The music industry has changed in a very radical way.
Welcome to the streaming world.
To promote our music effectively in 2021, we have to completely rethink our strategies and learn to accept that we live in a streaming world where music is no longer a commodity.
Record labels still sign artists, and you might even say they still run the show. But not for long.
Independent artists are making a more substantial impact day by day, especially those who achieve success without the help of a traditional record label.
Bands and artists now have more tools at their disposal than ever before. The rise of DIY marketing has also given independent artists more creativity and freedom.
It can be challenging and frustrating to wear all the different hats when promoting your music on your own, but it is gratifying when you begin to see positive results.
The hardest part about being a musician is turning your passion for creating music into a business and a full-time sustainable income.
Just as with any facet in life, not everyone will succeed. However, with a solid marketing plan and armed with all the information, making a career as an artist isn’t too much of a pipe dream.
The traditional music industry is dying. It’s only a matter of time before the small artists become the mainstream.
Table of Contents
- Starting Out as an Artist
- Web Presence
- Building an Audience
- Other Unique Marketing Ideas
Starting Out as an Artist
One of the most intimidating things when starting out is hitting the upload button.
You’ve slaved away creating music. You’re probably asking yourself, “is it perfect?”, “will people will like it?”
But you have to commit. Put yourself out there, even if there are flaws. You will grow as an artist, and everyone starts somewhere.
Even if you don’t have access to fancy microphones, just figure it out. Use your cell phone to record a video for YouTube. Find a local audio engineer intern or music producer looking for experience. Often times they will work with your budget.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to check out an artist and can’t find their music on any page, streaming platform, or even YouTube. It’s very frustrating when someone tells me they have a band with nothing to show for it.
Operate Like a Brand Would
Although it sounds slimy, you need to have a business mindset if you want to succeed as an artist. Everything you do from touring, distribution, outreach, radio play, should all be business oriented.
Keep an open mind with all of this, as there’s no such thing as selling out in today’s industry landscape.
Times Have Changed
No longer is the artist a mysterious figure. You have to take extra time to interact with your fans.
What does this mean?
You’ll be staying later after shows to meet fans for one. It gives you a chance to sign something, sell some more merchandise, and create a personal connection with your fans.
You’ll be interacting with them online on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Thank them for commenting, see what their favorite songs are, ask what cities to play. Get creative. It’s all part of social interaction.
Even though you may be an aspiring musician or artist, you have to be a genuine person first.
Always remember that one wrong move when interacting with a fan could turn them away from being a loyal listener.
This may sound cliche, but it’s important to remain professional in your music career. And don’t fall into the trap thinking that your career begins when you develop a following. Your career begins the day you make your social accounts.
While no one may care now, since you are just starting out, things from the past can often come back to haunt you in the future.
Once you develop a following, you’ll have lots of fans digging through everything you’ve done, Googling your name, trying to find any old demos, pictures, you name it.
Be professional from day one, or you’ll regret it.
Talking to your fans at a show is the best way to connect. But if you’re not at a show, what can you do?
Email marketing might seem old-fashioned in the age of social media, but it is still a powerful form of marketing.
I challenge you to visit a famous artist or record label’s website and not find an email sign up form.
With the power of email marketing, you can keep all your fans up to date on tons of things:
- New singles
- New music videos
- Tour dates
- Upcoming albums
- Articles or interviews
- Live Q&As
- Personal blog posts
How to Set Up a Mailing List
Emails collected from fans will come in two different forms: physical and online.
Physical Sign Ups
If you already play live shows, it’s a good idea to have a sheet of paper on a clipboard where fans can sign up for your list.
You can offer an incentive for signing up for your band’s email list like a free download or a free sticker when you sign up.
Here’s a Word document you can use as a template for your own signup sheet.
Online Sign Ups
Not sure where to begin? Not a big deal.
We currently use AWeber for email marketing.
No matter which email platform you choose, you can begin growing email subscribers by asking you current social followers to sign up for your list.
Welcome Email and Autoresponders
Most email marketing platforms give you the option to send a message upon your visitor signing up. There is also a function known as the autoresponder, which allows you to create a follow-up sequence of emails that are sent out automatically.
Create an incentive for signing up like getting a free download of a new remix of your song! Download cards used to work wonders for email signups, but given that we are in the streaming world, this may be a bit outdated.
One strategy that would work today could be a private music video for email subscribers. An acoustic version of your single possibly. Get creative!
