If you’re a small-time artist promoting your music on a budget, then this post is for you. You have to remember, if you don’t have money, you have to trade in your labor and time in exchange for money. But, building an audience online takes time, even if you have money.
Thankfully, there are different ways you can make money through your music in 2020. You just need the right marketing strategy.
We’re not going to lie to you, none of these strategies are a quick way to promote your music, but there is great value when you can build an organic fan base from the ground up.
They’re loyal and enthusiastic about what you offer. And, this should be the ultimate goal if you’re going to make it in the music industry. Your goal is to build a brand and an audience. This means everything you put out needs to be good, every, single, time.
Doing that will make marketing way easier. After this is done, our advice would be to pick one marketing channel at a time. Trying multiple channels will have you spread too thin.
Before picking, understand that promoting on a platform that’s not yours is dangerous. You can build up a huge following, and the next day have your account deleted. This is why we suggest starting a website first.
Building your own website is one of the hardest things on this list.
But, it’s the most valuable which is why we began with it. Search engine optimization (SEO) is something that’s helpful to understand. SEO is a skill you have to learn to bring in more people.
The downside is it takes months to kick in. The good news is that once you start building organic traffic, you’ll be able to get more traffic without paying more. If done correctly, SEO can increase your traffic exponentially.
What makes a website valuable?
A website is the most valuable because it's your platform.
No one can take it away from you. You can post whatever content you want without worrying about being demonetized. As a musician, think of your website as your resume. You’ll be able to categorize your music and write about what went into making a song.
Once you have enough people visiting your site, you can sell your own drum kits or promote your own songs.
Even your own website holds value. If you keep your domain name general, and not too specific (e.g. your name), and have traffic coming in, you can sell your site. A valuation for a great site is 30x monthly revenue.
A website also brings people to you. Imagine writing a great article, or placing a good beat, people can go to your website and find your contact information there. A website provides an opportunity outlet.
There are so many things you can do with your own website. If you’re planning to build a life-long asset, strongly consider a website.
Why should you build a website?
- It can't be taken away
- You can place whatever content you like
- You can sell it later
- Acts like a professional resume
- Artists can find you through your website
The perfect companion to a website are emails. Your website is your work, and the email is a tool you can use to bring your audience to your work.
There are 2 different email strategies you can use for audiences:
Drips campaigns are an automated process. The whole point of utilizing a drip campaign is to slowly acclimate your audience to you. You don’t want to sell to them right away.
A drip campaign allows you to send a series of emails with a one-time setup. All you have to do is write the emails, personalize the emails, and hit send.
When you’re doing a drip campaign, make sure you’re providing value. If you don’t, people will open your emails less frequently.
Before creating a campaign, make sure you follow these tips:
- Have a call-to-action
- Easy to read
Having good timing increases open rates and this means more people will see your emails. You should also have a call-to-action to direct people on what to do. An example of a call-to-action is to ask people to click the link to watch one of your YouTube videos.
An ideal time to send an email is when you just published a video. This way, you can send your audience to watch it right away. Sending a targeted audience to your video means more views and likes which is good for the algorithm.
Another way to increase open rates is to segment your audience.
This is another way to personalize your emails. Segmenting personas also makes it easier to sell. If you know who likes what, there’s no need to blast emails, you can tailor your email to the person.
As a musician, you can segment audiences into producers, musicians, rappers, singers, and more. Thinking outside the box will take you a long way in marketing. Don't be limited by the personas I've given you. The key is to experiment and look at the data.
There is a slight difference when doing a drip campaign versus a nurturing campaign. A drip campaign is used to build more familiarity. A nurture campaign is a more targeted email sequence created for the subscriber to buy something.
To help you create a nurture campaign, it’s important that you use segmented data. Some examples include how many times a lead has stayed on a specific webpage, how many times they opened your emails, and more.
Before you write up the campaign, lay out the steps of your emails. A natural progression of a nurture email campaign is to have an awareness stage, consideration stage, and decision stage.
Why should you build an email list?
