This is a guest post from our friend Joshua Smotherman, who is a straight shooter when it comes to what he sees in the world of social media for musicians. He says:

“In an ideal world, I would wake up in the morning to a fresh cup of coffee. My three teenagers would wake up on their own, feed themselves and be responsible without complaining or resisting. My students would remember everything they’ve been taught and turn their assignments in on time. My consulting clients would listen to my advice and stop freaking out about all the irrelevant, small stuff…like their follower counts and video views.

Continuing along in this ideal world, I would proceed to enjoy an uninterrupted morning answering e-mails and scrolling social media to check up on friends and my favorite bands. I would share the latest content from CyberPR to my followers. And I would immerse myself in an online community of music lovers sharing, caring, and building with each other… NOT blasting shallow commands to “check out my new hottest thing” or complaining about how much Spotify doesn’t pay them per stream. I hear enough complaining from my teenagers! And forget about Spotify, embrace Bandcamp!”

In this world:

  • Artists would stop acting like rock stars and start acting like leaders.
  • They would create engaging, uplifting, humorous content worth sharing.
  • They would build self-sustaining tribes that financially supported them.
  • Artists would listen to their fans and give them what they really want.
  • Artists would understand that growing organically will always be way more important than obsessing over view counts.

As a music blogger, my inbox would NOT be full of shallow one-liners, emails addressed to the wrong person, or links without descriptions that I have no choice but to label as distractions.

Whatever happened to “connecting” with someone? You know…being “social”?

Unfortunately, this world does not exist. OK, that’s unfair. There are some artists who are innovative and crushing their social media and digital marketing game. But on average, at least from where I’m sitting, most indie artists suck at using social media and it’s ruining it for everyone else. Most importantly, your potential fans.

What are we doing wrong, you say?

Oh boy…where do I begin?

Mistake #1: Me, Me, Me Marketing via Social Media

You might have been raised in a world of billboards and commercials that repeated themselves multiple times during a thirty minute show, but using social media as a one-way street is drastically impeding upon the effectiveness of your marketing.

It seems too many people miss the “social” half of social media.

You need to engage with fans and listeners instead of blasting them with links, videos, and nonsense about buying your album. Build a tribe of like-minded humans by publishing content that creates community and sparks interaction.

In the corporate sales world, they teach sales teams to “sell without selling”. That is exactly what you need to do as an independent artist. Forget about shoving your music in people’s faces. Build a community (aka common unity) based on values, shared perspectives and interests. Once you do that, your community will support your music, attend your shows, and buy your merch because they want to support You for being You.

Also, it is important to NOT copy/paste the same content on every social media platform. Users of each platform are different. You need to learn about your Twitter community, your Facebook community, your IG and TikTok communities so your content is tailored to each channel. If fans follow you on every platform, you’re essentially spamming them when copy/pasting content.

Please don’t spam us.

Unfortunately, most indie artists qualify [as what the marketing world refers to] as spammers. Engaging is easier than you think and should come naturally (assuming you are not a recluse).

Here are some ideas:

  • Share albums, videos, and news about other music you enjoy or local bands you play with. Ask others what they think.
  • Share news related to the music industry or issues that reflect the personality of your band and use them to engage in conversation.
  • Instead of posting links to the same videos and songs repeatedly, post clips of the band working in the studio or upload a demo mix and allow fans to share their opinions so you can take the art to another level. Involve fans in your process(es).
  • Mention your hobbies, make them feel part of the progress.
  • Network with bands in other areas to create an atmosphere for gig swapping and collaboration as well as cross-promotion of content.
  • Pets. Come on now…how many hours have you wasted watching cute animal videos?!
  • Values. What you stand for, what you believe in, and causes you support are crucial aspects of connecting with communities. Be sure to share this side of yourself.

This list goes on but the takeaway here is: engage in a way that results in feedback and interaction.

Build a community.

Mistake #2: Focusing on the Wrong Metrics

Your follower count means nothing unless you see conversions.


More important than a follower, view, or like:

  • How many fans have signed up for your mailing list?
  • Do you pass around a mailing list signup sheet at your show?
  • How many people have you met at shows? (You do hang out with the audience after the show…right?)
  • How many people have bought a CD or t-shirt?
  • How much money have you made in the last 30 days?
  • Are you songs being pitched for sync licensing opportunities?
  • Do you use the Q&A features on IG Stories or TikTok?
  • Do you DM or exchange emails with your supporters?

