to be your best work, but aim for 1 track per month.
- Have a release plan & release date.
- Having a plan and release date is crucial to getting success in the music industry.
- Knowing when you are going to release, gives you a number of weeks to build momentum behind the track.
- This plan can contain things like:
- Contacting blogs.
- Contacting labels.
- Contacting playlist curators.
- Contacting YouTube promo channels.
- Gaining support from your real family & producer family.
- Build a network of producer friends, fans etc.
- Joining Facebook groups, Sub-Reddit's & discord communities can really help you as an artist.
- By being active & networking with people, you'll form relations, start collaborations and generally be able to grow more by doing so. It's a vital tool that can't be overlooked.
- Plan for success.
- There's a famous quote: by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
- Creating an in-depth plan of what you want to achieve, with numerical, measurable goals is vital to succeeding. Not only does it make your vision more real, but gives you purpose & something to shoot for.
- Once you start crossing these goals off you become addicted to crossing off more & more!
Which brings us on nicely to the next section…
What's Your Goal?
When promoting your music as an indie artist, like with anything, it's extremely valuable to have a goal in mind and a marketing plan that goes in-depth on how you are going to achieve it.
So ask yourself:
What's my main focus?
Am I focused on getting more fans & plays?
Or am I focused on creating products like sample packs, midi banks etc?
You can use these focuses to build your very own list of goals to follow religiously.
Here's a list of things you could measure:
- Followers on SoundCloud by a certain date.
- Followers on Spotify by a timed date.
- Number of playlists, labels, promo channels contacted.
- Number of tracks finished/week or month.
- Amount of sounds/production tools created for free products.
Below is an example of a great music marketing plan for 2020.
Which Platforms Should You Focus on?
When releasing music independently it's important to focus on a few things at a time, and to be exceptionally good at those few things.
We all know that famous quote “you can't be good at everything”.
So which platforms should you put time and effort into?
In the independent musician's case it's ideal to focus on building a fan base on the following:
The great thing about these three platforms is they can interlink with each other. For example you can promote your Spotify links on your SoundCloud release as the download or “buy” link.
You could also promote your sample packs/albums on Bandcamp using Soundcloud or Spotify.
Spotify is the place where you'll be amassing a large listener base, as it is the biggest streaming platform in the music industry. The main focus of Spotify is to get on playlists to obtain monthly listeners and gain new fans.
Once you understand how to write messages that get responses, find the right playlists & submit your music, you'll begin to see success.
It's not going to pay your bills (yet), but if you're looking to gain a bigger volume of fans, then Spotify, Apple Music & other streaming services are the best place to do that.
Soundcloud is largely used by producers (like me and you!) & is a great place to network with them, form relationships & start collaborations.
In personal experience, we found that Soundcloud is where your die hard fans live. These are the type of fans who will buy sample packs, preset packs & other music & production based products.
It's also much easier to find your target audience, as you can interact socially with them.
If you're a DIY musician using Bandcamp, you already know how great it is for generating success.
Bandcamp is an incredible way to grow followers & also make a living from your passion. Unlike any of the other platforms mentioned, it has the ability to upload products such as, sample packs, preset packs & albums, which you can charge for and earn money for your hard work!
You can also give stuff away for free to build a mailing list.
We actually used this exact technique with one of our clients and generated over 1,500 sign ups for his sample pack, alongside a tonne of support on his music release!
It's a great tool to use for growth in the music business.
How to Get on All Streaming Platforms
Before we begin, we need to discuss how to get on Spotify & other streaming platforms.
To do so, you need a distributor.
There are many options for distribution, but here are the top 5 services to use.
- Charges $19/year for unlimited digital distribution to all stores including Spotify.
- Ditto also offers great options for people looking to start a record label. They take care of all the legal side, contracts etc & offer unlimited distribution for up to 5 artists.
- Charges $19.99/year for unlimited digital distribution, for 1 artist. If you want to control multiple artist pages, they charge more.
- They also have a lot of upsells for things that should be free. Like shazam and tik tok music.
- Very fast distribution & great customer service, so good to choose.
- Landr offers free distribution, but takes a 15% cut of your streaming royalties.
- They also offer mastering services, which can be great when avoiding loudness penalties.
- These guys offer free music distribution, but also take a 15% cut of your streaming royalties.
- They’re not as fast as other services & their customer service isn’t as good, but it’s free.
- Repost Network.
- This is Soundcloud’s music distribution service. It’s free, but they take 15% of streaming royalties & you need to be a soundcloud premier member to join.
How to Avoid Loudness Penalties
Streaming platforms can apply penalties to your track if it is too loud or if it is too quiet.
