There are as many ways to promote your music online as there are music blogs, bands, and fans put together. The internet is literally awash with articles, videos, podcasts and tips from gurus and amateurs alike on how to do this. No doubt you’ve read or viewed many of them.
But you’re probably finding you’re still stuck. You’ve tried one or two techniques, signed up to the latest social media platforms and streaming sites, knocked a website together, been liked by your mates on Facebook…. and that’s just about it. For some reason, you’re just not cracking it. And let’s face it, the industry’s in decline, there’s no money for artists these days… and albums are dead. Right?
No doubt you’ve thought all these things at some point. And that’s because although you know it should be possible to do amazing things with the internet to promote your music, for some reason something’s holding you back. You don’t have enough time, social media’s just not your thing, and so on.
The reason you may feel like this is that you’ve not made the mind-shift needed to realize the power of using the internet to promote your music. And you’re not looking in the right places to see how small artists are giving the big acts a run for their money with online music promotion.
Table of Contents
- 1 Getting into the music promotion mindset
- 2 Where to start with online music promotion?
- 3 Know your audience and genre
- 4 Connect with other musicians online
- 5 Essential tools for online music promotion
- 6 Document, memeify, distribute…
- 7 Promoting your music on streaming platforms
- 8 Promoting your music with an app
- 9 Find your 1000 true fans
- 10 TL;DR: Just start. Never stop
Getting into the music promotion mindset
To be successful marketing your music online you need to get into the right headspace.
You need to think about potential and opportunity, don’t fret about all the other people who are struggling to ‘make it’. Your situation is different from everyone else’s, so you need to look for opportunities to execute successful music promotion online.
This is serious, no joke… you need to have the right mindset to make it. Period. Look at The Rolling Stones. It’s not a coincidence that they have epic success and Mick Jagger is an obsessive businessman, always finding business opportunities for the band. And one of The Beatles once quipped, “let’s write ourselves a swimming pool”. These were incredible artists who nonetheless were very business-focussed in what they did. It’s just as important to be marketing savvy, probably more important in many ways.
Playing a gig on a rooftop (The Beatles)? That’s marketing. Shredding a guitar solo on top of Buckingham Palace (Brian May)? Marketing. Giving away free albums despite megastardom (Prince)? Marketing. Releasing albums for pay what it’s worth (Radiohead)? Marketing. Releasing a song a week for a whole year for free on YouTube (They Might Be Giants)? It’s marketing.
Look out for “marketing moments”
A “marketing moment” is something that happens to you in your life as a musician that can become the basis of a piece of music promotion. The point is that everything you do can be marketing and you can use the internet to leverage those opportunities.
When John Mayer failed to get invited to a big awards party, he made a video about it in which he returned to his love of guitar and taught his fans a music lesson. He made a non-event (not getting an invite) into a marketing moment. He turned failure into opportunity.
Where to start with online music promotion?
One of the big stumbling blocks for getting your music promo efforts off the ground is knowing where to start. There are so many platforms, sites and tools you can use it’s easy to experience ‘analysis paralysis’ and not get anything done.
The only answer is, you need to just start.
And once you’ve started you need to do the following:
- Be consistent
- Be creative
- Don’t overthink things!
Seriously, overthinking things can be really destructive to your marketing.
Of course, it’s possible to imagine the most amazingly executed marketing strategy, but real life’s more messy, especially if you’re a musician not a full time marketing professional. Doing stuff regularly and creatively WILL get you results. It will take some time, but not as much time as you might think.
Your marketing doesn’t have to be perfect, that’s not essential. But these things ARE essential:
- Be genuine
- Be humble
- Be generous
- Be friendly
- Be ethical
- Be honest
- Be creative
- Be consistent
- Be persistent
- Be yourself
People expect openness and authenticity from the musical artists, and it’s why some people become national treasures and some don’t.
Of course, there are exception to all rules, so if you can think of ingenious ways to do the unexpected, go for it. But sometimes it’s better to walk before you can run.
Know your audience and genre
The single biggest problem I see time and again with music marketers is that they don’t understand the target audience they should be appealing to and how that fits in with their musical genre and image.
