7 Ideas on How to Get Free Music Promotion
Everybody wants to promote their music, but nobody wants to pay for it. This has been an ongoing issue in the music industry for decades, and while a lot has certainly changed about the business, this is one thing that has essentially stayed the same.
Getting any kind of opportunity to promote new music can be tough for musicians just entering the business, and it’s even tougher when they can’t pay anything to hire professionals to handle the job for them (and even then, nothing is guaranteed).
So, are there any options available for artists to receive free music promotion? Sure, but they take work and they’re not necessarily going to come through for everyone, so if you came here looking for a secret promo tool nobody else knows about…I hate to be the one to break it to you, but no such thing exists. However, these seven ideas are a good place to start trying!
1. Say Yes to as Many Live Opportunities as Possible
As an up-and-coming musician, this idea is already in your head for sure, and if it’s not, you’re pretty far off the track. Playing in front of as many people as possible as often as possible is still one of the best ways to promote yourself and your music, and in today’s new music industry, it’s one of the best ways for any artist to make a living (well, usually).
When you are just starting out, it can be extremely tough to find paying gigs, and there’s a lot of talk in the business about whether or not it’s okay to perform for free. There are valid arguments to be made on both sides of the discussion, but I say when you are just trying to make a name for yourself, it is beneficial to take unpaid gigs. Sure, it sucks and it might even end up costing you money depending on your setup, but before you have a real fan base and before you can move any tickets, this is what you have to do to get your foot in the door. Many other artists have done the same, and at this point, it is almost an unfortunate rite of passage.
Now, I’m not suggesting you take every opportunity that comes your way, as some of them are bound to be terrible (don’t drive an hour to perform in front of seven people, for example), but don’t turn your nose up at shows where you could make some fans and sell some CDs or other merch just because the organizers don’t have a budget for a proper fee.
2. Secure Radio Play
Most artists who dream of making a living with their music aim to have their music played on the radio, even if the medium doesn’t play the same role in breaking talent as it once did. Once you’ve been chosen by DJs and programmers and you hear your songs on the radio, it’s a sign you’ve “made it,” and that’s what makes it so difficult to make this happen.
Millions of people still listen to traditional radio, and record labels and even independent acts continue to create entire campaigns to get placements. While this may sound intimidating, don’t let it dissuade you from at least trying to secure radio play!
If you’re still new and don’t have a fully polished sound or a large following, I wouldn’t suggest emailing or sending CDs to the biggest stations in your market. It probably won’t hurt, but you stand essentially zero chance of being selected unless there is some special time when they focus on indie acts or local talent. Instead, you should be focusing your energy on smaller outlets. Look at lesser-known stations, those that fit your style, or maybe college stations. Sure, they don’t have the same reach, but it’s a start, and it might not cost you a dime if you do all your outreach electronically!
Before you simply begin firing off emails to random people begging them for coverage, spend some time learning how to do this correctly. Form relationships with Bloggers on social media. When you’re doing this for the first time with brand new music, try going for smaller blogs.
3. Develop a Social Media Following
Like playing live as much as possible, the idea of growing your social media following should already be on your mind, but have you considered working on your brand outside of just your music? You certainly want to talk about what you’re putting out into the world and you want to use these platforms to promote your work, but if you only use social for those purposes, you probably won’t get very far.
These days, people want to follow funny, entertaining, insightful, knowledgeable accounts —anything that provides value to them. Music should be a part of this equation, but you might find even more success if you rack up lots of followers with tweets and Instagram posts unrelated to your tunes and then share your art with your growing fan base afterward. This method has helped those with no musical background get started, and it has also assisted those who aim to make music their primary job get even bigger than they might if they only talked about that one thing.
4. Go Viral!
Now this is certainly something easier said than done. Everybody wants to go viral…but how?
I wish I had a solid answer to this, but I don’t, and if there was such a thing as a surefire way to create a viral hit from nothing, I’m sure someone would have discovered it by now and used it to their full advantage. Going viral as a musician can mean many things, but as long as it’s for something positive, I’d say go for it. Create content that is nothing but funny. Write tweets that will catch on and be shared thousands of times. Craft a music video the whole world needs to see.
The idea of going viral just for the sake of going viral might sound shallow, and in some ways, it is, but it also can be quite beneficial. If you can’t get everyone talking about just your art, have fun doing other things, and then once you have a lot of people listening and paying attention, make sure they hear your music as well!
Now, you can’t always plan to go viral, but you can hone your craft and create content millions of people will likely be interested in seeing and go from there. Even if you never “break the internet,” you still have a good shot at building your audience, and from there, you can watch your follower count rise and your stream count grow right alongside it.
The best part about going viral? If you’re clever enough, you can usually do it for free.
5. Make Creative Covers
As an artist, you may want to spend a lot of your time on your own original material, but it’s extremely tough to get people to listen to new tunes from a musician they’ve never heard of. (You’re probably already familiar with this issue). What you can do is give them a new take on something they already love, which might be your best shot at getting them to press play on anything of yours.
In between writing and recording the music you and your bandmates come up with, why not put your own spin on something the world is familiar with? Covers have become a springboard for so many upstarts, it almost seems like the only way to break into the industry in a major way these days. While artists like Shawn Mendes and Justin Bieber can get away with doing their best to croon while they play their acoustic guitars, you might want to do something different. Take a pop song and revamp it so it works as a rock tune. Add your own rap verse into a well-known chart-topper. Slow down a hip-hop tune and play it softly on the piano.
There are truly countless options, and once you already have some basic equipment you’ll need for your original cuts anyway, this type of music promotion requires nothing more than your time and creativity.
As streaming has pretty much taken over when it comes to CD shops, digital download stores, and even the radio, it’s very important you not only make sure your art is available on every possible platform, but you do whatever you can to be featured on playlists.
6. Talk to the Media
When you get to a certain point in your career, you’ll want to hire a publicity firm or a PR company, as they can talk to the media and get you featured on blogs and in magazines…but when you don’t have the budget for a full campaign or if you’re not ready for that yet (which is nothing to be ashamed of!), reaching out on your own is a perfectly fine idea to get some free promo.
Before you simply begin firing off emails to random people begging them for coverage, spend some time learning how to do this correctly. Form relationships with Bloggers on social media. When you’re doing this for the first time with brand new music, try going for smaller blogs. Rolling Stone isn’t going to review an album from a musician who can’t sell 10 CDs, so don’t ask…at least not yet. It is much better to slowly work your way up the PR ranks by getting one write-up after another, developing relationships with those who can help you out along the way.
7. Pitch Playlist Curators
As streaming has pretty much taken over when it comes to CD shops, digital download stores, and even the radio, it’s very important you not only make sure your art is available on every possible platform, but you do whatever you can to be featured on playlists. These collections of songs, which are sometimes curated by employees at companies like Spotify or Apple Music, or possibly independent music lovers who have been able to accrue large followings due to their excellent taste, have become the go-to way for millions to discover new acts, and you deserve to be one of those.
You could hire a company that specializes in this activity to do the work for you, or you could take the time to find email address and social handles and reach out on your own. Yes, it’s very time-consuming, and there isn’t a great chance you’ll get the placement you want (if any at all), but that’s how a lot of things go when you first start out in the music industry. It’s simply what you must work through in order to make your dreams a reality.
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