Home Music Marketing The pre-save, a money making trick? Or a valuable music marketing tool?

The pre-save, a money making trick? Or a valuable music marketing tool?

The pre-save

Is the pre-save just another money-making trick or is it a valuable marketing tool for unsigned artists? We take a critical look at the benefit for the fans and the musicians.

Imagine if you pre-saved in real life!

Imagine arriving on a first date. Before you even speak, you reach over the table, pick up her phone and add yourself as a friend on her Instagram. 

“Now you can always stay updated on my life!” you say. 

“But I don’t even know your name?!” she says.

Unsurprisingly the date ends pretty quickly after that.

This is much like my reaction whenever a band I’ve never even heard of asks me to pre-save their latest single… and I know what a pre-save is! Imagine if you don’t know the band or understand what a pre-save is (which to be honest is most non-musicians). 

Assuming someone cares about your life and your future plans feels very presumptive, especially when they don’t even know you. Remember when U2 tried to insert their album into your iTunes catalogue? To me, it feels very similar. I don’t know about you, but I like to choose who I follow and who I listen to. At least buy me a drink and introduce yourself before expecting me to care about hearing about all your future releases.

The pre-save is just a way to make money

From the outside, the pre-save feels like a marketing construct, just another easy way to rinse some more money out of unsigned artists that totally ignores the very essence of good marketing ie ‘a consumer benefit.’

It also fails to understand the realities of unsigned musicians. Yes, it might work for Radiohead or an established band with a large, loyal fanbase of people that really care. But for your average unsigned artist, it’s a very blunt marketing tool. 

The pre-save is sold to musicians like some kind of golden bullet solution. Now you can get digital pre-orders!  But come on… really?! It’s not the same. Normally when I pre-order something it shows up on my doorstep, I know when it’s arrived and I’m excited about its arrival. As a music fan, you get none of these things. 

Let’s break it down

It goes something like this… You receive a pre-save request from a band you follow a link that inevitably involves about 4 more clicks than you expected, often involving a request for login and a password you just don’t remember. If you navigate all the clicks, you are prompted to click a Follow Button. 

At this point, you might expect to get some kind of reward or at least hear the song?! Normally you get nothing. But oh wait, on release day, the release will automatically appear in your songs and album list? Where is that? I just listen to my favourite playlist!

What do the musicians that use pre saves get in return? Very little. A few email addresses of friends and family they already know and some saves, and very, very few actual listens… 

Ask yourself, what use is promotion if people don’t or can’t even listen to your music?

Imagine the alternative…

As an unsigned musician, it’s easy to feel like you are constantly reaching out to fans, friends and family asking them to do things. Vote here, share this, click here. After a while, even your biggest supporters can get a little tired. So how to use these requests for help in the most effective way possible?

Forget the pre-save. Instead, wait until release day, and just send everyone you know plus anyone that has previously messaged you on your social media channels with a nice polite and engaging message that says something like this…

Hello, we have brand new music out today, and I would love you to take a listen and tell me what you think. Here is a link. Do you have a favourite track? What do you think of the female vocals or the guitar solo? We trust and value your opinion! Love x

You get the idea and I’m sure you could write something even better. The aim is just to share your music, get some listeners and drive some real engagement.

Getting 50 listens on release day is always going to trump 50 pre-saves and no listens. After all those magical Spotify algorithms are looking for a spike in plays in the first days of release.

If you get replies from your messages and they like the music, now would be the time to ask them to consider following you! IE Build engagement before trying to build loyalty.

The more personal and tailored the better, and if you are super organised you could track and make a note of replies to use in the future. So for the next release, you can start to say something like… 

Hi x, Thank you for your feedback on our last single, we think you might really enjoy our new release as it contains another great guitar solo, which I know you love. Let us know what you think! Here is the link. Love x

This simple shift allows you to move from a cold sales message to a warm lead and a smart CRM (customer relationship management strategy) and all it takes is a short message and a Google / Excel Sheet.

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Words Mark Knight