Featuring Ari’s Take, DIY Musician, In The Key Of Success, Headcount, and The Rock/Star Advocate.
Happy New Year!
Here we are back at it! I suspect you may be making some resolutions and plans for this coming year, as now is the perfect time to do that. To get you inspired, I gathered 19 of my favorite music industry experts and asked them to give me the ONE piece of music marketing advice that they suggest for artists in the new year. Plus, you get a bonus from yours truly! No two answers are the same and they are all golden nuggets.
I will precede with my nugget and it is this:
Have A Plan With Your Goals Included
Ariel Hyatt – Founder, Cyber PR, Author, Blogger, Cheerleader
If you don’t have a written plan and a long-term strategy, it will be very hard to get where you want to go. I see way too many artists wasting their hard earned money on publicists, Spotify Playlisting companies and radio promotion before they are really ready. You need to work on your brand, messaging and building at least a small engaged fan base building before you jump to hiring any of these types of companies or you will not get the results you expected. A plan will help you to do this systematically and with intention rather than feeling like your pants are on fire.
Don’t Blow Your Budget on Recording Only
Bryan Calhoun – Creator, Music Business Toolbox
The biggest mistake I see indie artists make is to spend all of their money on recording, leaving nothing for marketing. Music, like any other product, needs to be supported through marketing efforts. That costs money. Spending 30 – 60% of your overall budget on marketing is reasonable. You need to create materials (videos, images, etc.), license tools (email, web hosting, etc.), advertise (Google, Facebook), hit the road, retain marketing professionals and more. If you plan to put your music out without marketing it to “see what happens”, I can save you the effort and tell you: nothing.
Clearly Communicate Your Story
Bree Noble – Profitable Musician, Female Entrepreneur Musician & WOS Radio
My biggest piece of marketing advice for 2019 is to know how to communicate your story. Your story includes the things you’ve done, experiences you’ve had, lessons learned, triumphs and heartaches, everything that makes you the unique person and artist you are today and influences the music you create. You may think this is obvious and easy, but have you ever really sat down and written out your stories? Being comfortable with and confident in telling your stories are the keys to creating interest in the media, being prepared and interesting in interviews, creating rapport on stage, and engaging authentically with your fans. Take time to write down and reflect on crucial events in your life and then practice communicating those while adding sensory details that pull the audience into your story. Improving your storytelling is just as important as honing your musical talent.
Put Your Fans First
Suzanne Paulinski – The Rock/Star Advocate
As we move forward in this new era of the music industry, it’s become more and more apparent that the only gatekeepers in the industry are the fans. Make sure all decisions and actions are made with them in mind. While your goals may include wanting to be signed by a label or land a feature in a certain publication, don’t lose sight of the fact that it’s your fans’ engagement and excitement around you and your music that will garner that attention, not the pitch or packages you send those organizations.
Remember to Renew Your Website Domain
Ross Barber-Smith Electric Kiwi & Bridge the Atlantic Podcast Co-Host
Not the most exciting advice, but always important – remember to renew your website domain names and hosting accounts! If you don’t keep an eye on this, you could lose your domain name (which can be VERY costly to get back if someone else snaps it up!) and your website, which can be a disaster for an independent artist. Make sure your online presence is always up and running as you never know who’s watching! Keep an eye on your email for renewal notices, and make a recurring note in your calendar to check a week or so before any renewals are due.
Build An Industry Email List
Emily White – Founding Partner at Collective Entertainment
Retain email addresses of journos, bloggers, and playlist/tastemakers so you can contact them in the future about your work. I know this is, in theory, is sacrilegious to my beloved PR friends. However, we rely on them to know who and where these folks are since they move around so often. In the meantime, I encourage artists to snag those email addresses directly from the press coverage on yourself, so you can keep them in the loop on future projects that might be smaller and don’t make sense for a publicist. That way you’re servicing tastemakers whom you already know are a fan and might push a tour, cover song, or other things you have going on in between releases.
