Congratulations! You’ve made a song.
At least, I’m guessing that’s the case, seeing as you’ve landed on this article about song promotion. I guess there’s also a chance you’re close to finishing a song and you’re starting to think about “next steps” – in which case congratulations are also due, because you’re impressively on the ball.
Anyway, welcome, and let’s act like your song is finished and ready for promotion, because that will make this whole thing easier.
Here’s what you’re here for:
In this article, I’m going to walk through what I’d do if I had $300 to promote a song.
I chose $300 because that’s approximately the baseline cost that legitimate song promotion companies will charge you to run a music promotion package. It’s also a scenario I’ve actually worked through for a number of artists. (But if you have $500 burning a hole in your pocket, check out this article.)
Here’s the bad news: $300 won’t get you that much.
But the good news is that it can get you something (and it can get you something faster than if you try “free” song promotion – i.e., spending hours doing work without paying anyone). More importantly, if you spend $300 wisely, you can set yourself up to grow over time, so that the next time you release a song you’ll be positioned to grow on your past results.
All right – let’s dive in.
What is “song promotion,” anyway?
First things first… let’s clarify what “song promotion” is. This is important, because “promotion” is something that gets bandied about like “the cloud” or “crypto” or Dune; tons of people kind of get it, few people have a clarified understanding of what it actually involves.
My definition: Song promotion is the process of putting a song in front of an audience.
Promotion is not exactly marketing (a word that’s so broad as to be almost meaningless). It is not branding (crafting the look, feel, and image of a project). It is taking an already-crafted project and bringing that project to an audience so that people can engage with it.
In most cases, “song promotion” refers to the process of putting a song in front of a new audience – meaning people who haven’t heard of you before.
Promotion is hard because there are three million and one ways to bring a song to a new audience. And in most situations, most of them don’t work super well. That’s because…
To choose the right promotion path, you have to define your goals.
A lot of the musicians that I work with say things like, “I just want people to hear my music.”
This is a totally understandable sentiment; you’ve spent hours of your life making a song, so of course you want people to hear it. I’ve had this thought myself after I’ve finished a project I’m proud of.
Unfortunately, it’s also a totally awful goal.
It’s too vague to be useful. It’s the kind of half-baked concept that could lead to you getting hosed by some company designed to take your money and pump your Spotify account full of bot streams. Or lead to you throwing money into the Fiverr drain.
The truth is that, while there are three million and one ways to promote a song, there are three main paths to pursue – and defining what your goals are will help you clarify the path that makes the most sense for you.
1. Social media promotion
Social media is arguably the best way to get your artistry in front of new eyes – but it’s not necessarily the best place to get people to listen to your music. I’ve covered musicians who have 2M+ Instagram followers but struggle to get 100K streams on a single. Being an influencer doesn’t necessarily translate to being a successful indie artist.
That said, if you’re building an artist persona that you want to grow over time, social media promotion is the path you should choose.
Potential goals for this path:
- Engagement rates (shares / likes / comments on posts)
- Impressions (total views of posts)
Picking one one of these goals will shape what kind of promotion you do.
2. Spotify promotion
As of today, Spotify is the best platform to get people to listen to your music. (Your music should absolutely be on other platforms, like Apple and Amazon – but if you’re going to focus on promoting music on a listening platform, Spotify is where it’s at.)
However, success on Spotify doesn’t necessarily translate back to engagement with your artistry; just as it’s possible to grow a huge Instagram following yet have virtually nobody engage with your music, it’s possible to drive millions of streams without creating any true fans of your artistry.
Still: If you rack up the numbers here, you’ll be well-positioned to be taken seriously as you pursue other opportunities.
Potential goals for this path:
3. Press promotion
Finally, press promotion is a potential path for bringing your song to new audiences. Out of the three paths I’ve presented, I think it’s probably the least effective – and you should take my word for it, because I run a press outlet.
I’ve written on this in more detail for Ari’s Take, but the gist is that most press outlets don’t have their own audiences. Instead, they rely on artists to drive traffic. Think about it; the last time you read Rolling Stone was probably when they covered your favorite band. You probably don’t use it to discover new music.
But press promotion can be a good way to build credibility. If you get a great quote from a reputable outlet, it can open doors.
Potential goals for this path:
- A placement in a specific publication (very hard to achieve / decent chance of being scammy)
- Number of placements
Okay – we’ve covered how to think about song promotion. Now let’s get to the core of it.
If I had $300 to promote a song, here’s what I would do:
1. I’d spread out my spend across social media and Spotify.
Most artists are looking to build an artist persona and drive streams. So, I’d split my spend in those directions (and I’d ignore simple press campaigns).
2. I’d run Instagram story ads to my artist Instagram profile. ($140)
Instagram is my favorite platform for indie artists because you get more organic reach than you do on Facebook – but you also benefit from the power of Facebook’s ad manager since the two platforms are integrated.
