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How to Promote Music

Getting ears on your songs and your music heard

Last Updated: December 2023 | 5300 words (27 – 29 minute read)

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So you’ve got the greatest music in the world, you’re ready to release it and are sure everyone in the world needs to hear it.

But how, exactly, do you do that?

In this mega-guide we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to learn how to promote your music – what to do, what not to do and how to think about your overall strategy to build a fanbase.

We’ll get into both online and offline tactics and give you all the music marketing and promotional strategies artists and labels use to get music heard.

It’s a competitive market out there, and attention is more scarce than ever. But growing your fans is very doable as long as your music is good.

This won’t be a deep-dive or step-by-step guide, but if you want to dig deeper on any of the promotional methods we talk about here, do additional research on it using Google. You’ll find a lot of resources to help you dive deeper into these subjects.

Of course, before you can promote your music online, you’ll need to upload your music to Spotify and other platforms – so that should be your first step.

OK. This is a long one… so grab some coffee and strap in…


Microphone Month at Sweetwater

Before You Start Promoting Your Song/Album

Now before you start any actual marketing activities, you want to be sure you’ve got everything in order.

The very first thing you want to consider is the quality of your music. Not in the sense that it’s mixed and mastered (although that’s also important) but is it good music?

Of course, that can be a matter of opinion, but it goes deeper than that. Is your music good enough, yet? Marketing and promoting music as an independent artist can’t save a song or album that is just “sub-par.”

If you haven’t put in your “reps” – for example having written/recorded 100 songs – before you start actually releasing and promoting music, consider working on your craft more.

But let’s say, for the sake of this guide, you have really great music to promote.

In that case, here’s a few things you want to be sure you have ready before you start your marketing.

Getting Your Music Everywhere

First and foremost, you need to make sure your song/album is available everywhere people consume music.

Nowadays that mostly means getting your music on streaming services.

But there are various types you need to be on.

Bluechip DSPs

What I refer to as “bluechip” DSPs (digital streaming platforms) are the major players out there – Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Pandroa, Deezer, etc.

These are the places that companies like Tunecore (read more) and Distrokid (read more) distribute your music to (check our comparison of the two companies). You can’t get on these platforms on your own as an independent artist.

So work with a digital music distributor to get your songs onto all of these platforms.


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Self-Upload Sites

Beyond the “bluechips,” you also want to make your music accessible through self-upload music sites. These are websites where you can create a profile and directly upload your songs yourself.

There are tons out there, but here are a few major ones to help you get started:

  • SoundCloud
  • BandCamp
  • YouTube
  • Last.fm
  • ReverbNation
  • PureVolume
  • MixCloud

There are others, and most of these smaller platforms keep coming and going. But the point is, get your music everywhere.

Claim Streaming & Social Profiles

You’ll also need to make sure you claim profiles/accounts on all of the major social media sites out there – whether or not you like them personally. 

Create an account for yourself as an artist/band on TikTok, Instagram, Twitter/X, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and SnapChat.

And once your music is live on the “bluechip DSPs” we talked about above, you want to make sure you claim your artist profiles on these sites.

Sign up for things like “Spotify for Artists” and the related offerings on the other platforms. This will let you manage and customize your online presence. It’ll also give you data on who is listening to your music.

The Power of Branding

An important thing to consider when setting up all your online profiles is your overall brand as an artist.

Your brand is basically your overall identity in the public eye.

Branding is very important in marketing and promotions. A solid brand gives people an over-arching idea of who you are, that they can latch onto.

It includes things like the color schemes you use in your design, the type of music you make, the logo you have, the fonts you use. 

It’s the “image” of you as an artist. It should be cohesive – meaning it should be consistent across everything you do.

When someone lands on your website, sees an ad of your music or checks out your social media images they should all have a very similar “feel” or “vibe” that fits you and your “brand.”

Do Some Market Research

You also want to make sure you do some market research. 

It doesn’t have to be fancy. You just need to put in some work to identify who it is that you’re actually targeting with your promotions.

