Marketing and promoting music in the digital age is not an easy task. Even in the underground, there are hordes of bands and artists competing for the attention of the listeners. Many are also raising their digital marketing skill level, or hiring a digital professional to do their work. How to reach success also depends on your music style, a sub-genre like metal requires its own twist on the promotion strategy.
I’ve been doing a lot of digital marketing and online promotion for my bands in various ways, and these are my key learnings. Some of my tips are more useful in an underground scene like extreme metal, but I think most of them applies to all online music promotion to some extent.
How does a record label play into online music success?
I’ve had good and bad online experiences with the record labels that my bands have been signed to. Some of them have used their channels fairly well to promote our music, and others haven’t even come close to what I can achieve on my own with some diligent work.
I believe a record label is more important for online promotion when you’re in a mainstream genre, since you’re more dependent on PR and influencer marketing. A niché audience can usually be found when you’re doing independent self-promotion.
Post music on many platforms
The most successful digital marketing platforms for me have been YouTube, Facebook, Bandcamp and SoundCloud. I’ve experimented with many smaller platforms as well, but my take on it is to give deeper attention to the ones you choose to market your music on. Many of them wound up giving me no views for hours of work, that could have been better spent on a deeper focus on the other marketing platforms.
I also recommend being active on Rateyourmusic and Last.fm (why not with a personal profile?) to keep the band information up to date and communicate with fans or possible fans. The music fans on those sites are usually very passionate, and few of them mind you recommending your band if you have a good reason to do so with a personal touch.
Tags, tags, tags!
Just being present and up to date on the platforms I mentioned is a solid step on the way, but the best way to lead new listeners to your music on a digital platform is through tags. Make sure to think like a user yourself and research which tags that would probably lead people to find your band. Or even better, find some tools or statistics to find the numbers that allow you to make a good decision.
Music tag tips for exposure on digital platforms:
- Genre (don’t forget to aim for different levels of sub-genre: metal, death metal, progressive death metal. etc.)
- Country, language or geographic location
- Influences (band names, artists, band members or album names)
- Year or era (2017, old school, modern)
- Mood (depressive, dark, light)
Leverage music contacts
You usually make a lot of online and offline acquaintances as a musician, especially in an underground scene like the metal music scene. I’ve been posting songs (with approval) from my friends bands on my YouTube channel to get more views and followers, which is a win-win situation. I build my online presence, while the band I share finds some new listeners.
Many musicians and Facebook group owners are also happy to take your music under their wing and share it with their contacts, provided that they like it and feel that you’re not pushing them to do it.
Leverage niché groups
Another important tip relating to contacts, especially for underground musicians: become a member of niché groups for artists, genres or whatever seems fitting and share your content there. If it fits the theme, it’s usually welcomed by the group members. A tip to avoid being spammy is to participate in the discussions, and share music that isn’t your own.
Website (if you have one) SEO
A website presence is a nice way to get your music and digital content across, but if you really want to use it to gain fans you should get more active in driving traffic. You don’t need to pay to do this! SEO (search engine optimization) can make you rank high on Google, and if you have the right strategy it can be a cheap way to find new fans for your music.
Multi-platform content marketing
Connecting your platforms can produce some pretty interesting results for your online music promotion. I’ve been experimenting with Facebook links to articles on my website, with quite good results. The trick is to provide link headlines that make people curious, and then linking to valueable content that is not regarded as click-bait.
Newsletters – a great way to keep track of music fans
If you want to preserve the visitors that potentially only come across your Facebook or website once, having a newsletter with a clear sign-up call-to-action is a great idea. You will have your followers archived, and build your database whenever the opportunity for more sign-ups arise. A newsletter is a perfect way to announce an album release or a gig to a large audience that probably won’t mind being contacted by you.
Live video and digital marketing
Since I don’t do many live gigs (or even rehearsals anymore) with my bands, I haven’t experimented with it, but sending out your music live as a Facebook video is a way to get great reach. It’s also possible to do a live Q&A this way, but be prepared for it to run dry on questions if you have a small fanbase. I’ve found myself completely spontaneously glued to many live shows and Q&A’s by my favorite bands in a way that I would never be watching a DVD or YouTube.