How Are You Promoting Your Next Release? [GUEST POST]

Digipak CD

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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Image credits:
#1 – Click here
#2 – Click here

  • Brandon Payne

    Yes, This is something that I am really having issues with right now, I am an artist and I am just learning to record and mix myself, having spent most of my life in prison, as far as the promotion I am lost. I know some people like my music, but it seems that getting others to interact on that level is almost impossible for me. Even if they like a song, getting a comment or clicking like seems the furthest thing from what happens. any other tips?

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  • Chris Rockett

    Really sound advice here, I think that 90% of musicians will relate to the first marketing strategy.

    This often happens because actually making a record takes so much effort that your kind of worn out once it’s done.

    - Chris

  • Abdiel Flores

    Excellent post!

  • Shaun @ IMA

    Hi Brandon. The main reason wouldn’t interact with your music is because force feeding your songs often doesn’t work. This is what the majority of independent musicians try and do, but it is completely the wrong way to go about things.

    If you ask people on social networking sites and other places to listen to your songs, some may do so out of politeness, but they’re more there to be entertained rather then help you out. Because of this, they won’t be very interactive.

    Instead, as a new musician you want to focus on marketing to DJs and venue owners. DJs will often go out their way to listen to your songs (Well, more so then the average person), and if they are good enough they may end up playing them on radio and at events. People are more likely to listen to a song their favourite DJ is promoting over someone they haven’t really heard of before, so let them do the hard work for you.

    Another good idea is to get shows to perform at. If you do showcase events, people usually come with money in their pocket to buy the CDs of people they like. So perform, let them know you’re selling CDs after your slot, and actively go round after trying to make sales. This strategy works very well, as the type of people who come to these events still look for and buy new music.

    If you want any more tips check out the above link entitled “How To REALLY Make Money From Your Music, Short Medium And Long Term Strategies”. This should get you started on the right track. Good luck.

  • Shaun @ IMA

    Thanks for the comment Chris, I hear what you’re saying about being worn out after finishing your project. One things I’d say though, is the release doesn’t have to be rushed. Many musicians get excited when their project is put together, and all they want to do is put it out as soon as possible.

    In most cases however (Unless you’ve publicly disclosed your release date, which is not ideal), holding back till you’ve got all promotional aspects in place is often the best route to go. That way you will be able to get any much needed rest, as well as being able to put out a realistic release date to any fans.

  • Shaun @ IMA

    Thanks a lot Abdiel, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Mikeborgia

    Generating awareness and playing regularly is important. SImply releasing a fancy product won’t cut it. Great points in this post. THe one huge mistake I see bands make is trying to hop on a marketing trend that works for already successful artists who have millions of fans. Try to make everything you do as specialized as possible. Don’t just release the same songs people have been ;hearing on your website for ages.

  • Shaun @ IMA

    Agreed. Just becuase a certain type of marketing or promotion works for a bigger musician, it doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. The reason it usually works for them is becuase they have already established themselves and they have a lot more people that will go out of their way to hear and interact with them. Thanks for your comment Mike.

  • theGronant

    there’s some really good points here. one tactic i’ve found very successful is building your mailing lists at gigs. i know this is basic stuff but peoples email address’ are powerful tools when promoting your band/music.