[Editors Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]
It’s a complicated time to be making music.
Factors like music fans en masse increasingly favoring playlists over traditional albums, and our ever shortening attention spans, make the act of promoting a new single or album tricky business these days. However, one thing couldn’t be more clear: Sticking to a narrow set of traditional methods of promoting music just doesn’t cut it in today’s uber-competitive and quickly changing musical landscape.
Old promotion techniques don’t work as well as they used to
The music industry is now an entirely different animal than it was even just a couple of years ago. A collective acceptance of major streaming platforms like Spotify have a lot to do with it, not to mention the fact that playlists are now encroaching on territory that’s been held by the traditional radio formats for nearly a century.
But even without these seismic shifts within the industry, even bigger changes in modern society are informing the culture surrounding music in an equally significant way. In a seemingly never ending quest to satiate the content-addicted masses, more music is being produced now than ever before, and a decent amount of it is really good.
So, what does this all mean?
Well, first of all, it means that in order to catch the attention of audiences and press outlets, you’ll probably need to branch out from traditional forms of music promotion. Where as a quality radio campaign paired with some thoughtful social media promotion might’ve gotten the job done five years ago, it won’t work nearly as well today.
For example, free and effective social media promotion is becoming a tougher thing to come across. A few years ago, Facebook began making it harder for creatives to connect with their followers without paying. Sure, you might have a sizable social media following, but you won’t be able to keep them engaged and informed as much as you used to without paying for it. Recent controversies and increasing distrust in social media doesn’t help matters either.
Research and diversify
To compete with all the literal and figurative noise happening in the music industry today, you’ll most likely need to incorporate a diverse set of old and new promotion methods for your music. For example, we all know the massive importance of playlists in the music culture right now, but sticking to a few old methods of promotion won’t do much in the way of helping to get your songs featured on them.
Research is essential for strong and diverse music promotion in 2018. An ever evolving cast of blogs, traditional press outlets and individual music enthusiasts are still doing the bulk of the work in introducing music to the general listening public, but large, heavily followed playlists are quickly beginning to catch up. And by design, algorithms used by the gatekeepers of these playlists––Spotify and Apple Music, for example––scan a diverse set of industry indicators like blogs, radio and smaller independent playlists to learn about what songs are gaining traction to consider what new music gets featured.
Yes, a solid (and most likely very expensive) PR or radio campaign can typically still do a lot in the way of getting exposure for your music, but there’s no guarantee that your investment will connect your music with the places it could make the most impact. Doing the hard, tedious work of finding and pitching to tastemakers who you think might resonate with your work in addition to employing more traditional forms of music promotion will give you the best shot at getting your new work out there.
These tastemakers can be in the form of everything from small blogs to independent internet radio stations to the music curation staff at NPR Music. Figuring out the right people to send your music to and finding a way to contact them takes a huge amount of time and energy, but it’s now an crucial part of getting your music to the right set of listeners. Breaks come in all shapes and sizes these days, and depending on your music, you’re just as likely to find one on Youtube as you are through getting a song get picked up by a big radio station. Research and diversify accordingly.
Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.