Guest post by Patrick McGuire
For many artists, marketing is somewhat at odds with who they are and what they do. Since music and the act writing songs is often deeply personal and emotional, getting into a music marketing strategy mindset might seem foreign, fake or forced for some musicians.
Sadly, this doesn’t change the fact that it’s never been more difficult for new artists to put their music in front of listeners. Between music streaming platforms and the cheap cost of DIY home recording technology, there’s more music being released now than at any other point in history.
Tens of thousands of new songs are being released each day, and, in many cases, what determines whether each of these songs will go on to find an audience or not depends on how they’re marketed. Not sure how to market your music? Here’s 7 music marketing strategies to get you started:
1. Figure out who your fans are
You won’t be able to get the most out of your marketing efforts without knowing just who your fans are. Things like the age, location, and gender of your fans are important things to keep in mind long before you even think about employing a music marketing strategy because getting the most out of your marketing efforts greatly hinges on forming a detailed plan.
How do you figure out who your fans are? These days, everything from personalized artist websites to music streaming artist accounts offer detailed analytic information to help you learn more about your fans. In some cases, this information is so detailed it can tell you how and when fans stumbled across your music.
2. Engage existing fans before trying to make new ones
Whether you’ve got 50 fans or 5 million, audience engagement is an essential part of sustaining a meaningful career in music. Once you’ve got a good idea about who your fans are, it’s time to do everything you can to connect with them while maintaining your identity as an artist.
Now, before you stop reading and say, “Hey, I’m a musician. Sure, I’ll do a little marketing now and again, but my main job is to make music,” think about this for a minute. Yes, your main job is to create music, but the idea of a musician releasing music, sitting back and letting the fans come to them just isn’t realistic anymore.
Whether it’s through social media, email campaigns, or blogs, fan engagement is pretty much essential now for keeping your existing fans interested in what you’re doing. Why? Because there’s an insane amount distractions out there for your fans, and you run the risk of being forgotten about without meaningfully engaging your fans on a consistent basis.
Again, all this stuff is essentially existing fan maintenance and needs to happen in tandem with efforts to reach new listeners.
Now that you’re defining and engaging existing fans, let’s talk about how to find new ones.
3. Social media music marketing strategies
Yes, social media platforms are problematic and becoming harder to reach fans by the day, but marketing strategies for musicians are far less impactful without them.
Take Instagram’s platform, for example. Simply by researching and following relevant accounts of people, music blogs, and record labels who like your style of music, you’ll be able to get your music in front of new audiences who are likely to be interested in your work. The same goes for Twitter.
So whether you’re trying to get the word out about a new release or people to show up to your performances, social media is still a great way to narrow down who might like your music and to reach out to those people directly.
Paid ads on these platforms are the easiest way of accomplishing this, but researching things like hashtags, local bands in cities you’re playing in that sound similar to you, Reddit threads, and Facebook groups can help give you that exposure for free.
4. Produce non-musical content
Photos, videos, blogs - if you hope to reach new audiences with your music, putting lots of time and thought into offering other content to your listeners will help you make a lasting impact that ultimately gets your music heard by new ears.
No one said being a serious musician in 2018 was easy. Yes, none of these things is related to making music, but in today’s insanely competitive music industry, audiences often need more than just music to become a reliable fan of a musical artist.
Don’t know where to begin? Start by defining what your story is: why you make music, what your music means, how you got where you are today. That will help you create blogs about your music. As for the visual aspects of non-musical content, some musicians might want to consider hiring an artist to help.
5. Pitch your music to blogs, playlists and press outlets
Pitching your music is one of the least fun parts of being a serious musician. Writing an engaging bio and press release, looking up contact information and sending email after email into the abyss is soul-crushing, but also necessary for engaging new listeners and gaining momentum for your music.
Rather than aiming to get featured on the biggest blogs and playlists you can, starting small and working your way up from there is a good way to approach the gargantuan task of pitching music.
And remember, you might not think getting featured on small blogs and playlists is that important, but it actually is. Momentum doesn’t just appear out of nowhere. It starts with a couple of people at a time becoming loyal fans of your music and eventually grows into something more substantial.
6. Create and monetize your own artist website
Artist websites are an essential part of cultivating an image and reaching out to new fans. Sure, social media can do this, but platforms like Facebook and Twitter are becoming less effective for musicians by the day.
Why? Because now in order to reliably reach your followers, you typically have to pay for it. With your own website, not only do you have a clear path towards reaching audiences, but also have a way to shape your story and brand on your own terms. New fans are likely to resonate with the story you tell through your website rather than a bland Twitter or Facebook profile.
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7. Launch a PR/radio campaign
This last music marketing tactic is reserved for musicians who’ve got money to invest in their music. Hiring someone to push your music to radio, playlists, blogs and press outlets can achieve huge results, but often at huge prices. How much money, you ask? It depends on the scale and scope of the campaign, but meaningful results don’t really happen until thousands of dollars are spent, and even then there’s no guarantee that your music will be reviewed or picked up by radio stations.
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Patrick McGuire is a writer, musician and human man. He lives nowhere in particular, creates music under the name Straight White Teeth, and has a great affinity for dogs and putting his hands in his pockets.
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