The Truth About Music Promotion

A truthful assessment of music promotion. The reality is simple. Your success starts and ends with you. Because at the end of the day nobody cares about your music as much as you.  So if you don’t make the effort, why would anyone else? 

I don’t know about you, but I can’t move on social media for ads proclaiming they have cracked the Spotify algorithms. Buy the training course for guaranteed success they proclaim! You know the formula… Cue the overly enthusiastic salesman, gesticulating wildly down a camera before cutting to a small chart that appears to show extraordinary Spotify streaming growth. “I’ve cracked it, he claims, and you can too!” All you need is my heavily discounted course, book, webinar – Insert ridiculously high regular price (that nobody has ever paid) replaced with highly discounted, sale price, wow what value!

Sorry to break it to you, but they are all lying. Save your money. There are no guarantees in music, and no one person or one thing can guarantee successful music promotion. Sure he might have got lucky and his approach might have worked for him, but that doesn’t guarantee success for you and even more, damming 99% of you won’t hit a million streams on Spotify or play Glastonbury.

If that’s depressing, sorry, but it’s the truth. The good news? There are lots of things you can do to positively impact your music career and give yourself the greatest chance of success, and while the brilliant basics might not be sexy, they are the closest thing to a guarantee you have.

Music promotion. Lessons from a music blog

As a music blog, we get sent a lot of music. We see the best and the worst of music marketing and promotion. It’s no surprise the artists we choose to support share some similarities.

  • They make great music
  • They produce beautiful content to support their music
  • They sell us a story, not just a song
  • They are polite and appreciative
  • They build and maintain a relationship with us

Conversely, there are lots of artists that never make it past the front door. Here are some important home truths

  • If you are not happy with the recording – why would we be?
  • If the cover art image looks less than perfect to you, it will look terrible to us!
  • If you include broken links in emails or blog submissions – we will ignore you!
  • If you can’t be bothered to supply the info we need – why would we seek it out?
  • If you are rude – we will remember and actively avoid supporting you!

Be your own ‘brand’ manager

Take time and effort to control your brand online. Don’t settle with second best, or average. Unless you look and sound amazing, don’t share anything with anyone ever.

Major Labl, a music marketing agency that works with independent artists are quick to point out that no artist should be spending money on music promotion unless their online presence is fully optimised and their brand image is perfectly consistent.  As they say… You wouldn’t invite your girlfriend’s parents over to dinner unless you had tidied the house first. People do judge a book by its cover and you only get one chance to impress!

Example of a classic fail

You have one chance to promote your music and you go and do this…

Towards effective music promotion

I recently watched a conversation on YouTube between Andrew Southworth and Jesse Cannon. It was set up as a two-sided debate about the best way to promote music. But it became abundantly clear a blended solution is the only way. There is no golden bullet solution and from my experience of the ‘Breaking The Band’ project you quickly realise bands don’t ever break because of one thing, success is about lots of baby steps that build continuous momentum. 

Just using targeted Facebook ads (Andrew Southworth) is not enough, and equally a sole reliance on organic networking and relationship building (Jesse Cannon) will only get you so far. But get both working together and you might just get somewhere.

Facebook ads driving to a landing page and onto Spotify can deliver great results. But there are lots of individual elements that need to work together for these ads to succeed.

1. Creative:

Guess what? Music promotion isn’t just about music. Consumers engage with their eyes before their ears. 80% of consumers view Facebook and Instagram with the sound off, so don’t rely on your audio to drive ad clicks. Successful ads are visually engaging first.

2. Audience Targeting:

Unless you are reaching the right audience engagement you won’t find listeners, and few listeners will become fans. Targeting choices must be individual decisions taking into account your style of music. A pop artist can have success with broad targeting, but try the same approach with Death Metal and it will fail.

3. Landing Page:

This is the first thing people see when they click the ad, so make it look great, ensure consistency of style with the ad and make it easy for people to listen

4. Promotional Readiness:

Facebook ads work best for an established artist with a body of existing material. Driving people to Spotify when there is just one track available is rarely effective or efficient. When promoting a one-track single, always drive to a playlist.

5. Budget:

Facebook ads cost money and if they aren’t set up correctly they can quickly waste a lot of money. So make sure you create low-level tests to ensure they are delivering before ramping up the budget.

