These Musician Marketing Plan posts are the most popular series at Cyber PR Music. They are fully updated for 2021.
In this ever-changing landscape, we see the same issue consistently: A vast majority of musicians don’t create long-term marketing plans. Artists skip this vital part of their music careers. Plans used to be the responsibility of the record label when artist development used to be a thing or a great management team but very few artists are lucky enough to have either (or in many cases, they don’t want a label). This leaves a void in today’s new music business.
To make things worse, the pressure of consistently releasing music, keeping up with social media, Spotify, newsletters, booking, plus learning new technology and platforms, keep artists busier than ever. These never-ending tasks battle long-term perspective and can hijack your goals. Plus add a global pandemic to the mix and there’s no mystery as to why many artists feel like they are spinning instead of planning.
Musician Marketing Plans Guide Part I
Take a look at the Part 1 VENN diagram which visualizes The Musician Marketing Plans (Total Tuneups) that we create for our clients. For each part, I have highlighted the sections we are covering in red so you can see how all of these parts work together.
Today, agencies that are available for indie artists to hire tackle only their tiny part and “silo” their tasks without keeping a whole team and broader picture in mind. They handle only their responsibilities. This sadly has a lot to do with how the artists approach releases. Once the music is finished a deep sense of urgency rushes in, screaming – “release release!”
You work so hard on new music, dedicating hours practicing, writing songs, not to mention spending large sums of money recording, mixing, mastering, creating visuals, and album artwork only to rush the release with no marketing plan in place.
Here are the basic components of our Total Tuneups / long-term Marketing Plans to show you the key elements you need to consider before you get too far ahead of yourself. Even if your release is not new, it’s important to take a step back and re-evaluate your marketing plans.
Goals Come First
Before you do any marketing you want to be sure you have outlined your goals. Without goals, there is no point in designing a marketing plan. I suggest choosing 3 small and 3 larger goals that you’d like to accomplish in the next 12 months. Be reasonable. 1 Million streams on Spotify may not be a great goal to set if you currently have 16 streams. This is all about building. Listen to my podcast about how to set goals here.
Next Comes Legal
Make sure you have taken care of the legal. This means handling your copyrights, trademarks, registering each song with a PRO and making sure you have agreements with any and all musicians who played on your records. This needs to be in all marketing plans.
Now, There are 15 elements to keep in mind when creating marketing plans
The First Five: The Nuts & Bolts AKA Ramping Up For Release
Here are the 5 areas that need to be addressed before any official announcements should be made about a new album, EP, or even a single coming out. To see these in more detail, download the companion Musician’s Marketing Plan Checksheet designed to help you go deeper. ( if you already released music, don’t worry! Backtrack and reset the stage) and for the future… now you know 🙂
Website & Brand
DSP’s (Digital Service Providers)
Email List / Newsletter
Want More Depth? Come watch the accompanying Video Masterclass all about how to prepare for and launch a new release. This applies to Singles, EPs, and full albums:
1. Music Distribution
Digital distribution moves a lot faster than it used to, but you should still choose the right distributor for you. There are different distribution channels you can use that allow you to get your music on digital service providers. We recommend CD Baby because they have customer support that you can call and we like their marketing platform which is called show.co. However, there are others such as Distrokid, ONErpm, and Tunecore. Distributors don’t cover everything, and independently you need to also be aware of additional distribution outlets for increased reach, a list that includes SoundCloud and Pandora.
Aggregators like 4-5 weeks to get your music to iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, and other digital service providers (DSPs). You should speak with your rep regarding the exact release timing to ensure that they have enough time to speak to the major DSPs about the release. If possible, you should upload the entire album when you upload your first, second, etc. single. Apple likes having full albums available for pre-order and that will open additional placement options for you.
TIP: Friday is the official release day for music so choose a FRIDAY – even if the release party is on a Saturday or if your astrologer says the best date is a Monday – you will look like a noob if you release on any other day! 😜
TIP: If you are ordering physical copies of your music, make sure that you get them in plenty of time, especially if you are running a pre-sale or having a release party and you want to offer physical products at the show.
