Promoting Your Music Online Made Easy
The goal of most musicians is to get their music out in front of an audience.
Maybe you make music for fun or maybe you’re hoping to earn a little money from your musical career. Either way, modern technology and the internet has made the life of an aspiring musician much easier. The competition for attention online is crazy, so you need to be smart and have a great plan to get your music out there and build a bigger audience.
Planning for Prosperity
It may not be the most exciting step, but starting out with a good plan is extremely important.
Know Your Audience
Start by splitting your audience into two segments. The first group is your current and potential future fans and the second is people in the music industry. Each of these groups will need to be treated differently, though they do overlap in many ways. Start with your fans. Figure out what they like and what you have to offer. Check out the online activity of other bands to find content ideas to use online. For the music industry group, which includes record labels, music venues, popular music blogs, etc., tailor your approach and do more direct contacts. Having a press pack is essential and we’ll cover that in more detail below.
You Gotta Have Goals
Carefully considering and writing down your goals will ensure you start out on the right track. Be clear about exactly what goals you want to achieve. Do you want more online fans? More local fans for your shows? Looking to sign a record deal? Want to tour the country? Clearly defining your goals makes it much easier to outline the steps needed to get there. Early on, goals should be focused on expanding your reach and gaining new fans. While making money is great, the larger your fan base, the more earning potential and leverage in the music industry you’ll have.
Lastly, plan out how you’ll monetize your success. What’s your strategy for creating an income: selling vinyl, cassettes and CDs, online digital downloads, merchandise, live shows? The more specific you can be with your plan, the better. Success isn’t random. You must carefully design your road map.
Stay on Schedule
Using your goals as a starting point, think of actionable tasks you need to accomplish. Write them out and decide if there’s a logical order in which to complete them. For instance, having a great demo ready before you approach a music label is one obvious example. Using this information, create a sequence of items to complete and use these to create a schedule. New band logo ready within two weeks, album demo done within two months, contact at least 6 labels within 3 months, etc. Having a concrete schedule adds extra motivation and helps monitor if you’re doing great or falling behind.
How Do You Measure Up?
How will you measure success? Maybe it’s the number of followers on social media. If you’re looking to sign a deal, success might be getting some good industry contacts and sending them your press pack. For your website and social profiles, track your analytics, such as who is visiting your sites, how often and what pages/videos they’re looking at the most. Use that information to track your progress and adjust your future plans. Keep a contact list of industry connections. Note who you’ve contacted and how it went. Make a schedule of when you’ll get back in touch.
Tools of the Trade
With your new plan in place, time to choose the online tools you’ll use and get them ready to go.
What’s Your Website?
Websites are easy to start and cheap to operate; every up-and-coming band should have one. Consider your website a one-stop-shop for everything you have to offer. Include a personal bio or history, pictures, free stuff, and music or merchandise offerings available for purchase. Add share buttons so visitors can easily find your social media profiles. A blog page on your website is a great place to provide band updates, gear reviews, highlight other bands, advertise area music venues and upcoming show dates.
Most of all, imagine your website from the user’s point of view. Is it usable and easy to navigate? Are you blog posts and other items searchable right on the website? If you need help setting up your website, Bandzoogle is a good option and tailored to creating websites for musicians.
Video Killed the Radio Star
People are visual creatures. If you don’t already have a YouTube profile, place that near the top of your to-do list. Huge numbers of people visit YouTube daily and it’s the top spot for watching music online. In your YouTube profile, include a brief bio and links to all your social media and websites. Furthermore,Vimeo is another good option for posting and sharing videos online.
If you’re on a budget, you don’t need professionally-made music videos to be successful. It’s easy to create and post video versions of digital songs with your band logo or other pictures as a background. Live gig footage, rehearsals, and interviews are also prime material for YouTube.
Wait a Minute Mr. Postman
Email seem a little old-school nowadays, but it’s still one of the best ways to stay in contact with your fans. Use your website and social media profiles to offer ways for fans to sign up for a monthly newsletter. There are many software programs available that will help make the process of managing your email list easier, but if you’re just starting out, you can keep track of everyone manually.
With a newsletter, content possibilities are similar to those you may post on social media or your website and can also be a recap of what you’ve been up to since the last newsletter. Try to include some items that can only be found in your newsletter to give it a premium feel. Free music or special deals on merchandise are good potential ideas. Finally, include a way for people to opt out, if they don’t want to keep receiving your emails. You want to focus on people that are truly interested in what you’ve got to offer.