This can affect the quality of the music presented to the world and can cause things like roll-offs in the low end frequencies of your track. Additionally, it can affect how your music performs. You need to follow Spotify’s guidelines to get the most benefit from your DIY marketing.
To avoid these penalties you can use loudness meter plugins or you can outsource the mixing & mastering process.
Mastering Plugins To Avoid Loudness Penalties
You can get everything you need to avoid loudness penalties in this bundle.
The Best Mastering Services to Use to Avoid Loudness Penalties
- Analog Mastering
- Incredibly cheap analog mastering that sounds phenomenal at just $30!
- Very fast reply and delivery time.
- Industry standard Mixing, Mastering & pitch correction done to your track with an extremely fast turnaround!
- Cheap at only $47!
- Kevin Carafa
- Cheapest option for human mastering at as low as $5.
- Fast turnaround and tonnes of great reviews.
- Instant online mastering done in seconds, using AI technology.
- Sound quality isn’t as good as what you will get from human mastering.
Finding The Right Audience to Promote Music to
If you're taking the route of DIY music marketing, it's essential that you know your target audience & you find the right people to listen to your music.
For instance, you don't want to be marketing heavy techno to people that like folk music – it will never work.
“So how do I find my target audience?!” I hear you cry.
Don't worry, it's pretty simple to do and there's a couple things you can use to ensure your music gets heard by the right people.
Knowing & Finding Your Audience
The first step to finding your target audience, is understanding who they are, what they like & where they hang out online. The very best way to do this is to understand what type of music you make.
For example: If you make EDM, you're going to want to find the exact sub-genre of EDM that you make and do some research around the following things.
- Who are the top artists?
- Where you can network with other people who like this music/make this music?
- Are there any dedicated shows or festivals?
- Are there any dedicated radio shows or podcasts online?
These places will be where your target audience are active.
What's great about this process is that you're already probably a fan of the music you make, so (as a fan yourself) you'll know where your fans will be hanging out online/in person.
We'd advise making a google doc or spreadsheet that lists every single genre-specific resource you can find online.
These can be similar artists Soundcloud accounts, YouTube promo channels, Discord groups, FB groups & pretty much anything you can think of.
You're going to want to join any groups that are specific to genre & start interacting with people.
The great thing about social media is, you're able to interact with anyone, without having the same crippling anxiety of starting a random, real life conversation.
So use this power, start messaging people and begin connecting with them!
DIY Music Marketing Strategies That Generate Hype
By now you should have your goals written down, know where your target audience hangs out and have chosen a platform that you want to double down on.
The next stage is having the right strategies that get real, organic results for your music.
How to Get on Blogs
When getting on blogs, writing a good pitch is extremely important.
You need to stand out from everyone else submitting, because otherwise your email will get left unread.
Sometimes it can be difficult to understand what to include in your pitch & how to write great emails that get responses.
Here's a list of things you should do:
- Be specific about why you're submitting your music. Is it for promotion, feedback? Let the blog know so they understand the intent of your email.
- Write each message to be unique & to show genuine interest in the blog. Don't just write: “i'd like to submit my music to your blog [link], thanks :)”. You will never get a reply doing that.
- Talk about how you are promoting the track. Say what you're doing to promote your track, and how it's going to help the blog out. If you can send a number of fans over to their blog, say so. If it's a collab with an established artist let them know. Does it have radio play or any other support you can flex?
- Describe the music as a story & make it interesting (if there is one). Add time stamps to indicate where the drop is or the breakdown & entice the blog owner to listen.
- Grasp the reader with your subject and headline. In a report by copy blogger, it was found 8 out of 10 will read your headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the contents of the email. Here you need to capture attention. Ask a question that entices them; use active voice instead of passive; make your statement bold.
Writing emails that get responses is one of the most vital parts of generating success through DIY music marketing.
And we cover it in-depth, offering real, adaptable templates that get incredible, organic results in our premium marketing plan guide.
You can check it out here
How to Get on Playlists
There are two current things you want to be including in your marketing plan – submitting to Spotify Editorial playlists & submitting to user curated playlists.
In this section, we're going to show you exactly how you can use both to start increasing your monthly listeners as a DIY musician.
How to Submit to Spotify Editorial Playlists
Getting in a Spotify Editorial playlist is kinda like winning the lottery, but it's definitely something you should always consider when releasing new music, and is a great DIY music marketing technique that can generate you tonnes of plays & new fans.
It's also very easy to include in your marketing plan.
First, you need to distribute your music. So if you haven't done that already, you can do so through your preferred distributor.
When distributing, you need to make sure that your music is submitted 5 weeks before the actual release date you have set.
This makes sure that you have the time to submit your music to Spotify playlists.
After you've distributed your music, you'll see it show up in your Spotify for artists dashboard, under ‘music' & then the ‘upcoming' tab.
