The marketing side of music in today’s industry has never been so full of opportunity and full of fluff and failure at the same time for independent artists. There are so many ways to promote your music, from Youtube ads, to Tik Tok influencers, to Spotify playlists, to independent radio promotion, but at the same time, there are way too many new ways to promote that haven’t been tested enough to be tried and true.
Labels and PR agents are still stuck on old forms of marketing that new curators don’t like anymore. New, powerful promotional outlets are finding their own exclusive marketing tactics and won’t accept talent outside of their network. Newer outlets that have a good sales pitch and cool-looking site claim they can promote you well, but then they actually have no working methods and wind up wasting your time and money. Advertising platforms like Facebook and Google are making it easy to promote products and services in other niches, but music marketing is hard to get profit from.
With all of the confusion in the music world, it can be extremely hard and downright discouraging when it comes to finding a company to promote your work. What will work for you? What will work with your budget? Will anything work at all? The truth is, you won’t know until you try it out. Here are some critical questions you need to ask yourself when looking for a company to promote your music.
You need to make sure you see several examples of a working campaign that showcase the skill that the marketing company has. You need to be looking for key metrics here, including social proof, sales, and fan feedback.
Social Proof - Does the artist or band you see being promoted by this company have a lot of likes, shares, and comments on their music release? Do the numbers look like they were inflated? Do the comments look genuine or like they were written by bots? Does the number of followers or fans that the artist has match up with the amount of engagement they have on their posts?
Be on the lookout for companies that only specialize in boosting your numbers with bots and fake accounts. These companies are likely a waste of energy since they aren’t connecting you to actual fans that can follow your work. Social Proof can be handy for making your pages look more presentable for your brand, but number boosting is nowhere near where your real focus should be.
Sales - Can you see obvious signs of sales and product reviews for the promoted artist that don’t look fake? Are they having success selling CDs, merchandise, or tickets on their site? Check their sales pages and see what their reviews and feedback are looking like if they have any. It’s very hard to make steady sales in the music world; most of the money coming in is pennies from royalty spins that add up only if you have enough fans. Seeing real-time ticket sales or merchandise sales is a very good sign that the marketing is working.
Fan Feedback - Can you do a search on some successful clients from the marketing company you’re considering on a social media site like Twitter and see what their band or artist name brings up? An obvious sign that the marketing is not working is that you don’t see fans buzzing. You may be impressed to find articles and radio spins show up in their search results, but take it a step further. Do you see shares from regular listeners? Anyone tweeting about how they’ve had that song on repeat or excited about a show that’s coming up? When doing your research, try to focus on a specific song that company promoted, since many artists use different companies for different song releases in order to test out the varying levels of success they have.
I’ve come across tons of outlets that are really good at promoting specific genres, and while they claim to be able to promote all types of songs, they’re really not a good match for my style. While it is appealing to be able to get your music in front of a large number of listeners, it is still crucial to get your music marketed to your target listener. A lot of musicians think along the lines of “there are plenty of people who love all types of music”, but realistically, you will see way more success when you target people who put your genre on their top 3 genres.
Be sure that your music materials are giving you the best chance of success. Make sure your songs are mixed and mastered very well. Don’t send anything without a well-written song/project write-up and bio. Don’t try to start a campaign without having high-quality images and artwork. Have a good list of accomplishments and performance history that will show you’re no beginner. It may sound simple, but it’s actually really rare that people have all of these elements put together in their careers. I’ve seen so many artists have good music but bad pics. Great visual presentation but bad music. Great presentation and music but crappy audio quality. Amazing songs and talent but not a picture or video of themselves to be found anywhere. Get it together people!
Music marking marketing companies should cost you a lot of money. Yes, you read that right. Marketing in the music field is often the largest part of the budget, so the first thing you need to make sure you realize is that marketing costs a lot of money. This DOES NOT mean that there aren’t free and cheap options that will work for you, but generally, you need to be prepared to spend a good chunk of change. Here and there, you’ll find some luck in getting a placement on that perfect Spotify playlist, or that major blog you’ve always dreamed of being featured on, but there are thousands of rejections that you have to go through in order to find success.
If you see a company offering you a full-scale promotional campaign for under $500, chances are, it will be a waste or yield very little results. If your budget is less than $500, you can still find success, but you will likely need to adjust your expectations and realize you will only be getting small bursts of good promo here and there. The less money you have, the more time you need to be putting into studying marketing and finding your own free and low-cost methods to mimic the same work that these companies would be doing for you. 3 examples of low-cost self-advertising resources that I like to use for my own releases are SubmitHub, RepostExchange, and PushPowerPromo.
Related Post: Proven Way To Get Your Music Heard For Free
SubmitHub allows you to submit your songs to curators, labels, and music reviewers for a small $1 to $5 fee per submission. These curators will then approve or deny your submission and often provide short feedback on why your song isn’t chosen if you get denied. As you could imagine, these curators are denying the vast majority of submissions.
Approval percentages range from 5% to 15% on average, meaning 90% or more of the people sending them music doesn’t make the cut. While many of these curators can get your music in front of a good amount of people, their reach is still quite limited. SubmitHub also doesn't have many good outlets that prefer R&B, so I don't get that far even when accepted.
RepostExchange is a play-for-play site that gives music makers a chance to get their songs heard in exchange for listening to another artist's music. While this platform is limited to Soundcloud uploads, it’s a helpful way to get social proof on your songs that isn’t fake. The downside of course is that the comments and plays won’t be as valuable as you would like, since they are coming from others who also just want their songs heard.
PushPowerPromo has a free resource that lists many radio shows, blogs, labels, and other outlets that are currently accepting song unsolicited song submissions from anyone who has quality songs via email or webform. While this is a great resource and I’ve been able to secure some site placements and radio play on community and college stations, it’s not the best way to connect to outlets. These places are getting hundreds of emails a day and are not required to actually listen to what you’ve sent. Most of the time your submission will be overlooked completely with no feedback.
Get more tips on marketing and promotion opportunities by joining the community! Sign up here and get your free digital copy of my book "The Unsigned Music Playbook".
This blog was written by singer, songwriter and producer Yona Marie. Check out Yona’s latest music releases on her Spotify, her Youtube and share the music if you like it!
If you are ever in need of singer, songwriter or song producer services for your music project or brand, see what Yona Marie can offer you on her song services page.