How To Market Your Music: Effective Marketing Strategies for Indie Artists
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
As the saying goes, “business” in “music business” is twice as long for good reason. While marketing your music might not be the most exciting part of the process, it is essential if you’re hoping to grow within the industry, regardless of whether you’re signed or not.
Below, we’ll dive into 9 effective strategies to market your songs and find fans that truly connect with your sound. I’ll also share some personal experiences on what has worked for me as an indie artist.
1. Focus On The Fans First
As musicians, most of us are naturally focused on becoming as well-known as possible. While it’s great to shoot for the stars, get clear about what you’re searching for-- Do you want to be an artist who performs well on Spotify but can’t sell out a show? Or would you rather have an initially small but dedicated fanbase that’s happy to support you online and offline?
For most of us, the preferred option is the latter which means you need to focus on organic growth rather than just playlist pitching for exposure. Don’t get me wrong, pitching to playlists certainly has its place (more on that later), but connecting with your audience should always be at the forefront of your marketing strategy.
Seek out ways to connect with people who like the type of music you create. Maybe it’s a good idea to interact with some of their social media posts, or strike up a conversation. Word of mouth is also a proven method, but try to refrain from coming on too strong. No one wants to listen to music created by a telemarketer in real life.
In order to create a community, you have to truly genuinely invest in it with your time and attention. Your fans should know that you have their back so that they can have yours. Remember that 100 true fans is much more impressive and effective than 500 streams on Spotify.
2. Consistency Beats Virality
Keep in mind that although these strategies are fairly simple, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easy. Many musicians (I know I have) engage in a fantasy in which some record executive will magically stumble across their music, leading them to reach international superstardom overnight. This simply does not happen, at least for most of us.
Remember that those who are seemingly “overnight” successes were going at it consistently for years. Don’t count on going viral-- instead, prioritize consistency. This means consistently marketing your music to others and most importantly, continually expanding your technical knowledge.
Consistency will not only breed virality, but it also ensures that you have the skills necessary for when you do earn a large wave of unexpected attention. With the internet, it’s easy to reach out to someone new about your music on a regular, even daily basis.
3. The Power of Social Media
It’s virtually impossible to “make it” as an artist if you’re not utilizing social media in today’s modern times. Tiktok alone has flipped the music business upside down, so it’s key that you’re a participating member on these platforms even if it doesn’t come naturally to you.
In addition to connecting with your fans, try to connect with other indie artists as well. Producing collaborations together is a great way to cross-pollinate your respective audiences. Try to set a regular social media posting schedule and stick to it. Even if your silly Instagram post earns you just 1 true fan for every post, you’re sure to grow steadily over time.
Be sure to capitalize on influencer's audience as well. Submithub recently updated the platform to include submissions to content curators. You can also use sites like Breakr to get your music shared by creators on Instagram, Twitter, and Tiktok. It's also worth submitting to basic sync sites for YouTube videos and other media through platforms like Thematic or Artlist.
4. Create Content You Would Want to Share
Generally speaking, all content to promote your music should aim to educate, inspire, or entertain. This is because these types of content are easy to share. If you can make content featuring your music that’s worth sharing, then you’ll have no trouble slowly but steadily building your fanbase.
Take your audience’s feedback seriously also. Monitor your analytics to see what types of posts are performing well and every once in a while, try to recreate your success with a similar photo or video.
5. Start Investing
Music is a business. As much as we like to shy away from the financial ties underneath art as musicians, that doesn’t mean they go away. Your music may be decent enough to earn a following, but you’re not always going to find that niche audience without certain promotion tools and ultimately, a degree of financial backing.
I’ve personally had a lot of luck with Facebook ad campaigns and even utilizing the “promote” feature within social media apps. Also, it’s a planned expense. I have no trouble sacrificing a cup of Starbucks if it means I gain a fan or two from a daily Facebook ad campaign. You don’t have to shell out big bucks unless you have them at your disposal. Figure out what you can afford to spend on a regular basis and do so-- Your music is not going to magically grow on its own accord.
6. Think Like A Label
Marketing your own music becomes simple when you start to think like a label. Ask yourself, “What would a label be doing if I was signed?” and follow your own advice. You may find yourself spending more time on your visuals, creating a well thought-out strategy months in advance, and building your advertising skills. Understanding this point is fairly easy but admittedly, a lot of hard work. As an indie artist, you’re destined to wear many, many hats.
While putting in the work can be difficult to balance, don’t fall into the fantasy of believing that becoming signed will fix all of your problems. Remember that over 98% of signed artists fail or become dropped by their labels. If you have the money to hire a team, you can still do so independently and retain creative control.
In the event that you see yourself becoming signed in the future, it’s still in your best interest to promote yourself in a similar way now. The more clout you have, the more leverage and therefore negotiating power you’ll have when it’s time to decide whether or not you’re ready to get signed.
7. Get Feedback on Your Music and Grow
Building your marketing and musical skills should go hand in hand. While it’s true that just about anything can be marketed well if executed correctly, it’s a lot easier to do so when you have compelling, professional art to begin with. Seek out ways to improve your technical skill set on a regular basis.
Whether that’s seeking out new tutorials, implementing new tools like Controlla into your workflow, or spending time finishing demos, investing in your technical growth is always a good move. It’s also extremely valuable to seek out honest feedback from unbiased sources to figure out your weaknesses.
You can use platforms like Fluence to pay for feedback from industry professionals. While art is ultimately subjective, if you find yourself hearing the same piece of advice repeatedly, it may be a good idea to incorporate it into strategy.
8. Have A Recognizable Brand
Your music is ultimately a business, and every good business should have a recognizable brand. Think about what color schemes, fonts, and overall aesthetics align with your sound. Once you’ve decided on a style, make sure the same themes are seen across your cover art, social media, and music videos. The more targeted you can get with your branding, the more likely you are to reach those coveted true fans.
9. Playlist Pitching
Aforementioned, playlist pitching is not the sole key to success. However, it can be extremely helpful in terms of exposure if you’re smart about it. When gearing up for a release, it’s a good idea to set up a campaign through a service like Submithub or Musosoup. Many blogs and curators will only take submissions through these sites, so it’s definitely worth shooting your shot to get your name out there and possibly get placed on a blog or two.
After the release date, start pitching to individual curators. You can do this by finding a playlist on your streaming platform of choice, and using the username of the curator to find their social media handle or contact information. Contact curators on a regular basis with your music. Note that you’re sure to get a lot of nos, you’ll also earn a lot of yes-es, which is what counts.
While being on a playlist isn’t always enough to convert listeners into true fans, if your other elements are strong enough, it can certainly lead to that. This means having stand-out, professional cover art and above all, great music. I've discovered a good chunk of my fans this way, and it can be a lot more cost effective than one of the giants like Submithub.
Marketing your music essentially boils down to figuring out your own way to stand out from the crowd. Once you’ve crafted an idea for your angle, it’ll be easier for you to make decisions surrounding your branding and sonic delivery. Keep it consistent, listen to your fans, and you’re sure to build a loyal fanbase. Good luck!