Conclusion

As we said above, if all you do is focus on Conversion ads and driving people to stream you are really only doing half the job. You always need to reach and engage new fans and that’s where relationship building comes in.

Music promotion via networking and relationship building

One of the biggest challenges for a band or artist is to attract, engage and retain fans.  When considering this challenge it appears there are clear parallels with the way we manage the relationships with our friends.

So what do we do to maintain our circle of friends, and how can we apply this to attract, engage and retain fans? Here are some principles to consider.

1. Introduce yourself:

Provide new fans with a simple introduction to you and your music.  Don’t bombard them, nobody wants to hear your full life story at the first meeting. Promote a music video clip on Instagram. Retarget anyone that watches 95% with a second one and do the same with the 3rd and 4th slowly building your story and driving engagement.

2. Be your authentic self:

Nobody wants unnecessary shocks or surprises, you can rely on friends and you know what to expect from them. If your old public school friend Henry showed up one day and announced he was a goth, or started using slang and endlessly swearing it would probably freak you out because that is not Henry. Henry always wears ironed shirts, and Brogues, he’s well-spoken and never swears.  Apply this same consistency to your bands brand image.

3. Retain some mystery:

We all have those friends that overshare on social media it’s a real turn off, isn’t it!  Nothing kills the aspirational image of rock n roll excess quicker than you telling your fans about the drudgery of your day. There is nothing wrong with a degree of personal content but don’t kill the dream for your fans. Personal content belongs on a personal page.

4. Meet friends of friends:

Most people find their friends through other friends. So before reaching out to completely new people start closer to home. Remember to grow your fan-base you need to speak to the friends of your friends. Explore their connections and introduce yourself. Provide reasons and encourage fans to share your content with their friends. We know an artist that sends a semi-personal message to everyone that engages with any promoted content on Instagram. This kind of dedication starts conversations and drives listeners to become fans.

5. Remember their names:

Forgetting a friend’s name is unforgivable and hard to recover from. As a band, it is unrealistic to think you can remember the names of all your fans – but at least remember the names of the super fans, and use them at your next gig.  It’s a powerfully simple way to make fans feel special.

6. Maintain regular contact:

Striking a balance is important. Nobody likes a needy friend who is constantly calling them, and nobody wants to go months without hearing anything. Use your analytics to understand the times when your online engagement is highest then only post at these times. 6-8 pm is often a reliable bet but check your own stats. The worst thing you can do as a musician is to disappear for 6 months between albums. Consider your ‘hero’ (release content strategy) as well as your ‘hygiene’ (Between release content strategy)

7. Don’t just talk about yourself:

We all know people that talk about themselves endlessly and never ask about you. It’s annoying, isn’t it? Don’t fall into this trap as a band. Variety is important, mix up your updates to include news and promotional messages and also share the music you like. Building relationships with other bands and their fans can only help when you are looking to hit the road to tour.

8. Listen to your fans:

Encourage your fans to share their opinions, and if it’s appropriate provide them with a forum to talk about themselves. EG Post links to their websites “We wanted you all to check out this charity event taking place on Sunday, we’re supporting it and encourage you to do the same.”

9. Offer rewards:

Everyone likes a gift even more so when it’s unexpected and something you really, really want. Surprise and delight your fans with exclusive content. It could be anything from an unreleased live track, a signed poster, or guest-list entry to your next gig. Drive people to your website to redeem an offer and drive mailing list sign-ups. First-party data is highly valuable, you can retarget anyone that engages.

10. Be reliable:

It’s hugely frustrating when friends cancel social plans or constantly turn up late. If your shows have been cancelled go the extra mile to apologise and ensure everyone knows. If you know stage times, share them with your fans, so they aren’t kept waiting around or worse still arrive too late and miss you.

11. Be there for the good & bad times:

Never forget the fans who have been with you from the start,  the ones who experienced all of the terrible music venues you used to play. Without these people, you wouldn’t be where you are today! Call them out, thank them, wish them a happy birthday.

12. Don’t be afraid to tell them to shut up:

Nobody wants to do this, but ultimately if a friend is rude or abusive in your house, you would ask them to leave. Likewise, if a fan posts something inappropriate on your Facebook wall you must not be afraid to remove it to ensure your fans and your own image is protected.

The next time you see one of those music promotion ads on Instagram ask yourself have I done everything I can to promote my music? Get the fundamentals in place and remember there is no golden bullet.

Further reading

Words Mark Knight

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