The Best Budget-Friendly Music Promotion Strategies to Get New Fans for Your Music
When you’re a musician, especially one who has no major support and is funding your art out of your own pockets, things are really, really tough, and you need to do everything you can to save every cent whenever possible. However expensive you think this life is…it’s probably worse. You’ll be spending money on everything from instruments to studio time to having merchandise made (including your CDs), and, at least in the beginning, you’ll probably be shelling out more money to hit the road and play live than you’ll be making.
In addition to all those investments that must be made, you need to actually get your music out there, and promotion doesn’t come cheap. You can easily shell out thousands on Publicists, Radio Promoters, and advertising, and none of those efforts come with a guarantee.
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on music promotion (or any money), here are five options you have that might help you get the word out to the masses that you and your music have arrived. Music promotion can be one of the most expensive parts of being an independent musician but it doesn’t have to be — if you’re willing to put in the work yourself!
Pitch The Media
This is the first option many people think of and it can be one of the most effective so I think it deserves to be ranked first. Reaching out to the media is tricky, time-intensive, and it doesn’t always play out how you’d like, but if things go well — even if you only end up getting a fraction of what you were looking for when you first started pitching — it will likely have been worth the effort.
Before you reach out to Bloggers, Journalists, Podcasters and the like, do your research! These people receive hundreds of messages a day from Managers, Publicists, record label staff and artists themselves begging for even a moment of attention (if not also a write-up) so you’re going to need to do this right. If you send someone an unprofessional, rude, incomplete, tired, or simply uninteresting email the chances you’ll get what you want out of the interaction (the chances you’ll get anything out of the interaction at all, to be honest), aren’t great.
Don’t just start sending messages or reaching out to people via social without thinking, writing, rewriting, and potentially even having someone edit what you’ve done. Think of a strategy, of a hook, and of what makes you, your music, and your story, so special. Everyone wants to believe their new song is great enough to be written about on its own, but there’s a lot of awesome music right now, and you’ll want something else that will help you stand out from the crowd.
Do this right, and you could start to see your profile rise and your music gain traction. Do this wrong and you will likely ruin relationships with important tastemakers who won’t want to hear from you again, even if you’re the best thing to come along in years.
Don’t just start sending messages or reaching out to people via social without thinking, writing, rewriting, and potentially even having someone edit what you’ve done. Think of a strategy, of a hook, and of what makes you, your music, and your story, so special.
Blogs and websites that discover new acts and report on the music world are still important, but playlists on streaming platforms have pretty much taken over the role of uncovering great new acts, which media outlets used to do almost entirely on their own.
Streaming has become king in the music industry and like it or not, everything revolves around platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon, Napster, Tidal, and Pandora. These companies have pushed the business to new places, have helped it turn from the brink of destruction, and they are also helping break new names and create stars all the time. Artists used to need traditional media to become household names and break records, but these days, it’s all about making it big on streaming.
There are plenty of stories about one artist or another appearing on an important playlist and immediately making money thanks to increased play counts, purchases, merchandise sales, and especially touring. A proper placement on a streaming playlist can change everything, or at least set you on your way to something exciting.
Not all playlists are created equal, and while some are the biggest in the world and are followed by millions, most playlists only have a devoted fan base of a much smaller sum. Since the people who put these together aren’t pitched as hard as the top items, go after these playlists first. Form a relationship with the curator and see if they’ll feature your music. Once you’ve secured placement, you can go after the bigger ones, either with the same song or with your next release.
It’s possible those who rule the biggest playlists may have already heard of you, as they check out lesser-known playlists all the time. If not, at least you can say you’ve been featured before, which shows initiative and that at least one other curator believes in you and what you’re doing. There are plenty of companies offering this type of pitching, but it usually comes at a price. If you don’t have the money to hire an agency at the moment, you can try going it on your own, but just like reaching out to the media, you’ll need to do your research first to ensure you are doing so correctly.
While it might not be nearly as powerful as it once was as a medium, radio still matters, and anyone who tells you otherwise isn’t paying close enough attention to the music industry. If you’re a rising act, your options when it comes to potentially being played on the radio are limited, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing out there for you.
Sure, you won’t be played on the local Top 40 station (which tends to be the most popular in any given city), but there are surely other radio options out there worth reaching out to! Look at the stations in your area and see if any of them have a time when they highlight local acts. Perhaps there’s a DJ who is known for slipping up-and-coming artists into their playlists?
Local stations are probably easier to approach when you’re just getting started, but after a while, you can go regional, and then national, though you likely want to stick to smaller shows or stations which cater to your genre, or which are known for breaking new bands. You have the best chance of grabbing their attention before any others.
College radio is also another fantastic option and one which might be your best bet. Students do most of the curating in these instances and they are always interested in learning more, hearing more, and being the first to highlight someone who might blow up one day. There are still many college radio stations, and you can reach out to all of them on your own…since you probably don’t want to pay for a Promoter to do so for you just yet (though again, those do exist).
Not all playlists are created equal, and while some are the biggest in the world and are followed by millions, most playlists only have a devoted fan base of a much smaller sum. Since the people who put these together aren’t pitched as hard as the top items, go after these playlists first.
This is perhaps pie-in-the-sky, but it’s worth mentioning in this article. Everyone these days wants to go viral, some for vanity reasons, while others have legitimate career aspirations that can be tied to the kind of attention that comes with going viral, even once.
There are countless ways to go viral as a musician, and this is part of what makes it so difficult. There isn’t just one way to make it happen. You need to be clever, creative, do something nobody has done before, and capture something difficult to put into words, but which people want to see or hear over and over again. It can be a song about something funny or relevant, a music video, or perhaps just a tweet. No matter how you do it, going viral can help you build your social following, send people to your pages on streaming services, and potentially even rocket you onto charts and make you a star.
It may seem superficial but there are real benefits that come with going viral these days…as long as it’s for the right reasons. Not all attention is good attention but most of it is, especially when you’re just getting started.
Social Media Advertising
You should already be active on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and potentially other social media platforms, but just because you’re constantly tweeting and posting, it doesn’t mean you’re building a fan base as fast as you could be. Whenever you have something new to share, be it a song, a video, an album, tour dates, or special news, you should have a full plan when it comes to promoting it. But if you want to tip the scales in your favor and reach those who may never have heard of you before (as opposed to only hitting those who have already identified themselves as fans by following you), you should think about investing some money in social media advertising.
To get started, you may only need to spend a few dollars on any of the platforms I mentioned, and they make it fairly simple to decide who you’d like to reach. You’ll quickly see there are nearly countless options when it comes to groups of people, geographic locations, interests, and so on, and you’ll find out how easy it might be to overspend on this form of music promotion (but that’s part of what makes it great).
If you only want to try it out, why not invest $25 and see if your stream or play count rises or if you collect any new followers? Have a show in a certain city? Promote a tweet to only those in the area! It doesn’t need to cost you a lot to do at least a small amount of advertising on social media.
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