It’s every musician’s dream to make a living off of their creations. The thing is, there’s no way to get there without learning the ins and outs of how to promote your music within the modern scope of the music industry. Now, I say “modern” because the landscape is vastly different now in 2021 then it ever was before.
The past two decades have been interesting for the music industry, and that’s putting it lightly. The state of things stayed pretty much the same since the days of vinyl all the way up to the rise and fall of compact discs. Some would venture to say (me included) that the digital age has shaken the music industry the most, especially in such a relatively short period of time.
This is mostly true for the actual artists that produce the music that we all love. In fact, the immense shift in the industry has made life easier for music fans, and even for musicians. It is true that finding ways to monetize your music is a little harder than it was when CD’s ruled all.
That being said, the advent of social media and other such modern platforms have introduced countless ways to promote your music and gain a loyal following. You have a lot of power to promote at your fingertips. With that, I’ll be the first to say that trying to make a sound decision on how to promote your music the right way is a daunting task.
The upsurge of live streaming, podcasts, and bite-sized TikTok videos over the past few years has further changed the way we consume, and produce, anything related to music. It’s never been more pertinent to own your space online as a unique artist. Strive to chisel out a section of the world that belongs to you, your fans, and your inspirations.
That’s the point of this article. To help make things a little less overwhelming, I curated this list of the best ways to promote your music using modern and relevant methods of music marketing. Moreover, my goal with this article is to help you in finding ways to share your creations with the world, and to do it in ways that hopefully get the attention they deserve.
Now, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t believe in your music. The harsh reality that any musician has to come to terms with is the high level of competition that exists out there. I obviously don’t mean for this to come off in a discouraging manner by any means.
That being said, it’s never a bad idea to spend some time fine-tuning your sound so you can make music that is yours and yours alone. That’s the kind of stuff that gets noticed the most.
My Tips On How To Promote Your Music
So as I stated earlier, I tried my best to include modern and relevant ways to promote your music online. We all know how quickly things progress nowadays, so I’ll keep updating this piece as I find more creative ways to gain a following. In any regard, I think we’re ready to learn how to promote your music.
1. Build a Website/Blog
It’s no secret that creating a dedicated website for your music has been a go to tactic for a while now, but I want to suggest adding a bit of a twist in how you utilize this process. Let me explain.
So, this very website that you’re reading this article on wouldn’t exist without a little thing called SEO (or Search Engine Optimization). To be fair, learning SEO is no small task, but anyone can do it with the help of some time and dedication. Essentially, SEO is the process of finding ways to make Google’s algorithm happy in order to rank your website higher in search results. Don’t be fooled, that’s a very simplistic way of putting it, but that’s it in a nutshell.
Write About Alternative Topics
What I’m suggesting is to create a blog that doesn’t just aim to host your songs and talk about your new music. Instead, try building a site that is about you and your interests.
Here are a few quick ideas of alternative topics to talk about on your blog:
- Write articles about current trends in the music industry
- Go over the gear you use
- Talk about your biggest musical inspirations
- Try to write about things entirely unrelated to music as well
The key is to write about topics you’re interested in, passionate about, and have a lot of knowledge on. Take some time to think about this. One half of the site is an informational blog, the other half is for promoting your music online.
From there you find a high-traffic keyword on the topics you write about, and attempt to get your content on the first page of Google. Basically, learn SEO on an amatuer level. I understand that this seems like too much of a time-consuming journey for some, and it is. It’s a lot of hard work, but the huge potential benefits of this process can really affect your reach with your music.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, then I always recommend looking into Backlinko for all things related to SEO. Brian is a true expert in the field and has a ton of helpful information throughout the site.
On top of that, if you’re the type of person who loves writing in conjunction with creating music, it’s a perfect fit. I will say that you shouldn’t aim to monetize your music early on with this process. Your main goal should be to simply drive some organic fans to you and your music.
Build An Email List
Another tactic you could use alongside your blog is an email list. I’m sure you’ve seen this type of thing before. When you visit certain blogs and a pop-up appears inviting you to join that sites newsletter. This is an age old marketing strategy, and I’ve seen it used on plenty of artists websites. Check out this wonderful guide on this topic that’s specifically aimed at musicians.
If this is the route you decide to take, then go the extra mile and do some free giveaways in your email list. Everybody loves free stuff. Maybe give out a free song to your fans every once in a while. Alternatively, if you’re a digital producer, give out some free samples that you’re working on.
Properly executing this process will not only help you to grow a fan base, but will also potentially establish your site as an authority in the eyes of Google. This will inevitably add to your music career.
2. Properly Utilize Social Media
I know, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “how could you possibly use social media the right way?” Well, in terms of promoting your music online, there is a better method to use.