2. Band/Artist Website & Brand
The music industry is built on appearances. To be taken seriously it is very important to have a complete and professional-looking online presence built into your marketing plan. This starts with your home – your website. You need a modern, functional site that you can update on your own. Your website should have a section where fans can easily get to your music (not a player that automatically plays, please!), a news section with the latest happenings, an EPK, and a newsletter sign-up that offers an incentive. Ariel wrote a detailed guide to help you with the architecture.
Please keep in mind that Artist Branding is the starting point and should be well thought out. A brand is an abstract, malleable concept and it may be difficult to know if you’re heading in the right direction. Your brand starts with your bio/signature story (which we will talk about more in Part 2 of this series and it also incorporates colors, style of copywriting, and fonts. Photos and visuals must be in alignment with your brand and make sure to carry this brand across all of your socials. Use your current single artwork with text on top of the images that promote the release date, new music videos, and tour announcements. We love Canva for fast and easy banner, graphics, and social skin creation.
3. Social Media
Time and energy need to be spent building a strong online presence in order to be taken seriously as an artist for when the time comes to start actively promoting. Many artists don’t know the basics and try to skip steps by hiring shady companies to swiftly build audiences. This might not be the best idea. Fake followers and limited knowledge of how to use these channels properly will hurt your promotional efforts. A solid social strategy must focus on themes & narrative and you must plan your consistent content so that it is constantly fan nurturing.
Keep in mind that music bloggers and fans will visit your socials to see what kind of existing following you have and they will want to catch a vibe. Stale, overly promotional, or boring profiles will not help your chances of engaging. Your content calendar is a crucial component to your social media success. Don’t leave it up to chance. Download our Social Media Organizer above to properly schedule and plan your posts.
The most popular visual social platform has experienced a meteoric rise. The best way to get great at Instagram is by using it and emulating people who already know how to use it well.
When you post photos, choose at least two hashtags, as this is how photos are found. Make sure to take the time to select popular hashtags that people are looking for and also create your very own “owned” hashtags i.e. #CyberPRMusic. In addition to hashtags, you can also add captions to your photos before posting. I caution you to be selective about what you cross-post to socials. You want to tell a separate story on each social channel to get people to join you, and not get fatigued by the same posts across channels. Also, post more Stories than posts as they drive more views. We have created two guides to help you take a deeper dive: The Musician’s Guide to Instagram & Advanced Instagram Tips for Musicians.
Even though a lot of artists are turning their backs on Twitter, we still encourage you to keep an active profile. Journalists and music bloggers still actively use it so if you want to connect to them this is the platform to make that happen. Every single person you interact with in real life should be followed on Twitter (friends, musicians, bloggers, producers, clubs, etc.). Increase your followers by following people and many will follow you back. Target similar sounding artists and follow their Twitter followers, as there is a high probability that they may also like your music.
To keep your profile active with Tweets, use Buffer. In as little as one hour you can schedule a few week’s worth of tweets. Vary the topics you tweet about from career news (which should be no more than 20% of your output) to your interests, passions, and hobbies. News, politics, sports, and/or culture are all great topics to share to engage and connect around.
Pay-to-play is the reality on Facebook for a Page to get any real exposure. We suggest you build an ad budget into your marketing plans from time to time but have goals in place before you do, and you should have a complete Page that is active with frequent posts. Make sure your Page has an attractive cover banner (as discussed above) and install apps that work as promotional tools for you and your music. We suggest a store from Bandcamp, a Tunecore or CD Baby Tab, and a mailing list signup form from MailChimp.
YouTube is the first place where millions of people go to search for music. It is a powerful platform where artists are getting discovered. For any artist looking to increase awareness, it is imperative to have a presence on YouTube with a professional-looking channel, and a cover image that is linked to your socials so people can connect with you across platforms. Make categories to group your videos for easy viewing, such as “Behind The Scenes”, “Official Music Videos”, and “Live Performances”. Also, highlight an official music video in the featured spot at the top.
We often see musicians leaving off their artist name in the title of the video, which is terrible for search engines. Create a list of tags. Make sure to include keywords and place important keywords/ phrases at the start of your tag fields. Use adjectives that describe your music and similar artists also as keywords, the latter of which will show up in the “related videos section” after your videos are viewed. We often see description sections left blank. This is crucial because it tells the viewer what they are watching and provides links to other content you own, such as your website and socials.
