As an independent artist or band, you have more opportunities than ever to start your own career and be successful doing it - even without a big label or budget. The internet has created bridges that allow you to connect directly with your fans and a wider audience. Great that there are so many options, but you may be wondering which ones to choose for your promotion, what the best strategy is and where to start. This article should help you with that and give you valuable marketing tips. Let's go!
Good music is the basis for successful promotion
Before we really get into the topic of music promotion and give you some possibilities and advice, a note in advance: your primary focus as a musician or band should be on making good music! You can follow all the advice to a T, but if your track, EP or album is not well written, recorded and produced, even the best promotion in the world will not bring you much success.
Teamwork makes the dream work
As long as you don't have a label or management that can do the promotion work for you, the responsibility lies with you. Don't let that intimidate you though, see it as an opportunity to learn. "Do it yourself" doesn't have to mean "Do everything yourself" - even without a label or manager, you can (and should!) seek out support, not least, to have time and energy left over for your artistic work. Perhaps you have social media experts, design professionals or motivated all-rounders in your own network, who can and would like to help you and your music progress - it’s free to reach out!
Make a plan right from the start
A good plan is the basis for your promotional activities and will help you define your goals, define important steps and help you keep an overview of what you should be doing. What exactly belongs in a promo plan though? You should take the following points into consideration:
- Your goals: what exactly do you want to achieve with your promotional activities? More streams through playlist features, more social media followers, radio spins, press/blog features, booking requests...? There are many possible goals. Already in your planning it makes sense to focus on certain goals and areas and to plan and implement measures specifically for them.
- To-dos: what do you need to do to achieve your goals?
- Timeline: when should what be done? What are the deadlines?
- Responsibilities: who is responsible for what?
- Budget: How much budget is available for the application? What should it be invested in?
Get your promotional materials together in one place
You should have the following content & promotional material in suitable formats and sizes to promote your music:
- your music (audio file, links)
- your pictures (artwork, professional photos of artist/band)
- convincing promotion texts (biography, "sales text" for the release, etc.)
- a music video (not an absolute must, but if you have budget for it, definitely a valuable addition)
To be able to quickly share all your promo content with third parties when needed, it's best to put it in one place (e.g. in a Dropbox or Google Drive folder). The collection of your most important PR and promotional materials is also called an "EPK" - Electronic Press Kit. You can then quickly and easily send the EPK to relevant contacts, such as journalists.
Your website / artist page as a figurehead
You don't have your own website or artist page yet? Then it's high time. Here you can present your current release content as well as your artist bio, so that listeners, journalists, potential partners and others can inform themselves about you and your music. What all should be on your website:
- information about you/you as an artist/band ("About" section with biography, short description, etc.)
- your music (representative and current songs, it doesn't have to be the whole discography)
- professional photos
- your videos (also representative examples)
- links to streaming, download and social media platforms
- live dates
- contact information
- newsletter form
- EPK download option
- merchandise section (or link to merchandise shop)
You have all your promo material at the start? Very good. Then let's move on to the more practical tips for distributing your materials and activating your (future) fans.
Tip #1: Use the "... for Artists" tools
The big/well-known music streaming services almost all offer their own tools specifically for artists. So if you release your music on these platforms, be sure to register directly there to benefit from useful functions and advantages (especially for promotion). You should definitely use these artist tools if you have published your music there:
- Spotify for Artists
- Apple Music for Artists
- Amazon Music for Artists
- Deezer for Creators
- YouTube for Artists
- still in development: TIDAL for Artists
These tools give you access to many exclusive features and benefits for each platform. With 'Spotify for Artists' you can, for example, unlock your artist profile, verify it, edit it (add profile picture, bio and info text), add an 'Artist Pick' (artist recommendation) to your profile and much more. You also get access to streaming analytics for your music and can pitch new releases to the Spotify editorial team to be included in official Spotify playlists. So if you haven't signed up yet, do it now!
Tip #2: Use Social Media
You probably already know: a good social media presence is definitely a must for musicians. Even if organic reach is not what it used to be and the competition and noise level are enormous, your presence on social media platforms is still the easiest, most direct way to reach your fans and other target groups and, above all, to get into a two-way exchange. However, this can cost a lot of time. Our advice: focus on the social media channels that are most important to you. Consider where your target group is on the move and how many channels you can reasonably and realistically use. Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, ... the choice is huge. No matter which social media platform(s) you choose, these tips will certainly help you:
- class instead of mass: find your balance and don't post too often, but also not too seldom, so that your account may appear inactive. Find the right mix for you, your target group, followers and fans.
- video first: Audio-visual content usually spreads best and is preferred by social media algorithms.
- adapt your content (format, resolution, etc.) to the guidelines and recommendations of the platforms. Paid advertising (= ads) can help you achieve certain goals, as you can buy more reach and visibility. However, before you invest your money, do your research - you can find a lot of helpful material online on the topic of paid ads.
Tip #3: Use Smart Links
Standard links to your songs on Spotify and the like are often long, consist of random numbers and letters that hardly anyone can remember and are not necessarily pretty. The solution: smart links. They are short, easy to remember and consist of real words that directly describe the content and are relevant. Smart links direct visitors via a landing page to relevant landing pages. So all you need is a link that directs your fans to your profiles (e.g. to your profiles on the streaming platforms). For a new release, you can send your fans with a smart link to a landing page with direct links to the song on the various platforms (also called stores or "DSPs" for digital service providers), but also directly link your shop with merchandise, for example. Fans and other interested parties can then access and listen to the track with just one click on the platform they trust.
