Wanna learn how to better market your music? You can dream of a lavish roll out for your debut single — champagne, release party, and all.
But before you get too caught up, let’s come back down to Earth for a second. More established artists can afford massive billboards around the world, and can even hire a dedicated team to facilitate months of promotion.
But for most artists, especially those who are just starting out, paying for some strategically placed Instagram ads or investing in eye-catching branding will have to do the trick.
Having an effective marketing and promotional plan is instrumental to the success of your career especially when you have less resources to work with.
As marketing tools have become more accessible, consumers are now overwhelmed with ads.
This is why we stressed that you need to understand what makes you unique and who your audience is, to give you a better chance of breaking through the noise.
This article will give you a taste of all the tactics you can use to market your music, teach you how to stand out while still staying on-budget, and show you how to get the most out of resources that are available to you.
Don’t stress about implementing everything discussed here today. The idea is to get your mind thinking about what will work best for you, what may not be a good fit, what tactics are a priority right now, and what might need to come later.
The 3 Routes You can Take
First, it is important to note that there are typically three ways of approaching everything we’re about to mention below. One is the DIY approach, where you do it all on your own.
Two is the approach of outsourcing to someone who is considered an amateur in their profession. This could be someone who’s very talented but doesn’t break the bank and could be trying to establish themselves just as you are with your music.
The third option is reserved for those who have large budgets or the support of a label. This might be where things get outsourced to an agency or sizeable creative firm.
At this level, you’d hope that the quality is excellent but don’t think that you cant create amazing content just because you’re resorting to DIY or an amateur on the rise.
In fact, the sweet spot when you’re being budget-conscious but still striving for quality usually lies among the first and second options.
1. Social media is key
A strong social media presence should be at the core of any artist’s business model. In today’s world, people do everything on these platforms!
It’s how you stay connected with your friends, where you become informed on what is going on in the world, or where you go for a source of entertainment.
After understanding who your target audience is, you can begin to prioritize what social media platforms your audience is most frequently on.
Also, keep in mind that trends come and go —while today the most popular and lucrative social media platforms for artists are TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, this could change.
Creating a social media profile is free, so if you haven’t already, start an account on every platform! You have nothing to lose and so much to potentially gain.
An artist could pour millions of dollars into creating social media ads, but they are practically worthless unless the content is watched and shared.
Major record labels have started to recognize that musicians with large personalities can easily turn into viral memes, often gaining traction on social media.
DJ Khaled’s inspirational Snapchat stories or the plethora of memes that came from Drake’s music video for his international hit ‘Hotline Bling’ are just two examples of artists that have brought viral elements to their brand or their music to appeal to a wider audience.
You’re probably not as established as DJ Khaled or Drake, but you have the same social media tools they have to go viral. As you dive deeper into the membership area, you will find many great tips to help you grow on each platform.
Related Reading: 11 Reasons Why Musicians Fail On Social Media, And How To Avoid Their Mistakes
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2. The importance of a website
So you got social media down, now let’s talk about your website. Your website should act as a one-stop-shop for everything related to you.
It’s where you link to your online merch store, display your tour dates, and link out to all of your social media platforms.
When creating your website, try to purchase a domain name that is closest to your name and that appeals to an international audience.
For example, if I was Justin Bieber – justinbieber.com is a lot nicer than justinbieber.net. Even better, if your website ends up as one of the top search results on search engines, that is great for brand awareness!
With the tools we have today, including WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix, it’s never been easier to build a website on your own.
Don’t stress if you’ve never done this before. We will show you how you can quickly get up and running in a couple of hours with our website tutorials.
3. Starting an email newsletter
After you have your website built, how will you stay connected with your audience?
Even if you have thousands of followers on Instagram and Twitter, your posts could get lost in the algorithm.
To ensure that the most important releases and announcements don’t get missed by your fans, try starting an email newsletter that your audience can sign up for on your website.
Most artists use email newsletters to reach their fans and keep them updated on everything they have going on. When asking your audience to sign up for your emails, try to have incentives.
For example, people that sign up for your email newsletter could have exclusive access to your merchandise or have an early chance to buy tickets for your tour.
While it’s important to stay consistent with your newsletter, try not to be too annoying.
Sending an email a day reminding subscribers you’re going on tour may be annoying for some people and cause them to unsubscribe.
The more intriguing and exclusive the content of the newsletter is, the more subscribers you will have. We’ll show you how to maneuver this area for your own music as well!