4. Digital Service Provider – DSPs
Digital Service Provider or DSP is another term for music streaming services. This can also mean music stores. You can not build effective marketing plans without having a working knowledge of DSPs and of course that includes how to drive your fans and followers to Spotify and get included on playlists. Here are a few to get intimate with but remember there are over 70 DSPs. To take a deep dive into 2 vital DSPS – Spotify & SoundCloud click the image above to get our ultimate guide e-book.
Once your distributor of choice releases your new songs to Spotify, you are able to claim and verify your Spotify profile with Spotify for Artists. That allows you to review listener analytics, check for any new playlist adds, add an “Artist Pick,” make playlists, and keep your photo and bio up to date. It is crucial that you understand the basics of Spotify and know how it can help you. They have created a great series of videos to guide you through. The most important thing you must know is how to submit your tracks directly to their playlist curators to be considered for inclusion on official Spotify playlists.
You can now view a quick snapshot of your music’s overall performance, identify milestones and all-time bests at a glance, expand your understanding with details of trends over time, discover which of your songs are getting shazamed (Apple owns Shazam) the most and see how many people are listening to your music over time in over 100 countries. Plus you can now update your profile photo through the very same portal. Find out more and sign up for Apple Music For Artists here.
It’s a big one and you should make sure your Amazon profile is in your control. Claim it here. and that you have reviews of your music posted on this platform as it helps with the search. More and more people are using Alexa to stream music and you should be sure you are verbally findable so check your Alexa or a friend to see if you are verbally discoverable!
SoundCloud is the go-to platform if you plan to do publicity as this is the main platform music bloggers and many podcasters use to accept tracks for consideration and embeds. Your SoundCloud presence can be a key deciding factor to having your music covered. SoundCloud also allows you to create private links for your music before it is released or select tracks to send to industry folks or anyone you wish to share a preview with. And of course, SoundCloud also has a robust community of music fans and other creators so it’s a great place to connect and give and receive feedback.
While Bandcamp is, in essence, a direct-to-fan e-commerce solution, it’s also a vast community of fans who understand that paying artists directly is the best way to support. Discovery features like fan accounts, the music feed, and artist recommendations introduce your music to new fans and can potentially drive sales. Bandcamp also has email collection capabilities and a subscription service (like Patreon) so you can grow your email list and make money. Plus many artists have success showcasing their past releases and selling them as bundles as a great revenue stream.
Pandora has over 58 million active users and an artist marketing platform called AMP – Artist Marketing Platform built-in. AMP allows you to record 15-second messages and attach them to any of your tracks plus you can target specific regions and build stories to share. It also pays you royalties (through Sound Exchange so make sure you are signed up with them). Note: Most digital distributors say that your music will be sent to Pandora, but in our experience, you still will have to send your music through to them using their brand new independent artist submissions portal.
Understand DSP Graphics Sizing
Make sure you have put your best foot forward on each DSP. Here is a guide that shows you the exact dimensions for images for each DSP.
5. E-Mail Lists & Newsletter
Your email and your ability to nurture your list is the most important part of musicians marketing plans release strategy that you will want to skip – DON’T.
Social media is key to attracting your crowd and building engagement and an important part of marketing plans. That said, email is still the most vital asset you will build for generating revenue. You make relationships with fans on socials, but you turn those relationships into customers with email. According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing produced an ROI (return on investment) of 4,300% — or $43 for every $1 spent.
But it is not just about writing an effective newsletter and contacting your mailing list once a month. You also need to understand the concept of email nurture sequences. Spend money on a mailing list service provider that can help you design a rich-looking email and provide analytics and tracking capabilities so you can measure the effectiveness of your newsletters and make adjustments where need be. A premier solution that many of our clients enjoy working with is MailChimp.
Now that you know how to build a solid online foundation and the beginning of an online community, now is your time to dive into your marketing plan and do it! Do not cut corners here. Having a true base will put you in a much better position when you are getting ready for your next 5 steps. These will show you how to start calendaring for your release. This is the topic for PART 2 of this 3 PART series.
Watch this 3-part marketing plans article come to life in a special video musicians masterclass I gave in New Orleans.
Want more ideas on creating marketing plans? Check out Ariel’s latest book Ultimate Guide to Music Publicity