In this particular instance, the social media I’m referring to are the “main” ones like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. We’ll get into Youtube and TikTok later seeing as they have their own strategies you can use. For now, let’s focus on these other guys.
How To Use Social Media The RIGHT Way
First of all, it might be a good idea to either sign up for two accounts (one personal, and the other for your music), or have everything on one account. In any regard, make sure you regularly update, and most importantly, don’t post about your music all the time.
The reason I say this is because these types of social channels aren’t purely meant to be promotional tools for your music career. While it is more than okay to promote your music from time to time, your main goal here is to connect with your fans on a human level without being pushy. Keep things light. Share memes, share interesting things, just go about it as you normally would and sprinkle your music here and there.
In a nutshell, all I’m getting at is that nobody likes spam, so don’t be “spammy” with your music. Also, it’s important to just be yourself, that’s what connects with people the most. I understand you want to get the ball rolling, but I’m sure you’ve come across certain accounts that do this the wrong way. All they post is song after song of theirs with little to nothing of substance outside of that.
Another tip is to learn how to tag, use hashtags, and include keywords that pertain to your specific genre. You wouldn’t believe the power that hashtags have on online music promotion. There are a ton of creative ways you can utilize such tools to promote yourself in a subtle way.
3. Use TikTok & YouTube Together
In case you haven’t noticed, TikTok is HUGE right now. The ascent of this social media platform over the past couple of years is insane. Anything from short comedy sketches to dance routines, TikTok has a lot to offer for any interest, especially music.
Even back in the day when TikTok was known as Musical.ly, artists used this platform to show off their musical skills. Today posters on TikTik have evolved beyond voice-over covers to full-on instrument covers of popular tracks and comedic renditions of classics. You’ll even see folks getting a lot of traction by posting their own originals.
The great thing about this platform is how you can let your imagination run wild. There are so many ways you can create videos that are engaging and get people hooked on your sound. I’ve seen people showcase their whole songwriting process in 30 second videos. I’ve seen downright awesome real-time covers of songs that you’ll never hear otherwise. The possibilities are endless.
Bite-Sized vs. Long Form Videos
The key here is to find your own, nuanced way to create cool videos on TikTok and watch them grow. You can then take those bite-sized videos and make long-from versions to upload on YouTube. Essentially, your TikTok and YouTube channels will work together almost as one. Maybe you just post covers on one site and strictly post your original content on the others.
Stephen Stanley is just one of many examples of how to execute this method the right way. He’s killing it!
My point is that TikTok has changed the music promotion game. In days past, a YouTube channel would more or less exist in its own lane. Now you can utilize these two resources in conjunction with one another. There are some very technical ways that you can promote your music on YouTube on it’s own, but that’s a whole different kind of beast meant for an entire article in itself.
There’s nothing wrong with going this route though. There are some massive opportunities that can come from TikTok, and everything would easily spill over into your other platforms, including YouTube.
4. SoundCloud’s New “Fan-Powered” Royalties
This is something that I’m super excited about, and you should be too. At the beginning of this article I talked about how the digital age has made things a little more difficult for artists to monetize their music. Well, the new fan-based royalty program from SoundCloud is looking to change that.
So let me explain this in some detail. Current common practice among streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music is to pool royalties together and distribute them to the artists that get the most global plays. That’s not to say that smaller artists have been getting absolutely nothing, but payments have been pretty disproportionate for a while now.
What SoundCloud is doing is making interactions between artists and fans more personal. It’s pretty easy to understand. The more people that listen to your music over a given month, the more royalties go to you directly.
There are a few factors that come into play in terms of how much money is generated between fan and artist:
- How much the fan listens to that artist relative to all of their listening time in a given month
- How many advertisements the fan has consumed
- Whether the fan has a paying subscription to SoundCloud Go+
For more information, visit SoundCloud’s FAQ page on fan-powered royalties.
Grow Your Fanbase
The channel of promotion here is simple: post your songs on SoundCloud! This new program is a huge deal, and I couldn’t be more happy to see a company as big as SoundCloud taking this on.
You do have to sign-up for one of their subscription based programs, and some of them require an application. That being said, the price of the subscriptions are modest, and as long as you’re only posting original content, you shouldn’t have any issues being accepted.
If you’ve spent any time on SoundCloud, you’ve noticed that there’s a lot of competition on there. The great thing about it is that good music is recognized and noticeably appreciated. All I’m saying is not to let the metrics throw you off and discourage you. Keep doing your thing on there and people will notice eventually.