Time to Get Social
I may not be a big fan of Facebook, but tons of people are and it’s a great way to find new fans and interact with all sorts of interesting people. Facebook Event Invites are super helpful to let people know about upcoming shows, new song/album releases or live streams. You need to have a wide online presence, which includes utilizing a number of social platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and many more, offer huge opportunities to expand your fan base and gain new followers. Check out our article on Twitter, for more tips.
Dip Your Toes in the Stream
There are a variety of online streaming platforms where you can submit your music and reach a whole new giant audience. Each platform will have different rules and procedures for signing up, so do your research carefully. If you don’t get approved the first time, figure out what you can do differently and keep trying. TuneCore is a great option. They help sell your music on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Amazon, Tidal, and more. With TuneCore, you retain the rights and revenue for your music.
Another option, SoundCloud, is a popular streaming option that lets you upload music to make it available for streaming online. One of the best things about SoundCloud is they make it easy to embed links to your uploaded songs all across your social media platforms and website.
On the Way to the Forum
Get active on popular music forums, especially forums that cater to your particular genre of music. Don’t just promote your own music (some of that is great, just don’t overdo it), get involved in a variety of discussions and try to add to the conversation. People have a good filter for self-promotion; be a helpful part of the community.
Hangout with Your Fans
Google Hangouts offers a cool way to directly interact with fans. If you have a computer, phone or tablet with a working camera, speaker and microphone, Google Hangouts lets you share live videos and chat messages worldwide. To get started, you must have a Google account. For a scheduled “Hangout”, notify fans ahead of time via emails, social media, blog posts, etc., that you’ll be having a Hangout event. When you’re ready for the event to begin, use Hangouts to send out a notification (via text or email) with a link that will take them right to the live Hangout video session.
Additionally, it’s also possible to record and save Hangout videos so you can post them later to your YouTube channel or website. The easiest way I (currently) know to do this is using the Creator Studio feature from your YouTube account, which allows you to record live streaming video. Hangouts are perfect for interacting with fans. Interviews, Q&A sessions, rehearsals or just you having fun on the road, are all potential ideas.
Fun at Bandcamp
I love Bandcamp and use them frequently to buy new music. I’d definitely include them in the must-have list for any band. Bandcamp lets you create a profile where you can sell digital music downloads, vinyl, CDs, cassettes and band merchandise. It’s free to sign up, but when you sell something, Bandcamp keeps 10-15% of the sale to cover their fees and payment processing. Not a bad deal considering what they have to offer and the ease by which fans can access your goods. Bandcamp also provides useful information, like location data on your fans which have made purchases, which is helpful when planning your next show or world tour. Take time to make your profile look great and add links to your Bandcamp account everywhere.
Too Many to List
There are so many online resources for musicians, we can’t come close to listing them all. Here are highlights for some of the current big players, not already mentioned. Most of these sites have both free and premium options.
- ReverbNation – Online platform providing promotional tools (website builder, gig finder, digital distribution, and much more) to help musicians manage their careers.
- Nimbit – Helps musicians sell, promote, fundraise and manage fans.
- Jango – Online music streaming/internet radio. Similar to Pandora.
- CD Baby – Online music store selling CDs, vinyl records, and music downloads.
- OurStage – Online music streaming. One cool feature is you can enter your songs in competitions to win prizes.
- Sonicbids – Helps artists connect with promoters, book gigs and increase industry exposure.
- Pandora – Pretty sure you’ve heard of them. Online music streaming/internet radio.
- Live365 – Internet radio, you can create, curate and promote your own radio station.
- Spotify – Music, podcast and video streaming service. Definitely one of the bigger online platforms.
- Last.fm – Online music streaming/internet radio. Currently, you need an existing Spotify or YouTube account to make your music available on Last.fm.
- Audiomack – Online music streaming and sharing.
- Google Play Artist Hub – Music and podcast streaming on Google’s platform.
- Apple Music for Artists – Music and video streaming for Apple Music and iTunes.
- NoiseTrade – Online music distribution platform. You give away free music and anyone who downloads your music in return gives you their email address and zip code for an opt-in newsletter.
Learn to Share
The time has come to give your fans what they want.
Free Stuff Here!
People love free stuff. Thanks to the internet, people expect free stuff. Remember when you actually had to buy a CD to listen to your favorite band? Release a new song monthly on your website. Offer free stuff if someone signs up for your newsletter. With the goal of creating loyal fans, early investments in free giveaways can pay big returns later.
