Digital Marketing For Musicians 101

Whether you’re a band, a solo artist/MC, or a producer, chances are that you will have to rely on yourself first when it comes promoting the music you create. And that’s OK! We’re living in an age that finds social and promotional platforms at our fingertips. While that’s obviously a major plus, it’s a double-edged sword in that it creates what can feel like an oversaturated independent music market. However, there’s really no excuse to not take advantage of them if you want to build a fanbase online.

It’s important to concentrate on the digital promotion of your new releases, music videos, tour dates, or even just yourself/your band for the sake of getting the name out there. By doing so, you’ll be inviting more and more opportunities your way while simultaneously building a ‘brand’ around your music.

A lot of artists hear ‘digital marketing’ and assume it’s a lot of work that requires years of experience, but really, there’s a lot of easy ways to get started on an effective campaign. Establishing a social media presence and developing a flow of content to share, making your digital assets available in one place, building an email list, and pitching your music to digital outlets are all efforts you can begin focusing on early on in your music career.

Building Your Digital Presence

As you begin to get organized and prepare to promote yourself, it’s important to consider everything you’ll need to put together and where it will all live online. If the head of a record label or a booking agent suddenly wanted to know everything about you, will they be able to find it without much effort? Or will they have to sort through loose ends, empty profiles, and potentially wrong links to hear your music and establish a general understanding of what you’re up to?

Electronic Press Kit (EPK)

Your electronic press kit provides a central location with all of your assets – like image and music files, bio, etc – for members of the media (editors, bloggers, radio program directors, venue talent buyers, etc.) to quickly access. It should include the following:

  • Your Bio
    No one needs a novel, but there are some crucial elements to an effective bio.
  • Your Photo(s)
    Professional-looking photography doesn’t have to be unaffordable, and it goes a long way.
    Provide a link to hi-res photos for writers and editors to use – think Google Drive or Dropbox.
    Include photo credit info if necessary.
  • Press Quotes
    If you’ve been featured somewhere online or in print, include any positive quotes. If not, no worries – that’s why you’re pitching, after all!
  • Links to Your Music
    Consider that everyone has different preferred platforms and include major streaming channels like Spotify and Apple Music in addition to Bandcamp and/or Soundcloud.
  • Links to Your Social Media Profiles/Website
    Social channels have a way of keeping members of the media up to speed with what’s happening in your world.
    Members of the media want to be able to share links when covering music.
  • Any Imperative/Timely Information
    For example, if you’re releasing a new EP or album, make sure to include a section that includes all the information around it.

Your Website

With social media channels offering a variety of ways to engage with our favorite artists, for a lot of people having a website can feel antiquated. However, by building an artist website, you’re creating a hub for all the information being conveyed across these social channels to exist in one place. While an EPK can live on an artist’s website, the two are not necessarily one and the same – think of a website of being fan facing and an EPK to be business facing. Believe it or not, people who want to cover your music and people who want to engage as fans can both find websites very convenient.

But there can be more to an artist website than just a place to house links and pictures. Building a website is just the start – it’s up to you, the artist, what you want to achieve from your website. Maybe it’s to promote tour dates, maybe it’s to get more email addresses from fans – once you determine whatever that objective is, you can make it the centerpiece of your site. Thankfully, too, there’s an abundance of resources out there to make building and maintaining a website easy – so don’t go signing up for HTML courses just yet.

Social Media Profiles

At this point, most music fans are at least somewhat active on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. As you continue to build your music career, you’ll find that social media is a great way to connect (and remain connected) with your fans.

While this Survival Guide is meant to be an introductory look at digital marketing, we could write an entire individual section on the importance of social media marketing for independent artists — wait a second, we did!

Head over to the TuneCore Social Media Beginner’s Guide – a step by step guide to getting, growing and interacting with followers that will help you learn about:

  • Defining your brand
  • Engaging with fans, venues, other brands, and more
  • Channel differentiation
  • Social media analytics
  • Boosted posts and advertising

Once you’ve begun to establish your social media presence, (and that may even include deciding which platforms to avoid depending on what kind of fans you’re trying to reach), you’ll begin to find the kind of content sharing that works for you. A lot of that has to do with finding your ‘social voice’ and cadence, but a lot of it also has to do with pure experimentation – so have fun with it!

Email List

Email was one of the first big revelations associated with the digital age, and as a result it can be viewed as ‘old school’ in a rapidly evolving environment. Regardless of this, email lists can be extremely impactful for artists. Sure, tweeting or sending a direct message might seem like the easiest way to communicate with fans directly, but like anyone else, music fans check their email inboxes, too. Additionally, email has the highest engagement rates per post – fans are more likely to read any one email than any one Facebook post or tweet, both of which exist in a virtual sea of content.

