These Musician Marketing Plan posts are the most popular series on this site. They are fully updated for 2019.
In this ever-changing landscape, we see the same issue consistently: A vast majority of musicians don’t have long-term plans. Artists skip this vital part of their music careers. The reason for this is, in today’s DIY world there is no one in charge of creating plans. This used to be the responsibility of the record label 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).
To make things worse, the pressure of consistently releasing music, keeping up with social media, Spotify, writing 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.
Musician Marketing Plan Guide Part I
Take a look at the Part 1 VENN diagram which visualizes your Musician Marketing Plan. For each part, we have highlighted the sections we are covering in red so you can see how all of these parts work in concert with one another.
Today, most agencies that indie artists hire tackle only their tiny part and “silo” their tasks without keeping the whole team in mind. They handle only their responsibilities without taking a wider view. This sadly has a lot to do with how the artists approach their releases. We know once the music is finished a deep sense of urgency rushes in, screaming – “release release!”
It is completely baffling that an artist or band would work so hard on new music, dedicating hours and hours practicing, writing songs, not to mention spending large sums of money recording, mixing and mastering, creating visuals, and album artwork only to rush the release with no 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 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 plan. We 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.
Next Comes Legal
Make sure you have taken care of the legal. This means taking care of 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 your plan.
Now, There are 15 elements to keep in mind when creating your plan
The First Five: The Nuts & Bolts AKA Ramping Up For Release
Here 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: new music used to come out on Tuesdays and now Friday is the official release day so choose a FRIDAY to release your music – 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 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 a tool called 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.
Even though a lot of artists are turning their backs on Twitter, we still encourage you to keep an active profile here. You can easily build a following of targeted users and jump into conversations with Twitter. Every single person you interact with in real life should be followed on Twitter (friends, musicians, bloggers, producers, club owners, etc.). Increase your followers by following people and many will follow you back. Lastly, target similar sounding artists and follow their Twitter followers, as there is a high probability that they will also like your music.
To keep your profile active with Tweets, use Buffer. In as little as one hour you can schedule a few weeks 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 with people to engage and connect around.
In this free Webinar, Michael Shoup of 12 South Marketing, who is teaching Cyber PR LAB 2: The Artist’s Selling System, will go through 5 Steps to Simplify Your Life and answer the one question artists, songwriters, and producers should ask and address before starting Facebook advertising.
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 daily posts. Make sure the Page has an attractive cover banner (as discussed above) and install apps that work as promotional tools for you and your music. Three we love are an artist profile Bandpage, a store from Bandcamp, Tunecore or CD Baby, and a mailing list signup form 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 other 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 artists 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 with your artist name 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.
Digital Service Provider or DSP is another term for music streaming services. This can also mean music stores. You can not build an effective marketing plan 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 to guide you through and you must know how to submit your tracks directly to their playlisters.
Apple has released a beta version of Apple Music for Artists. While it doesn’t give you the ability to customize your iTunes/Apple Music profile, you will get data on who is listening to your music and how they discover you. If you are releasing a full EP / Album you should sign up for a Presave / Pre-sale with Apple. You need 10 days before you launch the Pre-campaign so plan accordingly. Here are the directions for CD Baby and For Tunecore – we suggest you read through both and watch the video to get a sense of how Apple works. Apple needs the full EP available before you can arrange a pre-order.
It’s a big one and you should make sure your Amazon profile online is updated and that you have reviews posted on this platform. More and more people are using Alexa to stream music and you should be sure you are verbally findable so check
SoundCloud is a great platform for artists starting to share their music to potential fans. If you plan to do publicity this is the main platform music bloggers and many podcasters use to accept tracks for consideration. You can also create private links to your demos and music before it is released send those to industry folks for when you’re pitching your music.
While Bandcamp is, in essence, a direct-to-fan e-commerce solution, it’s 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.
This platform has over 74 million active users. It also pays you royalties (through Sound Exchange). Through most digital distributors, your music will be sent to Pandora, but this is not always the case. Check with yours and if you have not been submitted follow the directions here.
Don’t forget Shazam! Follow this link to verify your account. You must have one of the following: a verified Twitter, Facebook or 1,000 followers on SoundCloud.
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 the musicians marketing plan release strategy that you will want to skip – DON’T.
It’s so important that we have an entire LAB focused on how to improve your email called Level Up Your Email Game.
Social media is key to attracting your crowd and building engagement, 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 in 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, which is when you will start calendaring for your release. This is the topic for PART 2 of this 3 PART series.
Watch this 3-part article come to life in a special video musicians masterclass I gave in New Orleans.
We created a companion Checksheet to help you along with this 3-part series. Download it here: