When it comes to finding success with your music, you can’t rely on fans coming to you, and instead, have to put the elbow grease to seek them out. Here we develop three essential tactics for finding your target audience before zeroing in on your marketing strategy.
You got into this industry to feel connected.
Maybe you wanted to change the world, or maybe you just wanted a way to creatively express how you were feeling. Maybe you just wanted to tell your story, and maybe you wanted to hear the stories of others.
No matter your reason, most of us can safely say we got into this industry because we were craving connection. We wanted to let others know that they’re not alone. We wanted to change lives.
Then somewhere along the way we got bogged down in having to write the next social media post or having to book the next show or having to run a PR campaign. We forgot to remember why we got into this—and our audience suffered.
What I want to talk to you about today isn’t about how to book more shows or how to run your next PR campaign—all of those things are incredibly important, but the truth is they don’t mean anything without an audience.
And if you’re thinking, “I just have to make the right music, my audience will find me”, well, I hate to break it to you, but that’s not how it works.
Getting in front of your audience means getting clear on a few key things. The truth is it’s really not all that complicated—it’s just most artists fail to invest the time and energy needed to find their fans and then let them know how much they matter.
I’ve outlined three ways you can get started today with finding your target audience—the steps are simple, and the results will speak for themselves. So don’t be one of those artists who thinks just making good music will bring them a loyal fanbase. Show your fans what they mean to you and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
1. GET CLEAR ON WHO YOU ARE
Before you even think about strategizing how to find your target audience, you want to make sure you’re crystal clear on who you are and the message you want to convey. I’ve seen so many talented bands go unnoticed simply because they have no idea who they are. I’m talking about having an actual brand.
Think about your favorite well-known artist and tell me what comes to mind. I doubt you’re fumbling around trying to put the pieces together and that’s because they have a really solid brand.
For instance: What do you think of when you think of Halsey? Mental health. LGBTQ rights. Social justice.
What about Taylor Swift? Her brand may seem to change with nearly every album cycle but there are serious consistencies that mean you and I always strike up some very clear imagery when we think of her. She takes risks. Offers her fans connection. Empowerment. And love her or hate her, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Think about your favorite bands and see what comes to mind instantly. Your fans should be able to do the same when it comes to you. Because in order to find your target audience and know who they are and what they feel, believe, and desire, you need to first know who it is you are.
2. TAKE NOTE OF WHAT OTHER BANDS ARE DOING
Find a couple of artists who are in the position you want to be, in a similar genre, and make a serious case study out of them to figure out what they’ve done to get there and what they continue to do to stay there.
Find artists who are in the position you want to be in, say, another two or three years. It’s not realistic to compare yourself to a major label artist because they’re operating with an existing fanbase that quite frankly isn’t going anywhere even if they fail to post to social media or take another three years to put out an album.
So find artists who are more established than you are, but still growing (i.e. not necessarily signed to a label or touring the world, but who are playing more of the kind of shows you want, getting the endorsements your after, the Spotify playlists you want, etc.) then you’ll have a really good idea of what’s working.
Study what they do and how they do it. How do they interact with their audience? What platforms are they on? What kind of venues do they play? What kind of merchandise do they have? What cities are they popular in? What hashtags are they using to get in front of their fans? (tip:make a Google Doc of different groups of hashtags to use, so when it’s time to post to IG you can simply copy and paste your go-to hashtags. Having a few different groups to choose from means mixing it up so that IG will favor you in the algorithm. For whatever reason, if you use the same 10 hashtags over and over, IG tends not to like that. Probably because they think you’re a robot.).
Pay attention to everything those artists/bands do, take note, and then make it your own. If you can start to use their own strategies for getting in front of fans and make them into your own, you’re well on your way to building an engaged audience.
