Marketing Your Music: When To Spend

Very few people start a band, or start writing songs, to make money. Since streaming replaced the sale of physical CDs, making money out of music has been harder than at any point in history. Even major artists make fractions of a cent on each stream on Spotify (much to their displeasure), so what chance does a new, emerging artist have of making money by selling songs? That was a rhetorical question - the answer is 'almost none at all.'

If you're thinking of starting a musical venture with the idea that one day you'll be rich, the best advice you'll ever get is 'don't bother.' Almost nobody makes it, and you can easily rack up heavy debts in the process. If you want to make music, do it because you love it. Do it because the music and the words come to you and flow out of you, and you can't stop it from happening. Do it because you're passionate, and you want to share your talent with the world. If you're very lucky, you might just earn enough out of it to pay the bills - but that's a bonus.

To stand any chance at all, you need to get your music heard by a wider audience. Achieving that wider audience is easier said than done. There are thousands of websites out there which claim to offer artists a route to the top, and it always comes with a fee. It's hard to know what to spend money on, and what to avoid. Because of that, it becomes tempting to treat the entire process a little like playing online slots - moving between slot games and putting a little money in each one to see if anything pays out. Anyone who's had a bad day at a casino can tell you that isn't a good idea. The best way to walk out of a casino in profit is to stick at one game until it pays out. That's a little easier to do with a mobile slots game on websites such as Amigo Slots than it is with choosing a promotion method, though. Slot games will tell you what your odds are before you start playing. Paid music promotion services don't.

With that in mind, we’ve looked into the various methods currently out there for promoting yourself, and put together this brief list of ideas. Some of them will cost money, and some of them won’t. Many of them are ideas that are as old as the music industry itself - but they still work.

Get Big In Your Home Town

There’s no trick to this. When you’re first starting out, play as often as possible in and around your home town, and look to establish a local following. Perhaps even consider a residency of sorts, with monthly or bi-weekly gigs at the same venue to develop a following. No amount of paid promotion is going to attract people to you if your music isn’t ultimately good enough to hold the attention of people who like live music and live nearby. Look out for shows that have artists with a similar sound to you. Try open mic nights. Begin by supporting other acts, and then try headlining a night when you think enough people will come to see you. To get anywhere, you need to have enough people interested in you at home to come and follow you when you play further afield - and, of course, to follow you online. Gig, gig, and gig some more until it happens. This shouldn’t cost you anything apart from time.

Make A Music Video

You’re only ever one viral video away from becoming famous. As Andy Warhol once (more or less) said, anybody can be famous for five minutes. Make a genuinely interesting YouTube video that people will want to watch and share, and you could gain tens of thousands of new followers overnight. YouTube has launched the career of many recent music stars, and there’s no reason you can’t be next if you’re good. Don’t do it cheaply though. The days of a grainy webcam video being good enough for YouTube are long gone. Pay someone with a decent camera - and preferably a great concept for a video if you don’t have one yourself - to put the video together for you. A music video is a commercial for you, so treat it like one. If you try to do it cheaply, you’ll look cheap as a result.

Hammer The Music Press

You're not going to get into a major music publication straight off the bat, but there are thousands of music blog and websites out there crying out for content. There's also your local newspaper, which likely doesn't have enough interesting news to put into its 'entertainment' section. Just Google' music blog' or 'independent music site,' and send them your links. Make sure your emails and messages are personalized, and only contact them when you have something to promote. Gigs or new tracks are obvious opportunities. This is free publicity, and best of all it means that if someone important Googles the name of your act, they'll find you in dozens of different places. You'll look like a bigger deal than you actually are if your latest EP has been reviewed multiple times all over the internet.

Get On Playlists

Earlier on, we mentioned that streaming services like Spotify have been accused of short-changing musicians. That doesn't change the fact that they're necessary when it comes to building your band's profile. It's not just about Spotify either; there's Apple Music to think about, as well as Deezer and many more Not all of them have millions of users like Spotify does, but the flipside of that is that it might be easier to get yourself playlisted on smaller ones. Don't just think about streaming services either - look for small podcasts and internet radio stations which specialize in your genre of music. They're always looking for something new to play, and you might even get an interview out of it if they like you. There might only be a couple of thousand people listening, but if it's the right couple of thousand people, it's worth far more to you than blindly spending $500 on Facebook or Twitter posts which everyone will scroll past anyway. You might have to pay a small fee to get on a couple of the more prominent playlists, but it's worth it for the right ones. Check their reach and regular audience figures before you spend a single dime, though.

All of the above is better than just sending copies of your demo to labels who haven't asked for it, or investing heavily in social media promotion. Fewer and fewer labels even listed to unsolicited submissions - and who's to say that labels won't soon be a thing of the past anyway? If you're already gigging regularly, you don't have to work harder - just a little smarter. Spend money on the video, spend time on the independent music press, and you'll be well on your way to a bigger presence.