If you make hip hop, you need to go where hip hop audiences gather online and direct your marketing at them. If you make metal, you’re looking for audiences of head bangers, if you like experiential music find out where those fans hang out, and so on.
There’s no point in promoting your shoegaze band to the TOTP fanbase.
Steve Lamacq’s audience probably won’t dig your prog band, BBC Radio 1 isn’t going to be interested in your death metal choir.
To effectively promote your music online you need to work out what your typical fans are like, and seek out where they hang out.
Make use of the artists that inspire you
The best way to understand your audience is to do the following:
- Make a list of the ten bands or musical artists that influence you the most.
- Search for them on every social media platform that you use..
- Follow them. Like their Facebook pages, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe on YouTube, etc
- Seek them out on the major music streaming services. Set up an account and follow them.
Create a document or spreadsheet listing the artists the most influence you or sound like you and detail where you can find them online. This will give you a focus point when it comes to promoting your own music. It might look something like this:
Next, do the following:
Engage with the fans who are following your inspirational artists, share their enthusiasm for your mutual idols, and share your unique insights into them from your perspective as a musician.
It could go something like this:
Jo Bloggs Fan: I really love this song by Jo Bloggs, it makes me feel young again!
You: Yeah, I know what you mean. As a songwriter myself I’m always trying to channel the spirit of Bloggs.
Jo Bloggs Fan: Oh cool, I’d love to hear some of your stuff!
You: Oh awesome, thanks, I’d love you to check out my latest single/EP/album: [link]
Ok, this is a somewhat idealized version of how things might go, but the point is these kinds of interactions do happen. But you need to set out to make sure they happen.
Connect with other musicians online
It’s so tempting to think that the music scene looks like this:
The theory goes, that Me, the Artist + Them, the fans + Constant promotion = Effective marketing.
But actually the online music scene looks more like this:
I’m friends with other musicians in my niche online, and I regularly engage with and share their work. And guess what? They repay the “favor” (it’s not a favor really because I genuinely like their stuff) and promote my work in return. It’s a mutually beneficial form of relationship building which is the real secret of online music marketing.
By connecting with other musicians online, you will not only be gaining musical allies, you will also be gaining potential new fans. And who knows, if one of them becomes a superstar they may end up promoting your music to others, just like Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain did for the acts he admired like The Raincoats and The Vaselines.
Using micro-influencers to promote your music online
These musicians you are connecting with often have modest fan bases, to who they can promote your music if you have built a mutually beneficial relationship with them. In marketing terms, such people would be called “micro-influencers”. They may not have huge followings but they do tend to have engaged followings. And what’s more, they’re much more likely to share your music with their followers than Beyonce is!
How to build online relationships
The cornerstone of online music marketing is building relationships with real people online. These relationships need to be…
Mutually beneficial: you both get something out of engaging with each other
Appropriate: it’s very unlikely you’re going to bond with a famous DJ, it’s much better to go for lesser-known people to connect with as they’re more likely to value upcoming artists.
Authentic: only connect with people you genuinely respect and whose work you like. Sycophants and brown-nosers don’t gain respect, and it’s only through respect that you will build an online reputation as a quality musician.
Essential tools for online music promotion
There seem to be new music promotion tools and platforms launching every day, and some of them are definitely worth checking out… who knows, one of them might be the next Soundcloud or Spotify.
But internet music promotion is about tried and tested tools as well as bold new innovations.
These following tools aren’t just still crushing it when it comes to music promotion, they have multiple millions of users and are familiar to most people interested in finding new music online…
- A website
- A Twitter account
- A Facebook account
- An Instagram account
- A YouTube channel
- A Bandcamp page
- A SoundCloud profile
- A Spotify profile
Your music website is many things:
- An online calling card
- An information resource for your fans
- An online music and merch store
- A showcase for your music
- A place where people can find out more about you
- A signal that you are a professional musician
- An essential factor music insiders look for whilst scouting new acts
There are various ways to create websites but we’d suggest either using WordPress.org or site builders like Wix or Squarespace to set one up.
Check out successful bands you like and use their sites as inspiration for building your own.
