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As an artist in today's always-on, social media-focused, trending-obsessed world, simply making great music isn’t enough—how to promote your music is just as important.

In the ever-evolving music industry, you as a working musician need to not just craft tunes that your fans and those who might not know you yet will want to hear, but also promote, promote, promote!

Whether you’re signed to a major label or you’re doing it all on your own, you’ll be spending a lot of your career promoting the songs you write and record. You might grace the cover of Rolling Stone or see your latest single sit atop a Spotify playlist, or you may do everything you can just to get a tiny bit of attention on social media. No matter the level you’re at or what activity you’re engaging in, it’s all about getting the word out about you and your art.

Most indie acts just getting started have to do all the promoting themselves, as they don’t have a team or the resources to farm these tasks out. Once a band becomes more popular and has some cash to their name, or maybe a label behind them with a full publicity department, promotion is a major key to success, and there’s no way to avoid that fact.

Read on below to learn how to promote your music and what promotion exactly entails.

As an added bonus, we talked to Def Jam A&R Anthony Mundle (YG, 2Chainz, Alessia Cara) and RI Entertainment GM of Artist Management and Development Jerry Beltran (DMX, MIKA, French Montana) to get their insights on music promotion for artists.

Ideas on How to Promote Your Music

How can I promote my music independently?

Hugh McIntyre

There is so much you can do to promote your music! Sharing every idea that would help spread the word about your work could take thousands of words, so instead, here’s a quick list of some of the best, most effective ways to get the tunes into the ears of as many people as possible.

Some ideas for how to promote your music independently include:

  • Get featured on a popular playlist on Spotify or Apple Music
  • Create a music video that goes viral
  • Buy advertising on social media
  • Plan and conduct a complete PR campaign
  • Hand out CDs and download cards on the street
  • Book concerts and music festivals opening for other acts

Where can I promote my music for free?

Hugh McIntyre

If you don’t have a dime to spend to promote your music, there are still ways you can reach those who haven’t yet heard of you and your amazing new single or album!

Here are a few options for those artists who are counting every penny and want to promote their music for free:

  • Make the lyrics or music video into a meme
  • Choreograph a dance video on TikTok that young people fall in love with
  • Become very active on social media and make connections outside of your music, encouraging new followers to listen to your art
  • Get friends, family and fans to share your work with their networks
  • Busk on the street, playing your tunes for passersby

How do I get my music noticed?

Hugh McIntyre

Making music is great, but it can be incredibly disappointing to work hard on new songs or an album, only for nobody to hear it. Getting your music noticed is a must for anybody who wants to be a professional musician, but how does one do that?

Here are some ideas on how to get your music heard:

  • Work with the media to feature you and your latest release
  • Hire a PR firm to promote your music
  • Pay a company to push your new song to playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services
  • Distribute it to all online stores and streaming platforms via a distributor

Where can I post my music?

Hugh McIntyre

So, the single is done, and you’re sure that once it’s out there, people are going to fall in love with you and your art. But, where should you post it? Many online distributors can help you with this task, though you’ll have to take on some of the work yourself in ensuring it’s everywhere listeners go for new tunes.

Some places you can post your music include:

  • YouTube (both an official music video and just the audio)
  • Streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Pandora and dozens of others)
  • Online stores (iTunes, Amazon and international options)
  • Bandcamp
  • Your website
  • Social media (You might not want to give everything away on social, but teasing your music is great!)

Create a Website

Yes, I’ve placed this first, and no, I don’t believe that’s putting the cart before the horse. While it is the music that matters most, you want to be ready for people to find you, buy your tunes, purchase merch or possibly book you for a show the minute they discover your work, don’t you?

Don’t wait until you have a large following to create a website, because by then you’ve likely already missed lucrative and important opportunities. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but your site should have all your info and at least links to your store and content, to begin with.

Get Distribution

Once you’ve recorded your first songs, you need to share them with the world. Sending your music to all the major platforms, such as stores like Amazon and iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and many others has never been easier, and it’s actually not that expensive.

There are quite a few well-known and respected players in the music distribution space for up-and-coming acts, so you’ll only need to do a tiny bit of research and hand over a few bucks and suddenly your art will be available everywhere!

How can new artists get their music heard by record labels?

Anthony Mundle (YG, 2Chainz, Alessia Cara)

There are several ways artists can get heard by a label. There’s the traditional way of being at the right place at the right time and meeting A&R [Artists and Repertoire], or meeting someone at a label that can send your music to an A&R. That’s the traditional way of going in an elevator and singing for an Executive. A lot of that doesn’t happen anymore.

But there’s also the way of just building a relationship with someone from the label and sharing that that’s your drive: you want to be an artist. Sharing your music, making it accessible and easy for them to actually listen to.

A&Rs will find you. There have been tons of times where we found an artist before the artist knew we found them. That’s our job: to go find and scout amazing talent that we know we can break and bring to the next level.

Another way is social media, let’s be real. With social media, do your research and follow the right people. Once you find one person at a label, it connects you to another person. Everyone’s praise is pretty public, so send them a DM and share your music, make it accessible for them, or email the person as well.

If you know that you’re that talented, you may just stumble across that A&R person at a label who’s like, “Hey, I’m gonna open up this email and I’m gonna read it,” and they end up being like, “Yo, I’m gonna listen to your music,” loving it, and replying to it.

Be persistent and always work on your craft. Just because you’re not getting any acknowledgment from the label doesn’t mean that the label isn’t looking, or that a representative isn’t looking. Constantly work on your craft because artists need to stay in the independent mindset. When you get signed to a label, you still have to maintain that mindset because it was one of the reasons why you got signed in the first place.

I gave three ways: There’s the traditional way. There’s networking—the way of social media, the internet, plugging, figuring out emails from LinkedIn, or meeting people. And then there’s just working on your craft and A&R will end up finding you.

Jerry Beltran (DMX, French Montana, MIKA)

The old way that doesn’t get done much anymore is people would send CDs or demo tapes to a record company. There’d be someone who filed through a bunch of CDs and tapes and listened. They’d hear that one in 100 or one in 500 and say, “This doesn’t sound so bad,” and play it for some record executive, and the story would go on from there.

I can’t tell you the number of people, not in a bad way, who will email me or send me a link to Instagram. As a music lover, I embrace it. You never know where you’re going to find that person where you really do believe in the music. It’s a one-in-a-million shot, but I’m still very much open to people sending me music and listening to music.

What I will say is, contradictory to that, the better way to get your music heard is to literally do it yourself. It’s extremely easy to get your music up on SoundCloud. It’s incredibly easy to get your music to the DSPs through a third-party aggregator. To get your music to the DSPs to YouTube and Amazon and Tidal and Apple; literally anyone can do it at this point. It takes very little research and very little money.

In return, you can have the same audience that any one of your favorite artists has. You’re on the same playing field as any of the artists you can think of in the world. People around the world can hear your music. I have a rule of thumb that if an artist doesn’t have music on the DSPs, nine out of ten times I’ll pass. I feel like if you can’t show me that you understand that music is also a business … I don’t know how I can take someone seriously as a professional at that point.

Once your music is up on SoundCloud and the DSPs, create an Instagram. Create a YouTube channel. Create a TikTok. Twitter. Go through all that stuff. That’s going to be how people connect with you. That’s pretty much the new website and the new blog. An artist to me nowadays that doesn’t have an Instagram or a Youtube or music on the DSPs is just like, have you been living in the world we live in? Are you aware of what’s outside? It’s as simple as that.

To have your music heard, just get it made and get it out there. I guarantee that it’s better than getting the attention of an A&R or the attention of a record executive, you’ll get to the fans, the people who are really invested in you. That’s the goal. The goal should never be to get the music to an A&R. The A&R will find you. The goal is always to get the music to your audience and to your fans.

Create a BandCamp

Once you’ve secured distribution for your music, you’ll want to look at BandCamp, which is something you can do all on your own. BandCamp is a fantastic platform for all manner of musicians, but it is most popular with those who are unsigned or who haven’t become superstars just yet.

The site is great for those who want to sell their music right to their fans, and even if it doesn’t bring in enough to fund your music career, it doesn’t take long to set up, so it’s worth it!

How can artists push their careers in music forward?

