The music business in the 21st century is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the web and digital recording have allowed anyone to record and post their music online for immediate consumption. This is an amazing leap from the days when music had to be professionally recorded on expensive tape machines in million-dollar studios. On the other hand, the market is completely flooded with artists hungry to be seen and heard. Today, the difference between getting exposure or being lost in the mix lies in music marketing.
What is Music Marketing?
In essence, it’s promoting your stuff: generating a buzz and raising awareness about the music you have to offer. When you market something, you’re making a concerted effort to let people know a product exists and why they have to have it. If you don’t properly promote yourself, chances are no one will ever know you exist. There are rare exceptions when somebody goes viral, but you can’t realistically bank on being the “one.” To reiterate, the music world is completely saturated with artists self-releasing music online. In order to stand out, you have to take advantage of music marketing.
This can be as simple as word-of-mouth distribution. Tell a friend to tell a friend! Bigger marketing efforts like playing gigs, sponsored social media ads, or doing press are all ways to market yourself and your art.
Why Should You Market Your Music?
The answer to this question is very simple: to be heard! If you have any ambitions to make a living from your songwriting, then getting yourself out there to as many people as possible should be a top priority. You could be sitting on a hit record, but if no one ever hears it, it won’t ever live up to its potential.
Learning the ins and outs of music marketing can ultimately make or break your career. In the record industry’s heyday, labels had cash to throw at new artists, handling the bulk of the promotion themselves. The artist could focus solely on their music while having the label worry about the business side. These days, a record label typically won’t sign young talent unless they already have some sort of following or greater marketing potential.
You could always pay a marketing specialist to help your promote your work, but there are some downsides involved. Entry-level marketers probably won’t be honest with you about the quality of your product. You’re paying, so they’re going to push you to release music even if it isn’t quite at a marketable level yet.
By the time you’ve gotten honest feedback from consumers, you may have already invested time and money into a relationship with a marketer that wasn’t all it was supposed to be. Because of this, artists starting their careers should handle the majority of their early music marketing efforts independently.
Use the Internet to Your Advantage!
It cannot be stressed enough: the web is the most powerful tool you have to market your product. It’s most certainly the catch-22 we introduced earlier, but, when used well, can alter the course of your career for the better.
Online music marketing offers up-and-comers the opportunity to effortlessly expand their audience. Think about it: from the comfort of your home you can upload songs to a potential audience in the hundreds of millions (genre-related demographics withholding). This is the easy part, while getting those people to want to hear your music is a different beast altogether.
Network with Established Media Outlets
It’s extremely difficult to slowly build an online fanbase yourself. Unless you can capture the lightning in a bottle that is going viral, building a following organically can take years. However, you can develop relationships with existing establishments that can help get your name out there faster.
Do some research and familiarize yourself with the blogs, YouTube channels, and media outlets in your genre. Many of them are trying to actively expand their current following by providing content on a daily, even hourly basis. The content, in this case, can be your music!
Prior to my time here at Produce Like a Pro, I wrote for an established-but-growing blog in the metal world. Much of our daily blog content consisted of promoting young acts on the come-up by reposting their music videos. It was of mutual benefit for us to expand our content and for a young artist to be exposed to our built-in following.
If you shop your product around to channels like these, you’ll be sure to find one that isn’t opposed to helping you out with a repost.
A Website and Email Marketing
This is a huge. First and foremost, you’ll want a polished, professional website showcasing your music. That is, after all, the product you’re attempting to push. You’ll also want to have an email marketing campaign established to notify subscribers of new music, merchandise, tour dates, and anything else people should know.
Using a popular email marketing service like Aweber is a good place to start. It allows you to develop a music marketing campaign via email pretty quickly and painlessly. You can advertise the mailing list on your website, have the option of subscribing to it during web store purchases, or even ask for email addresses at the merch table during gigs.
As part of the incentive for subscribers, you might consider offering free songs, exclusive music videos, songwriting tips, or anything else you can think of that a potential fan might enjoy through the mailing list.
Offline Music Marketing
Shows, shows, and more shows. Going on the road is still a great way to introduce your music to new fans. When you’re just starting out and aren’t likely to be opening for a big name, targeting venues that cater to your demographic is key.
You could also shop your music around to local radio stations, particularly college radio, who’re more likely to play brand new independent artists.
It’s probably also a good idea to have some free CDs, business cards, flyers, or stickers at the local record store. It’s another passive way of having your material ready to be heard by people who are already music consumers.
Music marketing doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s a necessary action to take for new artists!