Are you a DIY artist looking to promote your first EP? Or just looking to revamp how you marketing yourself and your music to reach a wider audience?
Wherever you are in your journey as a musician, knowing how to market yourself is essential to help you break through the noise. With over 5 years of business marketing experience between us and learning from other DIY artists, we know a thing or two about marketing.
In this blog we’ll run you through some of the most common ways musicians market themselves and our experience using these tactics. Understanding who your audience is (e.g. who currently listens to your music or who do you want to listen to your music?), why you’re marketing to them (e.g. new single, exciting news etc), and what you’d like to achieve when you communicate with your audience (i.e. set some goals!) are important questions to know the answer to to get the best out of the marketing tactics we discuss in this post. This aspect of marketing is beyond the scope of this blog, but let us know in the comments if you’d like us to cover this topic in a future post!
Social media is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about marketing. But, it can be a tricky one and something that we sometimes find ourselves neglecting. Plus, with all the algorithm changes made in recent years forcing businesses and creatives to pay to reach their audience, it can get a bit frustrating (we won’t be covering paid social media marketing in this post).
We often get into the perfectionist trap with social media, only wanting to post the most high-quality content, which takes time and effort to produce. Luckily, social media does have a space for amateur content that allows you to connect with your fans on a more personal level.
Tip: don’t fall into the trap of setting up an account on every social media platform. It’s a nightmare to manage, especially if you’re a solo artist! Pick 1-3 that are most relevant to you and your audience, and stick up updating and engaging on those platforms consistently.
There are so many social media platforms available for musicians, but we recommend YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp and SoundCloud. Selecting the one(s) best for you depends on what you’d like to achieve and which platforms your audience use most. We have an account with all of the mentioned platforms, but you’ll see that there are some we update more regularly than others.
Tip: If you sign up to several social media platforms, try to make sure your handle is the same on each platform - this makes it easier for people to find you.
Despite its flaws, we’ve recently warmed to Instagram for musicians, which we have our audience to thank as they requested we use Instagram more. It’s particularly great for artists creating a lot of visual content to accompany their music or those who want to document their journey. Our favourite features are Instagram Stories and Highlights which is perfect for posting day-to-day amateur footage and saving content you want people to return to - this is something we’ve made more use of recently to share snippets of us creating behind the scenes and we save our feed for the more ‘special’ images.
// We'll often share images of us behind the scenes in the studio on Instagram Stories
Facebook is great for creating event pages, groups and joining/ building a community. The way we use Facebook today is very different - although we still post updates on gigs, releases and general news, we mostly use Facebook to network with other musicians in Facebook Groups. Twitter is also great for networking and connecting with venues, musicians and collectives.
It’s really up to you when it comes to social media and how much you want to put in, but if keeping up your social media feels like a huge chore, avoid it.
CREATE A WEBSITE
Today it’s crucial to have a website if you are a musician. It acts as a central point for all of your music, images, information about you, videos and upcoming gig dates. When people ask us for social media or gig dates, we direct them straight to our website.
Creating a website is easier than ever before with so many website builders to choose from that require almost zero coding knowledge such as Wix and Squarespace. It can be a bit overwhelming so take some time to choose the platform that’s right for you - we used Wix to create this website (more about that below).
If you have the money to do so, we recommend buying a domain as this will make it easier to plug your website during a gig. You can check which domains are available and how much they cost here.
Tip: if you’re new to creating a website and unfamiliar with domains and hosting, use a one-stop-shop platform such as Wix or Squarespace.
The average hosting cost is £3-10 per month and the average cost for a domain name is £8-10, though this can vary. We have the Combo Plan with Wix which costs us around £75 a year, including domain and hosting.
START A BLOG
Blogging is great for sharing your work and creative journey with your fans. We think it’s a more personal way of communicating with people compared to Facebook or Instagram. You can use it to share information on a new song, your writing process or letting people know about upcoming gigs.
You can also write blogs to build communities, gain more traffic to your website and to contribute to the conversation. As a musician, you may want to talk about your experience and give advice to other people in the same boat (like we’re doing with this blog!). Some of our blogs are gaining an increasing amount of traffic through creeping up in the Google ranks for certain key terms. If your blogs are quality and people find them useful, they will slowly but surely begin to rank higher in Google search results. There are blogs dedicated to optimising Google rankings, so if you’d like to learn more about all the technical stuff that comes with websites and blogs, read The Beginner's Guide to SEO on Moz.
There are lots of tools out there to help you start a blog. We use Wix, as that’s what we used to make our website and it’s very easy to use. Other popular options include WordPress, Weebly and Squarespace.
Tip: stick to creating a blog on the same platform and domain as your website (if you have one). We think it’s easier to keep everything in one place and this also helps drive more traffic to your website which increases your chances of getting discovered by your target audience or people looking to book you to perform.
Blogging isn't for everyone. It takes time and effort, and the kind of catchy concise writing required doesn't come naturally to all. But if you’ve got things to share with your fans that aren’t quite right for social media it’s worth giving it a go. Try blogging once a month to start with and see how it goes from there.
WHAT’S YOUR “BRAND”?
As with a business, you should think about your branding. This makes you appear more professional, makes you memorable and may inform potential listeners who don’t know you what your musical style is.
Branding includes things like your logo, images, fonts, colours and even the way you appear on stage. Your branding should be represented on your social media, website and in your marketing materials.
Luckily, creating things like logos doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. You can have a go yourself on Canva, enlist the help of someone on a website like Fiverr, ask an artistic friend to help you out or even commission one of your favourite artists. When it comes to designing your logo, take a look at similar artists’ branding for inspiration. Then have a brainstorm of words around what you want to convey - what colours, typeface and imagery suits your style.
