The ultimate guide to marketing yourself as a music artist
Plus 21 content ideas for musos (when you’re stuck on what to post)
I’ve worked with a few musicians now and the number one thing they’re worried about is marketing themselves as artists online. If you’re wondering how to promote your music and build up your networks to get the gigs you want and love (from venues that ask you to keep coming back), then read on.
In this post I’ll give you a few ideas on what kinds of content to develop and how to make each platform work for you. Before we cut straight to the meat – let’s start with some marketing fundamentals.
The #1 rule for digital marketing for musicians: Know your audience
Depending on the gigs you want, the sound you have and the muso you are, it’s best to start by taking note of what your ideal gig looks like.
Why? Because each type of gig will all have different sound requirements, expectations and pay differently, so when you’re thinking about your marketing, you need to know who you’re talking to.
The sound you have will determine what gigs you land, right? So, if you’ve got a rockier vibe, and you’re after corporate clients you may have to tone down your set – at least during the earlier parts the evening.
If you’re not okay with this, then these gigs aren’t going to be much fun. I don’t recommend changing who you are as musicians to suit your audience. Long term, this isn’t going to feed your creative soul and you’ll start to dislike what you do.
And what’s the point of working your arse off to build your music business – if you hate it?
This means you’re better off pitching yourself to the clients who want what you do. So, how do you narrow these down? Start by thinking about:
1.The type of client you want: Corporate gigs, weddings, festivals, private parties and managed tours all cater for different people. You need to approach each in a different way.
2. How much they pay: If you can show that you keep your audience entertained and spending money at the bar or on food, that’s valuable skill to share with venue managers and can help incentivise a higher rate.
Private clients won’t have the same incentives though, so you need to understand how to talk to them about your prices, and understand what they’re willing to pay.
3. What PA equipment you’re expected to supply: Private gigs and weddings often require you to bring more equipment and demand more set up/pack down time. Plus, often when the PA is set up and in place, it’s often used by the wedding party for speeches and announcements – unless otherwise arranged. Are you willing and able to help with the sound during speeches? Make sure the cost is built into your prices.
4. Know your preferred genres and style: Do your research. Find venues and clients that want what you have – don’t bend too much to give them what they want. The venue, and more importantly, your audience can tell when your not giving them your all.
Of course, at the beginning of your career you might be willing to do some gigs that aren’t the best fit – or you might not be sure if you want to be doing weddings or not, and there’s only one way to find out. But the great thing is, you’re in control and nothing is set in stone.
Get your socials and website in order
Now that you’ve done some basic research on the venues and clients that you think will want your music, you might think it’s time to start pitching for gigs. But hold up!
The thing is, to get that gig you’ll need to prove to the venue manager that you have an audience. But… you’d be forgiven for thinking that to get an audience, you need a gig, right? This is where your socials and website comes in.
Booking agents and promotion managers will check your social following when they’re deciding whether to book you or your band. Especially if they haven’t heard of you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a solo singer, songwriter or a band, playing for others is your business. Invest in a professional photographer to take some shots of you playing or whatever feels natural. If you look professional, you’ll be taken seriously.
Make yourself easy to be found by keeping your band profiles consistent – use the same usernames across each channel. So, if your Facebook page page is www.facebook.com/coolbandname then your Soundcloud, YouTube and Insta all should be @coolbandname.
You can use this NameCheckr to see what’s available.
Marketing your band online: Plan your content
It’s time to get strategic. Social media is a muso’s best friend. But you’ve got to have a plan. It pays to understand what content will appeal to each client. For example:
Photographs of you unloading your PA in a tux before a wedding might appeal to the bride or groom looking to book you because they want to know you’re prepared, professional and ready to perform. Hell, a short video of the groom’s speech using your PA might even go down well if it sound’s top notch.
A video with a room full of rowdy people drinking on the dance floor, and singing along to your songs would appeal to any promotional manager who wants to pack out his venue and keep people entertained and spending money at his bar.
A montage of all your best songs, might appeal to a venue who’s looking for a particular style or sound (especially if you’ve got a unique sound). And this type of video also makes a great intro to your YouTube channel.
Getting prepared ahead of time will take the stress out of deciding what you’re going to post online. And understanding your clients will help you tailor what you post. The next step is engaging people.
Demonstrate demand for your music
When your content is engaging, it’s easy to assume your band will be too. One of the best ways I’ve seen people do this is to involve people in what you do by sharing your musical life behind-the-scenes.
You might these content ideas:
1.Ask people to suggest a song/artist to cover (or vote for a few you have chosen). 10 Second Songs does this often. Anthony Vincent involves fans by asking them to choose their cover songs (which he covers in various styles). Just check out the intro to this cover of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.
