What 2017 Taught Us About How to Market a Record in 2018

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo.]


2017, for all its faults, taught us a lot. Perhaps the most interesting lesson for us music industry folks was that you can still make money as an independent musician. The way forward is young and not yet fully established, but it is now apparent that we will have a path back to being able to build a career in the field we all care so much about. According to a September article on Billboard.com, growth in the industry again saw an accelerated growth rate in the United States. In fact, the RIAA’s 2017 mid-year report showed double the ‘much talked about’ percent increase we saw the previous year.

If you’ve already been doing your research, you’ve probably also realized that a large percent of that growth has benefited major labels. Still, it does indicate that independent artists can also carve out their own piece of the pie. The key to doing so will be allocating your time and resources to the right channels.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re planning your 2018 release:

Instagram Is Important for More Than Just Brand Building

When I polled a Facebook group I belong to for artist managers, one of the topics I received the most feedback on was Instagram. Yes, an artist’s presence on Instagram can help put forth the aesthetic that best represents their project, but there is so much more to be gained by paying attention to the social media application.

For one, cross-promotional opportunities with influencers, brands and blogs can greatly increase your reach. Taking over a blog’s story or having an influencer post about your music can reach new fans in a way that simply posting to your own will not accomplish.

On your own page, making use of the “swipe up” function in your story will allow you to direct your fans directly to streaming or buy links. Livestreaming is as important as ever on Instagram, and it may take a lot of groundwork, but something as simple as DM’ing your fans can help build loyalty and increase sales, streaming numbers and attendance at your shows.

There is Strategy to Getting Spotify Playlisting

As the popularity of Spotify playlisting has increased substantially, so has the difficulty in getting your music placed. Playlisting has largely filled the role that terrestrial radio once did as a means to discovery and labels and management firms are gearing up strategically to put their artists in the best position to capitalize.

As an independent artist, you may not have the same resources as some of the bigger companies, but you can still approach playlisting strategically. By targeting independent influencer, blogs and brands that have significant followers on Spotify you can not only reach fans directly, but also help how your song is performing within the Spotify algorithm which will create a greater chance that you will be added to Spotify official playlists.

You can also speak with your distribution company about how to best use their services to get your foot in the door with Spotify official and, if you’re not happy with what they’re offering, hire an independent agency dedicated to Spotify playlisting much like you would hire a publicist for press. TuneCore does a great job with helping artists attain playlisting and we offer that service at Ngagency as well. Another solid agency doing something similar is Artist Method, who “empower artists and their teams with the necessary tools and best practices to develop long term relationships with companies like Spotify” according to Founder and CEO Weston McGowen.

Don’t “Just” Think About Spotify 

Yes, Spotify receives the lion’s share of attention from a streaming perspective but there are other fish in the sea. Apple is nearly keeping pace with Spotify’s growth rate, adding an average of 15 million subscribers per year (compared to 20 million for Spotify over the past two years). Amazon is quickly becoming the Ripple to Spotify’s Bitcoin as they’re integrating their streaming services with other aspects of Amazon’s empire we all use on a regular basis.

Perhaps most notably, YouTube appears set to launch their streaming service in March, which could change the field completely as they already are responsible for a significant portion of new music discovery.

Rich Nardo is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.

Why Playlists Are More Important Than Ever

[Author: Patrick McGuire *
In 2017, the playlist has become an integral part of not just music but our culture at large. While radioplay and the blogosphere still have the power to bring attention to an artist, playlists are becoming a steadfast way for more and more listeners to discover and consume music. This isn’t exactly breaking news for those readers who’ve been making serious music over the past decade, but the fact is that playlists are shaping the musical landscape more than ever before, and if you don’t release your music with that in mind and plan accordingly, you’ll risk missing out on some potentially huge opportunities.

The New Listening Landscape

Remember that snobby record store clerk you used to get your music recommendations from? Or maybe it was your cool older sister. Well, either way, playlists featuring every genre of music you can conceive of are introducing listeners to new artists in way measured by literally billions of songs, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.

But probably more important than the way listeners are discovering music is the way they’re now listening to it. Listeners are now relying on playlists big and small to guide their unique listening experiences. Why?

Put yourself in the shoes of a non-musician for a second. Unless you’re particularly interested in discovering and listening to new and interesting music, you most likely won’t have the time or patience to wade through hours of music to find songs that actually resonate with you. Enter an army of new expertly curated playlists, specifically designed to convey an array of nuanced moods that cater to a wide variety of different music fans.

Like indie rap? There’s tens of thousands of playlists out there for you. Looking for electronic jazz/rock fusion for stepdads? Actually, I have no idea if that playlist exists or not, but you get what I mean.

Engaging new and old listeners on this relatively new playing field is becoming more and more important for career musicians, but don’t take my word for it.

Let’s look at the data.

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The Data Behind Playlists

On average, Spotify’s 4,500 curated playlists generate over a billion streams per week. Their Discover Weekly feature has connected well over 40 million music listeners to about 5 billion new songs. Love it or loathe it, Spotify is doing something massively important for new artists, and figuring out how to get your music featured on Spotify is worth looking into, even if the chances of your music being selected by one of Spotify’s notoriously picky playlist curators is slim.

But while Spotify is a major resource for listeners when it comes to finding and consuming music, YouTube is an even bigger player. Though the stats are controversial, complicated and difficult to understand, some music industry analysts believe YouTube accounts for 40% of all music listening.

