“I wish the music business was a much easier thing, but you know what? Nothing easy is worth anything. So it is what it is. There comes a time when things can work out, and everybody can be happy. And that’s what it’s all about in the end – everybody being happy and working it out.”

 -Nas

Working with musicians, I get asked all the time – how can I reach a wider audience and get people to hear my music? I wish there was a simpler answer, but there isn’t. I won’t lie; music marketing is complex, time-consuming, and frustrating.

Back in the day, marketing was handled by industry professionals, but fast forward to 2024, and the power is back in the hands of artists, which can be good and bad at the same time. The good thing is you get to make decisions about your art, and the bad thing is you get to make decisions.

The responsibility is yours, and you don’t want to mess it up (ok, at first, you probably will, but with practice, eventually, you will get it right). I know from experience that most musicians would rather spend their time playing, practicing with their bandmates, or writing music than focusing on music promotion.

If you want to get more listeners, you have to understand how to market your songs properly. I spent a fair amount of time figuring it out for myself, and in this article, I will share my knowledge with you.

Know your music, know your audience

I know my music, you may say. Right, you probably know what your music sounds, but before you start marketing it, you need to have a clear idea of who you are as an artist, how you connect with your audience, what it is that you want to tell them, and who your audience is. This also involves the visual part: your logo, professional photos you will use on your socials and streaming platforms, and aesthetics of music videos and website.

I will give you an example: Recently, I decided to revamp my record label’s website. I had it for a while, and it was about the time. I found a web designer who makes awesome stuff, and I thought I was basically done; now was their turn to do the work.

I couldn’t be more wrong. It turned out that to get a new website made, I had to sign up for an introductory course to define my brand: 76 pages of content to go through. What an utter waste of time – was my first reaction. Again, I was wrong. Going through all the material helped me define what my business was, how I wanted to present it, and to whom, from colors through fonts to the About page. It took some time, but after all, I had a clearer vision of my brand and, most notably, how I wanted to communicate it to my audience.

Ok, that was a little long, but I hope you get the point. So, if you want to skip the “branding” part (as much as you may dislike the term), don’t do it just yet.

Creating your online presence

Once you have the branding part figured out, you can use it to create your online appearance; your social profiles, streaming platforms, and website will benefit from having clear, distinctive, and easily recognizable branding. There are a few elements that are a must-have if you want to build an online presence and get attention. Here is the list:

  • A professional website that will serve as your online bio; you can also use it to sell your albums and merch. Building a website doesn’t have to be super rigid, and there are many services that will help you with that. Don’t trust anyone who tells you that having a social profile means you don’t need a website; in 2024, it is still valid proof of who you are and a place where you tell your story. It can be a simple, one-page website with a clear layout and easily accessible info, but it’s one of the most crucial aspects of your presence.
  • Social media profile (in 2024, most likely TikTok and/or Instagram, or YouTube): I will talk more about it later, and although it seems like an obvious thing, make sure to fill out the bio section, update your photos, and add links to your website and streaming platforms.

Building Your Fan Base on Socials

I won’t get into details of why, as an indie artist, you need to have a social media presence; I think we are past this point. It doesn’t matter much which platform you choose: TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube are all great places to promote your music and reach new audiences (TikTok probably more than others, though). This is where you can get many new ears on your music, build a loyal fan base, or even go viral.

How do you grow on social media platforms?

I personally never enjoyed social media, and I’m much happier now when I can ask someone to do it for me, but when you’re just starting out, most likely, you will have to do it yourself, so create a schedule that suits you, so that you can enjoy it too.

There are tons of super helpful resources online to help you find your way to social media success and grow your fan base.

Using Streaming Platforms

Promoting your music on streaming platforms is a must. The way we experience music is entirely different than ten years ago, thanks to streaming services.

There are multiple ways you can benefit from having your music on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, or Tidal; it’s one of your available revenue streams, a way to stay in touch with your followers, and one of the top places to discover new music.

Each of the platforms has its unique features, but there are a few things that they have in common: They will have a profile page where you can include your bio, photos, and links in the same way as social media.

Spotify offers the most comprehensive array of promotional tools, and it’s also where you can get the most exposure, but you should consider which platform is the most popular in your genre. If you’re an electronic music producer, then SoundCloud is also one of the places to check out.

