When it comes to promoting music online, there are far too many channels, networks, forums, platforms, apps and communities for musicians to be involved with to be present on them all.
So rather than attempt the impossible, you should focus your efforts on a handful that are likely to bare the most fruit.
How are you to know which platforms are most likely to lead to success?
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Well, there's no one answer, and trial and error will still most certainly be involved. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you identify your best options:
- Who are your ideal fans?
- Where do they spend their time online?
- Where do you find similar artists (even far bigger acts within your genre) spending most of their time actively engaging with their audience online?
- What type of content are they focused on (i.e. Videos, photos, articles/ blogs, etc.)
Answering these simple questions is a great way to get started. Once you've made it to this point, you'll want to explore the different platforms / properties available to you. These can be broken into 4 separate categories, each with a unique purpose:
While social networks are great, they are essentially rented, not owned. If Twitter suddenly ceases to exist, all of your followers go with it.
For this simple reason, you should always start with the channels you can call your own. Make sure these act as the hub for your fans to know they can always find the most up to date information about you.
This should always be priority #1 (and we’re not just saying that to toot our own horns). An official website gives your fans a place online where they know they can find you, no matter which social networks come and go.
2. Mailing list
Email is still the best way to reach your fans when they need to be reached. Unlike most social networks that 1) use an algorithm to determine what content gets delivered to fans (hint: your content may not get seen!) and 2) require a fan to be present on the social network at or around the time of you posting, your email is guaranteed to land in the inbox of your fans. A regular monthly newsletter is a great way to keep your die-hard fans informed about all things going on with you and your band.
Speaking of all things going on with you and your band, a blog is a great way to offer a regular, longer-form glimpse into your world. Recording / touring diaries, lyrics, album reviews, personal entries about what makes you feel joy, anger, sadness, etc. For fans interested in connecting with you, or learning more about the creative process behind their favorite music, a blog is a great resource to own.
Now unlike the above which are focused on fan-facing endeavors, you also want to consider your industry-facing presence online. An EPK, or Electronic Press Kit, is essentially a resume for your band, including up to date bio info, music, tour dates and contact information. This is a great resource to have as your booking shows, shopping a demo or even just for connecting with others in the industry.
Engagement / Community
And then comes time to develop your fan base and nurture the sense of community. The following platforms are some of the biggest, though certainly not the only options to achieve this goal.
Not much needs to be said here other than it’s by far the biggest social network, and often seen as the standard for where you should be online. However, Facebook’s algorithm used to determine which content will be seen by fans has been detrimental to the effectiveness of the platform (the average visibility of a post to your page is likely between 5 – 10% of your total fan base). You do have the option to pay for your posts to be seen by more fans, but keep this all in mind as you determine which platforms to spend the majority of your time.
Around for almost as long as Facebook, but still trying to truly find its way in the world of social networking, Twitter is a jack of all trades for news in real time. Depending on what kind of news your fans want, Twitter could be a great way to post set lists in real time, thoughts and rants contributing to relevant trending topics around the world using hashtags, question and answer sessions with fans, and more.
Owned by Facebook, Instagram is the standard for easy photo sharing. Instagram is a great way for you to spice up your content on Facebook and Twitter with photos and videos by posting your photos to all 3 channels at once. Instagram also has other apps such as Boomerang, Layout and Hyperlapse that allow you to create unique and inventive content out of your every-day photos / videos.
Snapchat has become the biggest ‘new kid on the block’ with a focus on storytelling through short, timed photos / videos. Oh, and the filters. The latter has become a huge focus for the platform, and has led to some highly unique marketing opportunities.
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Now, on the other hand, there are some platforms don't require active engagement. There are many that can act as a channel for you to amplify your music, videos, news, and tour dates to ensure that you're out in front of your own fans, and new potential fans, when it matters most.
9. Online Radio
Getting your music on online radio such as Pandora is a good opportunity for existing fans to hear you in their mix of regular music, as well as new fans to find you as you get mixed into their favorite songs.
10. Streaming Music
Essentially a requirement with the slow death of album sales, getting your music on streaming music platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, YouTube Red, etc. is the best way to make sure your fans can hear your music when they want to. You’ll get some royalties from this, but ideally the real money comes when your fans see you on tour, buy your merch, etc.
Speaking of YouTube, this is a great way to amplify your music. It is, to this day, still the #1 streaming music service on the internet. Not only is it a great opportunity for new fans to find you, but it’s also one of the easiest ways for fans to share your music on other social networks, leading to a greatly expanded reach beyond your core fan base.
No not your own blog, but other people’s blogs can be another great opportunity to reach new fans. Seeking opportunities for music reviews, interviews, guest blogging, etc. is a good start. Take a look at blogs that are featuring other similar artists (ideally your artists that match your size first – don’t go reaching out to NPR to review your first-ever single because you have a similar sound).
Bandsintown is the largest concert discovery platform, offering an easy way to get your tour dates out in front of all of your fans. Using the Bandsintown Manager app is a simple way to get your tour dates posted to your Facebook page and Website and amplified out to all of your other social networks.
Similar to YouTube, SoundCloud offers an incredibly easy way for fans to share streaming audio of your music on most platforms. There is also quite a large community of regular users and curators on the platform, so including your music here could be a good way for your music to gain newfound visibility.
While engagement and community development is a wonderful thing, there needs to be a next step. This is where fan conversion comes in. This is the step where a fan you can only reach online becomes a fan you can reach directly via email (read: mailing list above), allowing for great opportunities to sell more merch, concert tickets, and yes even albums.
Recently acquired by PledgeMusic, NoiseTrade offers you the opportunity to give your album away in exchange for an email address. A simple proposition that can lead to a huge increase in your mailing list.
16. Contesting / Sweepstakes
If you ever run a contest or sweepstakes, ask your fans to enter by giving their email address. It may be a larger ask than liking your Facebook page, or retweeting something, but your end-game is much bigger here. You get a long-term boost in an email address, whereas with the social media focused contesting, you get a one-time boost in engagement. Always take the former over the latter.
Bandcamp offers two unique ways to convert your fans. The first is the primary focus of the platform – an easy, direct to fan solution for selling your albums and tiered bundles. The second is less of a focus but a great way to boost your mailing list – Bandcamp allows you to offer a free download of a single / album in exchange for an email address. Use both of these offers to drive your fans to convert beyond simply being engaged with you online.
The above will get you well on your way to an established online presence and engaged (and converted!) fan base. But these are certainly not the only options available, and you should always be on the lookout for new and creative ways to promote your music online.
This post was written by Jon Ostrow. Jon is the Director of Sales at Bandsintown, Founder of MicControl, lover of all things music, a raging Phish head, and a coffee addict.
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