- Get visitors to return
- Personalize message to audiences
- Build trust
Although you don’t have direct control over your audience, YouTube is still a great place to market your music. Producers have literally built their brands off of YouTube.
Creating videos with your face in it creates trust. Viewers are more likely to take you serious and you build credibility if you’re consistent with your videos.
You can display your own beats, create tutorials, and collaborate with other producers through video. Collaborating with other producers is not new, but through video, both of your audiences can view you through video which creates trust with a new audience.
Other musicians will also be on YouTube. Creating on YouTube is a great way to meet other kindred spirits. If all you ever did was collaborate with other artists, you can make it very far with your music.
You can also upload behind the scenes content to show fans how you work. There is so much valuable content you can offer fans, they’ll have no choice but to stick around.
Why should you build a YouTube channel?
- Showcase your talent
- Collaborate with other artists
- Build trust
Discord is growing faster than ever. Every year it seems to be tripling in user base. The more impressive amount is the amount of monthly active users at 50+ million users.
This rate of growth means it's the perfect time to hop on and start building a community. Waiting another year or two would seem like trying to grow a group on Facebook. A little too late.
Discord is interesting because it looks like your own platform. A server, which is another word for community when talking about Discord, is where you can create different channels. And channels are different chat rooms separated by topic.
Influencers have started using channels as membership tiers. The more money a member gives, the more exclusive their channel is. It’s similar to paying for cable subscriptions. But, instead of getting more channels, you get exclusive access to the server owner which would be you, the musician.
If you build a sizable community of people interested in you, or your music, then you have built-in marketing. By just sharing what you’re passionate about, you’re directly marketing your talent and it won’t be weird. In fact, don't be surprised if other members market their own music. You'll still get most of the attention though.
A server lets you get more personal with your fans too. They can directly message you and converse with you. When members stick around, they’ll actually form friendships with other members and stick around for even longer. And every time they enter the server, they’ll think of you.
You can also take a book out of the gamers and live stream yourself making music while chatting in Discord. This is another way your audience can see you work behind-the-scenes. The only difference is they get to see the whole process, unlike the transitions in a video.
The best part about Discord is the tools. Starting a Discord server means you get bots. And these bots can moderate for you. They can also count your community stats and so much more. We’re not exaggerating when we say the bots do plenty.
Musicians haven’t saturated the Discord space either. The main user base for Discord are gamers. Having a musician hop on the platform would be something refreshing, it’s also a way to get a head start on other musicians who will start using the platform more.
Why should you build a Discord server?
- Growing user base
- Build relationships
- Use bots
Playlists on Spotify is why you want your music on there. It’s a great way of marketing. Anytime you can market something without making it seem like marketing, do it.
Other artists also have playlists. This means other artists can promote your music without you having to do anything. It’s also a natural way to do marketing. Playlists are like the online form of word-of-mouth marketing. And nothing beats word-of-mouth marketing. Pair this built-in promotion with data, and you’ll know exactly what type of person enjoys your content.
There are millions of people on Spotify. Every time a new user registers, they have to input personal information about themselves. This includes where they live, how old they are, and their email address.
All of this information is available to every artist. As an artist, knowing the data of your audience has 3 advantages. First, Spotify will promote your concert to audiences who are nearby. Another advantage is that you can identify what makes you popular and capitalize. If a fan really likes your music, then they’ll want to be notified whenever you have new music.
The final advantage is Spotify can identify these trends and push you over the top. If Spotify notices a specific demographic likes your music, their algorithm will push your music to them. All of the data is just a stepping stone to more dollars.
What you profit depends on who you’re signed to.
If you’re signed to a label, then you should just skip this section. But, if you’re an independent musician you should stay.
The reason we say this is because musicians signed to labels will have their profits split up amongst a big pie. Spotify pays 70% of every dollar it receives and distributes it back to the original publisher.
The problem is the owners could be anyone else besides the musician. If you’re an independent artist who has gained a lot of popularity, then streaming dollars are worthwhile.