To get your music on a streaming platform, you need a distribution service; there are numerous options available for you to choose from. Once you choose a distributor, they will update your music on most of the platforms.

To make the most of the streaming services (or any platform at all), you should back up your decisions with data – built-in or external music analytic services make sense if you use them to make more informed and thought-through decisions.

Release Strategy

It’s no longer enough for an artist to release an album every few years and build a career based on that. Social media and a constant stream of content require you to publish new material regularly to stay relevant; as a consequence, albums are getting shorter, singles are released more often, and EPs are much more common than they used to be.

According to Spotify, if you want to stay in your audience’s ears and hearts, you should release new music every 4 – 6 weeks!

It sounds like a lot, but with good organization, it’s definitely doable. I recommend you choose a release strategy that will help you stay on top of things and keep up with the schedule. The “Waterfall” or “Cascade” strategy for Spotify has gained a lot of attention in the last couple of years, and it’s still the top tactic that allows you to get your music published regularly and simultaneously pitch your tracks for Spotify editorial playlist. (and playlists are where you want your music to be).

The way it works is that you publish a single, and a month later, you publish another single together with the first one (you can remove the first release if you want). Thanks to the way Spotify works, when the new single is played, the first (old) single will play automatically after, gaining further attention and more streams. It sounds complex if you put it like that, but I hope you get the point. Distribution platforms, like Ditto or DistroKid, will allow you to schedule your releases to follow this strategy.

You can then focus on building the narrative and creating content to stay in touch with your audience in between the releases.

Email and SMS marketing

Email marketing in 2024 is effective, and so is SMS marketing. Period.

Ok, there is more to it, but the traditional, old-school mailing list will help you build a more personal connection with your fans and update them directly about new releases, lives, and tours. Receiving an email from your favorite artist feels more intimate than watching their TikTok video. At least, I think it is. After all, human connection is what counts the most.

I don’t mean a whole-page newsletter where you describe what happened to you this morning. Keep it short, keep it sweet. It should read like a text more than a letter. Go for something like: “Thanks for signing up: here is the song. I’m curious to know what you think.”

You might be surprised how many people will take the time to read your email and respond (if you get two after your first email, then you should consider it a success).

I’ve run a weekly newsletter for my community for the last few years, and although I don’t have a huge mailing list, my opening rate is 50% and click rate 15%. When I had just started out, I would get excited every time someone emailed me back. It supports direct conversations with the community members in a way I rarely experienced on socials.

Most of the distribution platforms will have a mailing list feature, and some of them also support text message marketing (e.g., DistroKid has this option).

Networking and Collaboration

Social media, streaming platforms, and mailing lists are all crucial elements of your marketing strategy, but there is only as much you can achieve on your own. Building a network of contacts and collaborating with other artists will increase your impact and enable you to reach new audiences.

Working with musicians at your level or more accomplished performers can both be beneficial. There are a number of networking tools that make it possible to work with artists anywhere in the world.

Embrace the power of collaboration, and don’t be afraid to contact artists you would like to perform with; if you travel to a new location, check if there are any artists who might be interested in collaborating. I’m traveling to Japan next year, and only by posting about my plans in my network, I got an invitation to perform with a couple of musicians in Tokyo.

Striking a collaboration deal can also become your ticket to fame, as happened with Lil Nas X after releasing a single with Billy Ray Cyrus.

Live Performances and Live Streaming

Ticket sales and live performances are still the main revenue streams for artists in 2024.

While playing live gigs is a great way to connect with your local fans, live streaming is also a valuable means of communicating with your listeners. Most social media platforms will have a live streaming option, such as YouTube Live, Instagram Live, or TikTok Live (available if you have at least 1000 followers).

Final Thoughts

The music business is constantly evolving, and what works today might not be valid next year. If you think you figured it all out, you might be in for a surprise. Stay alert, stay active, don’t be afraid to try new things, and keep releasing good music. Follow the advice to help you gain new listeners and connect with them in a better way.

You don’t have to do it all, but whichever way you choose, be sure to keep going. Whether it’s TikTok, a YouTube channel, a mailing list, or a podcast, be consistent and keep showing up. Your fans will appreciate it, and if they enjoy your music, they will stick around.

Music marketing is demanding, but it’s worth it taking it seriously. Thousands of tracks are published daily, and only a tiny percentage of the artists build a sustainable career.

I hope you will be one of them.

Good luck!