5. Create a Personalized Spotify Playlist
This is a pretty quick and easy one. So, the one small part of Spotify that’s “social media adjacent” as I like to call it, is playlists. If you don’t already know, you can curate a themed playlist that you can then share on almost any social media app. In addition to that, you can follow artists you like, and fans can follow you.
Obviously Spotify was never designed to be a social media platform by any means, but you can use playlists in one very interesting way.
Basically, the idea is to curate a playlist of your favorite music within the same genre of the music that you create. The clever part is to sprinkle a few of your original songs in the playlist. From there, continue to share that playlist all over your socials and on your website if you have one.
You can make multiple playlists. You can try making playlists centered around what time of year it is and whatever the upcoming holiday is. Then post your own version of a holiday based song. There’s a lot of creative avenues you can take here.
Check out this awesome guide from the folks at Cyanite for a more technical approach to pitching your playlists.
Also, don’t forget to include some tracks from friends of yours or other musicians that you’ve collaborated with. Having strong connections is of high-value in this industry.
6. Live stream on Reddit
I can already hear it, “why Reddit specifically?!” Well, that’s a valid question. Just bear with me, I have my reasons.
Let me start out here by saying that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with live streaming on Facebook, Instagram, or even YouTube. You can go ahead and do your thing on those platforms if it ends up working better for you to get your music noticed.
What Makes Reddit Different
Now that we’ve covered that, here’s my pitch. Throughout my time spent on Reddit, I’ve come across hundreds of solo musicians live streaming anything from covers to originals for hours at a time on their channel. Every time I’ve seen an audience of at least 6,000 concurrently throughout the stream. On top of that, the artists’ styles vary as much as Reddit itself does.
In my eyes, what separates Reddit from the rest in terms of live streaming music is the fact that you can target a specific audience. If you’re a folk artist, chances are you’ll have fans of folk music watching your stream. Now, you should first become a part of a subreddit dedicated to that genre of music and let people know when you’re going live.
Reddit is so big (and so old) that you can find communities of all shapes and sizes, with virtually any kind of interest. Moreover, most communities are usually very tight-knit, and they’ll do a lot to help you out. If you work your way up to becoming a popular streamer, Reddit rewards you by placing you as a suggested streamer on a bunch of people’s feeds.
I just find this channel of live streaming to be a great way to connect with people with similar interests as yours. As I’ve said before, making strong connections is a big deal. By the way, targeting a specific niche on Reddit is a great transition into the next section.
7. Target Your Specific Genre
There’s a lot of similarities between this tip and the last one. The difference is to scale the Reddit live stream tactic even larger. There are a few other socials and thread-based sites that are great for targeting niche genres.
Specific Methods For Specific Socials
For example, Twitter has awesome communities based around individual artists’ feeds. You can also gain a quick following by hosting Q&A sessions with new fans. Instagram is great for that as well. Twitter is simply a great place to strike up conversation with like-minded people.
Another example is Pinterest by following and contributing to certain boards. Also, no need to elaborate on finding groups on Facebook with a fanbase of a specific genre. Pinterest is a great site to work with alongside your blog if that’s the route you decide to go. You can find some very genre-specific ideas from folks like you to share on your board and on your site.
Facebook has another useful tool, but it requires a comfortable budget. That tool of course is Ads Manager. Although I don’t recommend throwing loads of money on ads, it can be a worthwhile investment to keep in mind for later. It’s a complicated process that definitely requires a bit of trial and error. Don’t forget that Instagram can be promoted via Facebook’s Ads Manager as well.
Don’t just focus on socials though. There are an abundance of threads and forums that have been around since the dark ages that you can get involved with too.
8. Build Yourself an EPK
An EPK (Electronic Press Kit) is a resume for musicians. It’s basic purpose is to provide labels, agents, venue talent, and the media with some information about you as an artist. It should include some testimonials, a short bio, branding, and some song samples of the music you make.
Having an Electronic Press Kit is a must for any serious musician. It gives you the ability to come off as a true professional, and you’d be surprised at how it’ll set you apart from the crowd. I’m not going to say that creating an EPK is an easy task. Most people outsource this process, which can be very expensive.
You can do it yourself though. There are some resources like EPK templates that you can take advantage of to tackle it on your own. Keep in mind that this is a pretty advanced way to promote your music and it’s typically meant for artists that are already somewhat established.
That being said, this is a huge addition to any artists arsenal for promoting their music and enhancing their reach. I would be remiss if I didn’t include this step on this list.
9. Make Some Merch/Brand Yourself
As you can tell, this article is in no particular order. This step could have easily been at the top of the list. Nonetheless, branding yourself by creating a logo, picking a font for your stage name, and making some merch is an inevitable part of progressing as a musician.
