These days, there are so many different ways to market your music online that it’s tough to even know where to start. What’s worth your time, energy, and money? What isn’t? How many social media platforms do you need to be active on? Do email lists still matter?
This comprehensive guide will outline your options and help you determine the best approach to each aspect of your music marketing.
Online music marketing = fan engagement
Online music marketing revolves around engaging with your fans. Your main goals should be to keep them aware of you, solidify the relationship, and create superfans who will support you throughout your career.
Why are superfans so important? Well, they’re the fans you can count on to come to all of your shows (and bring their friends), buy just about everything you offer, and promote you through word of mouth.
According to Eventbrite’s 2019 Pulse Report Survey of live music professionals, word-of-mouth referrals are still the most effective channel for music discovery, at 62.1 percent!
Before we dive into the specifics of how to market your music online, let’s quickly touch on the three pillars of fan engagement:
- Consistency. In order to truly rise above the noise of the internet, you have to be consistent in your music marketing, in terms of both quantity and quality.
- Authenticity. Communication with your fans must come from you, the artist, in your voice. You want them to feel like they’re along for the ride on your music career journey.
- Sustainability. There’s no shortcut or quick fix for building up a solid fanbase — you simply have to show up and do the work every day to sustain fan engagement.
As long as those three things remain at the core of your strategy, the online marketing tools you use will work together as part of a cohesive plan, and they’ll be much more effective at driving awareness and engagement for your music.
Your website is your online hub
Your website is where you ultimately want people to land when they find out about your music.
It should act as the hub for everything you do online, while your social media platforms are the spokes — the places where you share interesting content and link back to your website as often as possible.
There are a few key reasons why it’s so crucial to have your own website:
- You own the web address. Your fans will always be able to find you because that corner of the internet is guaranteed to be in your control.
- You control the experience. You can design your music website however you want, and there aren’t any of the ads or distractions that come with social media platforms.
- You own the data. Unlike fans on social media pages, you own your website’s data. That means you have access to important information about how fans got to your website, where they’re from, what they click on, and more.
- You can sell direct-to-fan. With no middle man, that means more money from your music in your pocket (commission-free with Bandzoogle), and a better experience for your fans. Plus, customers can join your mailing list at the same time so you can keep in touch with them.
Maintaining a blog is a great way to drive fans to your website, and it can help a lot with search engine optimization — meaning you’ll rank higher in search results when people Google you.
Blogging also provides a source of consistent, quality content to share on social media. It shows that your career is active and, over time, it helps create a stronger connection to your fans.
Not sure what to blog about? Here are 10 ideas to get you started:
- Preview an upcoming show
- Review a recent show
- Tour stories
- Rehearsal stories
- Studio stories
- New gear
- Other bands in your genre
- Stories from your personal life (if you’re comfortable with it)
- Your pets
- Your hobbies and passions outside of music
Be sure to include lots of photos and videos in your blog posts to make it interactive and engaging for your fans!
Maintain a cohesive social media presence
Don’t just think of social media as a way to sell your music; more than anything else, it should be a conversation. Think of it as a tool to interact with fans and share your journey as an artist.
You don’t need to be active on every single platform out there (although it’s a good idea to at least reserve your artist or band name on each major platform). It’s better to maintain a consistent presence on just a couple of platforms, rather than a scattered presence on all of them.
Focus on the platforms that you enjoy, and the ones where your fans are actively engaging with you (or the ones where you have the best chance of finding potential new fans). For example, you may love using Pinterest, but if none of your fans or potential fans are on it, it’s not the best use of your time as a music marketing tool.
You can use an application like Hootsuite, TweetDeck, or Buffer to schedule out your social media posts in advance and save a ton of time. (Just be careful about scheduling out too many posts if you’re not available to respond to comments or messages!)
As a general rule, when you set up a new account on any platform, select a username that’s consistent with all your other profiles so that people know how to find you. Be sure to fill out your bio section, upload an eye-catching photo, and include a link to your website.
In terms of active users, Facebook is by far the biggest social media platform out there, so you can be certain that your fans are on it.
Keep your personal and professional life separate by creating an official Facebook Page for your band. Through your Page, you can get detailed analytics about where your fans are from, what kind of content works best, and who’s the most engaged.
Amassing Facebook fans starts with high-quality, shareable content, such as your music, videos, photos, or even Facebook Live streams. Always respond to questions and react to comments, because that actually helps your posts get seen by more people.
Due to Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm, the percentage of fans who see your posts organically is unfortunately shrinking. So if you have an important announcement that you really want to make sure people see, you’ll need to put a little money behind it.
You can also create highly targeted ads by region, interest, and demographic to promote your Page. It might take a little trial and error, but once you figure out who your ideal target audience is, you’ll find that you can run ads very inexpensively and get the results you’re looking for.
Instagram is the second-largest social media platform, and it’s all about the visuals here. Photos are most common, but videos — especially in the form of Instagram Live and IGTV — are excellent for engagement as well.
In addition to consistently sharing great content with relevant hashtags a couple of times a day, you can grow your Instagram following by simply being genuine, commenting a lot on other people’s photos, adding your Instagram feed to your website, and maintaining your Instagram Story.
If you’ve already dabbled in Facebook ads and you want to try running Instagram ads, you’ll be happy to know that there’s no learning curve — it’s all on the same platform!