3. SEEK OUT YOUR FUTURE FANS
There are a lot of ways to find new fans. Offline, shows are a great place to get in front of new faces. This can be at your own shows or (and especially) the shows of others. Sometimes this means going to other artist’s shows and interacting with the audience, maybe hanging at the merch booth if one of the artists on the bill is your friend, and just getting to know people and introducing yourself. It can also mean standing outside venues of major label artist’s shows and getting to know everyone in line, having a conversation, and eventually sharing your music and asking if they want to sign up to your mailing list on the spot.
Online it can mean joining different Facebook groups and getting involved by offering feedback on fellow artist’s posts, commenting with your own stories and thoughts, and just getting involved in your online communities.
On Instagram it can mean finding artists that have a similar sound and are of a similar size to you and seeing who their fans are. If those fans they seem like they might like your music, then get to know them by following and commenting on their posts. (Note: I do NOT mean comment about your music, I mean find common ground in their photos and interact with it – i.e. comment on their photo of their latte with how good it looks and ask them what kind it is.)
At the end of the day, building a community isn’t only one of the smartest things you can do for your career, it’s honestly one of the most fulfilling. Because when you get down to it, we got into this to build a connection.
And sure, it can be overwhelming sometimes to keep up with all the day-to-day. But don’t forget why you got into this—to make a difference. To meet others who are just like you. To tell your story and hope it connects with someone else. That’s all getting in front of your target audience really is. A chance to connect. So don’t worry about “getting it right” or putting a ton of pressure on yourself. Just see it for what it is—a chance to get to know the others who truly think like you, and see the world in the same way you do.
Every feeling that an artist has (good or bad) is based on the interpretation of what things mean. Changing limited beliefs is all about coming out of the comfort zone and undergo the situation. I have seen many artists procrastinate, there is and never will be the perfect moment, so you might as well start.
How are you going to live the next years of your life? How are you going to live today in order to create the tomorrow you’re committed to? What’s important to you right now? What actions can you take today that will shape yourself and your future?
The power is to make a decision here and now. Different decisions leads to actions. Actions produce different results and reactions. Decision, commitment, persistence are the key elements to achieve the things that you want to achieve.
You will also find a way, because making a true decision means committing to achieving result, and then cutting yourself off from any other possibility. The way to make better decisions is to make more of them.
Decide what to focus on
Decide what things mean to you
Decide what to do
Hopefully this will be the start of a new chapter for you. I certainly hope this for you.
If you’re serious about getting your music heard and growing your fanbase, music marketing isn’t an option.
It’s a necessity.
So where do you start?
To get your music in front of the right people, generate momentum and consistent growth, we need to start looking at how you’re going to promote your music.
Great marketing is all about excitement, storytelling and really building traction over time.
Your music and content is one part of thousands of things just one person will see in a day.
The digital world is the noisiest it’s ever been. So, how will you stand out amongst the crowd?
Most artists focus on making great music but ignore one of the most important parts of promoting it – music marketing.
This is the vehicle that allows you to promote your music, get your music heard, generate more views for music videos, create a fanbase and so much more.
There are so many ways for independent artists to carve out their own space in the music business and make a real impact.
1. Build Your Brand Foundation
This is the most important layer to music marketing in 2022. Without this nothing else sits properly.
The foundation of building a strong brand in music is who you are and what you stand for as an artist, thinking about who your audience is and who would connect with you.
Music promotion isn’t a simple task. But, without a solid foundation, nothing will work.
Think of your artist brand as an extension of your own identity. ⠀
It’s a representation of who you are aesthetically and this is what someone will see the first time you come into their world.
Therefore it’s imperative you smash that first impression.
Here are the first steps to branding yourself in music marketing:
Write down everything that relates to you and your music
Circle the most important aspects to you
What does that LOOK like? Visually map it out. Imagery, colours, tone of voice, music, clothes.
Compare that to what you’ve been putting it so far. Does it match?
To make waves in the music industry as an artist, you need to stand for something. Getting your branding foundation right will inform everything else across your music, your imagery, and ultimately, your career.