Who’s Your Audience, Where Are They?

Everyone has a pretty specific “target market” that is most likely to enjoy their music.

The information you want to collect is things like demographics (age/sex/location), psychographics (what they like, how they feel/think) and behaviors (where they spend their time, what they enjoy doing, etc).

Knowing these things will make all of your promotions more effective, because you’ll be able to “target” these specific people who have the highest chance of liking your music.

One of the way to collect this information is to determine what artists make similar music to you. Then dive deep into who their fans are. Pay attention to the people that follow these artists – look at their comments, their tweets/posts, etc. Go on to music forums or Reddit and see what they’re saying and where else they’re hanging out online.

The more you can infer about the people who will most likely enjoy your music, the better your chances of reaching them yourself.

Gather Your Artist + Release Assets

The final thing you need to do before you start promoting your music is to make sure you’ve got all your “assets” ready to go.

Your assets are all the things you’ll use to promote yourself and your music. This can be literally anything, but includes things like:

  • Your music (obviously)
  • Your artwork and professional photos
  • Your website and newsletter
  • Your Electronic Press Kit and Artist Bio
  • Your music videos
  • Your additional social media content (ex/ “behind the scenes” content, etc.)
  • Your merch (vinyl/cds/cassettes, stickers, posters, etc.)
  • Any promo material (flyers, download cards, QR codes, etc.)

Gathering and creating this stuff has a lot to do with planning a music release (learn more) out beforehand. It’s a good strategy to adopt for yourself.

iPads With the Spotify App Open

How NOT to Promote Your Music Online

OK… We’re almost ready to talk about ways you can promote your music to build a fanbase.

But before we do I need to make a few things VERY clear.

The following are the things you need to avoid like the PLAGUE when you’re starting your music marketing journey.

Don’t do any of this shit… EVER. 

Buying Fake Streams/Followers

OK, to be 100% real… most of your favorite major artists (and specifically, their labels) are gaming streams. They’re all doing it. They buy fake followers and streams.

But they’re doing it on an industrial level with very expensive (and exclusive) providers.

Don’t even think you’ll get anywhere by buying your $15 botted-streams package from Fiverr.

It may work for people who already have a large enough fanbase and budget – but it won’t work for you as a small indie artists just trying to build an actual fanbase.

And besides, fake streams won’t buy your merch. 

You want to focus on building an ACTUAL following – of real people you’ll be able to make money with your music from (learn more).

Note: This doesn’t include paying for advertising to “buy” follows/likes directly from places like Facebook/Instagram, etc. That can actually be a decent strategy to gaining new fans.

Being Annoying/Spammy

And even if you ignore what I just said about fake streams/followers, DON’T ignore what I’m about to say.

Whatever you do… however you market… DON’T BE ANNOYING OR SPAMMY.

Just plastering marketing messages all over Facebook or Twitter doesn’t work. (“Check Out My Music, Check Out My Music, Check Out My Page, Please Pay Attention to Me, Did I Mention Check Out My Music??”)

Constantly telling people about your “new single” or “new mixtape” turns people off. Don’t hijack someone’s thread with a link to your music video.

Not only will you never gain an actual listener by begging someone to listen to your music, if you’re annoying and spammy you may actually lose listeners by… wait for it… ANNOYING them.


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Promoting Your New Release

Ok, now that we know how to prepare things and what not to do, how can we actually build a fanbase and market our music?

There are lots of things you can do, but you should remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

You need to put in the work, and do it for a long time. 

Over the medium term (2 – 3 years), your goal is to get to 1000 true fans – people that are actively paying attention to what you’re doing and willing to support you with their money.

By consistently taking action 1 listener will turn into 2, and then 3, and so on. Just keep walking down this road, even if you’re unsure of where you’re headed.

Important Note: Everything we discuss below are things you should be doing for every new release. You should consistently be promoting a song/single for 3-4 weeks before moving on to a new one. If you’re promoting an ep/album, you should promote it for a longer window of time (3-12 months).