Many radio stations or alternative online platforms won’t pay what Spotify pays. They’re noted as paying artists 2x more than other platforms. Essentially, Spotify is still a great place to promote even if you don’t make any money. Eventually, you’ll make money once your name is out there enough.
We suggest hopping on the platform sooner than later. Streaming has provided access that CDs can’t. The consensus is access is what consumers want. And, why wouldn’t they? If we can see an entire artists’ catalog with a click of a button, who wouldn’t want that? It’s convenient, and it’s a win for artists all around.
Why should you be on Spotify?
- Artists can promote each other
- Streaming dollars
Reddit has a user base of 300 million plus. It has a much bigger user base than Discord. There are so many communities on Reddit, anything you find interesting will have its own “subreddit.” And, subreddits are communities which share a common interest.
If you’re a producer/musician who has a real interest in the technological side of music, Reddit will be a great platform. A majority of the Reddit visitors are tech-savvy.
Reddit’s whole community includes a lot of technology enthusiasts. Reddit receives 27 million visitors to tech communities and 38% of users are tech enthusiasts. These numbers will only increase. In 2018, the total user base was at 200 million. Today, it’s almost double that, if not more.
A producer can use this to their advantage. You can talk about more intricate details when it comes to audio, or, producers can explain how different audio equipment works. Producers can talk about different amplifiers, or different wireless conversion kits.
Building A Reddit Community
Creating an online community on Reddit means you have to give people a reason to keep coming back. This means constant value. Creating a community on Reddit takes a long time.
If you’re going to have a community, think of your unique value proposition. Ask yourself, what makes your community unique? What will get people to keep coming back? Another way you can approach this is to think of platforms which already have huge audiences. The “NBA” subreddit has the NBA to always get content from. You can also start a sub-niche of a major niche.
One example of this is having a subreddit dedicated to a certain team in the NBA. If you already have somewhat of a brand, your subreddit doesn’t have to be too unique because people will come back because of you.
Reddit doesn't provide as many tools as Discord does. The mistake a lot of companies make when trying to promote on Reddit is trying to be corporate-like. You can’t blatantly promote on Reddit because that's not the culture. It’s all about having genuine conversations first and foremost, then promote when the situation comes.
Value, when it comes to Reddit, is providing great content. And, you do that through posts and community engagement.
Reddit does have some cool tools though. Reddit has what is called Reddit “Gold” and “Silver.” These are awards given if you create a great post, or submit a comment people find entertaining.
You can also customize your subreddit to make it more of a community. Take a look at popular subreddits and see how they’ve customized their subreddits. Sometimes subreddits have customized avatars to differentiate members. One example are the moderators. Moderators are distinguishable on Reddit with their avatars.
Building a community is a lot harder on Reddit than other platforms, but this effort comes with great reward. If a post on your subreddit happens to go viral, that's 20-30,000 upvotes, 3,000 comments, and a lot of new members joining.
Depending on your effort, you can have a community that’s more loyal to you than other platforms. Having a subreddit is similar to having your own platform.
If this doesn’t appeal to you, try other platforms. You don’t need a whole community, sometimes you just need a place to boost your content without as much effort.
Why should you build a subreddit?
- Build relationships
- Wide user base
- Moderation tools
Instagram is another platform for small communities. A small instagram page that only has 10,000 followers could be making a lot of money, it all depends on the level of engagement and what you sell. Even if your follower count is small, a bunch of loyal followers is worth way more than you think.
Some examples of small great communities are @patternobserver and @themissionhq.
What’s more important in the long-run is to build an actual community. Engagement is the #1 priority when building any community. Here are some tips to help build that community.
Building A Community
The first thing you need to do is have a theme to your page. This seems obvious, but it’s more uncommon than you think.
Having a theme lets new visitors know what your page is all about instantly. Another key to building a community is consistency.
There are no compromises when posting. The page needs to have a new post everyday. It's tough building a community when you’re competing against so many. Even if there aren’t a lot of pages in your niche, consider people’s attention spans. Posting everyday keeps your page top of mind.