Don’t skip this stage in a rush to chase arbitrary numbers and metrics. It doesn’t work, especially if you don’t have a solid brand first.
2. Know Your Demographic and Psychographic
The better you know your predicted audience, the better you can create music and content that they’ll love.
If they love it, you’ll build faster organic traction.
Knowing who and where your current fans are will help you learn more about who is paying attention to you, and why they are paying attention to you.
You can get detailed analytic information from your social media accounts, Spotify For Artists, and more to understand your demographic and their behaviour.
If you’re starting from scratch, you will want to build an example fan avatar.
It’s common practice in any digital marketing to know exactly who you are trying to market to before you begin. Marketing in the music industry is no different.
Think of artists that are similar to you. What kind of person listens to them and what is it about them that they are resonating with?
3. Look After Your Current Fans First
In music marketing, it’s easy to become obsessed with the numbers when trying to get more music fans.
Here’s the secret.
Marketing your music to more people begins with looking after your current followers first.
It’s in your best interest to build a community of dedicated followers. A tribe. Learn how to cultivate an environment around your brand, your music, and your music marketing platforms that can turn an interested follower into an obsessive superfan.
To do this, artists need to become less focused on the numbers and getting newer followers.
If you provide value to your current audience, from the outside looking in, people will see a community that they want to be a part of.
Give more than you take as an artist.
Being in music isn’t the same as being in sales. You need to give more and do more for your followers if you are to set a precedent for future followers to join you on your journey.
4. Allocate Time for Speaking 1-1 With Your Audience
Every single day, you need to allocate time to speak to your audience and connect.
I can’t stress how important the 1-1 is when growing your audience (it’s still also the most successful form of marketing ever!).
This means commenting on their pictures on Instagram, replying to their messages, and starting conversations about them. Take a genuine interest and you’ll be rewarded!
Doing this provides a great opportunity for being more human and creating a genuine connection with your fans.
Want to get the music industry to notice you? The music industry and record labels only care about artists who have an audience. A following of people who would do anything for you. A tribe.
The audience holds the power and strengthening your current audience with real 1-1 connections is how you can create something special.
5. Choose Which Social Media Platforms You Will Focus On
Choose a maximum of two platforms to begin with. You don’t have the time as an artist to dedicate to more properly. Research Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube and work out what suits you.
Social media is all about consumption and when you utilise social media right, it’s the most powerful tool artists have.
Everyone may say be on every digital platform, but you don’t have enough time in the day to be successful on many platforms.
It’s overwhelming and isn’t the best music promotion strategy when you’re starting out.
So you choose a platform based on where your skillset lies.
If you love video and being on camera, then I’d look at how you can utilise YouTube.
If you’re wanting to build a community and like photography & short-form content I’d choose Instagram (this is a good place for artists and music in general, if you’re not sure I’d choose Instagram).
If you want to look for where the highest organic reach and engagement is right now, artists should look at TikTok. But bear in mind for this platform you need to learn what works and how you can bring virality, as that’s what TikTok does best.
Choose your platform and keep grinding away producing content that you’re proud of and build your fanbase daily through smart promotion.
What you’re aiming for is just one person to say “I like that” and then they keep returning for more. This compounds from one person to ten people and from ten people to a thousand people.
That is how you get started.
It takes work, it takes learning, but the payoff is that you build a dedicated fanbase that loves you as an artist and your music.
6. Create Engaging Content On Social Media
Most artists view their socials as somewhere to tell people to go to Spotify and then wonder why this doesn’t work.
It doesn’t work because it isn’t engaging, you haven’t got their attention with just your music alone.
Play the socials game right, do your research, and be creative.
Average content isn’t enough. You need amazing content.
As a creative and a musician, your job is to entertain your followers. Give them a reason to follow you, a reason to engage with your content, a reason to come back to your page, time and time again.
The biggest mistake musicians make with music promotion is using social media platforms as simply a portfolio of their work.