An email from you to your fans needs to be personal. Act like you’re actually talking to them in person.
Don’t sound over-hyped always ending in exclamations.
Thank them for listening and always remind them that you appreciate their support.
Connecting with fans is one thing, but conducting outreach to relevant music blogs and magazines is also key.
If your music lands in a gigantic Spotify playlist, your career can change overnight. Janelle Rogers, who wrote a piece for the Tunecore blog, lays out the best ways to pitch your music to blogs and Spotify playlist curators.
It’s key to always make sure you understand the publication prior to pitching. You wouldn’t submit a metal album to a hip hop magazine would you? Bulk spamming your music will leave you with no responses and emails in the trash bin.
Social media is an integral part of your music marketing strategy. If you’re not utilizing the major platforms, you’re destined to fail.
It’s crucial to use these tools correctly, as many artists go about it the wrong way.
Whatever you do, remember that shortcuts only lead to quick wins, but ultimately failures.
Never rely on cheap tactics like sub for sub, buying followers, buying views, etc. People can see right through it when you have 100,000 views on a YouTube video and zero comments.
These strategies have never worked and never will work. Ever.
It’s vital that you brand all your social media accounts the exact same way. You need to have the same logo and promotional photos across every platform.
Don’t have a logo or promo photos?
Check out Fiverr.com if you need a logo created. There are many aspiring artists and graphic designers who would love to work with you.
If you need promotional photos done, find a local university near you in the area. There’s bound to be dozens of students looking to fill their portfolio with their work that’s well within your budget.
Building an Audience
Take it slow.
If you create something, be sure to share it on all your pages. Here are the leading social websites you absolutely must be on:
Consider Facebook your artist’s hub if you will. I wouldn’t use this one as my central platform of outreach, but I would use it for big content posts.
You can join many Facebook groups for music promotion, but beware, as many of these groups are just sub for sub cesspools.
You may think there’s no harm in posting your music here, but there’s really a slight chance that the page with 100,000 fans is actually legitimate. It’s more or less a waste of your time.
This is your primary platform of outreach. You’ll have the most personal connection out of the four websites we listed above.
Gaining Twitter Followers
After you have “branded” your Twitter profile with your promo photos, added a biography section with a link to your music, you can begin your outreach.
To get more followers and listeners, find artist accounts in the same genre as your music. Find out who follows that particular artist and begin to follow some of these accounts.
Send a friendly direct message with something along the lines of, “Hey, I enjoy x artist. I love that one song they wrote. We’re a band as well, you can listen on Spotify here if you’d like.”
Repeat this process over a few months. To your surprise, you will have people actively checking out your music daily! Don’t abuse this; take it slow.
This is not going to be the most effective outreach strategy, but it can work.
I find that cover videos on YouTube tend to be the easiest way to get discovered these days.
Start taking photos. Lots of photos. Post them up on your band or artist Instagram account.
Like with Twitter, you can follow the same technique on this platform. People get excited when they see a band or artist follow them. It’s a win-win situation.
Use relevant hashtags and respond to as many comments as you can when you receive them.
You don’t want to annoy your followers, but you also don’t want them to forget you exist.
Post to your Facebook a few times a week. You can tweet three or four times a day. And for Instagram, post a photo/video every day or every other day if possible.
You should always be thinking of new post ideas.
The sky’s the limit. Weekly vlog videos on your YouTube channel are a great way to engage with your fanbase. They will love seeing things behind the scenes.
Quick video clips of you working on new music are also excellent content.
Here are some ideas you can use today:
- Behind-the-scenes photos
- Twitter polls
- Upcoming Album Art
- Live images
- Fan of the month
- Short videos
- Live streams
- Your own Spotify playlist of songs you currently love
- Latest YouTube videos
- Merch designs
- Trending topics
I’m sure there are a million more content ideas out there, but you get the picture.
Encourage your fans to retweet, share, and engage with the post. Questions often do the best with engagement.
Your YouTube channel is absolutely essential in 2021.
If you’re new to YouTube and don’t know where to begin, it’s okay. Also, remember that your first video probably won’t be a success.
The important thing here is that you do it and upload it. And keep doing it.
People are consuming more and more content every day. It’s vital that you get in front of their faces on that screen and engage them.
Your YouTube channel will be a place where you can upload music videos, audio visualizers, vlogs, Q&A videos, “skit” commercials to promote new releases, and anything else you think would be relevant.