Understand Your Spotify Data
Todd McCarty – Heat On The Street
The recent rollout of Spotify Publishing Analytics beta (the music publisher’s version of the Spotify For Artists analytics portal) is the first we’ve heard of Spotify sharing “playlist performance” data outside of the company. So far only a handful of publishers have it, but Spotify is on-boarding more. (https://publishers.spotify.com/) I predict that this data will find its way beyond the publishing community in 2019. If it does, it will change the playlist consumption environment. I also predict other streaming services will increase the amount of data they are sharing. If you’re not already on Spotify For Artists, you’re missing out on a world of good information.
Set Up Your Revenue Streams
Randy Chertkow & Jason Feehan, authors of Making Money With Music: How to Generate Over 100 Revenue Streams, Grow Your Fan Base, and Thrive in Today’s Music Environment and The Indie Band Survival Guide (1st & 2nd Editions).
As important as publicity is, it won’t put money in your pocket in 2019 unless you’ve set up revenue streams to make money from your campaigns. For example, will you collect all the worldwide royalties from your music’s streams, plays, and views? Before launching your campaigns this year, capture more income by creating new product and merch options to match your low, medium, and high-spending customers. Also, pre-register your songs and sound recordings so you get your royalties. Finally, tap at least one additional revenue stream (there are hundreds we’ve identified) so you can make even more money this year.
Pay For Social Media Ads & Boosts Without Bitterness
Chris Robley – CD Baby Co-Host of The DIY Musician Podcast
2019 will be the year your AVERAGE independent musician starts budgeting for online advertising without feeling nauseous or bitter AF. We’re getting used to the idea that reach requires money, especially the highly-targeted reach enabled by big social platforms. So you can count on organic/viral engagement and be disappointed 999 times out of 1000; you can reluctantly pay to boost a post, feel cheated, and walk away from your fans on a particular platform; or you can embrace the fact that social ad platforms provide you with tools worth paying for.
Learn Instagram Advertising
Ari Herstand, Ari’s Take, author of How To Make It in the New Music Business
Whereas Facebook advertising is well known and widely utilized, the power of Instagram advertising has barely been explored. I have recently discovered (and personally experienced) the ability to not just target potential fans based on very specific interests and demographics, but actually get them to visit streaming services, ticket platforms, and merch stores in an inexpensive way. So inexpensive that, once set up properly, the amount earned can always cover the amount spent – usually by a margin of 3 to 1 or more. 2019 will be the year that the entire music industry learns to master Instagram (and Facebook) advertising.
Embrace Live Streaming
Ryan Kairilla – Author & Podcast Host Break The Business
Embrace live streaming! Platforms like Twitch and Facebook Live are becoming very important platforms for musicians. Live streaming presents an exciting opportunity for artists to not only present their art but also cultivate deeper relationships and have genuine interaction with their fans.
Get Creative On Socials
Melissa Garcia, Partner at Collective Entertainment
Don’t be afraid to get creative with how you connect with your fans. The vast majority of artists out there are all communicating with their fans the same way. Instead, create unique experiences to draw your fans in and find ways to get to know them. This can be in the form of dinner gatherings at a city you’re touring in. Creating conversation by harnessing social media/communication tools. Starting a Fan group on Facebook to communicate with your fans directly (as opposed to depending on Facebook’s algorithm).
Meet Your Fans Where They Want to Meet You
Rick Barker – Rick Barker Music
One of the biggest mistakes I see artists make is that they make it hard for fans to find them. Discovery happens in so many ways today. Social shares, playlist, word of mouth. It is what happens next that determines whether or not they truly discover who you really are. Meet them where they are at, not where you want them. What I mean by that is, make sure you have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. You don’t have to be crazy active on all 4 but you at least better have something recent. They will use their social media platform of choice, not yours.
If The Election Is Your Thing, Jump In Early
Andy Bernstein, Founder, Headcount.org
The Presidential election will kick off earlier than ever before. By this Fall, and possibly this summer, it will be the hot topic everywhere. If you plan on engaging around the election and participation, jump in early when it matters most.
