If you’re just starting to dip your toes into the world of online music marketing, the number of platforms at your disposal can be overwhelming. Fortunately, many of them are free (or very affordable), so there’s little risk with trying them out.
So, which online marketing tools are the most essential for musicians who are trying to cut through the noise, find their audience, and build relationships with new fans? Read on to learn about some of the best options available to DIY artists and bands, along with some basics on how to get the most out of each marketing tool.
1. Mailing list
For the average artist, the mailing list is that thing you put in the back of the room on your semi-professional-looking merch table. You don’t encourage people to sign up, and your average fan doesn’t even know you have one. What’s worse is that you rarely use it, and you probably send out one newsletter update every four months or so.
That’s a big mistake, because your mailing list is the single most important marketing tool you have. Social media is great and all, but no one can keep track of everything in their feeds. And certain platforms (like Facebook) have made it increasingly difficult to get your content seen unless you pay for advertising.
Your email newsletter, on the other hand, is free permission marketing, so use it at least once a month! It allows you to target meaningful information to people who you know are fans of your music. Never underestimate the fact that you can instantly reach your biggest fans with a click of a “send” button.
Also, don’t forget to check in on your email analytics every now and then. Open rates, click-through rates, new signups, and unsubscribes all tell you important information about how healthy and engaged your list is. Use that data to tweak, test, and improve each email you send to ensure that you’re getting the most out of every campaign.
Artists tend to undervalue the power of websites just as much as mailing lists. Facebook is not a website. Bandcamp is not a website. Fans want a one-stop shop where they can listen to your music, watch your videos, learn about upcoming shows, and find out more about you. The easier it is to find you, the easier it is to follow you.
Creating and maintaining a proper website isn’t just for your fans, either. Talent buyers, music journalists, and all sorts of industry professionals are more biased towards artists who represent themselves well with a professional-looking online presence. There are also plenty of ways that you can use your website data to drive your music career forward, which you can learn all about here.
Not sure where to start? Check out this free guide: How to make a website for your music
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Most artists know they should use Facebook. But half-spirited posts, updates at the wrong time of day, over-posting, and inviting people in Pennsylvania to your show in Los Angeles are just a handful of the mistakes that musicians make. Do yourself a favor and read up on some Facebook best practices — you’ll get way more out of the platform.
And don’t discount Facebook Ads Manager — it can be a super effective online marketing tool for musicians, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. Learn more about how to set up Facebook ad campaigns here.
Artists don’t always see the value in Twitter, or simply don’t get how to use it. But it’s one of the best music marketing tools for real-time updates, and it’s a great place to share thoughts on trending topics, have personal interactions with your fans, and more.
Hashtags and mentions are two of the big keys to taking advantage of Twitter. When tweeting about an upcoming show, for instance, be sure to tag the venue and the other artists on the bill, and use hashtags that specifically apply to your event and the city it’s in.
Snapchat isn’t for everyone, but it can certainly be a fun way to connect with your fans if you have a younger audience. The app is all about being personal, casual, and in the moment, so it’s an effective tool for music marketing without feeling like obvious marketing. It also takes a lot of the pressure off of creating “perfect” content, because nothing is archived on Snapchat.
People love photos, plain and simple. The beauty of Instagram is that you have the opportunity to share everyday things with your fans — clips from new songs you’re working on, an amazing meal you had, or even the bite your dog took out of your lyric notebook. Go easy on show posters or anything that looks too polished. There are lots of ways to get creative with music marketing on Instagram while still coming across as authentic.
Plus, you can easily promote any Instagram post through Facebook Ads Manager (the same way you’d promote a Facebook post) to reach the targeted audience of your choice. Here’s a handy step-by-step guide you can follow when you’re ready to try out your first Instagram ad.
Think of YouTube as your audio/visual business card. It gives people a three-dimensional idea of who you are. It’s a huge driver for music discovery, and it’s how many fans prefer to share and consume music.
Upload videos on a consistent schedule to gradually build a following, and be sure to share them across other platforms, whether it’s embedded in an email newsletter or posted as a short teaser on Instagram. Include links to your website and social media profiles in every YouTube video description, and use relevant keywords so that you come up in search results and related video suggestions.
[Social Media Marketing for Musicians: How to get More Fans on YouTube]
Bandcamp is dedicated to helping musicians sell directly to their fans and maintain control over how they share their content. You can set whatever pricing you’re comfortable with, let fans decide how much they want to pay, or choose to offer free download codes.
The customizable, embeddable music players are a huge plus, and you can even bundle your digital music with physical merch, like T-shirts, posters, or vinyl. Bandcamp also does a great job of curating and promoting music on the platform to encourage customers to discover new artists.
SoundCloud is another artist-friendly platform that does a great job of helping people find new music from a huge, diverse community of creators. It’s an open platform designed to directly connect artists and fans.
SoundCloud is unique in that people can leave comments on songs as they’re listening. You might get valuable feedback on a favorite verse, other songs they think of when they hear yours, or opinions about specific instruments on the track. Many artists even use SoundCloud as a place to upload raw demos and gauge the response before investing in professional production.
If you play a lot of live shows, Bandsintown is a must. It’s the largest concert discovery platform, used by over 500,000 artists and 50 million fans. It’s an easy way to reach more music lovers and sell tickets to your shows. Perhaps the best part is that you can sync all of your tour dates across your website, Facebook page, and other social networks, all from one place.
11. Spotify for Artists
There are tons of benefits that you can access through the Spotify for Artists dashboard, including customizing your Spotify profile, submitting to playlists, song statistics, and listener demographics.
If you have even a small following on Spotify, the analytics alone can be one of your most valuable music marketing tools. You can use that insight to make smart decisions on where to perform live, which bands to tour with, who to target on social media, and much more.
Now that you know which tools you're going to use, be sure to create a music marketing plan to put them into action.
Lisa Occhino is the founder of SongwriterLink and the Director of Marketing & Communications at Soundfly. She’s also a pianist, award-winning songwriter, and graduate of Berklee College of Music.
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