4. Engaging in paid advertising
Have you ever been enticed by an interesting banner advertisement that was on a website?
Have you ever clicked on one?
Those paid spots are not just reserved for large companies and artists.
Depending on your budget, you could choose to run ads on social media or through Google Ads to target a specific demographic.
While these ads can be very effective, they can also get expensive if you don’t know what you’re doing.
So, if you don’t have a massive budget, you may want to think twice before wildly throwing money into paid advertising and hoping for results.
There are some ways that you can curb costs and make sure that you are getting the most out of your efforts, though.
This is a key tactic we will focus on in detail as you dive deeper into the coming sections.
5. Good branding is everything
In the music industry, your image is everything. At the beginning of your career, you have almost full control over how you want to be perceived in the public eye.
From the font of your logo, the kind of clothes you wear, and the issues you openly speak about on Twitter — the way you brand yourself must be cohesive since it is at the core of everything you do.
Although it may come across as effortless, every successful artist has probably spent hours deciding how they want to be seen by the world.
Your music is not the only thing you can channel your artistic vision through, and we go through some effective ways you can brand yourself in the articles below:
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6. When to get a publicist
Once you have established your artistic vision and are ready to take the next steps to advance your career, it may be time to hire a publicist. The main role of a publicist is to craft your public image in the most positive way possible.
When you’re starting out in the music industry, you won’t have every magazine begging to interview you – this is when having a publicist could be very useful.
Their primary function is to represent you and generate positive publicity for you and your music. A good publicist will be very well connected and spend lots of time reaching out to writers, journalists, publications, and news organizations on your behalf.
Hiring the right publicist can be a substantial investment but could lead to more exposure. Keep in mind that this is something you can also do on your own if you’re short on budget, and we’ll show you how.
7. Influencer Marketing
These days, all it takes is just one video to go viral. Some artists have found success in paying influencers on TikTok to make dances to their music.
There are even companies that help artists optimize their music for TikTok! The bottom line is that influencer marketing has proven to be very effective in reaching a mass audience, but just one video can cost you tens of thousands!
You can also just collaborate with other smaller influencers or brands on the rise who may be more open to working with you at a much smaller rate.
Keep in mind there is more to this than just tossing $200 at some celebrity and having them post your song to their story. This does not work and is a waste of your time and money.
You need an entire strategy behind how you plan to utilize the influencer’s platform. There is a lot more than meets the eye with this, so it again becomes important to know your target audience, among other things.
Instead, you could also try and become the influencer yourself?
Start promoting your music on every platform and making dances to your songs that would make for the perfect TikTok. If this stresses you out, don’t worry. We will also be covering how to utilize influencer marketing to help you grow.
Selling merchandise could potentially be one of the easiest ways for you to make money so that you can fund the production of your music and the rest of your marketing plan!
Not only can selling merchandise be lucrative but having your name on a T-shirt is practically free promotion – every time someone wears your shirt, they are acting as a walking billboard for you!
Thanks to some great online platforms, producing merchandise is relatively easy and affordable to do on your own.
So toss some cool designs on a T-shirt, set up an online store, and promote your merchandise on your social media.
We’ll go over how to maximize your success with merch and ways that you can do it without breaking the bank, dealing with shipping or customer issues.
9. Touring & Shows
Whether you are signed to a label or are an independent artist, it’s hard to make money just from album sales.
You may be surprised by this, but even today’s most successful artists don’t make much money off of their music!
Touring, however, was the primary source of income for 37 of the 40 highest-earning artists in 2018 — so this is where artists make their money.
Touring is a lot of work as much as it can be fun, so if you’re planning on hitting the road, you may want to think about having a plan first before you hit the road.
10. Building a team
If you’re about to head out on tour, you may need a team to make sure everything runs smoothly.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you may get to a point in your career where you have a dedicated team to help you promote your music!
Your team’s size will usually depend on where you’re at with your music career and how much help you need to maintain a high level of progress.
If you’re an independent artist don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you need a manager or a lawyer right off rip.
For some of you this might make sense, but I highly suggest that you first focus on securing amazing videographers, photographers, social media content creators/editors, producers, etc.
You can try and learn things on your own, but don’t be a lone wolf. Having a good team is crucial to your success.
Don’t sleep on this because I promise you it will stunt your growth. Once things start rolling, chances are, that manager you’re looking for will end up finding you instead.
