Whether you’re a brand new musician establishing yourself online for the first time, or an already established band with a dedicated fan base, there is one thing that love it or hate it, all musicians will have to do. That, my friends, is marketing your music.
So what is marketing?
Marketing is a way of generating fans and awareness for your music. This can be done through a variety of different tactics such as content creation / curation, offering unique experiences, developing a sense of community, and yes even paying to reach fans (new and old).
But marketing needs to have a purpose. Marketing your music is not simply just posting music online, liking statuses on Facebook, and retweeting people on Twitter.
The first step in effective marketing is creating a marketing plan for your music. This is a comprehensive understanding of your audience, the marketplace, and a plan to accomplish whatever goals you’ve set for yourself.
So before we move any further, ask yourself:
Why do you need to create a marketing plan? And what exactly do you want to accomplish?
Are you just getting started with an online presence and need to reach new fans?
Are you ready to head out on tour and need to sell tickets?
Are you already on tour and looking to sell more merch?
Do you want to double the size of your mailing list?
Are you putting out a new album and need to re-engage fans to generate awareness about your new project?
All of these, and many more, are valid reasons to get started with your marketing efforts. So let’s dive into the 5 steps to creating an effective music marketing plan:
STEP 1: Define the audience for your music
“Knowing your fans is the key to success.”
Read this next statement carefully, and read it twice.
Knowing your fans is the key to success.
With this understanding, you’ll be able to identify where your fans exist and engage online (note: everyone is on Facebook, but not everyone uses Facebook to engage as a fan). You’ll also know how to effectively communicate with your fans, and most importantly, you’ll know how to offer value to your fans to keep them happy and coming back for more.
You should ask yourself some questions to develop a clear picture of your ‘ideal fan’. The fan who is engaging, who can become a word-of-mouth-spreading super fan, who will buy your albums, merch, and tickets. There are two steps to take with the following questions:
Go through and answer the questions using your existing (gut) instinct.
Go out and do some research, and validate or change the responses below until you know for sure who your fans are.
How old is your fan?
What gender is your fan?
Where is your fan located?
What kind of personality does your fan have?
Is your fan an intellectual?
Is your fan a partier?
What excites your fan besides music?
What is your fan willing to pay for?
Who is your fan’s favorite band (besides you of course)?
What is your fan’s favorite social network?
What is your fan passionate about?
There are far more questions you can be asking yourself here to get to know your ideal fan. Don’t get to a point of analysis paralysis, just think through all the different aspects of what can make your fan unique until you feel you have a strong grasp on the bigger picture.
STEP 2: Analyze the market
Once you understand who your fans are, you also need to understand the market. You need to understand what’s happening in your local community as well as within your genre globally. Having this understanding will help you to establish where you fit in and what unique value you can offer to your fans.
Again, you’ll want to go out and so some research and get an idea of the following:
Which musicians are seeing the most success locally / globally within your genre?
What are these successful musicians doing that is working most effectively to build and engage a fan base?
What are those who are failing doing wrong?
How likely is the market to buy your album?
Is any unique offering being successfully bundled with albums to drive stronger sales?
What sort of content seems to be resonating most effectively… Photos? Videos? Blogs? Remixes? Covers?
Are artists within your genre touring successfully locally / globally?
Again, there are certainly other questions you can be asking yourself here, but this should set you on the right path to understanding your market.
STEP 3: Establish goals
As I stated earlier in the article, marketing has to have a purpose. At this point you should have established why you need to be marketing your music, but now it’s time to set goals around that purpose.
For example, let’s say you’re marketing a new album. Ok, great. But what’s the goal here?
Is it to sell more albums? Sure, but how many more albums? And how long do you want to give yourself to achieve this goal?
Every goal should be actionable, measurable and timed. This way you’re not just aimlessly ‘marketing’ without a true understanding of how successful you are.
Setting these goals is certainly easier if you’ve done this before. In the example above, let’s say you released an album two years ago, you can use this as a baseline of how many albums sold last time around and how long it took, so you can set reasonable goals for this new effort.
If you’ve never done this before, that’s ok too. Everyone starts at zero. Simply refer to your market research and base your goals off of what’s been done by others similar to your experience level.
STEP 4: Develop an action plan
With your actionable, measureable, timed goals in place, it’s now time to create a plan to achieve these goals. There are several components to include in your action plan, including:
Content creation / curation
Social Media / Community Management
Etc. (whatever you need to achieve your goals)
Map out how you’re going to approach each of these on a monthly basis. But word to the wise, only map out a calendar one quarter at a time so you don’t spend time on a plan for 6 months from now when things can change very quickly.
Easiest way to do this is to set up a spreadsheet with the overall components listed down the left hand side (i.e. PR, Advertising, Networking, etc.) and the monthly breakdown of the quarter across the top (i.e. January, February, March).
This will help you to see a full picture of say, all of your planned PR efforts, or how you plan to create and release content across the next few months. This clarity can help to remove some of the stress and make each aspect of this roadmap easier to conquer.
And remember, everything you do here should have some sort of a performance indicator (often called KPIs) so that the effectiveness, or lack thereof, can be measured properly.
Here are some KPIs to consider, again using the ‘album sales’ goal as the example:
How many album sales were generated through clicks from your mailing list this week? How does that compare to the week previous?
How many mailing list sign ups did your social content generate this week? How does that compare to the week previous?
Which sources to your website are leading to the most store clicks on your?
Again, the list can go on and on. Always consider what your goal is and focus your KPI on an action that directly reflects your goal.
At the end of each quarter (and really each week), you should review your efforts against your goals, and make changes as necessary – stop or change how you’re doing things that are not moving the needle, and do more of the things you’re doing that are.
STEP 5: Create a budget
Taking a career seriously in music is no different than trying to set up a new business in any other industry. It takes time and money to see growth.
At this point, you should have an action plan created for the next few months. But before you set this in stone, you should go through each action item, and determine the cost both in terms of time and money.
Make sure that the action plan is realistic, otherwise you’ll quickly find yourself off the rails and unable to achieve your goals.
To help with creating your marketing budget, check out:
How to Create a Music Marketing Budget in 4 Simple Steps
Time to dive in!
It may seem like a lot of work, but the efforts you put up front to creating a realistic, actionable and measurable marketing plan for your music will save you huge amounts of time, money, and stress later on.
Jon Ostrow is the Director of Sales at Bandsintown, Founder of MicControl, lover of all things music, a raging Phish head, and a coffee addict.