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Creative Promotional Strategies for Independent Musicians

May 18, 2023
3 min read

An independent musician needs to wear many hats. As well as creating music and developing a brand, unsigned artists need to take charge of marketing campaigns to build an audience. A good marketing campaign not only increases your listeners, but it can also connect you with industry professionals and inch you ever closer to a recording contract. 

However, marketing for musicians isn't a particularly easy process. Independent musicians need to invest time and resources into attracting reliable and relevant audiences. They also need to create a steady stream of content that adds value to their music, connect with fans regularly, and build an authentic persona. 

Struggling with your promotional campaign? Our guide breaks down what you need to know about marketing for music artists. 

Building a Strong Online Presence

Social media platforms can help you nurture a fan base and promote yourself, but you'll need an artist website first. Here, you have complete creative control. You can use your site to create a brand and tell your story. As well as serving as a showcase of your brand and music, you can use your website to monetize your content. As your audience grows, you can explore merchandising opportunities and sell tickets to live shows. 

You're probably already using social media platforms. They're a key part of how to market a musician effectively. However, they're pretty much useless if they haven't been optimized. How do you do this? For starters, make sure your profile photos are updated regularly and have been properly sized for social platforms. Next, think about what's included in your bio. This above-the-line field is hard to miss, so use it to highlight current information like release links and tour dates. Finally, make sure the details on your social media channels are regularly updated. 

You should also be producing regular content outside of your music. Videos are always a good idea and can work well on any platform. Think about delving deep into your inspirations or the writing process. Alternatively, offer fans an insight into what goes on behind the scenes with candid footage. 

Need more music marketing tips? Consider adding a blog to your website. If you're not confident in your own writing abilities, you can always bring in guest posters. Podcasts are another idea. There's plenty of appetite for music blogs, with major recording artists like Alice Cooper and Henry Rollins joining in the action. Don't have time to commit to a regular release schedule? If putting a podcast together seems like hard work, think about guesting on someone else's. 

Social Media Promotion

Social media should be at the heart of marketing strategies for musicians. If you're just starting out, don't spread yourself too thin. Consider what each social media platform can do for you. 

Are you comfortable in front of the camera? Upload acoustic performances of your signature tracks to YouTube. If your branding is image-heavy, consider using Instagram to your advantage. TikTok can also be useful, especially if you want to leverage the power of influencers. The right short-term video can go viral, with many mainstream artists getting started on TikTok. In 2019, Lil Nas X uploaded a short of 'Old Town Road' to the platform. In 2020, he was picking up two awards at the Grammys. 

A good musician marketing plan needs a clear social media strategy. Outline your key objectives. Are you trying to build an audience from scratch? Your focus should be on exposure. Do you want to introduce a growing fanbase to a new EP? Plan your online release date carefully and start generating buzz ahead of time. 

Your content slate should be varied, containing everything from image teases to Q&A sessions. Using a social media scheduler will make your life easier, especially if you're taking a hands-on role in content creation. 

If you want to use social media well, you need to know how to unlock the power of hashtags. Using them the right way can earn you new fans and help you make the right connections with industry insiders. While some platforms let you add dozens of hashtags to a single post, don't feel like you have to stuff every update with the maximum amount of tags. Mix it up with trending and less popular ones to give yourself the best chance at ranking well. If possible, upgrade your social media profile to a business account so you can see what impact hashtags are having on visibility. 

You might not be in a position to collaborate with established musicians, but you can still connect with them via your social channels. Try reaching out to them with a new recording or a cover of one of their tracks. If all goes well, you'll earn a new celebrity follower and attract legions of new fans. 

Paid advertising also has its advantages. However, you need to have established your brand and ironed out a social media strategy before exploring paid ads. Even a modest paid advertising budget can attract tens of thousands of additional views to a new video. 

Engaging With Your Audience

Email marketing can be an effective tool for unsigned musicians. Use your social channels and website to let fans know how they can join your mailing list. You've then got a direct line to the inboxes of your followers. 

Try to engage with your audience every day. If fans are commenting on your uploads and posts, get busy in the comments section and communicate with them. This shows that you're authentic and goes down well with industry executives who like artists who aren't afraid of self-promotion. 

Q&A sessions are also a great idea. Keep it simple with Twitter-based exchanges, or set aside some time for a longer live stream. An unscripted and unplanned approach will boost your credibility. 

Another way to engage your fans is to offer giveaways. You'll want to up your game in the lead-up to a new single or album drop. You can offer merchandise or free tickets as an incentive. It reaffirms that connection with your audience, but also gives your online presence an instant boost. Looking for more music marketing suggestions? Check out IndieFlow's YouTube channel for more tips on social media and playlist promotions. 

Collaborating With Other Musicians and Industry Professionals

Collaboration is a fundamental part of promotion. However, when collaborating with other artists, you need to be authentic in your approach. Make sure there's some crossover with your target audience. You don't want to look like you're simply trying to piggyback on their follower numbers. 

You can also reach out to music bloggers and influencers. Here, you can be a little more creative in the way you go about things. Try sending an influencer your latest EP. If they use one of your tracks in a video that goes viral, you can expect a significant upswing in your listeners. 

Now's also the time to network. Don't assume great content is going to get you noticed by the right people. You can leverage social media to network online, but you need to be more proactive about things. Connecting with other musicians can help gain you exposure to industry professionals. Be confident and don't be afraid to ask for introductions. 

Playing Live Shows and Events

While you can make waves online, you'll eventually need to think about live performance. If you're an unsigned artist without representation, you'll need to take charge of this yourself. However, booking gigs doesn't need to take up too much of your time. IndieFlow's music management tools make booking and promoting gigs simple. You can also send out EPKs to new venues, increasing the odds of standing out from the competition. 

Just because you've booked a gig, doesn't mean you're going to play to packed-out audiences. Most venues expect performers to play an active role in promotion. Make sure you're stirring up interest online if you want to play at the same venue again. 

Nurture good relationships with promoters and venue owners. If possible, visit the venue before you perform and make an in-person introduction. Once a gig is done and dusted, make a point of thanking venue owners online and tag them at every opportunity. 

Increase Exposure With an Effective Marketing Strategy

It's never too early to start thinking about marketing your music. Start by cementing your online presence. Invest in a high-quality website, put together a standout EPK, and optimize all those social media channels. However, make sure you're targeting two or three platforms that work for you. Once you've done this, keep those channels updated with fresh content that goes beyond music. 

Engaging your audience is also important. Build up those mailing lists and use email marketing for a direct line to your fans. You should be connecting with your audience daily. Stay active in the comments section or think about more intimate exchanges with Q&A sessions. 

Collaboration is also crucial. Connect with other musicians online and make use of influencers. However, be authentic in your approach. Making a shameless grab for followers can easily backfire and damage your credibility. Finally, think about live performances. Online marketing is useful, but you still need to actually perform. Be an active presence on the live circuit and build strong relationships with promoters and venue owners. 

An artist manager will know how to market a musician, but unsigned performers can still handle a lot of promotion independently. You might be eager to start recording and releasing content, but a good marketing strategy should be an ongoing endeavor. It takes time and requires effort, but a consistent approach to self-promotion will pay off in the long run.

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