But as with everything in today’s ADHD-laden society, people move on to the “next thing” pretty quickly. Unfortunately, that means you need to have a consistent/steady flow of new material hitting the market, so you can stay on top-of-mind of your audience.

How to Use Social Media

So, I just told you don’t constantly beg for listeners on social media so how should you actually approach this stuff?

It’s ok to share links to your single or album. That’s not the point. The point was don’t be spammy/annoying with it.

Just be cool… Read the room, and shit…

Think of social media like a party. If you went to parties and just constantly made people check out your new music video on your phone, you’d stop being invited.

But if you just acted socially and “joined conversations” while every now and then mentioning your song/album/video when it was relevant, you’d find a lot more success.

Gary Vee calls the concept of “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook” – that translates to give people more value than you ask in return.

On social media, that means be funny, insightful, entertaining… whatever.

Share behind-the-scenes stuff, or do breakdowns of your music making process, teach a cool technique you love, make great memes, join conversations with something interesting to say, etc.

And then ask people to check out your song/video/website/new project (occasionally).

Tik Tok + Short Form Video

TikTok is the biggest driver of attention for new music and artists.

It will be one of your most important marketing channels in the current marketplace. Learn it, study it, use it. Make sure your music is available on it.

This also goes for Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. Snapchat is another place short-form video thrives.

There is lots you can do, like jumping on trends, etc. But you can also just share things you’re working on, provide a cool tip for other music makers.

And of course, share clips/lyrics from your songs or music videos with links to the full thing. Try starting a trend with one of your songs. You never know what might hit.

YouTube, Twitch, Kick + Long Form Video

Long form video is another big driver of new fans.

This goes for both live-streaming and uploading pre-recorded/edited videos.

YouTube is huge for this. Obviously you want to upload your music videos, studio footage, live shows, etc.

But you can also do livestreams on YT or Twitch/Kick. You can livestream yourself working on new music, or just chatting about music in general. If you love video games, why not livestream your gaming sessions?

During your livestreams you can talk about your music or upcoming projects, etc. Or hell play your album in the background while you livestream.

Again, try to be entertaining, informative, insightful or funny. And then occasionally ask people to check out your stuff.

Forums + Communities

Forums and communities are still a huge part of the internet.

This could mean anything from an actual “forum site” to Reddit or Facebook Groups. The idea is to join these communities and start engaging/interacting with people.

There are lots of music-specific sub-reddits where they’ll even let you shill your stuff and get feedback/reviews. 

But join the communities where your target audiences spend most of their time. Then start helping out the community and eventually start promoting your new work.

Pitch to Streaming Playlists

Getting featured on a major playlist can be a big win for a new artist.

That’s why it’s important to sign up for services like Spotify for Artists, so you can pitch your stuff to editorial playlists.

You can also build relationships with people that curate major playlists to try and pitch them directly.

Whatever you do, though, stay away from those “playlisting” services you’re probably getting spammed all the time with. 

A lot of them are scams.

Local and College Radio

Radio isn’t what it used to be by a long shot.

And it’s almost impossible to get wide-spread radio syndication outside of the major label system. 

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still an audience in local and college radio. Your city/town probably has a few local radio stations that probably feature local talent some of the time.

Try building a relationship with some of the local announcers or hosts of the local show. A lot of the time, they’ll accept submission of new music so send them your stuff. They may just put it in rotation.

Do the same for all of the college/university radio stations in your country (and even internationally) that play your style of music – be sure to research that.

DON’T send your abstract minimalist glitch album to a rock or metal station…

PR & Media Coverage

PR stands for public relations – it’s basically a form of interacting with media entities to get your brand exposure to a wider audience.

Getting media coverage can be great, but it can also be useless in really moving the needle (since a lot of legacy media outlets are dying a slow death).

But there are a lot of online media outlets that command large audiences. Podcasters, online shows, blogs, social influencers, etc. are all potential targets for your stuff.

If you have a large enough marketing budget ($10,000 plus) you can hire a firm to help you with this.

