Everything begins with a plan
I'm Icarus and this is my first article for Nightride FM which will be a part of a series of posts to help you in promoting your music.
Before we start: I'm an avid believer in quality over quantity. Always try to ensure that your work is the absolutely best it can be before you release and start marketing it (within reasonable boundries). Even if you're aiming at releasing a song every week/month the one you should focus your marketing efforts on is the one who is performing best (More on this in a future article).
Many successfull artists have 100s of unreleased tracks, why is that? Because they did not feel it fit the project or was good enough!
As with many things marketing can be an extremely time consuming process when you want to see big results. With money you can "buy" some of that time (ads, placements, influencers). However, to be effective in both approaches you need to have a solid foundation. Just like building a house, if you slack on the foundation and framework it wont last very long!
If you really want to pick my brain during the following articles I suggest you start like I do when i enter a new marketing project. Set up a clear plan with goals (even if they're vague) and make sure that every action in marketing I take brings me closer to that goal. When the goal is achieved you set a new one and repeat.
My process with artists (Icarus included) looks like this (you can probably apply it to any venture in music wether you be label, artist or even playlist curator):
1. Why do you want to get your music out there? What is your goal?
The goal here could be anything you want: fame, make a living of your music, helping people, touring and seeing the world, building a record label (whatever you want to achieve pretty much)
As an example: Let's Build a big and loyal fanbase that's really in it for the art you put out (your first 1000 true fans as some may put it) and explore which channels/mediums are most effective for that.
Summary: This goal kind of stretches over multiple of the suggested goals above with money and hard monetization being secondary. (Hard monetization defined as merch, album sales and touring). We want the fans to stick with us 5 years from now as well.
2. What is your angle, how are you different/similar to other artists within your genre/genres?
To be able to efficiently target potential fans we need to map out who is most likley to enjoy our content, this means you need to find artists who either have a similar ahstetic or musical style to you and find common denominators between their fans. Also map out your skills and find out what value you can provide your target group with. "What vibe does my songs have, do i have mindblowing visuals, do i have a political message, do i love pixelart, am i a big fan of 80s splatter flicks? etc"
These things will dictade who you will market to and how you are going to create value for them so they will stick around.
Examples of ways to do this:
- Consume their content, do the videos have a similar feel to it, the audio, their way of interracting with fans, live performances?
- Look at similar artists on their Spotify profile (there is a big chance that there are big parts of your targeting group overlapping there).
- If you encounter ads from them, save the ad an watch what they're doing (but take it with a grain of salt as we don't have the stats for the ad)!
- Look at their audience on social media, what type of content do they share, what other interests do they have?
Remember, someone who is into sci-fi will be more likley to listen to a song with a cover or video portraying space than one with a bear in it.
I wear a mask as Icarus, I really enjoy creating retro ahstetics, I write Electronic Pop with roots in Retro Electro and use vocoders/talkbox in my songs. There is a good chance people who like Daft Punk, 80s movies, Danger and retro sci-fi will like what i create. However, bands like Chromeo,TWRP, Justice & some mainstream indie-pop acts share traits with me as well. So the sweetspot lies somewhere where people are overlaping all those variables.
Thus I create retro looking content with a sci-fi flare to give the music a fair shot, if people enjoy it they are likley to follow me on Spotify and so I angle my marketing towards the group of people most likley to interract with that content. (Details of this will be covered in a future article).
This is important because our ads, content, communication and targeting all depends on what we decide our target audience to be.
3. Based on your goal and angle, what should be your main platform?
This will be the "final" destinations of your followers, where you want them to gather. It could be Itunes, Streaming services, your webpage, bancamp page, youtube channel etc
As Spotify and other streaming services has become one of the biggest, if not THE benchmark for measuring how well an artist is doing in terms of popularity I believe that regardless of your intentions this should be your main priority. (However, you will be able to apply this to any platform.)
A few reasons why streaming services like Spotify are so important is because:
Together with Youtube It's the main source of music discovery today.
Every follower you accumulate will subscribe to future releases from you.
The algorithms of Spotify will automaticly promote you based on your tracks performance (this also means we will want to filter out who ends up streaming your music on Spotify, which i will begin covering later in this article).
Having a big streaming followerbase will make it easier for you to land blog posts, playlists and getting picked up by editorials further boosting your popularity on said services (more is always more).
A big following in streaming will put you on potential lables & sponsors radars if that's what you want.
IMPORTANT: Your success on Spotify will depend on you how well you manage to collect a dedicated fanbase on that platform. Spotify uses personal data as in listening behavior based on your songs (skip rate, likes, profile visits, frequency, what other artists they listen to). It is crucial that we feed Spotify good data. If we got a dedicated group of listeners sharing traits, Spotify will automaticly push your music out to listeners with similar traits/behavior (who we know based on target group will be likley to enjoy your music and feed the algorithm more positive data).
I will dive deep into this in my next article.
Summary: What we learned from this is that all other channels (social media, youtube, article features, website... etc) should always try and direct the people who enjoy your music towards your main platform (yes we will actually at a small scale filter listeners). In this case that will be your profile on Spotiy.
4. Takeaways from the first article in this series
1.Time is the main currency you pay with, to see any results you will have to put both time and effort into marketing. There are no shortcuts or way around this. What you will get out of this series are a bunch of tips on how to spend that time wisely and don't waste it on things that likley won't pay off.
2.Ensure the quality of the music you're releasing. Try it out on other people (outside of family and close friends) and watch their reaction closely. Often a "cool" or "it was alright" won't be enough. Unless you find people really getting stuck on your song, asking for private links before release risk is it will not be recieved well. If you however find that people want to keep on listening to it, strap in and considering trying out a small budget for ads/submithub and placements. If results from your tests are positive, consider scaling up. (I will give you some insights in marketing in a later article with concrete examples like how i gained 1000 new followers on facebook over a month spending only 50$ on ads).
3.Your goals and purpose needs to be defined before you start marketing your project, if you don't have any your marketing will be aimless and ineffective. Also, start small as an example: set a goal of gaining 100 new followers on Spotify during the next month and try to maintain that etc.
4.Do your research and carfully plan out your strategy to achieve your goals. Find your potential fanbase based on common interests, get to know them and find a way to provide value from them. To be able to take you must always give, this is the same in any industry. The best advertising is the kind of advertising that does not come off as advertising as it provides value for the person interracting with it. Never forget you are interracting with real feeling humans that have their own lives and stories, some of them might even become new friends. So treat them with the respect they deserve and always try to be humble and kind, don't be afraid to give. Many of my closest allies today are people who either helped me or people who I've helped in the past expecting nothing in return from.
5.Choose which platform that will become your "home" and stick with that, this is where you and likeminded people will gather. Build a community around that and never shy away from helping someone who needs you as long as your time allows it.
6.It's completely fine to just enjoy music and write for yourself, if this is your goal it should not matter what people think or even that they care at all. Just do your thing and try to get the most out of it, everything goes as long as you're happy about it!
This concludes the first article in my marketing series, the next one will be about how Spotifys algorithms work and how you can use it in your favour. I will also adress some of the pitfalls at different stages for artists and what you should try to avoid to build a sustainable following there!