Stop burning all your energy attempting to increase follower counts on social media and focus on converting the followers you have into loyal fans. Think about converting your ambient fans into engaged fans, and your engaged fans into your super fans. Use social media to funnel music listeners to your website where you attempt to convert them into a mailing list signup, a song download, or a merchandise sale.

Would you rather have 1,000 likes…?

Or do you want 100 fans spending $1,000 on music, merch, show tickets, and crowdfunding campaigns?

Those most likely to spend the money on you are the super fans so don’t forget about them!

Show me the money! And stop obsessing over views, likes, and followers!

Mistake #3: Repeating Yourself on Every Social Media Network

This was mentioned previously, but it’s so important, allow me to give it a sub-heading and to say it again.

Sending your Twitter post to your Facebook page and then copying and pasting that to Instagram so the same message/photo/video appears on every site is a horrible idea. Let me emphasize horrible. Please avoid this.

Auto-play on audio embeds is also a horrible idea, but we can save that discussion for another time.

Back to copy/pasting content on social media… People who stay on Instagram are different than people who spend their time on Facebook who are also different than people living on TikTok. It is imperative you consider these facts when developing a social media strategy and behave accordingly. Create content specific to each channel that engages each of your communities.

Feeling overwhelmed? Then focus on one platform for an extended period of time. I suggest focusing on your most active channel. For me, that would be Instagram. For you, it might be TikTok or Twitter. Regardless, put your energy into learning one community at a time. Then you’ll be more prepared to tailor fit your content to each channel.

The main key is to make sure you are using social media as a music fan before deciding how to market your music to your fans and potential new ones. Follow bands who are in a position you want to be in and observe how they use each social network. Notice what works, what doesn’t work, and then create your own plan of action. Posting several updates to Twitter every hour (depending on the nature of the updates) is more acceptable than posting on Facebook every 15 minutes. And posting Instagram Stories every hour is more effective than posting to your Feed at that same frequency. For TikTok, I’ve heard posting 3-6 times per day gives you an edge with the algorithm over creators who only post 1-2 times per day.

A general guideline is to publish content that markets your music 30% of the time while publishing content not related to marketing your music 70% of the time. This could include sharing quotes you resonate with, sharing music from other artists you enjoy, or asking fans to share their perspective on an article you read in the news.

Don’t forget about analytics! Facebook and Instagram call them Insights. Pay attention to demographics, location, and when your followers are most active. Every platform brings a different audience with different preferences and behavior. Using analytics tools, you can see what your followers are reacting to the most so you can create more content that works. 

Tailor your content towards your target audience.

Mistake #4: Sell Without Selling!!

I mentioned this concept already. Now it’s time to elaborate and really drive the point home.

If you focus on building a community around your music instead of acting as a bulletin board, you will start noticing the true power of social media.

You will not see overnight results. You have to play the long game and embrace patience and persistence.

The key is to stay consistent, focus on creating great music, and communicate directly with your audience. 

If you create a community of loyal fans, they will want to support you. 

Your community will become your sales force and all you need to do is be yourself and continue giving fans content worth loving.

Consistency allows you to reach a tipping point where fans will be promoting your music for you by adding you to their playlists, wearing t-shirts, playing vinyl at parties, sharing your content to their socials, and recommending you to their friends.

It is hard to conceive this when you are starting at zero, but 6 to 12 months down the road you will notice things happening simply because you remained persistent. Someone might ask you to write a custom song (note from CyberPR: make sure this person is not a scammer!). Or invite you to perform at a local event. Or your music could be licensed for use in an indie film.

If you are not putting yourself out there, by publishing great content, you could miss out on many opportunities.

While fans are sharing your music and supporting you, you need to seek out gig opportunities, submit for blog reviews or interviews, and dig for other chances to put yourself in the presence of tastemakers who can expose you to their audience…radio DJs, playlisters, festival organizers, etc. 

Music industry professionals will not give you their attention unless you have proof of a loyal, engaged following.

Buying followers or views might help you manipulate chart rankings and other metrics, but they will never replace the power of community. One million views on a YouTube video with 2 comments and 532 likes will look suspect to any industry professional. If you have 5,000 Page likes but no one is liking, sharing, or commenting on your updates; we all see right through you. 

So will anyone else who might be able to expose your music to bigger audiences.

In closing:

  • Build your tribe.
  • Nurture your community.
  • Customize content for each channel.
  • Sell without selling.
  • Have fun!

If you would like to learn more successful marketing tips, check out Ariel’s latest book Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity.

ultimate guide to music publicity

This guest post was written by Joshua Smotherman (@midtnmusic), co-founder of the Middle Tennessee Music blog and playlister who frequently features fabulous indie artists.

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