To make it in the modern music industry, you must have an arsenal of professional tools in the shed, including ones that go beyond your musical capabilities. Whether you're an indie musician waiting on your big break or a veteran working hard to maintain your high-flying reputation, music marketing strategies are a crucial part of your success.
And with a growing number of musicians opting for the independent route, it's important to understand the best ways to go about marketing in the music industry, so that you can get your name out there without the support of a major record label's marketing team.
Without effective music marketing strategies, you could be the next [insert your favourite music icon here] and remain an undiscovered gem for your entire life, missing out on potential opportunities to build a name for yourself and advance your music career.
By employing the right strategies, you can establish your brand, generate revenue, build a loyal fanbase, and fast-track your overall success as a musician. What's more, the more you invest in music marketing strategies now, the less input you'll have to do in the future, as the best strategies will run in the background with minimal effort once you've established a name for yourself.
So, to help you on your journey, we've put together 12 of the most crucial marketing strategies that you can start working on today:
- Establish a fan profile
- Get out and play
- Market yourself with an EPK
- Promote on social media
- Make the most out of streaming platforms
- Monetise your website
- Sell your merch
- Build a mailing list
- Pitch for placements and features
- Diversify your value
1. Establish a fan profile
The very first step when considering your music marketing strategies is to identify your fanbase and target your efforts towards this profile. This advice is inherent in every marketing strategy that you will use moving forward, but it's crucial that you take some time to think about this before diving in, as everything else needs to work upon this foundation.
Most streaming platforms and social media sites give you access to insights and analytics about your audience, from location, age range, gender, and so on. Use this information along with your own intel to profile your audience, trying to consider things such as where they consume their media, what their style preferences are, and what causes they believe in.
Having said this, don't constrain yourself to too tight a box; obviously your music marketing strategies should be tailored to your target audience, but don't shoot yourself in the foot by alienating anyone who deviates from this. For example, if you're a heavy metal band, it's great to pitch to Decibel and emulate the burly, biker aesthetic, but you should avoid promoting rhetorics that suggest there's no place for feminity in metal, for example. In essence, target your marketing strategy but remain open and accessible to everyone.
It's also important not to neglect your existing fanbase in pursuit of extending your reach - engage with them online and continue to bring them value by keeping a consistent digital presence. At the same time, don't be held captive by entitled 'fans' who think you owe it to them to do this or that with your music or career. Allow yourself to evolve and have faith in your own vision; people respect authenticity and your loyal fans will stick around to support you for the ride.
2. Get out and play
You may imagine this to be one of the last stages of your music marketing strategy. After all, shouldn't everything else be leading up to generating demand and anticipation for your sell-out gigs? Whilst this isn't incorrect, it's also important that you maintain a physical presence through in-person performances alongside these other marketing strategies. This will help to build your credibility as a musician and showcases your ability to perform to a live audience (which you can document through recordings on your website and social media profiles).
Though they can be hard to land, playing gigs is a great way to get discovered and build a dedicated fan base. If you can, try to book gigs across multiple locations so you have a greater chance of expanding your support base and getting your name out to the most amount of people. Connect with local press to drive demand, and don't forget to post about your upcoming appearances on your social media! You can also play at private events, fundraisers and charity events to get more exposure in between your own gigs.
If you're looking for help with ticketing your events, DICE is a popular ticketing app in the UK, born out of a frustration towards the monopolisation of music ticketing online (which has led to high fees and issues with ticket scalping). You can list your performances on the app and DICE will recommend your profile and gigs to users with similar interests and music tastes.
Or, if you're struggling to land gigs or just want to get practice and push out more content that shows off your stage presence, you can also utilise live-streaming platforms like Twitch or you can also check out gigs on Gotobeat to book any gigs (London only for now).
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3. Market yourself with an EPK
An EPK (Electronic Press Kit) is a document that will showcase everything that your music and brand is about. Within this document, you should have links to your music (through Spotify, YouTube, or whichever streaming service you use), as well as links to your social media profiles and website. Potential promoters, venues, and collaborators will want to see that you have an active presence and an engaged audience, but we'll get to that later...
So what essentials should you include in your EPK?
- A bio that covers things such as where you're based and what motivates and inspires you as an artist.
- References and links to recent press coverage such as magazine features or podcasts.
- Clear and up-to-date contact details.
- Streaming and download links to your music.
- Links to social media profiles.
