You’ve just finished writing your newest song. You’ve poured hours into perfecting it and, despite probably doubting yourself along the way, you think it’s come out pretty good. Now what?
The first and most important element is song promotion — if you want people to actually hear your music. How do you promote a song before release?
There are dozens of strategies that can build hype and attract audiences to listen to your new song. Social media engagement is an obvious yet vital technique that’s highly cost-effective. As you build your reputation and amass a larger budget, paying for advertising and hiring a publicist can boost you further.
All of these things will help ensure that your song doesn’t end up hidden in the depths of Spotify or Apple Music. Read on for a comprehensive guide on promoting your new music (and building your brand while you’re at it).
How to Promote a Song for Free
We get it — it’s easy for your mind to wander towards costly advertising techniques and become overwhelmed. “I can’t make money with music, I don’t have the money” is both an understandable and undermining mindset.
You don’t need to pay much — or anything — to get the word out. While paid strategies might have more immediate impact, you can start small with the cost-free resources you have available. Once you build your fan base and increase your income, you can afford to explore paid options.
But for now, what are the best free music promotion strategies that’ll bring results? Fortunately, there are several.
Creating a Social Media Profile and Engaging with Fans
If you don’t already have a social media profile dedicated to your music, go create one.
Now that all our readers are on the same page, it’s time to talk about actually getting results. Unfortunately, many musicians neglect the second part of “create and engage.” Having a social media profile collecting digital dust isn’t going to do you any favors. You’ll get more listens by asking your grandma to check out your new single than you will with a passive social media presence.
Thus, you need an active social media presence if you want to get results. This means making regular posts about:
- What you’re working on
- Your inspirations
- The creative process behind your work
- When/where you’re playing live (if applicable)
Furthermore, responding to followers with thoughtfulness will help more with PR than you’d think. There are too many disinterested, robotic musicians out there who follow trends in an unwavering quest for popularity and profit. This often backfires as true music lovers see right through disingenuous behavior.
To learn more, check out our ultimate music PR checklist to boost engagement.
Collaborating with Other Musicians on TikTok
Sure, it can be said that TikTok is a societal disease that brainwashed my generation. However, it is indisputably a great tool for promoting music.
Seriously though, TikTok has really opened doors for all kinds of creative people. Their short video format is super effective for grabbing peoples’ attention and keeping it. Additionally, TikTok offers greater engagement than any other major platform by a wide margin.
How can you take advantage of this compelling statistic? By collaborating with successful musicians who’ve built a notable TikTok following.
Collaborating with successful artists, when possible, is one of the best things you can do to promote your music regardless of platform. Nevertheless, TikTok makes it incredibly straightforward to collaborate with others through their Duet feature.
Duets allow you to co-create content with others via a split-screen format. You don’t need to travel or take an exorbitant amount of time to make this work, leaving you time to work on your music or other promotional methods.
You also don’t need to co-produce an entire song. A bit of instrumental improv, vocal harmony, or anything else that can be done virtually with two people (which is a lot) can help spread recognition and showcase your talents.
TikTok is also an excellent place to post bits of your music while leaving audiences wanting more.
Networking With Agents
It is impossible to understate the benefits of networking with other musicians. Furthermore, connecting with esteemed talent agents will serve you well in the future. You don’t need to pay for their services right yet to reap the benefits of building this network.
Do not overthink this. While it is normal to feel intimidated by reaching out to industry big-shots, most agents are eager to speak with upcoming artists. That’s part of their job, after all.
When reaching out, confidence is key (cliché, yes). Be clear and honest about your vision and ambitions. Eventually, you should find an agent that is a perfect match for your personality and musical style.
Even if you’d prefer to stay independent, it doesn’t hurt to have another person with industry connections vouching for you. It’s better to let someone else tell people how talented you are than to boast (even if you are amazing).
Setting up an EPK
An electronic press kit (EPK) is essentially a digital musical portfolio. As a songwriter, you need one almost as much as a traditional jobseeker needs a resumé.
A well-crafted EPK takes prospective agents or fans on a journey through your musical identity. It tells the story behind your music which is equally — if not more — important than your music itself. But just like with a resumé, a bad one will butcher opportunities rather than create them.
There are many components to an EPK, which include:
- Your artist bio
- Your Bandcamp page
- Sound clips or videos of your music
- Notable live music experiences
- Upcoming songs and albums
- A butt-load of photos
This is far from everything an EPK could include, but these factors are a decent starting point. The goal is to expose yourself in the best light possible. Your best work should take the forefront of an EPK, whether it’s a website or a social media page.
You have a lot of creative liberty in deciding what kind of artist you’d like to show to the world.
Using the Free Version of Email Marketing Software
Believe it or not, email marketing remains highly relevant and surprisingly effective. Keep in mind that you’ll need people to subscribe before sending them promotional content (or you might face some legal troubles).
Of course, sending individual emails to each fan is impossibly time-consuming — especially as you grow as an artist. This is where email marketing tools step in to automate the process.
There are dozens upon dozens of email marketing software services flooding sponsored search results pages. It’s hard to assess which ones are effective. It’s also hard to determine if the ones that claim to be free are actually free.
Fortunately, we’ve identified a few that are pretty decent:
All of these services include free plans that allow you to send hundreds of emails per month. MailChimp, for example, allows you to send up to 10,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers. Sadly, you’ll likely need to pay a monthly subscription to handle additional volume. Should this become necessary, pat yourself on the back because you’re doing alright.
Best Paid Song Promotion Methods
Free promotional strategies are ideal for new artists, especially those waiting on their income to take off. But as you grow and accumulate more of a marketing budget, paid song promotion tools can help you overcome growth plateaus.
