A music marketing plan is an integral part of a musician’s toolset.
Writing music, rehearsing with bandmates, recording in the studio, and performing tend to form the foundation of a musician’s career.
But marketing isn’t any less important. Many musicians digitally distribute their music to all major platforms, only to realize they don’t have many listeners, and that can be very discouraging.
A music marketing plan will not only give you a high-level view of what you’re out to accomplish as an artist, but it can also provide you with concrete action steps you can take to get to where you want to go in your career.
Here is how to create an effective marketing plan for your music.
1. Define your brand
In working with artists, I often emphasize that defining your brand makes all other steps a near triviality. Why is that? Because knowing your brand makes every other decision easier if not a complete no-brainer.
So, who are you?
I like to think of branding in two parts. The first is your visual brand – colors, fonts, logos, costumes, and the like. The second is your purpose. Why do you exist? What grand mission do you intend to accomplish? What will you be remembered for?
Your purpose can (and should) extend into the type of music you write, all the way over to how you communicate.
But your purpose is rarely “made up” or contrived. Usually, it’s something you already are, something you stand for and believe in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s as juvenile as throwing the best college parties, as zeitgeist as female empowerment, or as mission oriented as Christianity.
Aligning your brand with your identity makes it easy to stick to. After all, you want to be consistent with your brand for it to be remembered.
2. Identify your audience
Now that you know what your brand is, figuring out who your fans are and where you can find them is much easier than you might think.
Given that your audience has probably been built already, there’s no need to start from scratch. You can take advantage of a variety of free and low-cost online tools to extract the demographic and psychographic data you need. For instance:
- You can install Google Analytics tracking on your website and track demographic data of your visitors (age, gender, location, etc.), as well as interests
- You can search up a band you sound like on Similarweb and unlock a treasure trove of demographic information, audience interests, marketing channels, traffic sources, social networks, and more
- You can find an artist or band you sound like on Instagram, and follow their followers, DM them, learn about them, and identify what they have in common
Pro tip: aligning your brand with audience interests is sneaky and powerful. For instance, if you know your potential fans love video games, you could drop the name of their favorite game in your next song (in some rare instances, the company may come after you for using their trademark, so user beware).
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3. Establish your goals
Now we need to think about what we want to accomplish. I like to think of goals in terms of 90-day periods. Each year only has four of these (they’re also called “quarters”), and during each of these 90-day periods, realistically, you can only accomplish one thing.
Sure, you could go after a lot of small goals. But what if you could only do one thing next quarter? This type of thinking forces you to think in terms of what’s going to make the biggest difference in your music career.
(One thing you can do, though, is consider what you’d like to have accomplished at the end of a year and break it down into quarter-sized chunks.)
Either way, here are a few examples of good 90-day goals for musicians just getting started:
- Book and perform 12 shows (four shows per month)
- Increase Instagram following by 300 followers (100 per month – if this is easy for you, aim higher)
- Record and release a new single
4. Determine an action plan
Now that you know what your goals are, it’s time to map out how you’re going to approach every aspect of your plan by choosing which music marketing strategies to use.
It’s all well and good to have “increase our TikTok following by 300 followers” as your next 90-day goal. But if you have no idea what your next steps might be besides making more content, chances are you will not reach your goals.
When it comes to reaching goals, I like to think in terms of the following:
- What promises can you make? For example, “I promise to create and post three new videos per week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 1 PM during this quarter and share these with the band by 9 PM on Saturday.” The more specific, the better.
- What requests can you make of others? For instance, “I request our bassist Jerry create one short bass lesson per week and post it to TikTok by Thursday at 7 PM and let the band know it’s done by 8 PM the same day.” There are plenty of other requests you can make – follow us, share our latest post, let us invade your TikTok profile (“guest” post), interview us, cover us on your podcast, etc.
Conversations form the foundation of results in the real world. Don’t forget this!
And, when it comes to achieving goals, you must be able to monitor and evaluate your efforts ongoingly. The best way to do that is with built-in accountability.
5. Create a budget
Not everything has to cost money. But let’s be realistic. Whether it’s setting up a domain name and creating a music website, distributing your songs, or buying a pack of guitar strings, there are plenty of small costs that can add up over time.
You may even want to leverage advertising to reach your goals, in which case you’d want to create a budget, set a goal for your campaign, and create a mini action plan for it.
But let’s take an example from earlier:
If you’re going to be booking and performing 12 shows, your primary costs will probably be gas, PA or gear rentals, accessories (drumsticks, batteries, guitar strings, etc.), and advertising if you’re thinking about promoting the shows more broadly.
Hopefully, these costs will be offset by guarantees, ticket sales, merch, etc., but it’s always a good idea to work out the costs in advance.
Pro tip: when it comes to marketing and advertising spend, always consider what will make the biggest impact based on the size of your investment. Not all channels are created equal. This is where knowing your audience and where they like to hang out will really pay off, because you can show up where they’re already spending their time.
Every artist and band must create a music marketing plan if they intend to use their time wisely and take decisive steps towards their goals. But music marketing for musicians doesn’t need to be hard!
To set yourself up for success, ensure that your marketing plan matches your goals. Measure your efforts as you progress, and tweak as needed. Your plan is there to serve you – you aren’t there to serve your plan!
David Andrew Wiebe is the Founder & CEO of The Music Entrepreneur HQ and author of four books, including the much-praised The New Music Industry: Adapting, Growing and Thriving in The Information Age. Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work and music instruction.
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