“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.
- 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.
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.
This is one of the best posts I’ve seen on social media marketing for musicians. Thank you!
That was dope…I got a lot of info…I think there are too many wannabes who trying to “get in” for the wrong reasons…money, fame, sex…and too few that really wanna share theyre gift. I once heard money and fame are like a shadow…if u chase it, it will run from u…@jusjosef follow me on Twitter…lol
Proof that it’s more about “social” and less about “media” – try posting something personal about yourself. It could be a revelation about any facet of life; a non-musical accomplishment; something that makes you sad/happy; or something where you’re reaching out and asking for an opinion. Then sit back and watch the likes and comments roll in. Now try posting about your next gig. Unless you’re Chris Cornell, you probably won’t get as much reaction from that post. This just proves the real reason the other 95% of social media users are there: they want to touch and be touched. Give your followers a reason to like you (beyond your music) and you’ll build a fan for life.
I couldn’t agree more, but you already know that… thanks for including the interview with Diana and the gang… wow did they really lay it out!
Rock on, Jon – couldn’t agree more. Like any new, small business, a new band or artist needs to create real relationships with their consumers / fans. Because of the emotional nature of our main product as muscians being “the song” or “the performance” those relationships have to be real and personal. No way around it 🙂
I agree and disagree based on the motive of the artist. Mailing list sign-ups matter if you’re trying to go Direct to Fan. Some artists aren’t though. I have friends that want to build through blogs, get sponsore .; jjjg0oe1stggzxifi cicehcbsx;soxbcxzqqd by companies, get in festivals. For those things Youtube views, Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers matter. I had a friend pay for Youtube views, then Tweet about how he got all these views for his song and how blogs weren’t up on it – making it seem like they were behind. Everyone fell for it. We had mutual friends that would brag about how many views his video got in such a short time. The blogs fell for it too and posted the video. One said “i don’t know how I missed this joint” and sited the view count falling into his strategy. Now he’s performing with other artists popular on blogs, getting sponsored to shoot videos for clothing brands, getting accepted into things like the Converse program that gives free studio time and promo. He created the illusion that he was bigger than what he was. Maintaining an email list and having real fan engagement brings you real fans but it’s been proven that those numbers matter. When people stop falling for the scams, the scams will stop. Right now, it works when done right.
Thanks for the advice! Very helpful!
I totally fell into this trap on accident. As a non-pro Google Plus user I was getting daily emails from a regular blogger to the tune of 10+ a day. I wrote him a really nice email after a year and a half or so of getting his emails and asked him if he might be willing to give my work a listen and perhaps share it with his people. The next email I got from him was a scathing “who are you to ask me to help you?” reply. He then proceeded to use my request and make me an example to boost his followers and his argument on his blog. It was a mess and still is. What a friggin nightmare. Here’s my issue, I don’t think the paid advertisements are super effective for getting followers and so far neither are the companies that are supposedly set up to help you get reviews which makes it more difficult to stand out amongst the white noise of sooo many artists clamoring for attention. Kally O’Mally
Great read. Working to help promote Indie artists I come across all of this every day. Am definitely tweeting this!
Really interesting post. Definitely helpful to break down social media for the indie musician. So many are doing it wrong, doing it too much or avoiding it all together. All of which could really set an up and coming musician back.
Wow, great article…I have been guilty of many of these things! Time for a new approach.Thanks, Camille
this was very helpful.. thank you.
Great Post Joshua,
Its not just indie musicians doing it, a lot of the major labels are guilty of doing it as well. However they have the advantage of having a myriad of artists to post about, which acts to serve as if they are posting about other artists (which you discussed in your article).
In my expieriance it is good practice for artists ( infact everyone using social media) to identify what it is that they followers / fans love about them and their work. Once you have identified that it is easier to utilise your social media to best build your brand/ product.
For example if I follwed the Australia Weather Channel on twitter and they posted tennis scores from the US open chances are I would un follow shortly thereafter, as I follwed them for weather updates, and weather related info.
Post things that people who follwed you will want to know about, this will strengthen your position in your community, therfor strengthening your brand.
ha ha I really should follow these tips myself – have a great day
“what you have done to overcome these four social media killers above” I created a new method of music distribution (see 2013 Oct. Iss. of Guitar World, page 115) that uses a twist on how dropcards are distributed. Once in play and bands begin using them then it eliminates the SUITS and returns power to the fans and music will once again be like it was with mixtapes as people buy, sell, trade, and give away their music in an easy format that rewards people and enhances a real musical scene. I mean, seriously, when was the last time itunes gave you the song… AND put money in your pocket? That’s what I’m talking about, when power is in the hands of the fan instead of the SUIT. Google my name, come see what I’m talking about, get involved in the project.
Great post and comments ,Thanks everyone
My contribution to avoiding the killing of social media was avoiding social media, which served me poorly! Now, I shall try to take your advice and engage in social media without killing it. Onward ho!
Very clear Joshua. Makes me think back to how I’ve been treating social media. Am I engaging or pushing?