If it's not there yet, wait at least 7 days from the day you sent your music off for distribution and it should appear.
If not, contact your distributor!
TOP TIP: You need to have a Spotify profile set up before distribution to see this in your dashboard.
When you can see your track in the ‘upcoming' area, you'll want to hit the 3 dots and click the ‘pitch to playlists' option.
Here's where you can write your pitch.
What's included in your pitch really matters & you need to know how to write one to get noticed by anyone at Spotify.
Below is a great example from Andrew Southworth, which highlights everything you need to cover in your pitch.
Check out this video!
User Curated Playlists
Here's where the real gold lies!
If you don't want to spend hundreds on advertisements, user curated playlists are the best way to promote your music, gain new fans & generate success for independent musicians.
How do you find playlists you ask?
There are tonnes of resources online that can help you find genre-specific playlists and we've listed a couple below you can include in your marketing plan.
If you're willing to put in the work you can find some awesome playlists on these sites, but it's a lot of sorting through rubbish.
If you'd like a bit of extra help, there's an easier solution that's guaranteed to get results.
How to Get on YouTube Promo Channels
YouTube music promotion channels are an incredible way to market your music online & help your music career.
Over “one billion visitors come to YouTube for music each month, according to Google” (Washington Post).
So how do you make use of them?
Getting on YouTube promotional channels is a very similar process to pitching to blogs, playlists etc.
You've got to find the right, genre specific places to send your music to, and make each message you send unique.
Here's a list of things you should do in your message:
- Address by first name. If you can find the first name of the person that runs the channel, it's always a great, personal touch to the message. It shows you've put in extra time & that person will be willing to spend a little extra time reading your message.
- Write a unique and genuine message. If you write a message that is personal, you're far more likely to get someone's time of day. Imagine you are the person receiving thousands of emails a day. Would you respond to: “here's some new music I think would fit in with your channel: [link]”? I know I wouldn't.
- Include information about the track. Where does each section start? What's the meaning behind the track? How does it fit in with their channel?
- Make it easy for them to listen. Insert a plain, private SoundCloud link that tells them to “click here to listen to [insert track name]”. You'll also want to include a download link in case they want to use it.
We recommend adding a goal to find at least 2-3 new YouTube promotion channels/day in your marketing plan. Write down their info in a spreadsheet, so you can contact them once your music is ready to release.
If you really struggle with writing messages, never get replies & don't know where to look for promo channels, unlock our simple guide to generating success for independent musicians.
How to Get on Radio
Getting radio play doesn't just make you feel great & validate that your music is actually more awesome than you thought, but it also acts as a wicked music promotion tool.
(it's also a huge milestone for your music career)
To get on radio, take your pitch (explained above) and change it slightly to send to radio producers.
- Only send one track (if you've been pitching an album to others).
- Make a radio edit – remove all swearing, explicit content & make sure it's 3-4 minutes.
- Upload an easy, private link, with a download for them to listen to.
- Keep your message unique.
- Address by first name (where possible).
- Explain how your music fits in on the radio.
The UK's Secret Special Sauce
If you're an artist in the UK it's even easier to get radio play! In fact, the BBC have a scheme dedicated to upcoming musicians and independent musicians called, BBC Introducing.
You get 3 uploads a month and have the chance to be played on national radio, so it's definitely something worth looking at!
Also it's pretty easy to pitch! You don't need a press release or anything fancy like that.
Just make a profile add a small bio & upload your track!
Rest of The World
If you're not from the UK, there's a few other stations, in the music business, that are set up to help independent musicians. In fact there's one in Australia called Edge Radio.
However, if you can't find anything, getting on radio is the exact same process to getting on blogs.
You need to write an outstanding pitch and find a TRUCKLOAD of radio stations contact information.
How To Stand Out
There are millions of producers and independent musicians out there.
So, it's becoming increasingly over saturated so, having something different to offer is vital when DIY music marketing.
In our opinion working on image and story of your artist profile plays a huge role in success in the music business.
Image is hugely important and is, “quite possibly, more important than music” (CD Baby).
People generally tend to pay more of an interest to artists that tell a story with their music or have a cool back story.
You need a Purple Cow – something that is so remarkably different from the rest that people want to share it.
Take Die Antwoord for instance. Whether you like their music or not, they are incredibly different to any other artist around them & they are a great example of a ‘Purple Cow' in the music business.
It doesn't have to be that weird though…
Examples of things that work:
- Jaw dropping sound design (Noisia).
- Pushing the boundaries of music within popular confines.
- Incredible live talent (RUFUS DU SOL).
- Merging genres that haven't been popularised (Lil Nas X).
- DJ helmets or masks.
- Cartoon imagery or characters.
- Become a robot.