It's also a good idea to include some high-quality images of yourself or your band. Feel free to get a little creative with your visual storytelling here: why not organise a conceptual photoshoot to produce some promotional photos that best represent your music? If you're feeling brave, you can also do this in the form of linked video content, where you can record yourself giving a short introduction, paired with some behind-the-scenes footage, concert recordings, or any music videos you've made. If you're looking to get inspired by some great music video concepts, we've got you covered.
Once you've perfected your EPK, make it available on your website as a download, and through a Linktree in your social media bios.
4. Promote on social media
Utilising social media is one of the most important music marketing strategies that you can employ, and by far the most beneficial platforms to leverage as a musician are Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Their sheer reach and their proclivity for video content make them the ideal place for users to discover new music and share songs that they love. Your presence on social media should serve the purpose of boosting your visibility, as well as encouraging users to stream your music and check out your other projects, such as gigs, merchandise, and any features or appearances you've made.
A 2021 study by Flamingo found that 75% of users in the US claimed to have discovered new artists on TikTok, and 63% found new music that they hadn't heard elsewhere. In fact, it's difficult to avoid the impression that having your music go viral on TikTok is the holy grail of music promotion in the modern world. Songs like Old Town Road by Lil Nas X had their humble beginnings on the app, where they were boosted to international fame and charting success. “TikTok helped me change my life,” Nas admitted on TikTok’s blog back in 2019, “TikTok brought my song to several different audiences at once.” This shows just how powerful social media platforms can be when it comes to growing your fanbase and promoting your music in the modern world.
If you're struggling to generate organic traffic, however, most social media platforms also have some form of paid advertising available to creators. From YouTube Ads to boosting your post on Instagram, there are multiple ways to ensure that your content is shown to a wider audience.
Social media management and scheduling tools like Hootsuite give you an easy way to plan and manage your content across multiple social media platforms and help you to stick to a consistent schedule and keep your fans engaged.
5. Make the most out of streaming platforms
As the most popular streaming service in the world, Spotify is an indispensable tool when it comes to marketing in the music industry. Their Spotify for Artists platform offers artists innovative tools and features to build their audience and grow their career.
Marquee is a feature within Spotify for Artists which presents a full-screen recommendation to listeners who have shown interest in your music, directing them to your new release and encouraging them to further engage with your profile. In a recent study, Spotify found that "Marquee campaigns delivered an average of 10x more Spotify listeners for every dollar spent on similar social ads" (Spotify, 2022).
You can also pitch your music to Spotify's playlist editors for free. Whilst it's not guaranteed that your release will get picked up, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain with the chance to have your music pushed to whole new audiences, entirely for free.
Apple Music is another popular choice for artists. From 30-second Twitter audio cards to embeddable music players on your website, they have a range of promotional features to ensure that you get the most out of their platform.
Whichever platform you decide to use to stream your music, make sure that you keep your profile information up-to-date and promote your music on external channels. Utilise the audience analytics to better understand your listeners and learn how to tailor your music marketing strategies accordingly.
6. Monetise your website
You may think of a musician's website as less important than that of a photographer's or filmmaker's, for example, with many in the industry opting to outsource their digital presence and operations to sites like Spotify, TicketMaster, and social media platforms, where they can build a portfolio as well as market and sell their music, without having to drive traffic to their independent site.
And yet, whilst having a presence on these external platforms is a crucial aspect of marketing within the music industry, your website is your home turf, and if you invest in it, it can be a reliable way to monetise your work, as well as promote your overall brand image. List an 'About' page where fans, promoters, and collaborators can go to learn a bit more about you and your story, and don't forget to clearly link to your EPK and social media and streaming profiles.
Having a professional website as a musician also helps to build credibility and stands as a dependable resource for fans to stay up-to-date with information relating to tour dates, music releases, and any recent features and collaborations that you have done. You can also post exclusive content such as concert recordings and behind-the-scenes footage, which when promoted on your socials, can act an incentive for fans to click onto your page.
7. Sell your merch
People identify themselves with the music that they consume and the artists that they support, and they often want a way to show this to the world. Offering your fanbase a chance to buy branded merchandise is a great way to give them this, and nurture a sense of connection and community.
Not only this, but you're essentially getting paid to have your fans act as walking advertisements for your music, and since the promotion isn't being pushed out by someone with an incentive (like you), people are more likely to want to see what the hype is all about!
