You guys came through in the clutch.

Big thanks to everyone who filled out my survey. Here’s the quick recap:

  1. On Monday, I sent out a survey with the intent of finding out a) how musicians marketed their music in 2023, and b) what marketing activities actually worked.
  2. I set a goal of reaching 100 responses (and was brash enough to suggest that the goal would be easy to hit).
  3. By Wednesday, I was beginning to doubt myself and you; we only had 54 responses. So I sent a reminder asking you to come through for the sake of my personal pride and a bigger dataset.
  4. You came through (in support of which cause I’ll never know).

And that brings us to this present day, on which I will be sharing the results from our – drumroll please πŸ₯ – 130 responses.

You guys rock.

Two caveats before we get into the data:

First, I am not a data scientist, a statistician, or a person with any particular fondness for math (although I did love my 8th-grade geometry teacher, Mr. Nic, who forever impressed upon me the importance of Pi Day). In light of my shortcomings, this breakdown is going to be much closer to a hodgepodge of random thoughts than it will be to a peer-reviewed, journal-worthy paper.

(But you probably could’ve guessed that.)

Second, our sample for this data is obviously not representative of the average musician.

We’ve only got 130 responses, for one thing. And, maybe more importantly, most people on this list have an explicit purpose of learning about some aspect of marketing – so it stands to reason that the average respondent will be more likely to be interested in certain marketing tactics (like Spotify, playlisting, or Meta ads), and probably more likely to have tried the tactics which I regularly discuss.

With all of that said, I still think the data is helpful and interesting.

And with all of that out of the way, let’s get into it.

First, the spread of data:

  • We got responses from 20 different countries, with a heavy concentration of respondents hailing from the US (41%).
  • All respondents but one are indie artists; only one respondent is signed to a label.
  • The most common genre represented is folk / singer-songwriter (25% of respondents). Artists identified their music according to 16 genres in total.

And I thought this was particularly funny…

Seems like most artists have a hard time setting clear goals – surprise, surprise. (I definitely would’ve gone with that third option, too.)

Okay, now onto some of the meat and potatoes of the data…

As you’ll see in the image above, the most popular marketing platforms are still Instagram and Facebook (although at this point I’d like to remind you of the second caveat mentioned above).

Honestly, I’m a little surprised that TikTok, on which only 30% of artists report marketing their music, doesn’t come in higher. It gets so much hype in the music marketing community that I’d think more of you would’ve tried it.

But then again I’m a TikTok grump, so it stands to reason that I’ve recruited other TikTok grumps to my list. Thanks for being here.

I’m also a bit surprised to see YouTube and Spotify tracking so closely together; I’ve committed much more time and effort to learning about Spotify marketing than I have to YouTube marketing, and I’ve certainly written much more about Spotify this year.

But hey, YouTube’s obviously a huge platform. Maybe that’s a hint that I should write more about it.

Okay, here’s another chart:

The majority of respondents (50.1%) reported having 1,000 or fewer followers across all of their social platforms. Only 12 artists reported having 10,000 or more followers.

And, in case you’re curious, our most-followed respondent reports having over 10 million followers across all of their platforms.

(Harry Styles, is that you? Lmk and let’s hang out if so.)

This email is getting long, so let me throw out a couple of these charts rapid-fire:

Most artists, as you’ll see above, spent less than 10 hours per week and less than $500 this year in marketing their music.

By far the most commonly used tactic was organic social media:

54 artists listed organic social as the tactic they spent the most time on in 2023. And those 54 artists spent an average of 3.6 hours per week using social media to market their music.

That’s a ton of time – rough, but also, respect.

19 artists listed submission platforms (like SubmitHub, Groover, and Musosoup) as the tactic they spent the most time on in 2023. These artists reported an average of about half an hour spent submitting their music per week.

And in third place, with 8 artists reporting it as their most time-consuming tactic, was Meta ads.

So, that’s what artists did – but what actually worked?

Well, across the board, the most common response to this question was some variation of social advertising (30 respondents), with 21 respondents specifically listing Meta ads (Facebook or Instagram).

But at this point, I think it’ll be helpful to look at the most “successful” marketers who responded to the survey – the 12 artists who reported more than 10,000 followers.

Here’s what the 12 artists with the most followers reported:

The average artist with 10,000 or more followers spent about 30 hours per month on music marketing activities.
The average artist with 10,000 or more followers spent about $14,000 on music marketing in 2023.
58% of artists with 10,000 or more followers listed Instagram as their top platform.

And, finally, here’s what these artists listed as their “most effective tactic” in 2023…

Yep, social ads. I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg would love to see this graph.

Now, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a correlation between artists who spent money on social advertising and artists who have a larger number of followers – but just in case you were skeptical, there you go.

(Fun note: Our most-followed person – with 10M+ followers – listed “telephone” as their top marketing tactic. I found this fascinating; it suggests that people at the top of the industry are playing an entirely different game. Relatedly, Harry, feel free to give me a ring.)

And the last point I wanted to make is one of comparison:

  • The average artist with fewer than 500 followers spent about 3 hours on music marketing activities throughout all of 2023.
  • The average artist with fewer than 500 followers spent about $150 on music marketing in 2023.

In other words, artists with 10,000 followers spent, on average, 357 more hours and 13,850 more dollars toward marketing their music this year than artists with 500 or fewer followers.

The moral of the story is pretty straightforward:

The more money and time you spend on music marketing, the more likely you are to get results.

Duh, I guess. But now it’s duh backed by data.

I’d like to leave you with two things.

First, there are so many more ways to parse the data than the few snippets I’ve shared here. For instance, I’d be interested to dig into how genre correlates to platform effectiveness, or to filter results by artist country… but I’ve only got so much time.

So, in the interest of more insight, here’s the link to the entire spreadsheet of survey responses.

I’ve got to warn you that it’s a little bit troublesome to categorize and parse each response, because I left some questions open-ended – but if you’re up for the challenge and interested in digging into angles I haven’t covered here, then please, have at it.

Second, I want to note that marketing is just a means to an end.

I think there’s a danger, when running a survey (or a business) like mine, of equating “followers” with success – or, worse, with fulfillment. So here’s my final thought: Please remember that followers won’t fulfill you; only real relationship can do that.

The little numbers you see in your various dashboards are nice for a hit of dopamine, but at the end of the day, if your followers don’t translate to meaningful relationships, then the numbers don’t matter.

Relatedly, if you’ve got 10 followers but make meaningful music and have real relationships, then I’d say you’re in a pretty good spot, marketing be damned.

And hey, maybe marketing should be damned either way; after all, like half of you reported that “almost nothing worked.” One respondent spoke for the world in saying that they’d rather be “doing music instead of marketing – it’s an art, not a diet cola.”

Preach. Let’s all lay off the cola and keep making music.

All right, that’s all for today. As always, thanks for reading, and here’s wishing you good luck.