Leverage Fan Creativity
I bet your fans are pretty cool people, why not find out? Ask for fan photos of them wearing your merch or pictures (yes, even selfies) from a recent show. Start a contest to help design your next album cover. Post pictures of fan art to your website for everyone to enjoy.
I Got You Covered
I’m a big fan of cover songs. To be truly successful, you’re going to have to come up with your own great songs, but an interesting take on a cover song can attract huge amounts of attention online. The key is to make it intriguing and let your unique sound really shine through. Don’t just limit covers to bands in your genre. Crossovers from other musical areas offer great opportunities to create something thought-provoking and memorable.
Our Band: A Biography
If you have a cell phone and a laptop, you’re practically a film production crew. Videos don’t have to just be you performing, try using them to tell your story. Interviews, candid clips and funny stories all help tell your story and make you feel more accessible to fans. It doesn’t need to be a feature-length movie. The key is creating a connection and engaging fans.
Many successful musicians, thanks to the wide availability on free music on the internet, now rely on profits from selling merchandise to stay afloat. Merch also serves as great advertising, so giving it away for free works well too. Free swag like stickers, posters, buttons, lighters and keychains are an inexpensive, but memorable way to spread the word. The possibilities are endless and coming up with new merchandise ideas can be a great opportunity to interact with your fans and seek out cool ideas. Have a contest to design your next poster or t-shirt.
Live Music for All
Announce a live video, maybe a performance or band interview. Facebook Live, a video service from Facebook, lets you live stream videos and also saves the videos so they can be viewed later. People love the inside peek or behind-the-scenes look at what the band is up to. With a camera and a computer, your next rehearsal could help you gain a few new fans or entertain your current ones.
Meet the Press
Having a press pack ready for when you make contact with people in the music industry is vital. Having great music isn’t enough. You need to make a professional impression and let people know you are serious and thoughtful about advancing your music career.
Your press pack should include the following:
- A brief one-page bio.
- Mentions of any media coverage you have received
- Links to your website and social media profiles
- High-quality photos (don’t go cheap on this one, pay for a professional photographer, if needed)
- Links to your streaming music or include a CD in the press pack
- Contact details so they can easily get in touch
Putting it All Together
Final thoughts on putting your plan into action.
The main key (aside from making quality music, of course) to online success is consistently making an effort. A great plan is useless, if you don’t execute. Regularly post good new content across your social media profiles and your website. Be responsive and friendly when fans or industry folks contact you. Success online is an on-going process. It may often feel like you’re not making any progress, but keep the faith that your effort will pay off.
Mix Things Up
To keep fans coming back for more, you must keep things fresh and exciting. Explore new ways to communicate and new things you can offer. Keep track of what has worked and what hasn’t. Ditch the stuff that isn’t getting results. Learn from what fans like and give them more! Social media should be fun. Look at it as an opportunity to be creative and flex your artistic muscles.
Getting into any industry often relies as much on whom you know as what you have to offer. That’s especially true in the music industry. Make contact with as many people within the industry as possible. Find that fine line between persistence and annoyance and ride it to victory. Get in touch with local music venues or other bands in your area and work on setting up future shows. Share your press pack with journalists and labels. Keep a list of all the people you’ve contacted and connections you’ve made.
Make Buying Easy
To sell merchandise and music, you need to make it easy for people to find your stuff and make a purchase. As we’ve mentioned many times, casting a wide net is essential. Make your goods available all over the internet. Imagine it from you fans point of view. Is it easy for them to first find your music and merchandise? And then, is it quick and easy to make a purchase?
Link it All Up
Once you have all your social media accounts ready, be sure to link them to each other. For example, if you post a new video on your YouTube page, include links to your website, Twitter page, Bandcamp profile, and announce it with a Tweet. This free and easy advertising gives fans a variety of options to find you and see what you have to offer.
Spending time on social media will get results, but don’t let it happen at the expense of your music. If you’re spending more time on Twitter than at rehearsal or in the studio, it may be time to reconsider your priorities. By creating a checklist or schedule, you can monitor your time spent on social media to check whether you’re not investing enough time or maybe you’re spending a little too much.
Ready, Set, Go!
Now that you know everything you need to promote your music online (well…maybe not everything, but hopefully a great start), it’s time to put ideas into action. Grab a pen and start writing out your goals and your plans. Success online isn’t easy, but it sure is worth the effort. Make it fun, work hard and good luck! Any questions, please email us at Sales@OnStageMusicSupply.com . Follow us on Twitter: @OnStageMusic765 .