Keep things as simple and easy to navigate as possible.
Twitter is just so essential for promoting your music online.
It’s a good mix of a public space where there are lots of music fans, plus a simple way to connect with people and build those all-important online relationships we spoke about above.
Unlike a blog, you don’t need to crank out loads of in-depth information to use Twitter effectively. In fact, “little and often” might be its unofficial motto.
It’s effectively used both by big artists like Katy Perry and indie artists like Frank Turner and Grace Petrie.
As we can see from the above screenshots, Twitter’s cover art gives you plenty of space to advertise your latest music and merch.
The pinned tweet function is a simple way to keep your main priorities in front of mind for anyone visiting your profile, and tweets are a simple and direct way to reach out to your audience.
Facebook is not only a must-have marketing channel, like having a website, it’s also a great place to build a close-knit community for your music. People use Facebook to catch up with friends and family so they tend to be in an engaged and curious mindset when they use it. This is a great time to reach out to people with your music. People love being entertained on Facebook.
Here are some ideas for content you can share on Facebook and other platforms:
- Post videos of live versions of your songs, whether on stage or in your bedroom.
- Post photos from recent gigs or from the rehearsal or recording studio
- Talk about new instruments or equipment you have bought (include photos!)
- Share content by other artists who inspire you and talk about what they mean to you
- Post covers of songs by your favorite artists
- Post lists of your favorite artists, albums, songs, and lyrics. People love lists and it’s a chance to bathe in the reflected glory of your heros!
It’s incredible how many musicians don’t have a YouTube channel. This is baffling because more people listen to music on YouTube than on any other platform, including giants like Spotify!
And even if you do have a YouTube channel I bet you don’t use it enough. Tom Mouse Smith is an up and coming indie songwriter. He doesn’t have a massive fan base, but 1K+ subs on YouTube is not too shabby. He posts videos regularly…
They’re often audio of his songs and demos accompanied by still photographs. These days it really doesn’t take much time or skill to make videos like this.
Publishing content is a numbers game. Not all videos are going to be smash hits, but by posting a range of different video ideas you’re increasing the odds one will really take off.
Soundcloud is another must-use content channel and it’s a really easy way to upload and share audio with which you can easily embed your songs into blog posts and social content.
Soundcloud works best when you combine it with your other social media channels.
Here’s how that might work:
You post a Soundcloud link to your latest EP on Twitter
- It’s liked by one of your followers
- They listen to your track on Soundcloud and press the follow button
= Congrats, you’ve just gained another Soundcloud follower whilst using Twitter!
Document, memeify, distribute…
When it comes to promoting your music online don’t get too obsessed with the various tools and platforms you can use and their various strategies.
The guiding light for your music promotion strategy should be this:
- The content you have for sharing
- The form you’re going to share it in
Entrepreneur and marketer Gary Vaynerchuk advocates a technique he calls “document. Don’t create”. What he means by this is that you can either spend ages creating a perfect original piece of content, or you can document what you’re already doing and turn it into various pieces of spin-off content. He calls this the ‘content pyramid’. Here’s how he visualizes the process:
So he’s taking a big piece of content like a vlog and then doing various things like transcribing it and posting it as a blog post, using the audio as a podcast, creating quotes and images from it to share on social media, and so on.
Here’s how you can apply this technique as a musician:
Turn your songs into marketing content
You already have long-form content that takes a lot of time and energy to create: your music!
Although some musicians do stuff like writing a song a week to ensure they have a regular online presence this is not a technique that most musicians can possibly manage. But you don’t need to worry about that, you can transform your songs and music into many forms of online content. Here are some examples:
Make a shareable video clip
Take a 30-second clip of your music and take some photos of you and your band playing music. Create a short photo slide video backed by the music. On a PC you can do this easily with the Photos app, and on Mac, you can use iMovie. Or you could use online tools to do this, like Adobe’s free online video maker.
Individually upload this video to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram spread out over a few days. Make sure you use the different copy in the posts so your fans don’t get bored if they see your post several times.
Create interesting copy for your posts
Here’s a good tip: post a couple of lines of lyrics, this should give you anything from 4-10+ posts worth of short copy per song. This works particularly well on short-form social sites like Twitter and Snapchat.