EPKs + Press Releases

You can also do media outreach yourself. This includes things like sending out press releases of your latest projects/releases. Or pitching story ideas, interviews, features, etc. to journalists.

Learn how to write a press release and make sure you have an electronic press kit (EPK) that you’re able to send out when necessary.

Getting Reviewed

There are lots of outlets on the internet that will review your music. From YouTube reviewers to bloggers and music magazines, you can submit your music to these places for a chance to be reviewed.

Just keep in mind, you might not land any reviews or the reviews might be bad. So just be ready for that.

Interviews

There are also opportunities to be interviewed as an artist, whether it’s a podcast, magazine, blog or other media outlet.

This is a lot more difficult for artists just starting out, but there are some publications out there on the search for undiscovered talent to feature.

For any of these areas we just discussed, some research using Google will turn up a lot of different opportunities you can try to take advantage of.


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Influencer/Brand Collabs + Partnerships

This type of marketing is similar to PR and media outreach. It’s where you’re reaching out to people in an effort to partner with them to feature your music or your brand with theirs.

The key here, especially for artists just starting out, is to target smaller and mid-sized influencers and brands.

For influencers, you can offer to pay for being featured in their content, or you can propose some sort of partnership. If they’re a smaller influencer with a podcast, for example, you could offer to create them a theme/intro song.

For brands, this can be more difficult. You’ll need to be creative to find a way to provide that brand with some value. The best way is to build an audience yourself – then you can feature their products in your content, and vice-versa.

Pitch for Sync Placements

Another way to get your music out there is to consistently pitch it for placement opportunities. Sync placements are when music is featured in some other medium – movies, tv shows, commercials, etc.

This can take some relationship building, but there are also services out there that will pitch your music on your behalf. Companies like Taxi.com offer this for a yearly fee plus a fee for each submission. And your submissions aren’t guaranteed – they vet all the songs first.

But if you can land your music in a music library or a direct placement in a show that ends up being popular, a lot of people may “shazaam” your song and eventually become fans. 

Advertising

Advertising is simply paying a company to get your message (i.e. your song) in front of people. There are various ways you can utilize advertising to promote your music.

The only problem is it’s strictly pay-to-play. You need a decent budget to really get any traction.

But you can directly advertise to gain listeners or followers. Advertise on streaming sites, social sites, news sites, blogs, television stations (lol) – wherever.

The drawback to advertising is it’s mostly “interruption” marketing. That means you’re interrupting someone’s day and shoving an unwanted message in their face.

It’s not always very effective, but when it is it’s a great way to promote.

Spotify Ads vs. Social Ads

Spotify offers an ads service where you can advertise your new release on podcasts or on their free-tier music streaming. It can be a great way to get listeners who are already on the app they’d probably end up listening to you on anyway. It’s worth a shot trying this out.

But you can also advertise your content on social media sites. Whether it’s Facebook/Instagram ads, TikTok ads or YouTube pre-rolls you can get your posts, videos, songs and profile in front of real people.

Word of Mouth

They say word-of-mouth advertising is the best advertising there is. That’s because WoM is basically getting a recommendation from a trusted source.

When your friend tells you to check out a song or movie, you’re a lot more likely to do it versus just seeing an ad about it.

That’s why it’s important to cultivate a good relationship with your fan base as it grows. Your biggest fans will be more than willing to share the word about your stuff far and wide. Just ask them.

Of course, to gain those types of fans, you really have to provide them with a lot of value and treat them well. 

Guerilla Marketing

Guerilla marketing is the idea of using low-cost and creative methods to spread the word about your music.

It’s using non-traditional approaches to gaining attention. There are entire courses and books written on this subject, so we won’t get into it here.

Just understand, that you don’t need a lot of money to promote your music effectively.

You just need to be in the mindset of “gathering attention.” Focus on where people are paying attention and what they’re paying attention to. Then try and find creative (and legal) ways to divert their attention to you.