First things first: finding ways to build that email list. Tactics like offering incentives in exchanges for your fans’ email addresses and setting up a sign-up sheet at your merch table are two of the most common strategies here. Free downloads or access to exclusive content can be offered in exchange for a fan’s email address. Hooking new fans up with small, free items of merch at your table after a performance on the condition that they throw their email addresses down on your list is a practical approach, too.

Once you’ve begun to build your email list – and don’t worry if it’s starting out small, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right? – it’s time to start thinking about what kind of content you want to share.

Email lists provide an easy, wide-reaching communication option when it comes to spreading high level information about a new release, a tour, a music video, or radio/TV appearance – but it can also be used just to check in and say hello to your fans, letting them know you’re still thinking about them. Like anything else, it’s important not to abuse these lists or make the messages you send too redundant – music fans are just like you: they don’t want to be spammed.

Think of this in a different light in terms of what you’d post on social media. People who take the time to open your emails are truly some of your most engaged fans, so give them something that’ll make them want to open your next one. Some ideas include:

  • Early access to events or singles
  • Behind the scenes glances
  • Tour dates/show announcements
  • Cool new merch for sale
  • This one could offer an exclusive discount!

Put some thought into the content of your emails, and like your social media accounts, develop and craft a ‘voice’ that your fans can relate to and enjoy. Building and sticking to an email calendar will help ensure that you don’t go overboard or leave anything out. Did we mention that email tends to be more effective per subscriber in terms of e-commerce than social media? When you’re ready, start setting some sales goals as a measure of your growth in this area – as always, remember that it’s a balance and to avoid coming off too salesy.

Be sure to check out Cheryl B. Engelhardt’s six-part S.T.A.G.E.S. series on email marketing for artists on the TuneCore Blog.

Pitching Your Music

Just because you released a great single, EP or album doesn’t mean people are magically going to know all about it. Yes, you’ve sent your emails, you’ve posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you’ve made the release available on your site, and you’ve shared links to digital stores and streaming platforms to friends and family. If you think that your digital marketing efforts are over after all of that, guess again.

If you want to be like your favorite artists and see your music being featured on playlists and blogs and local digital outlets, it’s going to need to be pitched! While at some point you may be interested in hiring a publicist for this sort of work, don’t be fooled – you can take a DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to pitching.

Playlists

As streaming continues to attract more and more music fans, platforms like Apple Music and Spotify have found ways to offer these fans curated playlists of music they may love, or, in many cases, not KNOW they love yet. That’s why streaming has laid a foundation for new levels of music discovery – and independent artists are not being left out of the fun!

As an artist or band just starting out, there are a few steps you can take toward trying to get your music placed on some of these playlists. First thing’s first: you’ll want to make sure you’re verified on any platforms that allow you to upload photos and build profiles. From there, it is equally important to be promoting your streaming platform links – on social, on your site, in emails – in order to remind people where they can find you and add you to their personal playlists.

A tactic that has gone overlooked by some artists is pitching to lesser-known, unofficial playlists. For example, while we all know about “Rap Caviar” on Spotify, there are tons and tons of ‘unofficial’ Spotify curators that build playlists with decent (and dedicated) follower counts. Try finding these folks on social media and let them know what you love about their playlists and why your newest song would make a great addition to it. Remember: don’t spam, be polite, and don’t always expect a response.

Also, if you’re using TuneCore to distribute your newest music and you give yourself a minimum of three weeks lead time, you can take advantage of our Feature Release form that makes its way to editorial teams across digital stores.

Blogs & Other Digital Outlets

If you’re making music, it’s not unlikely that you’re a fan who has his or her favorite online resources for new music. Blogs and online magazines that cover music can be a great way of getting new eyes and ears on your tunes. As mentioned above, you can get started on these efforts early in your music career without paying for a publicist – it just takes some work.

Start by putting time aside for research – lots of it. Scour every corner of the internet for blogs and other sites that like to cover the kind of music you make (and make sure the sites are regularly updated, too). While they may not make it easy, you should be able to find general contact information – or, in some cases, specific “Submission Guidelines” – somewhere on the site.

Build yourself a robust media list, and where you can, try to find specific writers who seem to be fans of your genre (one tip is locating writers who have covered artists that you’d compare your style to – that way you also have a reference point in the introductory email) – sending them the EPK you learned about above will help them learn more about you.

Remember: it’s important not to get to discouraged or distressed when you begin pitching to writers and music sites. If you’re not getting responses, follow up once – but respect the inboxes of who you’re pitching to, and don’t take it personally.

Conclusion

Whew. You made it all the way down here, good job. This ultimately has been a high-level look at some steps independent artists can begin taking when it comes to not only promoting and selling their music, but also building and engaging with a fan base.

Don’t feel overwhelmed – once you’re started, take some pride in your development as an artist or band and know that you’re establishing a business acumen that will help you navigate the music industry.