Making a logo for yourself doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking. Personally, I love using Canva for a lot of things on this very site. I used Looka to make my logo, but you can make one on Canva too. These websites are easy to use, and you can make something you’ll really like in a matter of hours.
Once you find a logo you like, the next step is to pick a font for your stage name. There’s ways to design a one-of-a-kind font, but you wouldn’t believe how many millions of fonts exist on Google Fonts, Microsoft Fonts, etc.
After that is picking a color scheme. Now, you’ll surely be making merch that doesn’t always follow your “main” color scheme, but it’s essential for your site and your socials. Overall, the key to branding is consistency. When you decide upon all of these factors, then you need to stick with them.
The best part is, once you find a good screen printer that you like and you start making some merch, you can sell it at live shows or online via your website/blog. The important thing is to have fun with this part. It’s an exciting part of establishing yourself as an artist and attracting fans.
10. The Rise of Podcasts
Since 2017, podcast listeners have grown 37.5%. Those numbers rose even higher in 2020. It’s clear that podcasting is hot right now, and I don’t see it cooling down any time soon. The fact of the matter is that podcasts are a great alternative media and entertainment source for all different kinds of people.
No matter what your interests or passions are, there’s likely to be a podcast about it. The one we care about most in this instance is music of course, and trust me, there are a lot of podcasts related to numerous musical topics. This lends some unique promotion and marketing opportunities for your music. Now, there’s a few different avenues in which you can take to accomplish some great promotion with this method.
Pitch Yourself As A Guest
Probably the easiest tactic to promote your music via podcasts is to reach out to a few that you like and give them a pitch for you to be a featured guest. Podcast hosts are always looking for anything to keep their content abundant, so I’m sure you could find one that’s eager to have you on.
Also, try signing up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out). It’s a free service that connects journalists, reporters, and even podcast hosts to sources of expertise. You get three emails a day of queries on a handful of subjects. Within the past few months I’ve noticed a higher number of podcast hosts looking for guests on that platform. It’s worth a shot.
Start Your Own Podcast
The second route you could take is to start your own podcast about music. This isn’t a free and cheap channel by any means, but it can be worth it down the road if you gain an audience of fans. You’re going to need gear, podcast hosting, and a few other essentials.
If you’re the type of person who loves talking and engaging with other people, then this might be worth trying out. Also, there would be no shortage of promotional opportunities for your music with these types of platforms.
I will say that starting your own podcast might take away from your musical aspirations a bit. That being said, if you have some time on your hands, then this might not be a concern to you. In any regard, podcasts are a wave very much worth riding right now. Who knows just how big they end up getting in another three years.
11. The Old-School Way
Although the world seems to flow online now more than ever, the old-fashioned methods of promoting your music are still the best. I’m talking about getting out there and gigging, touring, and making in-person connections with music enthusiasts.
Whenever the world starts to shift back to normalcy, you’re likely going to see people flocking to live shows again. This is your chance to get out there and show what you’re made of.
In preparation of that day, think of your favorite local venues to support by asking if you can play a show there. Shoot, you could even approach your favorite local coffee shop about adding one of your songs to their playlist.
Don’t Just Promote Your Music Online
There are a million ways to naturally promote your music the same way artists have been doing it for years. I mean, I don’t have to go into great detail here. Every musician knows how to promote themselves this way.
In the meantime, don’t forget about resources like Bandsintown and SongKick for updates on upcoming concerts. Hand out flyers of your upcoming events. This is the age-old, tried and true channel for the promotion and marketing of your music, and it’s probably the one that’s the most fun to do.
12. Stay True To Yourself
This is the most crucial step. What makes a great musician is their individuality. You’re a unique artist unlike any other, and it’s important to own that.
Remember how we talked about branding earlier? Well, that was referring to the more superficial side of it. The parts of you that make you different is the real “branding” of your creations. Color-schemes and special fonts don’t tell your whole story, your music does.
The unfortunate truth is that being an independent artist means you’re fighting an uphill battle, especially in terms of music promotion. The only thing that can make that battle a little easier is being yourself, and representing yourself as an artist.
We’ve talked a lot about marketing and how to promote your music in this article. Undoubtedly, the best way to promote your music is to create and share the sounds that you’re proud of and projects who you are.
I know that this section is a little cliche, but that just means it’s true. If you want to build your career and your fanbase, then show the world your unique sound.
Conclusion – How To Promote Your Music
So, now the only left to do is to put everything you’ve learned here into practice. I would never suggest that you try to take on all of the methods at once. Instead, pick and choose the ones that attract you the most, and work on those first.
After that, add a few more tactics to your to do list and tackle them over time. The most important thing is to get your music out there. If you have a library of new music ready to be found, then there’s no better time than now to start promoting it.