Social Media That Propels Growth
Social media, is a great tool to add to your marketing strategy.
We actually used social media to kick start one of our events, and it allowed us to play festivals, play abroad and a load of other cool things (like go on radio).
Social media was essential to that music business, and the importance of it can't be overlooked.
However, the amount of work put in, for the result we got, wasn't really great when thinking in terms of working smart, and not hard. Also, the ad spend was high.
So since then, we've decided to ditch social media.
Algorithms have changed over updates and made it far, far, far harder to get traction without creating an obscene amount of content.
If you're a musician who can really play, social media could be great for you!
But, being a producer we don't always have the live playing ability to show off .
That being said, it's still vital to have Twitter & Instagram.
Below are the techniques we used to grow our music business Instagram from 0 to 8000 followers, in under 6 months and run incredible events off it.
The Best Strategy to Grow FAST Organically – Instagram
There are a couple strategies you can use when DIY marketing music on Instagram, and we're going to show you how to build a fan base with them.
You can do these in 20mins/day and they will grow, real, engaged, organic followers that are interested in what you do! Obviously the more time you spend, the more results you will get!
Here's what you need to do for this Instagram marketing strategy.
- Find a popular artist who is similar to you.
- Click on one of their posts.
- Check the list of comments and people that liked.
- Click through to those users' profiles, and comment something meaningful + unique to their photo. (If they are wearing a nice top, say it; if they have a nice smile, tell them that).
- Do this as many times in 20 mins as you can.
Your notification will come through on their phone, they will instantly think “who the f*ck is this”, click through to your profile and check you out.
If you've got some awesome content showcasing your music, and they also follow that artist who's similar, the likelihood of them following you is pretty high!
(and they'll be your desired, target audience)
Instagram, since the algorithm changes has become a bit more difficult to grow, but it's the most engaged platform, with 2-7% engagement rate on posts.
So it's definitely worth adding to your social media marketing strategy!
How Much Should I Post?
In all honestly, you need to be fairly active on any social media to grow followers and keep them engaged with your profile.
Posting 7 times a week is ideal, but it's not always possible.
The lowest we'd recommend is once a month, while maintaining active with story posts & the comment strategy we shared above.
With stories, your job is to keep it active. Post anywhere between 3 and 5 times/day.
Here's some ideas for content:
- Use polls to ask questions and get given questions by your audience. Using polls you could, for instance, ask what music people are feeling recently, what's their favourite artist, place to eat. You could ask for recommendations on books, whatever it may be. You can also get your audience to ask you questions using polls, the list is endless.
- Post what you're doing that day. Are you going out? What music are you making today? Is there a new plugin or instrument you're excited about?
- Talk to the camera. Talk to your fans like you would talk to a person in real life. If you're promoting a track, get on camera and tell them your new track is out, how exciting it is and they can listen in the bio.
- Show off talent. Put a video of productions, with reaction sliders or instrument playing up on your story. You could even ask for requests!
Twitter is pretty similar to the above strategy. You'll want to find threads, reply to people & connect. You can do this by engaging with people who comment & interact with similar artists' posts.
It's also a great place to connect with artists you like.
When you find an artist that you like you wanna be sending DMs to them. If you like their music tell them which song you love, ask how they made a certain sound etc.
As for posting, you really want to be tweeting at least once per day on twitter.
It's only 280 characters and it can be something really simple, so it's really not that hard to do.
We haven't personally ever had success with TikTok, but know people who have.
So we wanted to share some advice that we were given when asking they managed to get so much success.
They said they were following this plan:
- Uploading 3 times/day.
- Telling people to follow in every video & like or comment.
- Making high quality content in huge quantity.
After doing that for a couple months, one video blew up and he got incredible results from it, but since, they have died down.
In our opinion, TikTok isn't consistent enough to put time & energy into. One video could blow up and others could completely flop, there is no in between.
On top of the the chances of going viral are completely random & your effort is not always worth taking that risk.
We think that, as an artist, you should focus on music rather than vanity metrics on social media.
And, making 3 TikTok videos a day is really, really time consuming.
If video creation is something you're great at though, there is no reason you shouldn't be investing time into TikTok.
The ability to reach millions, even without a following is incredible!
To make it in the music business, you need to focus your efforts on where it counts. If social media is working, do it! If you're getting results on Soundcloud & Spotify, continue doing that!
(We have personally found more results from Soundcloud & Spotify combined).
And, if you're serious about getting your marketing plan on point, invest in a guide that will teach you how to market your music for yourself.
You'll save a tonne of money, headache & you'll also learn an incredible skill in the process!
Like with anything, to remain successful and see change, you have to be consistent.
Taking on a smaller load of tasks and being able to complete them every day is much more desirable than doing loads and burning out.
Do what you can and do it well.