It goes without saying that your merch should include your artist or band name, but when it comes to visuals, this is your chance to get creative. You can play around with different styles but try to establish some sort of brand identity that is consistent throughout. Do some market research to see what your target audience is drawn to, and consider hiring a graphic designer to help you out (the investment will be worth it in the long run).
The most in-demand forms of merchandise from musicians tend to be T-shirts, hoodies, caps & beanies, posters, and stickers. But once again, this is an opportunity to profile your audience and consider what sorts of products they would want to buy.
You can add links to your merch on your Spotify account via Merchbar, as well as on your own website and in-person at gigs and events.
8. Build a mailing list
It might not sound very Rock n' Roll, but email marketing in the music industry is an effective way to keep your audience engaged and inform them of any new releases, tours, or projects that you have on the go, ensuring that you're kept at the front of their mind. You can also use your mailing list to push out special offers and promotions, such as advance access to pre-sale items (gigs and merchandise) and exclusive discounts.
Use your website and social media profiles to encourage your audience to subscribe to your mailing list via pop-ups or linked sign-up forms. You can do this easily through various email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp and ConvertKit, which can also streamline your email marketing process through ready-made templates and intuitive campaign builders.
The great thing about email marketing is that it's universal. Different social media platforms hit vastly different demographics and certain groups don't engage with them at all, but (nearly) everybody has an email address. What's more, your email campaigns are your own - no character limits, no formatting restrictions, no praying that the algorithm won't bury your content; you are the captain of this ship!
As a result, email marketing is a reliable way to stay in touch with your audience and have better control over the content you push out.
9. Pitch for placements and features
One of the best music marketing strategies out there is to leverage the reach of an existing entity or organisation. Whether it's a popular podcast, magazine, TV show or radio station, getting featured by an external source is a great way to put your name on the map.
Once again, it's important that you think carefully about your fan profile here, as you want to hit an audience that's most similar to your own (potential or real) fanbase. If you make grime music, for example, there is little point in getting featured in Kerrang! or on Classic FM, as their audiences are unlikely to be receptive to your music.
Equally, if you know that your audience is predominantly teenagers and young adults, then it may be worth focusing on partnering with social media influencers or getting featured on podcasts with an existing GenZ audience, instead of targeting traditional radio stations.
Crucial Music is a site that connects music artists with music supervisors in TV, Film, and Advertising, giving you the chance to have your songs featured in popular shows, films and brand campaigns, all whilst retaining ownership and generating revenue.
When you've decided who you want to pitch to, it's now time to craft your message. Make sure that you personalise each pitch, addressing the person by name and referencing a recent campaign or article that you liked in your intro. Let the organisation know why you think their audience would be interested in your music or story, clearly showing the potential value that you can bring. Always link to your website and discography (on Spotify or elsewhere) and make sure that it’s up to date with your best work.
10. Diversify your value
So you're a great musician (and soon to be a great marketer!) but what other skills can you bring to the table? Are you a natural teacher that would flourish creating educational videos on YouTube? Maybe you have a knack for wit and humour that you can leverage on socials? Or perhaps you're a charismatic people-person that was born to be a podcast host!
Whatever it might be, there is a huge range of opportunities out there that you can dip your toes into to expand your reach and diversify your value. Gone are the days of the elusive, mysterious rock star - people want real, multilayered icons to look up to.
This is also a great way to cultivate a sense of community with your fans, as it builds a wider picture about who you are as a person, making them more inclined to support you in your work as a musician.
Lewis Capaldi is a great example of a musician leveraging his comedic talents to increase his visibility and reach. Many people come across him from his funny social media posts or clips of him on talk shows, and are then driven to check out his music because they're intrigued by him as a person. Rhianna has branched out to so many avenues now that it has become a running joke that she does everything but make music. Both have expanded their empires and utilised their skills to bring everything they have to the table.
The key is to play to your strengths and if something seems to be working, then run with it. Equally, if something doesn't go as well as you expected it to, move on and learn from it.
So there you have it - 10 music marketing strategies to help you get your name and music on the radar!
Of course, your musical talent and creative expression are at the heart of what you do, but investing in music marketing strategies is also a crucial piece of the puzzle. And if you commit to implementing and developing them, then you'll see your efforts returned tenfold; from expanding your fanbase and boosting engagement to nurturing your brand and increasing revenue.
Just make sure that you keep track of your metrics so that you can measure the success of your strategies. This will help you to learn what kinds of approaches and content your audience is most receptive to, and from this, you can refine and develop to increase your chances of success!
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