Jerry Beltran (DMX, French Montana, MIKA)

You have to think like an entrepreneur. It’s like, with all of these resources in front of you, why do I need a label? That’s a valid question. I always tell artists to make sure you’re hitting every marker that you can. What I mean is if you’re doing something on YouTube, make sure you’re promoting it on Instagram. And if you’re promoting it on Instagram, be sure it’s also provided on Spotify. And on Tidal. And on Amazon. And on Apple.

I think a lot of young artists narrow in on one source of promotion. Some artists have incredible YouTube numbers. Some artists have incredible Spotify numbers but aren’t necessarily catering to Tidal. Or they might have an incredible Instagram engagement but they’re not necessarily translating that to Spotify numbers or streaming numbers overall. You have to be able to hit every marker possible.

And now with TikTok, you have to go ahead and make sure you jump onto that ship, too, because you never know when it’ll happen. You’ll have more eyes, more audience, more people to tap into what it is that you do.

If I’m looking at an artist today and I discover them from whatever, let’s say someone retweets them or someone reposts them on Instagram, and I go to their Youtube and it’s bare or there are no videos, even as a consumer it’s a turnoff. Or if I go and let’s say maybe the artist is heavy on Spotify, but I use Tidal. Learn to use all the DSPs [digital streaming platforms].

Really, DSPs to me are another aspect of a social site. The great thing about DSPs is that they generate money for the artist. YouTube generates money. That’s the benefit there. The TikToks work as, say, a 15-second ad you’d see on YouTube or a 30-second ad you’d see on television. Use all the tools that are there. Those are things that are easily accessible. They don’t come from a label, management company, or production company. Those are readily accessible to anyone and everyone who wants them.

Anthony Mundle (YG, 2Chainz, Alessia Cara)

The beautiful thing now is that you can do it from your bedroom. I think that’s super dope and cool. You can have a studio. You can just sign up with a distribution company. You can mix and master from your room. You can write from your room. You can do all your digital stuff just from a laptop. You can shoot a video from your room and shoot content from your room.

You can really do everything. And organic content really captures an audience more so than ever now. It’s about being able to relate to an artist. It’s not always about the music. It’s about the artists as humans, and people being able to connect to them.

Having digital content is super important. So is being creative and using grassroots marketing. If you believe in something, stay true to it and just work on connecting the dots. Build a small team. I think someone who is content-driven, a Photographer who can do photos and also edit amazingly, those people are important.

And then [have] someone who can help with your day-to-day. You don’t always have to get a Manager. I would get an Attorney before I get a Manager, to be honest with you, even though I am a Manager.

But you can literally start your career by yourself, and once your career starts moving, you just don’t take your foot off the pedal. Keep going at it. Keep building different revenues and attributes for yourself, and keep expanding.

It all just depends on what kind of artist you want to be. Some artists want to be truly indie, and some artists want to be global superstars, be iconic, and be ambassadors. Whatever you wanna do… just be true to yourself and your artistry.

Build a Social Media Following

Just as you’ll want to have a website in place before you begin distributing your music, you should also create profiles on the biggest social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, at least to begin with.

The next big step when it comes to the world of social media is not just having those profiles, but building a following. I could talk about this topic for hours, so I won’t dive too deep, but there is a big difference between simply sharing when you have new tunes or the details of an upcoming concert versus learning how people act on these sites and working hard to interact and reach new fans.

What makes songs go viral?

Jerry Beltran (DMX, French Montana, MIKA)

I think there’s no clear indication of what will go viral. Who could’ve predicted that someone on a skateboard with cranberry juice who looks like one of my older cousins would go viral? And you know Fleetwood Mac has had one of the biggest reinventions of their career.

No one really knows what and who is going to go viral. You just provide content and provide moments that are true and endearing to what you are. If you live in a thought process of, “I’m doing this thing just to go viral,” it’s just not going to be achievable. Going viral is one in a million.

Going back to the example of the guy on the skateboard drinking cranberry juice to Fleetwood Mac, it’s just him enjoying the afternoon and doing his own thing for his TikTok followers and just jamming out to a song he really liked. He had done other videos like that and he was just being true to himself. I think that’s a beautiful part of that overnight success for him.