(For what it’s worth, my current second choice for spend would be on Tik Tok. If that’s the platform you’re most into, I’d say use your spend there.)
I’d run Story ads because I’ve found these to be more effective than in-feed ads. Depending on your genre, your knowledge of your ideal audience, and five billion other factors, you can expect to drive clicks for between $0.10 and $0.75.
I’d try three different ads: A clip of the artist vibing to the song, a clip of the music video, and something random – maybe stock video footage, maybe custom animation, maybe a video of the artist talking to the camera about the song.
Clicks would lead back to my artist Instagram profile, which would be optimized with a bunch of posts related to my latest track and a linktree in the bio offering listening options.
Important note: I’d be sure to track the audience that engaged with my ads inside of Facebook’s ad manager, and the next time I promoted a song, I’d target people who had listened to or clicked on the previous ad.
3. I’d buy the Spotify Bible and get access to contact info for 4.2K+ Spotify playlist curators. ($80)
I’d give myself a full day and work through every genre-relevant playlist that I could, contacting curators and pitching my song. I’d get rejected 97% of the time, but if I could get to 300 curators, I’d probably get around 9 playlist placements (that’s the industry-standard rate).
I’d track everyone I pitched to in a spreadsheet and note A) who ignored me, B) who rejected me flat out, C) who rejected me but encouraged pitching another track, and D) who accepted me.
The next time I promoted a song, I’d go back and pitch categories C and D first.
(Note: You could also use the Music Industry Connection. These guys run memberships at $9.99 per month, and you can use their database for two months and cancel if you want to save money. I recommend them for music blog contacts, but I’ve found Indie Bible has a more extensive Spotify list.)
4. I’d get 100 credits on SubmitHub and use them to pitch Spotify playlist curators. ($80)
We’ve written a detailed review of SubmitHub before, and I’d recommend reading that if you want a step-by-step strategy. Long-story-short, I’ve found that this is the most cost-efficient way to get in front of curators (but it does take a decent amount of work to run a campaign and you have to prepare yourself for some absurd rejections).
Basically, you pay 1-3 credits to pitch to a curator and are guaranteed that they listen and respond to your submission. The approval rate is around 14% – so with 100 credits, you can expect to get around 14 playlist placements.
That’s not bad.
5. I’d track my results in terms of Instagram followers and Spotify streams.
Other metrics matter, but those would be the primary numbers I’d target.
After my campaigns, I’d evaluate what the cost-per-result was (i.e. if I spent $140 on Instagram ads and drove 100 new followers, cost-per-result would be $1.40). I’d shoot to beat my numbers in future campaigns.
Bottom line: Song promotion isn’t easy.
I think the best approach to song promotion – especially if you’re just starting out – is to try things yourself, so that you get a feel for what works, what doesn’t, and what you could use help with.
But if you don’t have the time or want to hire experts off the bat, I don’t blame you. To that end, here are companies I’ve worked with that I trust.
The three best (legit) song promotion companies if you’re starting out:
We’re an affiliate with Omari; these guys offer affordable promotional packages starting at $77 and do work on pretty much any channel (including Instagram, YouTube, Tik Tok, Spotify, and yeah everything else). We got pretty solid results during our last campaign.
Playlist Push provides song promotion on Spotify and Tik Tok. They function as a middle-man between artists and curators and they take a more automated, less hands-on than Omari. Basically, you set up a campaign in the back-end of the platform, configure a few simple controls, and then let them pitch your music to curators.
Results vary, but for ease of use, this is as good as it gets. If you’re interested in running a campaign, here’s our affiliate link.
YouGrow does work on Spotify and YouTube. I’ve worked with Matt on a few campaigns and gotten very solid (and very cost-efficient) placements; however, I did get added to a few international playlists (with English-language songs, but the audience wasn’t our target). No bots, though.
Anyway, if you want to test out Spotify song promotion, this is about as cost-efficient an option as you’ll find. Here’s our affiliate link if you want to give it a shot.
Final thoughts: This is a marathon.
The first time you promote a song, you’ll probably be disappointed with your results.
You shouldn’t expect incredible results the first time you do anything. But you should expect to get better over time.
If you’re really trying to grow a community around your artistry, you will promote another song in the future. When you do, use the contacts you made from your last campaign, and playlist placements should come more easily. Use the insights and audience refinement from your Instagram ads and your next campaign should be more cost-efficient. Don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work; move on, then double down on what gets results.
Song promotion is a snowball that builds over time. Good luck getting it rolling.
Hey, Quick Sponsored Thing: PR Service to Get Your Music Featured in Spotify Playlists
Our friends at Omari are really good at helping artists get heard and listed in cool playlists. They've worked with big acts (Judah & the Lion) and bedroom artists alike (which is feasible cuz service starts at $77). Anyway, take a look. Disclaimers: it's an affiliate link, and yeah, they're good.
If you're tired of pitching your music yourself, if you finally want to find your audience on Spotify, or if you just like us, click here to learn more.