There are smart link providers specialised in music, such as Linkfire or Feature.fm, which offer practical features for music creators. Some features, such as the so-called "pre-save" function, are advantageous when promoting your music. Pre-save links make promoting your music before the official release date easier and more efficient. Find out why and how in the next tip.
Tip #4: Use the pre-save function
The algorithms of the streaming services are not only interested in how many streams you have, but also whether listeners have actively saved your song or added it to their playlists. With pre-save, you can get your fans to save your song in their library before it is released. You can use pre-saves on most major streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer. The pre-saves all look slightly different on the different platforms, but the way they work is essentially the same. The algorithms of the streaming services pay close attention to how often a song is saved. So if you can generate a lot of saves before the release thanks to a pre-save campaign, of course the algorithms won't miss that either. Many pre-saves (i.e. pre-marking/saving by listeners) increase the chance of being considered in the algorithm-based playlists. With a bit of luck, the number of pre-saves will even influence whether your release is included in one of the editorial playlists (more on this in the next tip). Last but not least, this also leads to significantly more streams on the first day, as you can promote the song even before the release date. This success indicator does not escape the streaming services either.
Tip #5: Pitch your playlist
Streaming has made singles much more relevant than whole albums. Playlists are largely responsible for getting individual songs heard (or streamed). But how do you get your music into playlists? First of all, it helps to understand what types of playlists there are.
1. Personalised Playlists
Personalised playlists are compiled automatically using algorithms. The listening habits of the listener are taken into account (i.e. what this person listens to, saves, marks with "like", shares, skips, etc.). The habits of users with similar tastes are also taken into account. The algorithms of Spotify & Co. are relatively indifferent to the (artistic or musical) quality of songs - only numbers and data are taken into account: how many people have streamed the song, how often has it been saved, how often has it been added to playlists and how many followers does the artist have? All these factors play a role in the selection of songs for personalised playlists (how exactly the algorithms work is not disclosed). Therefore, it is important that you use your channels to encourage your fan base not only to listen to your songs, but also to save them, tag them with "Like" and share them yourself - so always be sure to share the streaming links to your releases (preferably via smart links) via social media.
2. Editorial playlists
Editorial playlists are curated by the editors of the streaming services. These are "official playlists" that can usually be recognised by the logo of the streaming provider in the cover image, are usually prominently placed and have many followers. Places or features in these playlists are accordingly coveted and not easy to get - especially for artists or bands without the support of a larger or better-known label. As an independent artist or band, you can use the already mentioned "... for Artist" tools to pitch and should definitely make use of them.
3. Playlists created by users
These are playlists created by listeners, professional music curators and/or artists. This type of playlist has a much better chance of being included than editorially curated playlists. However, there are millions of user-created playlists, most of which are probably not relevant to you or conducive to promotion due to their minimal listenership. So you should research the playlists that are relevant to you and your music. Finding the playlists that have enough reach and fit the genre and style of your music can be tedious - but it will be worth it. It also makes sense to check which playlists feature similar artists and bands. Once you have found suitable playlists, follow them and get in touch with the curators. Many curators publish their contact details in the playlist, alternatively you can find many of them via Google and follow them on social media platforms to attract their attention. Another option to get contacts of curators are services like Chartmetric, which are not too cheap though. There are also platforms like SubmitHub or Groover, where playlist curators are registered, filtered by genre and can be contacted directly. Of course, this makes your work much easier, but it also costs something. When it comes to playlist pitching, you should be careful with providers who promise a guaranteed number of streams or are overpriced (compared to what you earn from the streams).
Whether created by curators, listeners, artists, algorithms or yourself: Playlists are a great way to promote your music and grow your audience.
Tip #6: Do email marketing
Email marketing is a very efficient way to draw attention to yourself as an artist and your music. In contrast to social media, there is little wastage - a mailing usually reaches almost all potential recipients and most of them will open and read the email. Contact costs, interaction and click rates are on average better with email campaigns (i.e. lower costs and higher interaction and click rates) than, for example, with advertisements on social media. The prerequisite for this is, of course, that you have a list of recipients.
Before you can start your email marketing campaigns, you need the right contacts. There are several ways to build up such a contact list or different contact lists (fans, music editors, promoters, etc.). It's best to combine the different methods: For example, you can offer your fans a "lead magnet" - something in return for signing up for the email list or newsletter. A good lead magnet as a musician or band is exclusive material such as a special recording, outtakes from the studio, a sample of an upcoming single or unreleased artwork that fans receive in exchange for their email address when they sign up for the newsletter. There is a wide range of email marketing tools. Just have a look around (e.g. at EmailToolTester), create an account and start collecting email addresses. It will pay off in the long run!
To reach German music editors, you can alternatively or additionally use the Music Promotion Network (MPN). MPN is a paid service through which you can send your current titles to editors and journalists from radio, TV, print and online editorial departments and reach them via mailings.
Last but not least
Now you have the basics for your DIY promotion. There are of course many other ways to get your music noticed and promoted. Finally, a few more ideas :
- collaborations: work with other artists or social influencers to leverage their reach and increase your audience and fan base.
- play live: Concerts are the best way to play and promote new songs. Live recordings and content around your gig can also be used and recycled online.
- cool, funny or unusual merchandise.
- guerrilla marketing: unconventional marketing campaigns that achieve a big effect with a small effort. The focus is on the surprise effect in order to achieve maximum attention.
Perhaps reading this has already given you ideas for marketing campaigns and the promotion of your next release. In any case, we wish you much success with your promotion and hope that this article can be of help!
Read the MusicHub feature "MusicHub Academy: Promotion & Branding for DIY musicians".
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