Saturated though the marketplace may be, the internet is still one of the best resources at your disposal as a small independent artist for getting the word out about your next release and getting it into the ears of new listeners. Here we look at five fantastic online resources for making this happen.
Guest post by Robert Lanterman for Soundfly's Flypaper
So your band just finalized your next release, and you want to get it out into the world and into the ears of listeners everywhere. It’s 2019; the internet is how people find new music. Sure, it’s saturated out there, but let’s be honest — the reach that the web gives little musicians like us is substantial. And with all the available tech and tools out there, the term “DIY” has taken on a whole new meaning.
You can do a decent job marketing your music totally on your own, without any label backing, especially if it’s an early release. You can set reasonable goals (and we can help you with that), but you have to put some work in if you’re going to actually achieve them. Your ultimate objective should be getting music to those exact people who will want to hear it, and who will influence others to discover it. In marketing, they call this your “target audience.”
So the question is: How can you set yourself up in the best way possible, without doing six months worth of work, to get your new music heard by an “I’ve-never-heard-of-your-band-before” listener?
Well, there are three factors you need to consider:
Without consistently referring back to these three things in your marketing activities, your awesome music is likely to get stuck in traffic on that superhighway leading to nowhere alongside every other artist sitting at home with Logic Pro and a few cheap condenser mics.
To help you achieve this goal, I’ve listed five simple, readily available online resources that you can start using immediately to build yourself a listenership — and hopefully a dedicated fanbase, too. And remember, if you’d like to get professional 1-on-1 coaching from a Soundfly Mentor on your album release or marketing project, check out our four-week Headliners Club program.
1. Ditto Music
In my early days, I swore by going the free route for all things digital distribution. This is because I’m in a few bands, and because I run a label, and label accounts on normal streaming sites like DistroKid, CD Baby, and TuneCore tend to be quite expensive. It adds up. But these days, I’ve started to notice differences in the experience of getting a bit more bang for a bit more buck. If you’re an artist looking to do your own distribution online, I humbly present Ditto Music.
The way Ditto Music works is that you upload your music to their server for a small artist price, and they distribute it across the internet. When I say small price, I mean they charge you under $20 a year for unlimited uploads! They also track your sales, let you register for music charts, manage airplay royalties, and do an iTunes pre-release if you think it’s worth it with the buzz you have around you. As far as DIY digital distribution goes, they’re a great option for having all of your bases covered.
Typically, I don’t like the idea of paying people to review your record. It reminds me a little too much of the pay-to-play system some live clubs around the country use. But to be fair, it is actually a great option for getting started in the SEO and branding game. Having some press coverage under your belt early can give you that much-needed credibility when pitching to get wider, national coverage later. So I’d recommend SubmitHub in those instances.
If you’re not familiar with SubmitHub, it’s a website that allows you to upload your songs, choose certain blogs to send them to, and submit — all through the original SubmitHub domain. You can also submit to record labels who use this service as well. However, sometimes it requires pay — usually only $1. I think if you want to go the DIY route in getting album coverage, doing a few submissions through SubmitHub may be worth your while, just to get some clout going for the release. Afterward, these things will start to come more naturally.
Wait, YouTube? Yes, YouTube. Video content is still vitally important in 2019. But don’t forget, it’s not just about simply uploading your video and letting it rot on the platform — you’ll have to put the work in to build your reputation on YouTube. You can also start to think of your channel as a public archive of your band and its video content.
Now, YouTube has some pretty good resources specifically for artists as well. They allow you to use cards to link people to your conversion pages through video (CD sales, iTunes links, etc.), they help you track your viewing stats, and much more.
Even if you’re just uploading videos to YouTube, you can take advantage by sharing them across all of your synced social channels. But with a bit of attention paid to the discovery features that YouTube provides, there’s no limit to what you can achieve. So this will be especially helpful if you’re using videos to promote your new album — music videos in particular.
4. Spotify for Artists
If people follow your band on Spotify, they’ll see when you publish playlists or new releases. Additionally, the way Spotify’s algorithm works is that the more followers you have, the more likely you are to find yourself on popular playlists. I think it’s super important to take advantage of this by using your Ditto Music account or finding some way for people to follow you on Spotify without asking like every other artist.
Once you get listeners to follow you, they’ll see when you post what other music you’re digging, what shows you’ve got coming up, and when you have any newly released material.
Spotify for Artists is free — you just have to get set up on their website and verify that you’re the artist (assuming some of your past music already appears on streaming sites).
5. Social Media (Duh!)
I know it’s a cliché, but your social media channels are so, so important in promoting your new release. Social media is something that almost everyone uses to discover new music (from friends, bands they follow, blogs they love, etc.), so with all of that converging on these various platforms, it gives you multiple outlets for free promotion if you’re able to play these cards right. It’s an easy way to connect with the kinds of people who like your music, and it’s perfect for on-the-go networking.
As a musician you have a lot of options beyond simply posting. As far as ads and boosted posts are concerned, it’s important that you understand how to use these responsibly, because “likes” don’t always equate to new listeners. Video content is always strong on social media because it’s a direct way to hear a song and it typically starts auto-playing when someone scrolls past it. Become familiar with different social media apps and what kind of content thrives best on each one depending on tools available and the platform’s sharing algorithms. With a little bit of research, it’s not difficult to start building a dedicated following right away.
One last word…
This is where I tell you that you need to become your own “online resource.” One of the most helpful ways you can prep yourself for your next album or single release is to make a giant list of music publications, the journalists’ or editors’ contacts, and any relevant details that you find pertinent to bring up in communications. And add to this every week of your life.
Doing press stuff all at once is an absolute pain. You’re bound to make mistakes and feel pressured and rushed, so having all of this info ready when you need it can be your biggest asset in the promotion game. Take it from me — I run a record label myself. Sometimes it’s hard to get this done with everything else going on, especially toward the end of the year, but any press is good press. And you don’t need to hire a publicist; you can do it yourself. It just takes a lot of time, consistency, and a bit of know-how. Feel free to reach out to me for any help on this.
Have you ever put an album out and have any pointers for releasing something new? I’d love to hear your take on it. Let us know in the comments below!
Rob Lanterman is a writer, musician, and record label owner from Boise, ID. He enjoys writing about how aspects of punk rock and DIY have informed all areas of his life, as well as his own experience touring, writing, recording, and being a label owner.