I always see artists using ‘push’ marketing to get people to stream their new album, listen to their single or consume their music, watch their new music video with no consideration for quality of content or sign of any larger campaign at work.
So what do you do instead?
You need to surround your music with awesome content.
Instead of just releasing the song or music video and shouting ‘hey go listen to it’… break the release down into several smaller content drops.
Examples of this are behind-the-scenes photos, clips from the song, artwork, lyrics… Anything that you can bring from that master content to your audience in multiple forms.
Think outside of the box and be bold. Only marketing your music releases and not the content surrounding out is a fast track to being ignored.
7. Post Consistently
Music promotion and music marketing on social media requires a lot of effort.
You need to build consistent value every single day to start to build momentum with your music promotion.
If you post on day 1, day 5 and day 17 that is going to have nowhere near the same impact as day 1, day 2 and day 3.⠀
Social media and music marketing is about little hits every day, not big swings. This is why we break down our big single releases and music video content into smaller pieces to make sure we’re giving it in a digestible way to cause the most momentum. ⠀
This requires dedication and effort.⠀
But if you go for it and get it right, social media music marketing is powerful AF.⠀
Here are some questions you need to ask yourself:
Are you posting on a daily basis? ⠀
Are you replying to every comment on your posts with something meaningful? ⠀
Look at your posts and see which did well. Work out why this was and double down.⠀
Is your audience returning? Or just liking and leaving? ⠀
If this wasn’t your post or your feed, would you like and engage? ⠀
You need to be brutally honest with all of these questions.
If you’re not putting in the time and effort to put out something meaningful on a regular basis, it won’t grow.
8. Promote Your Music and Single With a Solid Plan
Don’t release your single without a plan.
Picture this scenario…
You release your new single, do everything you’ve always done, put in less time than you know you should do, and then get annoyed when it doesn’t do as well as you wanted it to.
Does that sound familiar?
Before you release your next single, you know that you need to up your music marketing game.
Your music deserves to be heard, so it’s time to get your launch strategy and campaign in place.
Too many musicians fall into the trap of having a 24-hour promotion cycle for their music, and then starting all over again after that day of excitement is over.
This leads to an endless and vicious cycle of being underwhelmed with every song release, only to make the same mistakes again and again.
Be organised and have a strategy in place that evolves a couple of weeks before the release date, as well as the weeks afterwards.
9. Music Promotion Through Paid Advertising
Music marketing through paid digital advertising only works when your brand foundation, organic social media strategy and content are in place.
But this is where brilliant strategies really make the difference as you bolster on top of your current brand and messaging.
You can push this excitement and messaging out through digital advertising where you can reach hundreds of thousands of your target audience with a very small budget (video views ads give you the most bang for your buck – just $30 could get you 50k – 100k views on your next music video!).
I get a lot of questions about social media advertising budgets, music promotion and music marketing on a low budget.
One strategy is to put your money into brand awareness and video view campaigns.
If you’re marketing on a low budget, you need to keep people on the platform. It’s cheaper and more cost-effective in the long run.
Traffic and conversion campaigns are more expensive as they take people away from the platform.
If you are going to put money into marketing your music online, remember to target effectively and concisely.
Platforms like Facebook and Instagram allow you to hyper-target specific demographics on things like age, interests, location and so much more. The more focused and defined your audience, the more likely you are to get great results for your ads and expand your follower count.
10. Pitch Your Music To Playlists
It’s a good idea to try and get your music on Spotify playlists or other streaming playlists in your genre.
Getting this right can be a game-changer for your listenership and streaming numbers.
There are loads of Spotify hacks for music artists to beat the algorithm organically, but we can take even more control and manually submit our music for playlist consideration.
You can submit your music directly to Spotify’s editorial team themselves via Spotify For Artists, as well as pitching your new release to listeners and playlist curators.