That was a great article Jon! I think it’s sad that it even has to be said because it all seems very common sense to me. After all, Music IS supposed to be about connecting with others. The easiest way to not fall into the trap of becoming just another spammer is to just follow the age-old adage of “Just be yourself” All the social networks are is an online collective consciousness. A meeting of the minds. Participate & be real. If you care about others, others will care for you. I teach at the Canada Music Academy & one thing I tell all my students about performing live is something that I’ve come to live my life by. I think if everyone adopted this ideology to some degree, the world would be a much better place. It goes a little something like this:
If you are focussing on yourself before getting up on stage to perform, you will start to get nervous. You might even start thinking things like: “What if I make a mistake, or if people don’t like me or my music etc…” If you go down that road, by the time you get up on stage, you’ll have exhausted yourself & all the positive energy you could have brought out onto the stage with you. If however, you think about bringing the best that you can out for the people & make it about them, then you’ve turned what you do into an act of service. In doing so, you eliminate the ego from the equation & set yourself completely free to go out there give the best of yourself to the crowd so that they can enjoy the show. They have a great time, you have a great time & it’s all good! We do what we do because we feel an innate need to connect with people. Sometimes that need can manifest itself in a manner that is unhealthy. (i.e.: People wanting to make music for wealth, fame, sex etc…) In the end it’s all a need to connect & to be accepted by your peers. Or to boil it all right down to the basics – to be Loved. So the answer is unbelievably simple. All you need is Love. Love is all you need.
I avoid this problem because I do not use it. I used to, but ended up deleting my accounts or deactivating them . I just use a combination of a .com, email blasts, and I also use flyers to promote what I’m doing in the area I’m doing it. If it’s far away, I mail flyers to the venue owner and ask them to distribute. If it’s a local show, I distribute flyers myself. Social media definitely has it’s uses and can be a great marketing tool. However, In my opinion, nothing trumps the old school method of marketing with word of mouth, newspapers, radio, and flyers. The problem with social media for musicians is that EVERYONE is doing it. Which means that people are getting buried in invites and event notifications. If you have 1000 followers or likes or whatever, how many of them do you really think are reading your posts or even seeing them in the mass rubble of posts they get daily from all of the other things/people they “like” or “follow”.
Real world works best for me.
Yes, yes, yes and yes. Right on here in every way. I realize your post is a year old but nearly every band that is trying to be heard is doing this, and even the big name acts are too. Truly connecting with people will always win over a number of supposed “fans” or followers. Thanks for posting this. Hopefully more bands will do as you suggest and be leaders of their tribe instead of barking dogs on a hill.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Putting this into practice right away. Cheers.
Ok sold. How?
Certainly, but there’s something to be said for organic marketing and building relationships. It’s more ethical and more effective on social media (and traditional media) no matter what business you’re in.
Wow!! Thanks for that helpful information…I was raised on Atari, drinking water outta the hose, payphones, uhf, vhf Bob Marley and Iron Maiden…Im a horrible re tweeter…and an even worse EMAILING fans backer to let em know I do appreciate em…To me its all overwhelming but you’ve outlined it in a simple 3 chord progression!! Much thanks…!!
Great points Joshua. Make it about THEM, not YOU. I just published my own piece for musicians on how (not) to use social media. Didn’t want to spam this article with the link, but if you’d like to see it, just let me know.
Thanks for gathering valuable details . Really great, When we have the desire to share our message or brand on the world wide web, it is essential to identify and select the right media. The aim is indeed to reach as many people as we can, for a reduced and controlled effort.
aye, i ended up just not caring… i also happen to be a recluse… probably what contributes to my having released so many albums. (officially, working on 59) but anywho, if my musick fills thine ears, awesome… if not, o well.
Really Really loved this! It’s hard to know how/when/what to post because your right the wrong content or over posting is just not good! I think you hit it on the head saying a lot forget about the social aspect and only focus on the media. Thank you
Thank you! I am SO tired of getting links on Facebook from people I’ve never heard of, demanding that I listen to their music. I love checking out new music, but I’m overloaded at this point and freaking bored and annoyed with this approach, honestly.
Great points Joshua, I’ve been making music for years, just got round to start making it available to people which meant joining Facebook which I am still getting my head around. Was just asking myself what I should and shouldn’t be posting etc and then found your article. Now I am gonna have a right good think about the points raised in this article cause I think it would have been easy to fall into the habit of posting self serving nonsense!!
Thanks again man.
Great article, glad I found it. I am new to working with musicians in London and want to promote more live music – I’m going to try and link this blog to my website – just starting out in the music business and you’ve given me good ideas on how to engage with our audiences (listeners and musicians). FAB. Can I link this to my website – well gonna try??
Glad you liked the post – yes please do link to us – we’d love it Deborah!
It is very disheartening that today’s social media driven environment populated with young listeners who are completely ignorant of what musicianship and musical talent is, are destroying the platform for true musicians and songwriters. People who are posting garbage on social media, who don’t even know how to play an instrument, but have a certain look or following, are getting millions of views, being flagged by producers who base everything on views and followers and not talent,and are getting signed. My son has been a musical prodigy since age 5 on piano and guitar, mastered his instruments through years of training , awards and study and wrote and produced incredible songs, winning multiple song contests. He is a marvel, hired to perform at venues at the age of 11. He refused to give in to changing his persona and had faith that people would see true talent. Instead, he sees people who can only play four chords (terribly) , performing songs a pre-schooler could write, but look like clowns and have a following get millions of views and are noticed by spotify producers. This frustrated him so much that he has abandoned his musical genius and goals of pursuing a music career and instead is majoring in Biology. Social media and a listening public who know nothing about music is ruining true musicians and artists. Half to todays pop stars cant even play instruments. It’s a tragedy.
Unfortunately in today’s world, being talented isn’t enough. We don’t make the rules – just give our best advice on how to pivot towards them. I’m sure your son is extremely talented – would love to hear something if you want to send a link our way!
Thanks! One of our most popular through the years!
Thanks for sharing this! I am sure this will help a lot to those who are doing music marketing. They say not all music is created equally, or maybe it’s just the strategy that is not being boosted. I also recommend trying out a music management tool to help you promote your brand, grow your audience and give your music the attention it deserves.