New online technologies such as file sharing, streaming, social media and e-commerce are opening up endless new opportunities for unsigned and independent artists to get greater access to larger audiences, increase their fan base and grow an income.
The only downside is that with so many new channels and platforms to choose from, it can be really hard to know where to begin when it comes to promoting your music online. So here are a few top tips…
1. Get a good website.
It would be easy to think a good social media presence has superseded the need for a website altogether, but a good website makes you easier to find and presents you as a more credible, professional artist.
That said, if you have one, make sure that it’s on brand and keep the content fresh and up to date. Don’t leave your ‘latest gigs’ page two years out of date, make sure the ‘news’ is current, and check that there’s no broken links. Content is king- so every page on your website needs to look great and work properly.
Your website also needs to have good search engine optimisation (SEO) so that it appears near the top of search engine results to make you easy to find, which means using the right key words and phrases in your site.
2. Build your social media presence.
Your online presence as an artist is no just longer about having just one main base. It’s about reaching as many different audiences in as many different ways as possible. It might feel almost impossible to keep up with every latest trend, but I’d recommend Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Soundcloud as social media ‘must haves’ for any artist serious about promoting themselves online today.
But if you’re going to have social media accounts, keep them well managed and regularly updated with fresh content. It’s far better to run a few accounts well, than lot of accounts poorly. Don’t let them lie dormant for long periods. And if you’re struggling to keep on top of it all, you could also check out HooteSuite which is a simple social media tool that enables you to pre-programme and schedule some of your social media content ahead of time for free.
3. Upload your music to free streaming sites.
Some artists struggle with the idea of uploading their music to streaming sites such as Spotify, Deezer and Last.fm for people to discover, listen to and share for free – but can you afford not to when they have a built in ‘discover’ tool built in for finding new artists which means that your music might just get connected with bigger names that play a similar style/genre, and will playlist you with other similar bands/artists, helping you to easily extend your fan base?
For a more ethical music streaming option, you could also check out Bandcamp, which offers greater artist control by enabling fans to discover new music and directly support the artists who make it.
4. Get your own YouTube channel.
This might seem an obvious point to make, but so many artists have been discovered on You Tube that’s it’s the obvious ‘go to’ space for hosting and sharing all of your music video content.
The key to creating something which goes viral is to make your content as fun, catchy, likeable and as shareable as possible. Be original, be funny, say something interesting, or tap into the current media zeitgeist by being topical. Offering ‘behind the scenes’ footage for fans, or sharing re-worked covers of popular songs by famous artists are also great ways to build your following online.
5. Sign up to an online distribution service.
If you're an unsigned act, you'll also need to sign up with an online distribution service such as TuneCore, Ditto or ReverbNation to get your music onto all the major distribution services such as iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Google Play Music, and Tidal. These platforms often feature new artist recommendations and other promotional opportunities which can be a great source of extra exposure.
6. Promote on ticket purchasing sites.
If you’ve got a series of gigs or a tour coming up, make sure you promote your gigs on ticket purchasing websites such as Bandsintown and Songkick. With location based targeting, many of these sites let viewers discover the latest shows/gigs at a range of different venues in their area and you might just pick up some new live music fans.
7. Connect with relevant music blogs.
A good post on a well-read, well respected music blog can be worth as much as a print article or radio interview in mainstream media titles these days. The best blogs for you to pitch your music to will depend on your genre, and on what area you live in, because the list really is endless … but for national music blogs Pitchfork, The Unsigned Guide, A&R Factory, The Line of Best Fit, Hypebot, Your EDM, and Drowned in Sound are all well worth checking out.
8. Use music hashtags on Twitter.
To reach a much larger music audience on Twitter make sure you include @TwitterMusic into some of your promotional tweets. Give music fans them the opportunity to find you first by using popular hashtags like #music #hiphop #indie #jazz or whatever type of music you make, when sharing links to new releases or your latest music news on twitter.
You should also keep an eye out for the latest music discussions or become part of popular threads by using popular music hashtags like #MusicMonday and #NewMusicFriday for added exposure.
9. Consider paid for social media advertising
If you have any spare budget for marketing, advertising yourself on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram or Spotify is not a bad place to begin. It’s relatively inexpensive – and really easy to do. You can set your own budget, carefully target your adverts, track your progress, and easily measure your reach.
10. Build a fan database.
Establishing a fan database may sound a little outdated now, but email marketing is still one of the best digital marketing tools. Unlike with social media sites, it’s an opportunity to market to an already established fan base and likely to generate a much greater response rate.
So keep collecting fan email addresses to keep people updated with your latest gigs, news and music releases. If you’re not sure how to capture email addresses, why not get fans to sign up at live gigs, or you could even consider offering a free song to download in exchange for an address via your website.
11. Use a free merchandise shop.
If you do music merchandising well, it can provide a fantastic extra revenue stream to help fund your music/band. For a hassle free and inexpensive solution why not check out online merchandise services such as Dizzy Jam which are specifically designed for the music industry? You could make a slightly bigger profit margin by ordering and selling all your products yourself, but it can be a massive headache to organise, you have to have the cash upfront to buy a product in bulk and you risk being left out of pocket with tons of unsold stock too.
And finally, don’t be too protective about your music online – make it simple to find, free to access, and easy to share. Don’t be afraid to think a bit differently and be open to new ideas.