We recommend setting a realistic goal and a small budget initially, checking out the analytics after a few days, and then putting more budget into what’s actually working so that you don’t waste money on ads that aren’t getting you any results.
Be sure to check out these best practices for advertising music on Instagram before you get started.
Because Twitter is all about real time, you can post more often than you would on Facebook. Typically, up to 6-8 tweets per day is fine if the majority of your posts are brand-building; just be mindful of how you space out your self-promotional posts in between so that it’s not overwhelming.
As with any social media platform, the best way to get Twitter followers is to have great content that people want to engage with. And of course, use hashtags! It’s a great way to connect and have conversations with people who don’t already follow you.
Using Twitter’s search function, you can find people who are talking about you or your music, or search for fans of similar artists. From there, you can start conversations with them or add them to a Twitter list. They’ll get notified, and will likely check out your profile.
People tend to go to YouTube first to find songs they’re looking for. Believe it or not, it’s the second-largest online search engine after Google!
Your music might already be on there, but it’s best to upload all your songs to your own official channel so that you can monetize them (i.e., earn money from your videos by allowing ads to be displayed on them). And if other people are using any of your music in their videos, you can use CD Baby to automatically identify and monetize it.
To build up your following on YouTube, you need to produce quality videos and upload them on a consistent schedule. There are so many kinds of videos that musicians can upload, but a few common ones include: music videos, lyric videos, cover songs, live performances, big announcements, and interviews.
To help people find you organically on YouTube, make sure you’ve got all your bases covered: write effective video titles and detailed descriptions, add relevant tags to all your videos, and enable channel recommendations. You’ll also want to organize similar types of videos into playlists to build watch time.
For a big release, consider scheduling your video as a YouTube Premiere so that you’re able to create more buzz with a shareable watch page. You can either set this up yourself, or use a platform like Show.co to streamline it with your other music marketing campaigns.
Bandzoogle lets you create a professional website in minutes with all the music marketing features you need including a blog, mailing list, and social media integrations. Build your website with Bandzoogle now!
Try running Spotify ads
If you’ve got your music on Spotify, it’s a no-brainer to meet listeners where they already are. Audio ads are a powerful way to talk to your existing fans as well as new audiences.
Even better, you’ll have access to important metrics that will help you measure the impact of your campaign, which you can then use to inform other aspects of your marketing strategy.
We’d recommend using Show.co’s Ad Builder tool if you’re looking for a simple way to create and launch your first audio ad on Spotify. Check out this post from CD Baby for some great tips and sample scripts.
Pitch to music blogs and playlists
Getting publicity for your music can easily become more than a full-time job in itself (just ask any publicist), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start gaining traction on a smaller scale.
The most important thing to understand when pitching to music blogs and publications is that it’s not just about having great music — it’s about having a compelling, unique story that their audience will care about.
Assets like professional press photos and an up-to-date electronic press kit are an absolute must, but no one’s going to ask for them if you don’t have a remarkable story to tell in the first place. Read this article for a more in-depth guide to getting publicity for your music, and keep it handy as you prepare your first pitch.
Depending on your music marketing goals, getting your tracks featured on a playlist can be just as (if not more) valuable than getting a write-up. For human-curated Spotify playlists, it’s essentially the same as any other kind of pitch — and it often comes down to timing more than anything.
But keep in mind that an enormous chunk of music discovery on Spotify happens through personalized, algorithm-driven playlists, like Release Radar and Discover Weekly. This makes it possible for smaller, independent artists to reach their niche audience organically.
What it all boils down to is this: the more active you are on Spotify, the more you’ll get noticed by the algorithm and playlist curators.
Make the most of your email list
It may sound old school, but email is arguably still the most important tool at your disposal for marketing your music.
The top reasons to have an email list are:
- You own it. You can download the database and take it with you, regardless of which service you’re using.
- It’s the ultimate permission marketing. Fans sign up because they want to hear from you!
- It’s the most effective way to sell your music, tickets, and merch. According to the 2019 Litmus State of Email Report, email offers the highest returns for marketers year after year.
- It’s the best way to stay in touch with your fans long term. Social media platforms will come and go, but you can count on email being around for the foreseeable future.
One of the best ways to build up your email list is by making it your primary call-to-action on your website. Put the signup box in a very obvious location, and specifically direct people’s attention to it. You can even offer an incentive like a free song download or an exclusive piece of content to sweeten the deal.
With each email newsletter you send, it’s best to focus on just one objective that you’re trying to achieve for the greatest chances of success. Regularly analyze data like the open rate and the click rate for each email, and experiment with tweaks to your new campaigns — for instance, a more intriguing subject line or a new email format — to keep your fans engaged.
As far as how often you should be sending out newsletters, there’s no hard and fast rule — but whatever frequency you choose, keep it consistent. If you’re new to email marketing, it’s better to start with less frequent emails until you get comfortable with it. Try sending out a monthly newsletter to test the waters while you figure out what works for your fanbase and what doesn’t.
This is a lot of information to take in, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, just remember that every kind of music marketing always comes back to the three pillars of fan engagement: consistency, authenticity, and sustainability.
With your website as the hub, the rest of your online presence as the spokes, and a regular analysis of your fan data, you’re well on your way to an effective, cohesive musician marketing strategy.
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