This is a guest post from Shaun of Independent Music Advice, a website dedicated to increasing the business knowledge (and income) of independent musicians.
Recently, a friend of mine released his first CD. While he had been doing music for a while (in his bedroom), this was his first attempt at releasing a professional product. Not only does he have strong vocals and a good set of lyrics, he also has a look that would appeal to his targeted genre of music.
All credit to him, he didn’t spare any expense when it came to making and packaging the CD. He used a good quality studio to get his vocals sounding as crisp as possible, and he managed to find a good quality cover designer on a music related forum. When it came to pressing up his product, he used a pressing plant and went for the four page booklet with film wrap option. All in all, it looked like he had a good product on his hands.
Despite all this, when it came to releasing his first CD it was largely a flop. While both him and the package he created looked the part, there was one key element missing: His promotional efforts.
His music promotion plan
So how much promotion did he do for this release? Well, in all honesty about the same amount as many other independent musicians releasing their first CD. The main types of advertising he embarked on were:
- Social media promotion. Like many musicians, he has a Facebook and Twitter account. Most of his promotional efforts were based around promoting to the “fans” he has on there, although the combined total on fans across both account was under 300.
- A magazine advertisement. Prior to him releasing his CD, I explained to him the importance of promotion. In order to make money from your music releases, it is often important to first invest into the marketing and promotion of your release and personal brand. He took this to mean that he should buy an advert in a popular music magazine to promote his release.
- Word of mouth. While this isn’t really a type of promotion you have much control over, a big part of his plan was to get people talking about his music and then waning to go and buy it themselves.
This is about the same amount of promotion the average independent musician carries out for their first release. Some people will do less (usually the above minus the magazine advert), while some people they will do more (they may do a show or two as well, or have a radio appearance). Either way, it’s not really enough to get any decent amount of sales.
The problems with his marketing tactics
So we have to ask, why didn’t his promotion add up to a successful release? Well first of all, it’s because the types of promotion he used. Most of them simply weren’t effective. When it comes to social media promotion for example, a lot of the people who were on his Facebook page were already his real life fans. Because of this, they had already heard his songs and weren’t going to turn around and buy them.
The magazine advert wasn’t the best idea either. While this type of promotion can work as part of a wider range of marketing, it won’t increase sales by itself. People want to go out and buy music if they hear it and it gets them feeling an emotion. If they see a visual advert in a magazine, it’s not going to give the same response as actually hearing the tune. Magazine adverts are good to help raise brand awareness, but isn’t a good stand alone method. Which brings me to the second reason why this his promotional efforts didn’t work:
He wasn’t everywhere he needed to be!
It usually takes a few times of someone hearing your song and seeing your branding before they are ready to make a purchase from you. In this case, he simply didn’t put himself in front of enough people enough times. Say for example someone heard your song on radio, saw a video for it on YouTube (a friend sent them the link), and then saw people talking about it on Facebook. If after all this they saw your advert in a magazine, you have a good chance of that song staying in their head and them potentially buying it from you. If on the other hand they simply saw an advert advertising your song in a magazine without the rest, you won’t stay in their brain for very long at all.
It’s all about pieces to a puzzle, and you have to connect enough pieces in people’s brains before their take notice and decide to buy your music.
Lastly, he didn’t start promoting himself early enough. If you want to definitely make sales when you release your music, you need to make sure you get and build up relationships with fans before you’ve even begun working on material to release to them. It can take a while to build up your fan base, so if you start a good while before you release your music, you’ll have a much better chance of selling more units.
What he should have done
Now there would be no point telling you what doesn’t work if I didn’t give tips on what does work. Here are some things he could have done when putting out his first release:
- Built up his fan base before, during and after recording this CD. Getting people to be familiar with your music prior to releasing paid songs will mean more sales, so this is worth putting time into. He should have also made his own .com website, and got people on his mailing list as soon as possible. As you build up your list, you have a bunch of people who are available for you to promote to at will.
Note:It’s important to build up a good relationship with the people on your list as they will make you a got percentage of your earning.
- Be everywhere people looked. As well as using the above types of promotion, he should also have sent his songs to indie radio DJ’s for them to play (one of the main things you can do), done live shows, and had guest appearances on those radio stations. As well as promoting on his own social media sites, he should have also promoted his releases on relevant forums and other websites that cater to his target audience.
- Got help. It’s hard to do everything yourself as an independent musicians, so any bit of help you can get is appreciated. This includes calling in favours from friends and music industry figures, as well as using tools to get your website ranking well. You can even get tools to automate Twitter, something I often do to successfully drive traffic back to my website.
If you’re thinking of releasing your own music at some point, I urge you to learn from other people’s mistakes. If you don’t promote your release enough, all prior effort you put into your project will go to waste.
If you want to know more about how to maximize the income you receive from your music, you may want to read my post “How To REALLY Make Money From Your Music, Short Medium And Long Term Strategies”. Good luck.