Write a few lines for each of your songs as to why you wrote them, what inspired you and what they mean to you. If anything interesting or amusing leads to them being written, include that.
If you have an EP or album you want to promote, do this for each track on the album. You can then post clips from each track, plus copy from your writing. You can spread these posts out over various social media platforms to build interest. After that, you can post the whole thing as a long-form blog which you can then share again over social media.
There are lots of ways to create content like this, here are some more quick examples:
- Keep a Twitter/Insta/Snapchat photo diary of your gigs and tours
- Post pics of your tour schedule set lists and lyric sheets
- Post a video of your band rehearsing
- Post pics of your band and run a caption contest
- Let fans take selfies with you and ask them to @ you when they share them
- Give a free album to the fan who takes the best pic of your band
- Share demos and half-finished songs
- Share your music writing process
- Share songs that didn’t make the cut on your last album, and explain why
Once you start thinking like this you see that everything your band does every day is potential content for your online music promotion.
Promoting your music on streaming platforms
Some musicians are reluctant to put their music up on streaming sites because they think it cuts into album sales. There’s very little evidence to show this is true, and if it is it’s something that only really would affect big-selling artists in the first place. Let’s be real here, if you’re reading this you’re probably not selling as many albums as you want in the first place, so this question is largely academic!
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that the more music and content you share with your fans for free, the more they will want to repay the favor in some way. It’s called the reciprocity effect.
My suggestion is that you make it as easy as possible for people to access your music on the platforms they prefer. If they don’t know your music, they can never love your music, and then they definitely won’t buy your music.
Many streaming sites like YouTube and SoundCloud make it easy for you to upload your music to share, but to get onto platforms like Apple Music and Spotify you need to get a music license. Fortunately, there are many easy and very affordable ways to get your music onto all the major platforms without much hassle.
You can use a service like DistroKid to add your music to the major streaming sites.
There are many different music sharing platforms but you should seriously consider using at least the following:
- Google Play
And here are some other popular sites it’s worth thinking about putting your music on:
- Last FM
Promoting your music with an app
Music fans are always interested in what their fav musicians are up to. Often there are long waits between tours and album releases where they don’t hear much. They want to know what you’re up to during all that time, especially if you release an album every 2 years, which is standard.
Using some of the methods we’ve talked about above you are now able to create year-round content to help promote your music online.
If you really want to take things to the next level, consider building an app to help promote your music. This will give your fans an easy way to keep up with all elements of what you do, all from one app without having to search for you across multiple online channels.
With a music app you can:
- Stream your music direct to fans. (This will be a great way for them to listen to your music whilst out and about.)
- Upload music videos, tour/rehearsal videos etc.
- Sell your music and merch through an in-app store
- Sell your gig tickets via your app
- Send and receive in-app messages about new music to fans
- Integrate your social media accounts including platforms like Soundcloud and Vimeo, all in the same app
Find your 1000 true fans
The great thing about apps is they tend to be used by super-fans. If someone is into your music enough to download your app it’s a fair chance that they are one of your most dedicated fans.
The reality is that most of your fans aren’t going to buy your stuff (unless you’re a hit artist). But that doesn’t mean you can’t make it as a musician or band. Kevin Kelly talks about the idea that all artists only need 1000 “true fans” to make it because each of those people will buy anything you produce. If each of your true fans bought £100 worth of your music and merch every year you’d have annual revenue of £100,000. And these days there are fewer middlemen needed to sell your music online, so more profits for you!
TL;DR: Just start. Never stop
We hope you’ve now got tons of ideas to apply to your online music marketing efforts right away. If you want extra strategies and tips like these, check out our post on how to promote your band online.
If there was a way to boil all these tips down into one foolproof piece of advice it would be this: just start. Never stop.
You’d be amazed at how many people succeed because they take the time to turn up every day and share content online. How fast or slowly you will see results depends on various factors, but why does it matter if it takes 3 months or 3 years? You’re a musician and you’re in it for the long run. And you’ve never had greater control over your own marketing than you do now. So get started, and make sure you don’t stop.