It’s time to take your music out of your bedroom – let the world know about it! Learn how to promote your songs, skills and brand with 7 tips to leverage your producer talents on a global scale.
By Charles Hoffman, Black Ghost Audio
You probably didn’t sign up for a career in marketing when you started playing music. But in today’s world, it is a subject that requires serious thought if you want to take your producing career to the next level.
The good news is, there are some concrete things you can do right now to start building your brand. We’ll present 7 of them today.
The goal of marketing is to help you achieve long-term profit through brand and product awareness. A basic form of marketing involves sharing your music on social media. If you've been releasing music for a little while now and using social media as your only form of marketing, you’re only using a fraction of the available self-PR mediums.
There are additional marketing techniques that you should be taking advantage of. We're going to look at techniques involving building up a catalog of music, collaborating with artists, working with a publisher, touring, publishing supplemental brand content, targeting a hyper-specific niche, and developing a music release strategy.
1. Build Up a Catalog of Music
Young producers often make the mistake of rushing to release music before they've built up a significant body of work. Finishing a song is exciting, but when you release it into the world without a game plan, the likelihood that it will receive the attention it deserves takes a nosedive. Stockpiling 20+ songs allows you to release them in an order that makes sense from a musical perspective. For example, if you wrote three feel-good summer vibe dance tracks during the winter, hang onto them until the summer—when people will be more receptive to them.
Building up a catalog also results in less pressure to keep churning out music each day/week/month in an attempt to stick to a release schedule; this isn't an excuse to be lazy, but sometimes life gets crazy, and it's hard to hit deadlines. It can feel like you're missing out on opportunities when you dedicate 5-6 months to building up a catalog, but marketing your music effectively is a long-term game.
Another major issue that comes with neglecting to create a music catalog is that if an agent or label approaches you and asks to see your unreleased catalog, but you don't have anything to show them, you immediately become a risky investment. Investors want to know what they're buying into before putting money down. If you have 50+ unreleased songs stockpiled on your hard drive that impress an agent or other interested party, there's a much higher chance that they'll be willing to work with you.
2. Collaborate with Artists
Leveraging the network of other artists is highly beneficial. If another artist's tracks are constantly receiving millions of plays, but your releases are struggling to push past 1,000 plays, pursuing a collaboration with that artist is an excellent way to tap into a larger fanbase. Some partnerships will make more sense than others. For example, if you're currently trying to establish yourself as a country producer, but you keep collaborating with pop artists, this could skew the public's perception of your brand. Reach out to other country artists to see if they're interested in working with you.
If you're a hip-hop producer, collaborating with Kanye West would do wonders for your career, but you need to be realistic about who's willing to work with you. For an artist to collaborate with you, they need to view you as an asset. Prominent artists will often collaborate to tap into each other's fan bases, but when you don't have much of a fanbase, you need to take a different approach.
What type of unique skills do you have? Maybe you can play a theremin, sing great whistle tones, or do killer fry screams. When you offer something precious to the person you're trying to collaborate with, they're incentivized to work with you.
3. Work with a Publisher
By solely uploading your music to streaming services to claim streaming royalties, you're not fully capitalizing on your music and maximizing its reach. At a minimum, you should be uploading your music through a music distributor to streaming services like Spotify, but without very much extra effort, you can claim performance royalties and mechanical royalties using a publisher.
You can read more about how to make money from royalties and other sources in the music industry here.
An admin publisher like Songtrust will register and license your music with Performing Rights Organizations (PROs), Collective Management Organizations (CMOs), and Mechanical Rights Organizations (MROs). You retain full ownership over your songs while the admin publisher collects royalties and licensing fees on your behalf. To pay themselves, the admin publisher will claim a relatively small commission on the money that they collect for you.
On the other hand, if you partner with a traditional publisher, they'll actively attempt to sync your music with TV shows and films, which leads to increased brand awareness and revenue. The caveat is that a traditional publisher will keep a sizeable portion of the revenue that they generate for you, but they'll likely have access to connections and opportunities that you wouldn't have access to on your own. When you work with a publishing company that heavily pushes your music, there's the opportunity to make a fair bit of money. Although, there's the risk that they won't push your music as heavily as they should, which could leave you trapped in a bad publishing deal. To avoid this, get a lawyer to review the terms of a publishing agreement before signing anything.
It's also possible to license your songs via music libraries like Premium Beat, Audio Jungle and Artlist for additional profit. When a content creator like a YouTuber, filmmaker or game designer needs music for a project they're working on, they'll often turn to a music library. They pay a license fee that grants them the right to use your music in their project; part of this money goes to you, and part of it goes to the music library. When people hear your song in a YouTube video, movie or game, they'll be able to trace it back to you via the project's credits or with an app like Shazam. Ensure that you upload your music to Shazam's database through your music distributor; this might cost a couple of extra dollars, but it can help people identify you and your music.
4. Start Touring
Touring has the potential to be quite lucrative and significantly increase brand awareness. Surprisingly, you don't need to be a well-known producer to go on tour. There are various avenues that new producers can pursue to dip their toes in the world of touring. Lining up a string of soft ticket events is one option. When you play a soft ticket event, it means that people are paying for tickets to an existing event, and you just happen to be one of the acts performing; this could be a club night in which you appear as a guest DJ. Many club promoters are happy to book some fresh talent from out of town, even if you don't have much of a following. In small cities, where the talent pool is weak, the simple fact that you're an out-of-town artist might be enough to get you booked.
