Going in fully unprepared and expecting things to happen by themselves is going to lead to deep disappointment.
The start of any journey can be both exiting and a bit scary at the same time and it’s no different with music. But don’t let excitement distract you from the challenges that you’ll have to face.
When you are just starting out, I think you need both the right mindset and a few actual steps to work on so that is the aim in this article.
1. Separate the musician from the marketer
If you want to have any level of success with your music there are two sides that complement each other, the music and the marketing.
The musician tends to focus on the music, creating, perfecting and creating again. But if this cycle keeps going, who is doing the promotion?
Here is where your inner marketer should step in. Once you have the product, your music, the marketer should take over and start promoting.
The internet made it easy to get out there in front of people. The downside to that is that everybody that even thinks of making music is fighting for attention in that space.
You can’t afford to think that you just need to focus on the music and good things will happen. Chances are they won’t unless you put on the business hat and start to constantly promote.
2. Focus on attention first, money after
If you have nobody around, you can give away gold for free, nobody is there to take it. Why would you even bother trying to sell it?
Nobody knows you, nobody cares. You first need to be able to get in front of people to become known to them and make them care. Then you can hope to sell them something.
If you have an audience you can make money in a ton of different ways. Hell, I bet that a popular artist could make a boatload of money selling fidget spinners with their logo on it.
So instead of trying to sell that first album or single, use it as a promotion tool. Use is to start building your audience.
Get your music wherever you can, get people to listen to it, let them download it and play it on their phones. Get into their minds.
3. Nothing is working the first time, be prepared
There is a learning curve to everything, and this is also true in regard to you music ventures.
If you see some of the tips in this article or other articles and you try them for a bit and they don’t work for you, don’t get disappointing and quit.
Those famous artists that happened to have a YouTube video and that video lead to a big contract, those are unicorns. They are the exception, not the rule.
Not everything is going to work for everybody.
Some people are more extroverted and they need to be around other people all the time so working alone is not going to do it for them.
4. Don’t rely on platforms, especially in the beginning
Platforms with millions of users can be great for exposure.
Most of them, most of the time, they are not going to give you much exposure in the beginning.
They tend to prefer already established users and show them instead of newer users. Why they don’t try to do a better job at mixing established users with newer users defeats me but it is what it is.
To get over the issue, once you have your music on these platforms, go promote them.
Try to get some press, try to get some music bloggers to cover you, go into music communities on Facebook, Reddit, forums, etc.
Be careful with this. Don’t just spam people with your music. See if they do something like a day for member’s music or talk about new music or something along those lines.
If you see them only talking about touring or mixing don’t stick up your music in there as you’ll probably be considered a spammer and get banned.
Follow the rules of the communities you are getting into.
5. Build your online home
Building your house on someone else’s property can be problematic, they have control over it. Not only that but you are very limited in options, on what you can actually do on those platforms.
The way I would think about all the social media stuff, various web properties, websites and all that jazz is this: use all of them to bring people to your website.
Your website serves as a hub for everything. So, look into building a website, there are ways of doing it for cheap, just make sure you are able to use it, update it and so on.
Ideally, you start forming a relationship with somebody that does this for a living to help you with various stuff like maintaining and updating that website.
6. Start a newsletter
Email is still the most effective way of reaching your fans simply because on social platforms you get less and less exposure without paying.
Sure, it’s easier to pour buckets of money into social media advertising but if you don’t have that luxury your social posts will not reach many people at all.
And it’s only going to get worse and worse as the platforms grow.
To start off you need an email service provider and for that, I recommend ActiveCampaign as it’s fairly easy to use and affordable.
Next, you would need a bribe, something that you give to people to convince them to subscribe. Nobody is going to subscribe to a newsletter just because they got nothing better to do.
People are bombarded with spam these days and as such have become very reluctant to subscribe to “more spam”.
So, figure out something that will be attractive enough. Could be a downloadable version of your album, could be an exclusive song or album, maybe a special behind the scenes video, etc.
To set everything up you can either do it yourself or you could find a freelance developer to help you out on sites like UpWork, Freelancer, and other freelance marketplaces.