If you struggle with creativity, ask your friends, family or fans! They know you best and would probably relish the chance to be involved in your marketing.
EMAIL MAILING LIST
Email lists are a brilliant marketing tool that allow you to keep in more direct contact with your fans. You can use your mailing list to give your audience sneak previews into what you are working on and a personal insight into your world.
The key is to only send out marketing emails when you have something to say or offer. Bombarding your mailing list with updates too frequently may see your emails lose impact and annoy your fans.
Tip: Signup to other musicians’ mailing lists for inspiration and to see when they reach out to their fans. It’s also a great way to stay in touch with other musicians.
Some great e-marketing tools are Mailchimp (which is free if you have under 2500 subscribers), Wix and Sendgrid. They are user-friendly and allow you to track opens, clicks and manage your list.
An easy way to get started building your list is simply asking your family, friends and fans whether you can add them to it. You can also add prompts to join your list via links on your website, social media and even hand out a physical paper list during gigs to collect details.
With YouTube being the second most popular search engine in the world after Google, video is huge, so you’re missing out if you’re not already making the most of it.
As with music recording, it’s easier than ever to create high-quality videos at home on a budget and there are many YouTube channels dedicated to helping you create the setup that’s right for you. The videos you share can be anything from a behind the scenes vlog to an amateur music video.
The main point we want to emphasise here is that you don’t need flashy videos to start out with. Whether it’s shot in 4k on a fancy DSLR or on an old iPhone, it shouldn’t matter as long as the content is engaging.
When we first started filming videos, we used a little handycam that we borrowed from Naz’s family which did the job, but the quality wasn’t up to scratch. Yet, the video we’ve linked there is our most viewed video to date because there were few covers of this song at the time.
// Behind the scenes shooting a video for our YouTube Channel
In case you’re interested, here are 3 different setups we’ve used over recent years for our cover videos on YouTube:
Video: DSLR (borrowed from Ella's dad)
Audio: Built-in camera mic
Editing: Windows Movie Maker (no longer available, replaced with Windows Photo app)
Video Quality: Good
Sound Quality: Acceptable
Example: Jimmy - Moriarty
- - -
Video: DSLR - Canon 600D (bought second hand)
Audio: Rode VideoMicro on-camera mic (plugs directly into camera)
Editing: iMovie (Mac)
Video Quality: Great
Sound Quality: Good
Example: River - Joni Mitchell
- - -
Video: DSLR - Canon 600D (bought second hand)
Audio: Samson C01U USB Studio Condenser Microphone
Editing: Garageband (Mac, audio), iMovie (Mac, video)
Video Quality: Great
Sound Quality: Great
Example: Crawling - Linkin Park
If you need help filming videos, reach out to people in your network. If someone likes what you do, they might be willing to help you for free or at a reduced rate. You can also offer a skill exchange as some videographers in your network might be looking for free music to use on their videos. You can also take a look on websites like Fiverr to find an affordable freelancer to edit your videos.
Tip: If you're filming videos at home of you performing, always have the light source in front of you! The earlier example of our first ever video is where NOT to position the camera.
//Photo by Poppy Marriott
It's good to have some good quality photos of you in action as well as "press shots", which are professional images that can be used on your website, electronic press kit (EPK) and social media pages. These should be suitable for sending out to press and music writers and give listeners and booking agents an idea of your image and vibe. You don't necessarily have to book a photographer for your images, you could use a friend or family member with a decent DSLR camera.
NETWORKING & ATTENDING EVENT
// Image taken by Naz at BBC Introducing Amplify event in 2017
The more you get out and network, the more likely you are to forge mutually beneficial connections with booking agents, musicians, artists, photographers, producers, and more!
Building up your network takes time, organisation and a level of confidence. We've made it a goal to attend at least 2 music-related events per month, whether it be gigs, talks or workshops. We’ve met some great people along the way, many of whom we’ve gone on to work with in one way or another.
It's great to have business cards with your details on, but in this smartphone generation, it's very easy to take down a name or do a quick search online.
Here are some great Facebook groups where you can network with other musicians and find events in the UK:
Are there any you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments.
ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT
An electronic press kit (EPK) is a musician CV that tells people looking to book you who you are, what you’re about and what you have achieved. It can be sent to promoters or event organisers when enquiring about booking gigs. You’ll find that quite a few of them will ask for it, so it’s worth having one.
An EPK should include:
Where you’ve performed before
Any recent releases
We did ours in PowerPoint but you can also use other design tools such as Canva or Adobe Suite.
Although in this digital age, business cards are not essential, they are still good to have because of their ease of use - it’s always when we don’t have a stack on us that people ask us for them!
GETTING PRESS/ REVIEWS
Getting reviews from music bloggers and writers is good for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it exposes your music to a wider audience and secondly, you can gain some (hopefully positive) feedback on your music, which gives you clout when applying for opportunities further down the road.
To find music blogs who will feature you, do some Google searches of [your genre] music blog. You can also have a look at music-related Facebook groups and explore Twitter (and your recommended pages).
You can’t do everything, so be selective about which marketing avenues you use and can realistically keep up. It's better to do 2 very well than 5 poorly.
Consider your listeners - who are they? Where do they congregate? This will inform which marketing channels you are best off using.
Think about how you can build a community or become part of a community. Attend events, get busy on social and listen to as many other artists as possible. Music is a people industry after all.
Marketing your music does not have to be expensive and can definitely be done on a budget!
For more information on gigging, read our gigging guide for musicians in London.