Blend Old School With New
Janelle Rogers, Founder, Green Light Go Publicity
The key to success in 2019 is blending old school with new school. As musicians embrace direct to fan social media tools and streaming options, they should also look at how to connect with the gatekeepers in media and influencers who can spread the word to the masses about their music. Blog coverage has been proven influential with the powers that be on the streaming platforms and also with booking opportunities. Streaming engagement and social media followings are just as important with influencing bloggers. Everything you do in 2019 should be with the interconnectivity in mind.”
Get With The Power of Music Subscriptions
Cherie Hu – Freelance music-tech journalist Billboard, Forbes and Music Business Worldwide.
The dominant business model for digital music today seems to revolve around a user subscribing to a platform, rather than to an individual artist, with the platform dictating revenue distribution. But a growing number of companies like Patreon, Kickstarter’s Drip and the newly-launched Mixcloud Select are offering fans the opportunity to subscribe directly to their favorite artists or labels for a monthly fee, in exchange for exclusive content, access to subscriber events and other perks. In this scenario, the artist owns a direct line of communication with fans, keeps the lion’s share of revenue and can more effectively segment and service these fans than what is currently possible in a mass-market streaming environment. I’ve noticed a slow but steady increase in awareness of this creator-centric subscription model over the last few years, and expect more and more artists and platforms to embrace the model in 2019.
Do The Thing
Cheryl B. Engelhardt – In The Key Of Success
My biggest piece of advice is to stop buzzing for a few days and do The Thing. What does that mean? For me, I am constantly juggling multiple projects, which I love. But at some point, something is getting pushed to the back-burner. The Thing, for me, was finishing writing my email series to my fans. Get good at email this year. Take the time to do it right. It’s your gold mine. It’s your relationship with your fans. It’s your access to growing your career. Stop buzzing, and set it up right. You will be relieved when you do.
Don’t quit your day job
Marcio Novelli – Musician / Podcaster Bridge The Atlantic
Don’t quit your day job… But don’t give up on your dreams either. The old adage that it takes money to make money is almost always true, even in the music business. And, it’s just that – a business. As artists, we don’t want to admit that but it’s true. And, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing. In fact, a more empowering term is to call ourselves music entrepreneurs. We all want to support ourselves doing what we love but, until we have the financial support of a label (and, sometimes, even when we do), the reality is that we need to pay to record, release and market our music, not to mention all costs associated with touring, online presence and merchandising, to name just a few. So, there is no shame in having a day job that provides consistent income in order to pursue our dreams. Just make sure to never wake up!
Evolve To Thrive
Meghann Wright, Digital Marketing and Trends Manager Symphonic Distribution, President GrindEthos Records, Marketing Plan Writer at Cyber PR
As the industry changes, the best advice I can give is to be adaptive. Just like animals in the wild, you need to evolve to thrive. This means staying on top of trends, constantly educating yourself through podcasts, books, and timely articles. Whether you’re an artist or an industry player, the more you know, the more you can present yourself as a professional in your field. I can say this also from the artist’s perspective. I taught myself almost everything I know about independent marketing and release strategy, and curated symbiotic relationships in the industry through networking and scene involvement while I was an active professional touring artist. That means going to shows, going to events, and putting yourself out there. If you want to make it in the jungle, be a beast!
Melissa Nastasi, Founder City Bird Publicity
One piece of advice I would strongly give to artists is to be patient. With the world of marketing and publicity forever changing, mainly on a year-to-year basis, the game often isn’t the same as you remember, or how your friends told you it would be. Before heading out into the world, be sure you are putting together a strong timeline and string of assets going out, which will help to give a cohesive push moving forward. Remember success doesn’t usually happen overnight! Writers who may have covered your music or prior band in the past may no longer be writing at a certain publication, etc. The same goes for Spotify playlists. Don’t get discouraged if publications and playlists do not pick up your music and story immediately, as sometimes they have an inbox full of new music to digest on the daily.
Want to kickstart your music marketing plans for 2019 but don’t know where to start? Click the image below for a free checksheet to get you into action.