I released a single recently and was surprised to learn that a dude with a playlist I’d never heard of had shared my new song on a YouTube playlist with over 188,000 subscribers. My release performed pretty well on Spotify, but the numbers were nothing compared to the exposure I got from being featured on that one Youtube playlist.

Make music regularly enough and you’ll sometimes get lucky and have your songs featured on decent-sized playlists, but reaching out to playlist curators and asking for your songs to be considered is vital if you’re just starting out and new to the playlist game.

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Pitching Your Music to Playlist Curators and Digital Music Stores

Taking the time to submit your music through TuneCore’s feature submission form is an easy way to pitch your music to digital music retailers like iTunes, but if you’re interested in getting playlist curators to consider your songs, you’ll have to do some research.

Take some time to find out what playlists are out there that feature music that’s similar to yours. Rather than gunning for the big, heavily followed tastemakers, I recommend starting small and pitching your music to playlists with smaller followings.

Similar to how you’d pitch your music to blogs, take some time following different playlists and getting a feel for the kind of music their curators like to feature.

Craft a short email explaining who you are, what your music sounds like and why you think it fits on the playlist you’re inquiring about. Yes, you’ll most likely get your fair share of no’s and unanswered emails, but with how much potential there is out there for finding new fans through playlists, getting serious about playlists is becoming a mandatory task if you’re intent on being a successful musician.

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[Editors Note: This blog was written by Patrick McGuire. Patrick is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.]

Tips For Getting Your Song On a Spotify Playlist

[Author: Janelle Rogers *

You’re absolutely certain you want, no, you need, to get on an official Spotify playlist. The problem is you’re not sure how to reach the elusive curators and you’re struggling to get past 50 followers on Spotify.

Asking to be on an official Spotify playlist in that case is somewhat the equivalent of wanting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone when the only show you’ve played is the local dive bar on the seedy side of town.

Don’t despair. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it does mean you’ll have to put in a little elbow grease to build up to it. Just like the mailroom guy has to work through a multitude of career levels before becoming manager, you’ll have to create some momentum to reach your official Spotify playlist goal.

Here’s a few simple steps that are within reach no matter the level:

  1. Get Verified
  2. Contact unofficial Spotify curators
  3. Promote Spotify on Social Media
  4. Promote Spotify on Your Website
  5. Create Spotify Playlists

1. Get Verified

The first thing you should do is get your Spotify band profile verified. This does a few things. It gives you credibility and shows you take your band seriously. It can also help with Spotify algorithms which prioritize verified accounts.

Lastly it can help you get noticed by Spotify influencers, including those who create unofficial playlists, but are influential nonetheless. You can find the five simple steps to get verified on Spotify here.
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2. Work Unofficial Spotify Playlists

The best way to reach a goal is to start where you are. You may want to go straight to being featured on an official Spotify playlist, but the truth is that you’ll most likely need to build up to where a Spotify curator will pay attention. The good news is that there are a lot of unofficial Spotify curators who will be more open to featuring bands who haven’t yet built a larger following. At this stage in the game, Spotify curators, both official and unofficial, are heavily guarded and extremely elusive.

Start with the ones who want more followers and help brand them by asking your followers to follow them. In your head you may think they’re not worth the time. Instead think about not where they are, but where they could end up. Isn’t that how you would hope playlisters would think of you?

I can still remember when Alex with Consequence of Sound reached out to me to purchase a $25 ad on his site. Nobody knew who the blog was then, but now they’re one of the top blogs. And almost every band who comes to us for music PR at Green Light Go asks to be featured there. You never know where someone will go so treat them with the kind of courtesy and respect no matter what the level.
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3. Promote Spotify on Social Media Platforms

If you want to increase followers and awareness with Spotify influencers, you’re going to need to increase your marketing efforts on your social media. Make sure you have links to your Spotify profile in your about sections. Also, once or so per week ask fans to follow you. But don’t just ask them to follow you without giving them something new.

Be strategic by offering fresh content whether it’s announcing your single release, album release or creating a playlist with new songs. Also be sure to promote the playlists of influencers you want to include you in their playlist. Especially with those who don’t yet have the following yet, this can go a long way and allow you to get in on the ground floor before they make it big.
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4. Promote Spotify on Website

Just like you promote your social media on your website with Facebook and Twitter links, you should also include Spotify anywhere you can. They have a great tool to create a follow button so fans can follow you straight from your site. In addition, you should include icons next to your other social media and also include a Spotify playlist so people can listen to your music. Lastly, include a widget to listen to the music you have available on Spotify.

5. Create Spotify Playlists

If you have yet to build a following or create relationships with Spotify playlisters, a good place to start is by building your own playlist including your music. To better your chances with Spotify aggregators, limit it to one song per artist (including your song), a minimum of 20 songs and give the title something catchy that is also searchable based on your theme. For instance, we have a playlist themed around indie folk, which we simply call Indie Folks. We also have an indie rock playlist we call, you guessed it, Indie Rocks.
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The above steps can help you start breaking down the barrier to get your songs on Spotify playlists. Go ahead and get started by working on the achievable areas to make you more attractive to Spotify influencers.

*[Editor’s Note: This blog was written by Janelle Rogers, the founder of Green Light Go Publicity, a music PR firm which helps up-and-coming musicians reach their audience.]