Whether you are promoting your music on Soundcloud, YouTube, Apple Music, or Spotify, it’s important to understand that your presence needs to be maintained on these services as you would your Instagram or TikTok profile.
The Spotify streaming algorithm in particular works in a similar way to social media. If you are serious about getting more Spotify streams, it’s in your best interest to look after Spotify as much as you would any other social media platform to generate organic streams and healthy data to get heard.
11. Collaborate With Other Artists & Influencers
Collaborations done well can be a worthwhile creative pursuit in music promotion.
You can crossover your fanbase with somebody else’s and generate content that is mutually beneficial for both parties.
You have to be careful with your approach when it comes to collaborations. New fans may not respond well to you if it is obvious you are just doing this for clout or a quick numbers grab!
Be authentic with collaboration campaigns.
You need to bring something genuine to the table. If you are just trying to leech off someone else’s following, it’s painfully obvious and can do more harm than good.
Going back to your demographic and psychographic, where do your ideal audience hang out? Where else is their attention?
This can help you figure out who you can contact for a potential collaboration.
Collaboration doesn’t just have to be with other musicians, although this is the most common. You can collaborate with anyone or anything. Think outside the box and consider influencers outside of the music sphere.
12. Email Marketing Campaigns
Email can be another great way of reaching dedicated fans en masse, directly to their inbox.
A music mailing list for your band is more likely to be made up of those on a different level of fandom. More dedicated followers will choose to be updated on you as an artist.
Communicating with your fans directly via email allows you to reinforce your relationship even further with them, ultimately cultivating that super-fan status.
Owning this communication channel now also gives you another asset to use when promoting your single.
You can build up momentum over time with a smart email marketing campaign and direct traffic through specific links and a call to action on new content, YouTube videos, organic streams, and more.
13. Social Media Contests & Giveaways
Running contests and giveaways on social media might seem like old news, but it can still work if done correctly.
Contests can work wonders for the algorithm as a huge boost of followers take action on your content in the hopes of getting something tangible in return.
If you are going to go through the effort of promoting your music with a giveaway, run it as part of a bigger plan.
Things like giveaways and contests often give your socials platforms a slight boost in visibility. You should expect this peak and be prepared to ride the wave.
Be crystal clear with actions your followers should take and what fans may get for free in return. The giveaway value should far exceed the effort of the action from a fan. This is how you can show how much you value those in your tribe.
14. YouTube SEO
If someone wants to find your original song and they type it into YouTube, it should come up from the sheer fact that it exists.
However, if you’re posting digital content like song covers, gear tutorials, reviews (basically things people will actually search for on YouTube), you can skyrocket the organic reach of your videos.
This is the power of SEO (search engine optimization).
It can be a good music marketing strategy to have a selection of SEO-friendly videos as an entry point to your channel. This is how someone may first become aware of you, subsequently digging deeper to become a fan of your original music and other content.
Think about your demographic.
What kind of person are you trying to attract to your channel?
What kinds of things would they be searching for?
What kind of content can you make?
For example, you could create an SEO-optimized video on ‘best guitar pedals for metal’ if this is something your desired audience might be interested in.
A popular music marketing strategy on YouTube is song covers. Perform a batch of covers from artists you love and attract new fans to your channel, where you can promote your other projects and original tracks.
15. Release Music More Frequently
Music marketing is about building momentum over time and creating exponential growth.
If you are releasing music once a year, how are you supposed to create any noticeable momentum or build a fanbase for the long term?
Planning your next single release is great. But what about the next few singles?
Releasing one song without knowing when the next single is going to be released means you are starting from scratch after every music release.
This causes you to have popularity and focus spikes which constantly lower over time because you aren’t focused on consistent growth.
Quality of music and consistency comes first.
Look after your fans and provide value over and over again with consistent and frequent releases.
Remember, you’re only ever ONE song away from greatness. One song can completely change your life.⠀
You never know JUST how close you are. Keep writing, releasing, and learning!