As far as artists going viral, what I would tell artists is especially now with TikTok, you have to have this thought process like The Truman Show where the eyes are on you at all times. You kind of just have to go about and forget that the cameras are there and just do stuff that is engaging to you and engaging to your fans. Just be. Things will grow from there.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going viral. There are many other artists who have gone viral and built careers; Lil Nas X, Cardi B, Doja Cat all come to mind. Some have stuck around and some haven’t. Things go viral every single day. It’s a matter of being able to capitalize off of that and being able to continue to do what’s real. In Cardi B’s case, even with going viral, she has always been herself. That’s a very important thing.

You also have to think: why are these 200 people following me? What is it about me that has made these people start following me since day one? That, again, is clearly because you’re just who you are. Being yourself isn’t alien to the common person who’s rooting for you and is a fan of yours.

Anthony Mundle (YG, 2Chainz, Alessia Cara)

The artist is what the person gravitates to off the computer. Also, what someone feels at the time. Or people just seeing it online and being like, “This is cool,” and reposting it, then other people are seeing it and using hashtags, then things just jump from one platform to another platform and go viral.

So there are many different ways of doing things. But you wanna make sure it happens organically and that it’s not something that’s being forced.

One thing I know about challenges is they’re fun and people are doing them more than ever now, and that’s a way for things to go crazy. There was a song by this girl named Erica Banks, it’s been out for over a year, and I heard the song and thought it was dope. I thought the artist was dope and cool, and I went to Charlotte and I started hearing it played, and then I came back to New York and there became a challenge called the “Buss It challenge.”

Everybody started doing it. Moms … everybody you can think of, all ladies started doing it, and the song ended up rocketing. Now it’s on the Billboard 100 chart.

Network In Person

This is an item that shouldn’t even need to be on this list, but it is worth mentioning. As a working artist, you should always be networking. Actually, that’s something you’ll want to do as a functioning human being, as you will only get somewhere in this world by meeting people and forming lasting, meaningful relationships.

Some people see networking as shaking as many hands as possible and giving out your business card or accruing followers on social media, but if you’re doing it right, it’s about so much more than that. When it’s safe to do so again, find events, concerts, and parties where others in the music industry spend their time and go out of your way to introduce yourself and talk to people. Don’t worry if you don’t get a big meeting out of every chat, as you’re playing the long game here.

Putting it simply: make sure people you meet remember and like you, and then do your best to follow up with them later on to see how you can possibly work together. That’s effective networking.

Create an Electronic Press Kit

You won’t need an electronic press kit until you’re ready to start promoting yourself in a business sense, so if you’re happy to stick to writing and recording music in your bedroom and then releasing it and moving on to the next, this can be pushed further down this list.

An electronic press kit, or an EPK, is a must-have for musicians who are hoping to reach out to record labels, booking people at concert venues and festivals and for those who want media coverage. An EPK is a concise, condensed package that delivers all the information these people might need, along with your music, in an easy-to-digest format.

It will take some time to create, though there are plenty of websites and programs that will help you to do so well. You’ll also want to make sure you keep it updated with the latest news, contact info, and, of course, music.

Build a Mailing List

Some may say that in 2021, mailing lists are no longer necessary, as most fans head to a musician’s website or their social media channels to see their upcoming tour dates and to hear about new releases, but I argue with that. Sure, they don’t hold the same importance they have in the past, but that certainly doesn’t make them archaic!

Even if you only get a few fans to sign up for your mailing list, it’s still something you should spend some time and money getting right, as these are the people who are sure to listen to you the most and who will likely be spending a lot of money on your art.

Building a mailing list takes time, and it may go very slowly. In order to get people to hand over their email addresses, make sure a form is featured prominently on your website, ask fans to do so on social media and at shows, and try enticing them with discounts on merch or other goodies.

These next steps are only to be attempted when you’ve already released some music, played at least a few concerts, and when you already have fans. Doing so beforehand probably won’t hurt your career, but it may be a waste of your resources.

Get on Blogs

Of all the items listed in this section, I would say that getting featured on blogs, in magazines and so on is perhaps the easiest…though please don’t think I’m saying it’s actually easy to do. In fact, it is notoriously difficult, but still not quite as hard as what’s shared below.

Countless music lovers still scour many tastemaking blogs daily for new bands and just-released songs, as they can’t get enough of what’s coming next. Convincing Writers to listen to your work and present it to their audience is very hard, as these people are inundated with CDs and emails non-stop, and they only have so much time to cover anyone.