Even though you might have more money to experiment with, you don’t want to waste it. There are plenty of sketchy “solutions” that promise results when the only thing they actually provide is outrage and disappointment (and there’s plenty of that to go around in the music business).
Fortunately, not all paid promotional tactics are total scams. The ones we explore below will offer more than they cost in the long run.
Creating a Music Website
With the best music website builder, it is mind-numbingly simple to start your own domain. However, ranking well in search results is a bit more complex.
An excellent music website should include the most important characteristics of yourself and your music. You might notice this sounds a lot like an EPK. In many cases, a music website does dual duty as an EPK format and a place for fans to learn more about you.
Something to keep in mind, though, is that your website should target two audiences: potential agents and regular folks who want the latest on what you’re doing. While a compelling social media account will do the latter, a website provides more freedom when it comes to element layout and design features.
Plus, not everyone uses the same social media platforms. For example, if you live on Instagram, a website provides a way for those who rarely sign in (or don’t have an account) an alternative means of access.
Do not forget to make your website readable (and attractive) on both desktop and mobile devices.
Paying for Advertising
The most blatant way to pay for promotion… is to pay for promotion. We’re talking about paying for advertising.
As an artist, you might not think that paying for ads will benefit you so much. You might worry about annoying people — and you probably will. If you can’t stand the thought of that, this might not be the best approach.
On the other hand, if you’re determined to grow your stream counts as much as you can, paid ads are worth exploring. Believe it or not, they work. Nevertheless, you’ll need to employ some creative strategy to get the most out of your dollar.
To avoid going overboard with spending, create a budget. If you’re new to the process, experiment with a small budget and work on maximizing your engagement rates. You might not bring in a lot of traffic right away, but you can see what works and what doesn’t work.
Then, once you’ve determined the type of content that’s most effective in attracting people to your music, you can increase your budget with confidence.
Not sure where to start? Look toward other successful musicians running ads that create music similar to yours. Assess (but don’t stalk) their followers. Chances are, a similar approach will work for you in attracting them to you.
Just be careful to avoid imitating them to closely or audiences will catch on — and it won’t look good for you.
Creating a Music Video
It is easy to think of multi-million-dollar productions for artists like Pharrell Williams and Drake, but not every music video needs to cost a life’s fortune.
Even a lyrics-only video is sufficient if that’s all you can afford. After all it’s easy to spend much more than you anticipate when creating a music video, and those extra dollars spent don’t guarantee extra results. Why tempt yourself?
But if you’re confident you won’t be tempted to spend money you don’t have, a decent camcorder or cellphone camera paired with iMovie, Corel VideoStudio, or another solid video editing software are all the equipment you need.
If you have no idea what to record, start with yourself or your band performing one of your best songs. Beyond that, there really are no set standards when it comes to producing music videos. Look no further than MTV to see proof.
Paying for a Music Publicist
First off, what does a music publicist do? (Skip ahead a few lines if you already know.)
A music publicist is a marketing agent who specializes in getting the word out for musicians and songwriters. If you can afford to hire one, you can spare yourself hours per week by outsourcing promotion to a professional. You can relax and focus on making high-quality music while your publicist ensures that others hear it.
Granted, you might need to focus on the above strategies and promote your own music early in your career. Skilled publicists are costly (and they have every right to be). Despite this, you’ll end up with more money at the end of each year to offset the costs of paying them.
The hard part is finding the perfect publicist for you. Some specialize in certain genres, because different genres imply different audiences with unique tastes. Promoting to hip-hop fans and promoting to heavy metal fans are vastly separate tasks.
How do you find a publicist? So long as you remain serious about networking, chances are high that publicists will find you. Then, you might need to apply your own decision criteria in deciding who to hire. You might not be giving formal interviews, but it’ll be something pretty close.
After all, you’re trusting this person to make sure your fans continue streaming your music, buying your merch, and coming to your shows. This is a huge responsibility, so make sure you trust the person to whom you’ll be forking over a chunk of your earnings.
How Much Should You Spend on Promoting Your Music?
If you can afford to pay for promoting your music, you should. Done right, you’ll greatly exceed your expenses with added income. But how much should you spend? What amount is going overboard?
This really depends on you. If you’re starting from absolute scratch (no fans, maybe a family member or two), promotion doesn’t cost much — if anything. Focus on the free strategies, like growing your social media following, first. Then, once you’ve reached to end of the $0 avenue, start exploring paid options with a small figure in mind.
A vague ballpark is between $50 and $500 per single. Once you reach the intermediate phase and are pulling in stable income, upping that figure to $5,000 is reasonable.
Ultimately, it is wisest to predict what you’ll earn before you decide on a budget. This gives you the freedom to come up with a profit margin. For example, if you think that a single will earn $10,000 over the next year based on past trends, you could shoot for a $5,000 budget for a 50% profit margin.
Don’t worry. Figuring this out will become easier once you see your own numbers.
There you have it. We’ve covered the best ways to promote a song before you release it. Now, when you drop your next single, you won’t have to rely on luck to bring people to listen.
Fortunately, there are meaningful and effective promotional tools for all budgets. If you’re starting small, free and straightforward solutions such as managing a social media profile dedicated to your music will do nicely. As you grow, you will have more of a budget at your disposal to experiment with ads, music videos, and hired publicists.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that every artist is different. Your style is unique. Your audience is unique. Thus, your path to increased publicity will be just as individualized. Experiment with low cost strategies to learn about what your target fan base loves. Then, you can create an unbeatable strategy.
Be sure to check out our links and other resources here at ByTheBarricade to learn more. Musical PR takes time and practice, but we hope that we can help you save as much of the former as possible.