A hard ticket event is where you're the main attraction, and people are coming to see you play. The problem is that when nobody knows who you are, you're going to have trouble selling out hard ticket shows. There's no incentive for a promoter to book you in a situation like this—they're looking for acts that will turn a guaranteed profit. As a new artist, a hard ticket tour is off the table. Once you eventually start playing hard ticket shows, you'll need to start small to ensure that you fill venues. The first year that you tour, you might be playing 50 person venues. As your fanbase grows, you can start to scale up.
Another viable option is to go on tour with an artist who digs your music, performing as their opener. They'll book the venues, and you'll be able to piggyback on their tour route. By bringing you along, you might be able to help the artist offset some of their touring costs, such as accommodation. If you're touring with one other producer, splitting the price of a hotel room every night will increase that producer's profit drastically. When approaching an artist about going on tour with them, pitch yourself as an asset that will help them save money.
As an opener, you're not going to make as much money as a headliner. There's a possibility that you'll end a tour taking a financial loss. Although, you can write off a tour as a marketing expense. The reason that artists go on tour is to increase brand awareness and gain new fans. Even if you end up $1,000 in the hole, the new fans that you gain could end up buying your merch down the road. Treat the first couple of tours that you book as long-term investments.
5. Provide Constant Content
Fans require constant content if you want to remain on the tips of their tongues, but this doesn't necessarily mean that you need to release new music each week—that's a lot to ask. Firing up a weekly Twitch production livestream that gives people an inside look at your creative process certainly counts as content. Fans love to see what goes on behind the scenes, and if you're producing music anyway, you can let fans in on the experience. Alternatively, you may want to market this as premium content that's accessible to paying Patreon subscribers. Regardless of how you decide to deliver additional content, it's a great way to engage fans.
Kenny Beats has a YouTube series called The Cave, where he brings guest artists into his studio, cooks up beats, and then gets the guest artists to rap/sing over his beats. Each episode gets edited to showcase exciting or funny moments. Kenny plays back the final product that he and his guest artist have created at the end of each episode. From a marketing perspective, the guest artists gain new fans that watch The Cave, and Kenny Beats taps into the fanbase of each guest artist. Get creative and ask yourself how you can turn the work you're already doing into content for fans.
6. Know Your Niche
If you decide to run ads to promote your content, focus on a hyper-specific niche that you believe is interested in consuming your music. Attempting to target a broad audience during the early stages of your career will eat away at your marketing budget and deliver insignificant results. Mass marketing is typically reserved for household brands like Coca-Cola with unfathomably large marketing budgets; they can afford to hit markets like all of North America with the same ads day after day.
What's more important than the number of people you reach is the number of times you reach people. Mass marketing doesn't work for small businesses because the larger an audience, the more expensive it is to run ads. Paying for an ad that 100,000 random people in North America will see once on TV isn't going to convert nearly as well as running a targeted ad that 10,000 people on Instagram will see ten times. Many ad platforms allow you to target specific demographics, such as people that have demonstrated an interest in artists similar to yourself in the past—target these types of people. The more people come into contact with your brand, the greater the sense of trust they feel, and the more likely they are to buy your merch and stream your music.
7. Develop a Release Strategy
When you release music, you need a marketing plan. A single/EP/album needs to be marketed before, during and after its release. In the 3-4 weeks leading up to the release of a single, you should be reaching out to blogs and podcasts to secure coverage for the day of release. Suppose you're attempting to schedule multiple interviews the week after the release of your single. In that case, you'll need to inquire well in advance. Podcasters need time to fit you into their schedule; they often have content lined up for weeks or months. In the weeks leading up to your release, run social media ads that tease your song. You can retarget the people that clicked on the teaser once the song is released; they've already shown an interest in your music, so they're prime retargeting candidates. If these same people interact with more of your content, you can retarget them with your merch ads.
Releasing an album requires a much heavier marketing push than when you release a single. It takes a long time to put an album together, so you need to do everything to make sure that it receives the coverage it deserves. Many artists release a handful of singles from an album before the album's release. These singles are often released one month apart, leading up to the day that the album drops. Usually, the chosen songs reflect the general vibe of the album and help build up hype.
Once an artist drops an album, it's pretty common for them to go on tour to promote it. The time spent creating an album, the promotion leading up to the release of an album, the release of the album itself, and the time spent touring the album is known as an album release cycle. Album release cycles can last 1-2+ years. For example, it might take you four months to a year to write an album, six months to secure and execute album promotion, and the tour that you organize may last weeks or months.
You can use the following image as a timeline reference for the release of an album. Plug as many promotion opportunities into the dates between releases that you can, especially leading up to the album's release. Then, following the album's release, you can schedule interviews in the cities that you tour through. Executing a plan like this is a tremendous amount of work, but you'll be able to pull it off if you provide yourself with enough time.
Orange = Produce Music
Cyan = Create a Marketing Plan
Green = Release a Single from the Album
Red = Release the Album
Pink = Go on Tour
Marketing your music as a producer (effectively) requires you to build up a music catalog and then develop a release strategy. You can collaborate with other artists, work with a publisher, begin touring, provide constant content and target a hyper-specific niche to make the most of your marketing budget. These powerful marketing techniques are applicable whether you're a brand-new producer or a seasoned veteran. Calculated long-term planning is essential to marketing your music.
Charles Hoffman is the owner of Black Ghost Audio—a website that provides free music production tips, tutorials, gear roundups, and premium online video courses. Visit Black Ghost Audio to learn how to produce music online.
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