Once everything is set up, promote it wherever you can and make some social media posts about it every once in a while.
7. Try a contest designed to become viral
We’ve talked about newsletters and one great way of kick-starting it, if you can pull if off properly, is to make a contest designed to become viral to some extent.
It’s doable and you need two key ingredients for it. The first one is a sexy prize, the second one is a simple rule of the contest: the more people you refer to the contest the more chances you have at winning it.
This makes people not only participate but also spread out the contest so they have more chances of winning themselves.
The prize is a bit tricky, it has to be very appealing to people that are specifically into your style of music. Getting everybody and anybody on board is not something that you would want.
You’ll also need a platform to handle all the participants and have the referring mechanism that we’ve talked about and that would be King Sumo Giveaways.
Once you have your prize and contest set up start promoting it like crazy. Yes, the idea is to become viral but it still needs that initial kick.
8. Use tools to be consistent on social media
Social media has become very difficult and time consuming for a starting business without much in terms of budget.
You need to be consistent and you need to post quite a lot considering all the major platforms. Facebook, Twitter and say Instagram and you already have to spend half your time only to posts stuff.
Timing is also a thing so you can’t just set an hour in the morning and do all the posting. Not directly anyway.
Here is where some tools kick in. You do the morning hour with a tool that does the posting for you.
One such tool you can start using for free is Buffer. You sign up, connect your social accounts and schedule posts. Done.
What you can do, every week set a few hours to get material and schedule your posts and let the tool do the job.
Every once in a while you look at the stats and see what’s working and what is not, try different schedules and adjust.
9. Offer your music to a different kind of creator
This is maybe not for every music genre out there but for the most part, you should be able to find somebody using your genre of music on something other than music.
Here is the big idea. There are a lot of people that need background music for their projects, be it indie games, YouTube videos, indie filmmakers, podcasters and so on.
Find some that have a decent following or a decently successful history and offer your music to them for their project in exchange for crediting you.
Before you scratch your head thinking I’m crazy, remember that you are trying to build your fanbase here.
What better place to start than those with large amounts of people?
But also keep in mind, you don’t only do thins and expect to become a superstar overnight.
10. Upload your stuff on mixtape websites
With websites like mixcloud.com that has 17 million visitors per month, datpiff.com 4,5 million, spinrilla.com 1,3 million among others, there is really no reason not to take the time and upload your stuff there.
Don’t rest on these alone, go in the wild internet thingy and find all that you can. The smaller sites have the benefit of being less crowded so don’t ignore those.
Now, as with social media websites and other similar platforms, the larger the platform the harder it is to get visibility so I would say you pair your mixtape with a bit of advertising where you can and some good old PR.
Find some websites that cover indie bands and let them know about your release. Bear in mind that some magazines like to know about your launch weeks or months before the actual launch.
11. Figure out who is willing to write about you
Reaching out to big magazines that mostly cover the already famous artists is probably not going to bring in great results.
Let’s take a look at one way to find blogs that cover small indie artists to spare some time and energy when comes time to reach out to them.
The way to do this is to find indie bands/artists in your genre, that are a few steps above you in terms of popularity and then we’ll see who is talking about them.
After you found your bands, go to their websites, if they don’t have one this methods is not going to work.
Once you have their website simply open Open Site Explorer, add their website address in there and hit search.
You’ll get a list of websites that link to this band’s website. Go through them one by one and where you see a magazine or a blog note that down.
That’s it. Compile a big chunky list of these websites and all it’s left to do then is reach out to them and tell them about your release.
But before you go in take the time and read this article on reaching out to bloggers to increase your chances at actually having success in your PR campaign.
Not everybody you contact is going to cover you so expect that and don’t be disappointed about it.
Nothing works the first time. It’s massively important to understand this.
Your first email to a blogger to write about you is not going to work out. Your first song upload is not going to make you famous. Your first picture or update on Facebook is not going to get much attention. And so on.
The important bit is to persevere. Whenever something doesn’t work out spend a bit of time and try to figure out what went wrong and how you can fix it the next time.
Learn to take your failures as opportunities to learn. We all fail and it’s ok if we learn and improve.