You may want to stop and think long and hard about forking over hundreds, or possibly even thousands, of dollars for a Publicist, who will do all the work of reaching out to Editors and Writers for you. They will also probably have experience with writing press releases, enticing pitches, and they may have relationships with those people to begin with.

If you don’t have the money to hire someone to do this for you, it’s possible to do the work yourself, but I highly, highly encourage you to read up on best practices and how the PR world works. If you don’t, you run the risk of going about it all wrong and wasting people’s time and ending up annoying them, which won’t help your cause now or in the future.

Get on Playlists

Years ago, radio helped break artists and was the main medium people used to discover new songs and bands. Now, that role has been transferred to playlists, which are housed on streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. The countless rankings that fit every occasion and mood can be played by millions of people, and if a musician can get their latest track on a very popular option, it could make all the difference.

Just like radio, though, it is very difficult to be selected, and there aren’t too many playlist makers and Editors to contact. While you may feel ready to handle all your media outreach efforts, playlisting is a totally different field, and this may be where you should spend your hard-earned money. The firms and people who have been able to forge relationships with those in decision-making positions are typically worth the high cost, as you probably won’t get anywhere on your own, sadly.

Reach Out to DJs

The last thing you’ll want to do as a musician just getting started is work to secure radio play. It may be especially gratifying to hear your song played on a local station or a college program, but it doesn’t mean what it used to, so I wouldn’t suggest you spend too much of your time on this until later on. I hate to say it, but very, very few acts catch their big break via radio these days.

When it comes to reaching out to DJs and Programmers, you may be able to do some of the work yourself (after researching how to do so effectively and properly, of course), but perhaps not all of it. You can perhaps handle attacking the college scene, or maybe the smaller local outlets, but you may want to consider hiring a company to help when looking at larger stations in major markets and other options, like SiriusXM and so on.

A&R Jerry Beltran
Jerry Beltran

Jerry Beltran is a music executive with over 12 years of experience, working in various roles in the music business as an A&R, Manager, Artist Developer and Artist Relations across companies such as Def Jam, TIDAL, SRC Records, and R I Entertainment.

He’s worked with the likes of DMX, French Montana, MIKA, Akon, Gustavo Santolalla, Charles Bradley, 070Shake, Sam Fischer, and several others, across many genres in music including Hip Hop, Rap, R&B, Pop, Rock, Soul, Latin, Reggaeton, Latin Trap, and Dance.

Jerry has always been an artist first executive, and nurturer of creativity, utilizing his experience in the music business to help guide young artists. In 2020, he launched his own creative house 212JERRY, in order to provide direction and development to artists in need of A&R, development, digital marketing, and other resources.

Born in the Hell’s Kitchen section of New York City, growing up Jerry was surrounded by the big lights of Broadway, the sounds of the busy streets, and the music coming from car stereos. A graduate of Five Towns College’s Music Business program in 2003, Jerry has gone on to work with many top-level music executives including Rich Isaacson, Steve Rifkind, Monte Lipman, Bruce Carbone, and Paul Rosenberg. Jerry continues to live out his passion in the pursuit of developing and breaking artists, in the hopes of living out their dreams.

Def Jam A&R Anthony Mundle
Anthony Mundle

Anthony Mundle works in Def Jam Recordings’ A&R department, which has been a dream of his since he was a kid. He has coordinated, operated, and A&R on projects for artists such as YG, 2Chainz, Alessia Cara, Nasty C, Fabolous, 10K.Caash, GUN40, Saint Bodhi, Dave East, Jadakiss, Beau Young Prince, and more.

Anthony is from Queens, New York, and has instilled the essence of a hard-working NYC creative. He attended Florida A&M University for undergrad and earned his master’s degree from City College of New York. With degrees in Public Relations, Marketing and Brands Integrated Communications, Anthony knew he wanted to make his music dreams a reality by moving back to NYC. He has since worked for Sony Music Group, Viacom, CBS Radio, and UMG–he previously worked for the EVP of Universal Music Group for two years before assuming his current role. As a young man of many hats, Anthony has enjoyed success while in PR, marketing, artist development, and even as the manager of three acts.

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