When Megan Thee Stallion came out with her song ‘Savage’, it was a massive hit on TikTok. People all over the world were hopping on TikTok to dance to her song, which helped the song skyrocket to the top of every streaming platform.
The song’s original version hit an all-time high at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and then fell to #5.
But weeks later, Megan Thee Stallion added Beyonce to a remix of the song, which gave the song a huge boost and helped secure the #1 spot.
This collaboration was instrumental in the songs’ widespread success. When two artists team up for a project, you ultimately have two fanbases working together!
And if the artist you’re collaborating with is completely different than you, you will be organically reaching an audience that would not usually listen to your music.
The more outlandish your collaboration is, the riskier it could be. But you could also have a hit track on your hands.
12. Release strategies
Before the release of her single ‘Don’t Start Now’, Dua Lipa deleted every single one of her Instagram photos.
What followed was a media uproar, along with thousands of fans taking to social media to question her intentions behind this bold act.
While she stated her motivation behind this was to ‘prove social media isn’t real’, chances are it was partially for promotion — and it was effective!
With everyone talking about Dua Lipa’s Instagram, more eyes were on her than ever — and ‘Don’t Start Now’ is now her second most listened to song on Spotify with over a billion streams.
The purpose of a release strategy is to create intrigue and excitement before the release of a single, music video, performance, announcement, or album.
As you become more established, there will be more emphasis on your strategy.
However, at the beginning of your career, a couple of teasers on your social media platforms could be enough to capture the attention of your audience.
When coming up with your release strategy, look to see what established artists like Dua Lipa are doing and how you can emulate their model with your resources.
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13. Digital music distribution
If you’re signed to a major record label, many people are working to help build your image so you can become successful.
Unfortunately, this means that when your music is distributed, a lot of the money generated from album sales and streams goes back to the label.
Some artists, including Atlanta rapper Russ, are cutting out the middleman by self-releasing music made possible by digital music distribution services like TuneCore or United Masters.
Anybody can use these platforms, which allows musicians to get their music on to streaming services.
Even if you’re not signed to a label, there is the possibility for major success — Russ’ 2016 song “Ain’t Nobody Takin’ My Baby’ has sold over one million copies, which is the first independently-produced platinum certification from the RIAA, the organization that represents the recording industry in the United States.
14. Getting your music on streaming playlists
Have you ever discovered a new artist through a playlist on Spotify or Apple Music?
Today, most people consume their music on streaming platforms, which leaves plenty of room for emerging artists to be discovered.
Why? Well, one of the advantages of streaming platforms is the ability to sift through millions of curated playlists from the platform itself, companies, and individuals.
So, how do you get your music featured on some of the biggest streaming playlists?
Let’s use Spotify as an example. There are two different types of playlists on Spotify: Personal Playlists and Official Spotify Playlists.
A Personal Spotify Playlist is created by Spotify users, record labels, companies, news publications, and anybody else on Spotify except Spotify themselves.
Some of these playlists are very popular and updated regularly with new releases – some of the playlists are even promoted on the Spotify homepage.
Many companies and publications would probably be happy to add some of your music to their playlists if it aligns with their theme — just shoot them an email! (Obvioulsy easier said than done but we’ll show you how to improve your success with playlists)
The second type of playlists on Spotify are Official Spotify Playlists. Every official playlist is curated by teams at Spotify that comb the platform for both emerging talent and today’s most popular songs.
It’s up to the Spotify team to curate the playlist to suit a specific mood or theme of a playlist, but if you have a connection at Spotify, that could be your in!
Related Reading: 6 Different Types of Spotify Playlists and How to Get on Them
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Final Thoughts on How To Better Market Your Music
I know that was a lot of information, but try not to feel overwhelmed! Marketing and promotional plans take a lot of time and effort; as you become more established, you may get to the point where you have a dedicated team to handle this all for you.
Kevin is the founder of Music With Flavor, which joined Whipped Cream Sounds in 2023. He is a seasoned musician turned industry expert. His passion for music goes beyond melodies; he delves deep into the intricate world of music marketing, striving to unearth the most effective strategies for indie musicians. However, Music With Flavor isn’t just about Kevin’s knowledge; it’s a network of industry experts handpicked to provide the most trusted advice. Kevin’s role is to pose the right questions, not just answer them, as he and his team tirelessly research trends, connect with artists, and gather valuable insights.