Promoting your music

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An introduction for artists who aren't keen on marketing

Congratulations on completing your latest music recording! It is now time to let the world hear it and grow your fan base. Depending on your objectives, you might want to make money from it, too. This guide explores the actions you should take to reach these goals.

1. Production is king

Picture a random shopper in a store: when they pick a new product off the shelf, it is almost always because something in its packaging attracted them. The same applies to your music: during the first seconds when it is heard, its sonic qualities (the production) matter most than the contents (melody, lyrics and harmony). Most of the times when your music is in the middle of a social media feed among plenty of other exciting things, your chance to grab the listener’s attention only lasts a split second.

Of course, the songwriting and the performance remain the most essential drivers for your success but in order to get people to actually listen to one of your songs in its entirety, you need to flirt with your potential fans and seduce them, and that is achieved through a great recording, mixing and mastering job. Having a compelling sound is also a key component of what makes your fans play your songs on repeat so you’d better make sure you sound good in their headsets, laptops and car stereos alike.

New Music Friday Spotify

2. Have great artwork

Dark side of the moon artwork

Artwork is the other part of your music “packaging” and another key to catching your potential fans attention. Unlike the vinyl days, album covers have now shrunk to a tiny picture, but this little square is often the very first contact your listener will have with your new music and will make them want to click play or move one. In that sense, it is vastly underestimated by independent artists.

Your artwork should reflect your artistic universe and correlate with the song or album in some way. You should think about your artwork early in the production process. Some indie artists overlook to create their artwork and realize that it is compulsory when uploading music to streaming platforms, so they end up grabbing the last photo on their roll or worse: a copyrighted picture from Google. Don’t be these guys.

3. A website in 2020? Seriously?

Sorry to break it to you but even though social media get the lion’s share of your online activity, a website is still pretty much a prerequisite. It gives a sense of professionalism to your career, and it is what showcases your personality the most accurately. Unlike social media pages, you have total control over your website design, structure and content so you should take advantage of this to showcase what matters to you in the best possible way. You are not limited to a tiny square picture or a single line in a playlist here, so think big!

Social media trends come and go. Our kids keep coming up with new social media apps with funny short names and one of them might be the new Instagram tomorrow. Your website is here to stay and you get to decide what and when your visitors will see about you.

Website design

4. Be social!

Social media

Here we are, the single most important marketing tool to promote your music. Social media is very powerful… and time-consuming too. Not only can you share your music, but also photos, videos, stories and messages that are all efficient ways to turn audience into loyal fans. You can – and you should do this continuously, not just when you release new content. The challenging part is to find the right balance between lots of posts and quality posts.

Don’t spam your walls just for the sake of having something new everyday: make sure you appeal to most by diversifying and do not just link to the same streaming media each time (people like their habits). Show “behind-the-scene” content (recording sessions, live gigs, songwriting/brainstorming sessions, practice sessions…), fans love that. Video is by far the most efficient and appealing media, but again, be sure to keep the quality to a minimum standard if you don’t want to drive people away.

Be yourselves, don’t act like Imagine Dragons or Lady Gaga if you are just releasing your first, bedroom-recorded album, you want people to like you for who you are because that’s what will make them want to listen to your future release. However, be sure to keep your content positive and appealing, steer clear of sensitive topics that might drive people away like politics for instance. Social media is powerful both ways: it can help you get recognition but it can equally label you with a poor reputation when used badly.

5. Pile up on visuals

It is human nature to be hungry for visuals and prone to judge by the appearances at first. So whether you like it or not, you will have to put in some effort on your photos and videos. Poor pictures will make people think your music is cheap, no picture will get you nowhere. You can use your latest album artwork in the cover pictures on social media. Smartphone video captures can be suitable but you need to make sure to get them done by someone skilled enough to make them attractive.

You’ll need a lot of material to feed your social media stream so don’t think twice when you get a chance to take a picture. Have photos and videos of you playing your instrument, on stage, in the studio, just make sure you keep them engaging for your fans. Music videos constitue a topic that merits its own article but in a few words, a music video is a huge advantage when it comes to standing out of the competition. Of course it is vastly dependent on the budget you have available so we won’t expand too much here but just give it some careful thought.

Photo shoot

5. Strategic marketing

Music marketing

I know, you make music because you want to stay away from the boring company meetings and their strings of business vernacular such as “strategic marketing”… well as an artist or a band, you are a business too so while you can certainly make things a little more chill and exciting, you can’t dismiss this altogether.

It is crucial to define who your target audience is and how to get them engaged. In order to do that, you need to make sure you know exactly who you are and what music you are making… yes this might sound stupid but you would be surprised by how people see you as an artist/band sometimes, or how they would categorize your music. It is often very different from what you had initially envisioned. Once you know your target audience, check out what similar, successful bands and artists do to promote their music and replicate that.

Ask around to find out how people see you and be sure to come up with a clear definition of your identity, that will be both coherent with your aspirations and that your fans can relate to. Make sure that all members share the same views if you’re in a band.

6. Planning, reviewing, releasing

When you don’t have a professional marketing team to take care of this for you, the most simple and efficient way to get a song pushed towards lots of listeners is to get on one of Spotify’s playlists. There is no guarantee you will achieve this but you can maximize your odds by doing the following:

  • Make sure you have claimed your Spotify for Artists profile, and updated it with the latest info (bio, pictures, live events dates…)
  • Pick the right genre for the song you’re hoping to get playlisted. Listen to the playlists you’d like to be featured on and get a feel for the kind of music that has been curated there.
  • Playlist curators want to get more followers for their playlists. If you can help them promote their playlist (on your social media for instance) they’re more likely to retain your song longer or place it in a better position.

You can pitch a song to Spotify for playlist consideration yourself, it is easy to do (read exactly how here). One essential thing you need to anticipate is that your song can only be considered during the time gap between the upload and the release, so you need to allow at least 2 weeks before the release date. Not all distributors allow you to set a custom release date so choose wisely.

Hands in the air

Lastly, please stay away from scams and seemingly easy success boosters such as “get 30,000 followers for $9 a month” and whatnot. Fake followers or abnormal streams surge will get spotted by algorithms and will have a negative impact on your music. There is no easy express path to success, you need to grow a fan base organically and that takes time, consistency and hard work. Good luck!

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Do you have a question that remains unanswered? Would you like me to expand on something or address a different topic?

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