2. Dedicate a song to the follower: This also works well with fellow musicians. Don’t forget to @tag them!
3. Ask your followers to name your new track: Tell them where they can hear it next.
4. Run a competition and ask followers to a few lines of song lyrics for a new song. The best lyrics win a band shirt!
5. Ask people to vote on band shirt designs (or other merch): The winner gets a CD or some of the merch.
6. Do you have a similar sound to another local band? Create some friendly competition and record a version of the same song. Ask your followers to vote for their fav.
7. Share some of your lyrics and the story behind them. Ask people if they’ve experienced something similar and prompt them to share it with you.
8. Create a band hashtag #coolbandname and ask people to post their photos of your gig using that hashtag and the #venue. Or get them to check in to the venue on Facebook. The winner gets a prize and the venue is happy because everyone is sharing their gig. This also works for conferences and festivals.
9. Post a photo of your setlist and if you perform covers, you can ask followers to suggest a song, or if they’re familiar with your originals – they can suggest one of those. UK artist, Cavetown, often tweet glorious artwork featuring set lists to upcoming shows and it works a treat!
10. Share footage of your audience singing along: Showing how well you interact with and entertain them will have a positive reflection on you.
11. Roadtripping to a gig? Ask people to add songs to your #roadtrip playlist.
The more engagement you get from these posts, the better cred you’ll have in the eyes of your potential client. You’ll appear likeable, energetic and fun.
Invite your fans to get to know you and what you stand for
The most memorable artists are those that make us feel something. You know what they stand for, and this adds value to their music. This is where the power of storytelling becomes important the way you share your content.
Whether you’re comfortable with your storytelling skills or not, there are a few different ways to engage fans and invite them to become part of your world. You might like to:
1.Share your songwriting process: Share the life changing moments that inspired a particular song, and how you translated that into a melody or lyrics. Ever wondered what it would be like to be a fly on the wall of a big name band rehearsal? Jamiroquai invites fans to see how his band works together in a unique way. They don’t talk to the camera or acknowledge it – it’s just a real glimpse into their practice. But it’s not just for well-known bands.
2. Share a video of you playing a song from one of your biggest musical role models: Tell your followers why they inspire you and ask them to share who inspires them
3. Give your followers a tour of your studio: Share the PA equipment you need for your next gig and why you love a particular instrument. Does it have emotional value to you? Was it broken during a gig but you just had to get it fixed? These stories become part of your brand as a music artist.
4. Create online events: You might even create suspense by keeping the venue secret until the last minute! Gold Coast experimental folk band, Leopold’s Treat do a brilliant job at sharing intimate ticketed gigs around the region. They even have a prompt for fans to take photos and share them with the band! “See us at a gig? PLEASE, TAKE A PHOTO, like, share, tag US (& YOU!)” Which brings me to my next point…
5. Post user-generated content: Reposting photos taken by fans and tagging them doesn’t just encourage people to take photos – it shows you’re listening to them.
6. Record and share a busking session, ask people to join you outside. Despite being fairly well known, Mike (Passenger) still continues to go back to his roots and busk. In between playing festivals, he’s making the time to go and busk and inviting fans to come and support him.
7. Share your favourite guitar/instrument, it’s history, why you love it and where it’s traveled to with you.
8. Share gigs and events from fellow musicians and local venues @tag them and tell people what you love about their sound or venue.
9. Engage a friend to record some of your performances ahead of time so that you don’t have to interrupt your gig to capture the energy of the moment.
10. Share a bit about you as the artist: Who are you? What do you stand for? OK Go use the hashtag #askokgo on Instagram to invite fans to learn more about the band members as well as their instruments, synths and share playing tips, and then take the time to film their responses. It makes fans feel listened to, and invites you to really get to know the artists.
Marketing yourself as a musician 101: Don’t neglect your copy
Yes, photos and videos are an important part of your platform. They give you a way to showcase your sound and attract fans who love your music.
You might feel tempted to let your music speak for itself. And for some, this might work.
But it’s important to remember your music is your business and just like any other business, you are a brand. And your brand has its own voice.
When you combine your videos with your words, you’ll see the power you have to connect with people skyrocket. Your profiles offer valuable space to promote your newest gig, your next EP or funnel people through to your website.
Artists like Amanda Fucking Palmer wouldn’t enjoy the success they’ve had, without being a bit out there, inviting people into their lives through their blogs and sharing their story, one post at a time.
Sprout social offers three suggestions:
- Make your profile or bio link count by always pointing to your latest promotion (think: new song, album, tour or merch)
- Are your profile pictures and covers are correctly sized for each social platform? Make sure they are
- Ensure that any and all profile information is accurate and up-to-date including tour dates or events
Your post captions are prime places for people to get to know who you are, but also click through to learn more on your website. Add links to your profile on insta using a link list like Linktree. Then all you need to do is to point people to that static link in your insta bio.
Over to you
What approach have you taken to market yourself as an artist and share your music? Got something that flopped or worked out well? Share in the comments below.