.Good captions engage the audience even more. Encourage people who see your post to save and like it. It’s a universal rule to have a call to action in your caption. You want to make sure your audience knows what to do whenever you post.
If anyone messages you, respond to them. It’s a great feeling for followers to get a response from someone they might look up to. Even if they’re just asking for help, take the time to help them. Any community building is dependent on having genuine interactions.
In addition, engage people who comment on your posts. This shows your community you care. Using stories also helps drive engagement. If followers don’t see your new post once they open Instagram, a story can remind them to check you out. Stories can also be used to promote short clips. Musicians can use stories to share snippets or promote anything coming up.
Other tools that help are IGTV. This is another tool you can use to show yourself working behind the scenes. Another way you can use IGTV is to have a contest. Ask followers to share their best music and go through each beat/song and pick a winner on IGTV. Your followers will tune in considering they can win something.
What's cool about Instagram is the constant update of tools. There are so many ways to market on Instagram, the features we listed are just some of the more prominent ones.
Why should you build a subreddit?
- Build relationships
- Great tools for marketing
- Wide user base
There are musicians that think using Twitter is a waste of time. It doesn’t have the same features that IG has to showcase your talent, and the video interface isn’t as smooth as Instagrams.
But, it’s another platform which means there is another audience you can reach.
Twitter is designed to have more conversations. Unlike Facebook, Twitter lets you roam around. When you sign up for Facebook, the first thing you notice are the friend recommendations. This is like virtual networking events. Nobody wants to force an interaction.
Twitter’s different because users are not bombarded. You can lurk with less disturbance unlike Facebook. You can find people you resonate with through Twitter. Any interest you have, you can find people who share the same interests on Twitter.
For a musician, there are many ways to approach how you tweet. One way is to just announce when you have something new coming. There are a lot of artists who tweet just to announce upcoming shows, or when new music is dropping.
Assuming you don’t already have a large platform, you need to get more involved with the Twitter community. One advantage you have with Twitter in comparison to Instagram is commenting links.
Instagram forbids you from using a link as a comment. Make sure you do this tastefully though. Promoting your material when there is a serious discussion about something else makes you look bad.
Every platform has a culture. And, when every platform has a culture, this means you need to operate differently to build an audience.
Creating An Audience
Being consistent is the name of the game for whatever platform you choose. Your website, Instagram, and Twitter are platforms you need to be consistent on.
Another rule you need to follow is posting helpful content. At the very least, your tweets should be entertaining. Your tweets need to have some value. Constantly promoting yourself is a losing battle. It keeps your audience from engaging with you because every time they see your tweets, they’ll think of advertisements.
The key to social media in general is to treat your audience like humans. Take time out of your day to respond to comments. Take time to hop in other people’s comments. Being genuine on the platform will make it look like you’re there for the people (which you should be).
If you see someone praising you, retweet them. This shows you see your audience, and it acts like a testimonial to other followers. You can also ask your audience’s opinion on topics.
It’s common to see people on Twitter ask for book recommendations. As a musician, you can ask your audience what’s their favorite song in your catalog, or, you can ask them what artist you should work with.
There are many ways to approach this. When engaging with your audience, make sure to keep it creative. Asking the same questions as others can have you ridiculed on social media.
Twitter is simple when it comes to the features.
You have comments, likes, retweets, bookmarks, and more. As an artist trying to promote themselves, aim for retweets and shares. These two metrics make up average tweet performance.
Any engagement is good, but retweets and shares get more eyes on your profile. Everything else after retweets and shares are icing on the cake.
For more visibility, use comments to appear on bigger profiles. Use it to comment on tweets that go viral, and use it to engage with fans.
These four features are the building blocks to promoting yourself on Twitter besides followers.
Why should you market on Twitter?
- Conversations with followers
- Link promotion
- Twitter encourages following people who have the same interests
Blogs are undervalued.
Contacting musicians who have personal websites is an underrated promotion move. Social media gets all the shine because of its virality. Social media is also a great place to promote media assets. But, blogs can be a foundational piece to promoting yourselves.