Cover videos of popular songs are a huge way to get noticed in 2021. People love watching unique covers, so consider this part of your strategy.
If you’re the first cover video when a big song comes out, you can get thousands of views and subscribers quickly.
Even if a song is older, iconic songs done in a fresh and unique way can garner millions of views. Take a look at this metal version of “Africa” by Toto.
Africa saw a major resurgence in 2017, arguably becoming more popular than it was when it came out. Paying attention to Google is one way to capitalize on a growing trend. Google even has its own Trends feature you can use. Take a look at the data for the term ‘Toto Africa’ for the past five years.
Trends are measured on a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being little to no interest and 100 being the most popular sensation on the internet.
As a band/artist, it’s acceptable to upload one video every two weeks, but if you want to grow faster, you should upload more than once a week if you can.
If you only upload one video every six months, people will forget about you.
Similar to YouTube, Twitch is a video platform that focuses on live content. Most of the streamers on the website are gamers, but more and more musicians are popping up.
The8BitDrummer is a well-known streamer who plays along to video game music on his channel. Check his channel out and see what is possible!
Live online performances are a great way to interact with fans in real time. If your band is ambitious enough, you may want to consider adding a Twitch live schedule to broadcast your performances.
Your Band’s Website
I haven’t mentioned it yet, but it is still essential to have a website for your band in 2021.
Social platforms are not always here to stay; you could lose connection to all your fans on Facebook if the company goes the way of MySpace, for example.
Your website won’t bring in too much traffic, but it’s still a right home for links to all your music, social accounts, videos, and blog content if you’re writers.
Bandzoogle is a fantastic platform that makes website creation simple, but if you’re a little more hands-on, I’d consider building from WordPress.
One of the excellent benefits of WordPress is WooCommerce. This is a plugin that runs your web store. One of the innovations I wish we had access to when starting out is on-demand printing.
With WooCommerce, you can use companies like Printful or Spreadshop to create a merchandise store that doesn’t require physical inventory. Simply upload your designs to the platform and the company will print them and ship them for you.
You’ll have to pay the base cost for manufacturing each item, but it is very much “set it and forget it.” For example, a t-shirt may cost $11 to make, but you’ll sell it in your store for $25, netting you $14 per shirt.
We have been using Printful for around a year now and the quality of the merchandise is fantastic. Be sure to read our guide for starting on-demand printing if this interests you or your band.
Other Unique Marketing Ideas
Keep creativity in mind when thinking of marketing. It doesn’t have to be boring “suit and tie” stuff.
Alternate Reality Games
A new and innovative form of viral marketing comes in the form of ARGs, also known as alternate reality games. They are used for everything from product releases, brand launches, album releases, and much more.
For example, a brand might launch a cryptic website that is hidden with different messages or codes that lead users down a rabbit hole. Hidden messages are often hidden in the source code of the page or inside of images.
The twenty one pilots DEMA alternate reality game
A major popular act, twenty one pilots, launched what I believe was an ARG prior to their latest album release.
There were a series of cryptic pages hosted on https://dmaorg.info/. The website is still live so you can check it out for yourself. Upon visiting the website, users were greeted with this text.
Reddit was flooded with theories and fans would continue to dig. The ARG came to an end when twenty one pilots announced the end of their hiatus and released two new singles.
The most notable ARG I can think of is Cicada 3301. This was an alternate reality game focused on recruiting codebreakers and linguists. Whoever was behind this posted several puzzles beginning in 2012.
It all began when an anonymous 4chan user posted this black and white image.
For next few years, conspiracies would run wild as tech savvy internet users scrambled to crack the codes.
There’s no real conclusion to the story, as the organization has never confirmed if someone solved the last puzzle. Unverified claims have run rampant on the internet, however.
There have also been a number of allegations posed against Cicada 3301, but these have mostly been discredited to my knowledge.
The whole story of Cicada 3301 is both fascinating and downright creepy. It has been called “the most elaborate and mysterious puzzle of the internet age.” I’d be willing to bet that marketing students today are studying the phenomenon in their curriculums.
While I don’t think you’ll be reaching out to your fans to discover codebreakers, there is a great deal of knowledge we can take away from Cicada 3301 and apply it to our own marketing strategies.
Those are my tips for music promotion in 2021. I hope this article has helped you or your band out. Be sure to leave a comment down below with other strategies your group is utilizing. Thanks for reading!