Why Should You Promote On Blogs?
Websites give you more room to demonstrate your expertise.
Unlike social media, you get to write long-form content. Assuming writing isn’t your thing, you can also place one of your YouTube videos on another musician’s site.
Either way, promoting on other websites is a win. Placing your content on another website also has another benefit.
If you write something up, you should place a link in the article linking back to your website. This boosts your website’s popularity and brings in more visitors.
The best places to share your link are areas where audiences can see it easily. A couple places are in the author’s bio, and in the first paragraph.
If you create a video, have it link back to your YouTube channel. It really depends where you want people to go once they click the link.
We suggest bringing visitors from the link to your website. Hopefully, your content is really good so they sign up on your email list. Getting people on your email list makes it easier to reach them.
Collaborating with others on the internet is fun. There are so many ways to reach someone. We have social media, and our own platforms to contact each other. But, one of the best ways is to get with other people in real life.
Why should you reach out to blogs?
- Backlinks can strengthen your website
- Potential collaborations
- Automatic traffic
Podcasts are still a new market to explore. No one knows the true value of podcasts which makes this more interesting. It looks like podcasts are even going for 9 figures lately.
This medium is great for a musician because it's a way for an audience to really understand who you are. Social media isn’t meant for long form content. The only thing social media does is take the best snippets they can to get the most clicks.
With long form content, audiences get to see your personality, thought process, and build some sort of connection. Whenever you do an interview, it’s an opportunity to share some knowledge. Audiences love it when you share uncommon knowledge that can potentially help them. If you’re a lesser known musician though, you’re going to have to search for podcasts to get on.
How to find podcasts
It’s not hard to find a podcast at all. The first place you can find a podcast is through iTunes, assuming you have iOS.
You can look at the iTunes Podcast directory or type in specific keywords on iTunes. The other option is using Google. A lesser known way to find podcasts is YouTube. A lot of podcasts are coming in through video form too. It’s just the way our new media is working now.
If you Google a podcast and land on a website, look for a “contact me” page, or, use a tool like hunter.io to find emails.
Why should you go on podcasts?
- Audiences get to build a deeper connection with you
- Opportunity to share your experiences and help other artists
- Podcast audiences are more diversified than other platforms
This is an awesome strategy for musicians. Working with others who have an audience exposes you to newer audiences. Newer audiences means more potential fans.
Another great part of working with other artists is the connection they have with other artists. This means more collaborations and potential music. This will give you another opportunity for serendipity.
Besides working with other artists your size, industry makers could catch word of your talent and try to sign you if they hear your name around. Essentially, all these new encounters can lead you to meeting someone important. Now, we don’t encourage you to just meet people and then run off. No, you need to build actual relationships which bring us to the most important point.
You have to actually grow with local artists. If you’re a producer and pair up with a local rapper, do your best to make each other better. Climbing the ranks together ensures you a longer career. If that artist blows up, you get first dibs at delivering the beats to that artist. And if your artist breaks through, other artists will want to work with you.
It’s common for musicians to get success with the same team they were building with. Trying to shoot your way to the top by working with a much bigger artist isn’t the way. Most success stories happen over time, and with the same team they started with.
Why should you work with local artists?
- Potential for life-long partnerships with other artists
- Overlapping audiences
- Potential exposure to industry makers
Do This Before Anything Else
Before anything else, you need to be making the best music possible your first priority.
Before promoting anything, get in the studio and create the best music. The music business is a tough industry to make music, but, with the advent of the internet, one good post can bring a lot of people to your page. There’s plenty of real estate digitally.
Furthermore, find a way to differentiate yourself. This includes creating custom thumbnails, signature sound, or melodies. Essentially, find a way to be you, through your music.
If the journey seems long, understand it takes time to build a community. Fooling people through personas or flash won’t do any good. People use the internet for intimacy much more than they used to. Online communities have their own culture. Proceed as if you’re entering a public setting and have genuine interactions.