It’s an elusive subject, and sometimes called “growth hacking” in tech circles (and “clout chasing” when done annoyingly), but it’s extremely effective if you can manage to pull it off right.

Posters, Flyers, Download Cards, etc.

Related to guerilla marketing is the idea of hitting the road and just spreading the word about your stuff manually.

Create posters, stickers, flyers, download cards w/ QR codes and travel around your region/country putting them everywhere you can.

The idea is to just get eyes on your brand. After several repeated exposures to your brand, a few people might become interested. Then if you’re lucky, they’ll google you (or scan your QR code) and if you’re even luckier, they may stream a few seconds of your song. 

If they like what they hear, you may have just gained a fan. 

It’s a grind, but even if you can gain a few new followers each time you do it, that will build up over time.

Pre-Save Campaigns

A pre-save campaign is something you can do once you’ve actually built a substantial fanbase. Pre-saves are where you ask people to “pre-save” your upcoming song on a streaming site.

The idea is to get enough pre-saves that it potentially influences the “algorithm” to feature your music when it’s released.

It’s not the best strategy, but if you’ve got the attention already it may help push you further.

Indirect Promotion

Most of what we’ve talked about so far is direct promotion – you using various outlets and mediums to directly push your music in front of people.

But there are other more indirect ways you can promote yourself and your music as a whole.

Collaborate With Other Artists

Collaborating with other artists on your level is a great way to build your fanbase. You aren’t putting your music directly in front of others, but you’re introducing yourself to an entirely new (but related) group of music fans.

Some of them may become fans of you by hearing the song you collaborated with their other favorite artist on.

Find people to work with and build these relationships out.

Open for Others + Throw Live Shows

Related to collaborating with other artists is offering to “open” for other artists who are having live shows. It’s a great way to get in front of the very people who are most likely to enjoy your music – especially if you open for someone making similar music to you.

In the same vein, you could throw live shows (learn how) where you invite other artists to perform as well. The idea is that each artist on this collaborative live show would bring in a small portion of their fanbase, and each artist on the show would benefit by getting in front of potential new fans.

And there’s no better way to build a regional or national fanbase than to go out and tour. That could even just mean playing coffee shops and empty lounges around your country, hoping to turn one or two random people into potential fans.

And of course, busking (performing on a street corner) is a great way to get your music out into the world in front of random people. 

Music Competitions

There are several music related competitions out there (especially online) where you can submit your songs. Think of things like the International Songwriting Competition, etc.

Remixes & Covers

Another great, indirect way to get potential ears on your music is to work with producers and other artists to remix your songs. 

Beyond that, you could also remix another person’s song. There are also platforms – like Skio – that do remix competitions. Whether you produce or are a vocalist/instrumentalist, if you make a great remix, people may check out your other stuff.

Finally, doing covers of popular or older songs is another great way to get ears on yourself. Covers – especially ones done well – tend to get more immediate traction than new songs from new artists. People also love watching live cover versions on social media sites. 

These are good ways to indirectly promote your artist brand and following.


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Tips on Making the Most of Your Music Marketing

That was a pretty comprehensive list of ways you can promote yourself, but it likely wasn’t even close to being exhaustive. There are tons of ways to market yourself as an artist – you just have to get creative and try things out.

But now that you have an idea of all the different avenues to promoting and marketing your music, let’s talk about some tips you should keep in mind to improve your effectiveness.

Use DSP Tools

The major streaming sites like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal (DSPs – digital streaming platforms – learn more) each have tools artists can use to help in the promotion of their music.

Features like fan tools, video, pre-save links, share links, playlist submissions, “marquee” video, lyrics and more all all things you should put to use in your overall music marketing and promotion campaigns.

Analyze Your Analytics

Building on what we just talked about, you need to pay attention to your analytics on each DSP. These are the stats of who is listening to your music, how often and from where.

You can use all this information to help target your marketing efforts. Analyze these and test different things (like marquee videos, for example) to see how they impact your stats.

Attention is the Name of the Game

The main thing you need to drill into your head is that attention is the name of the game in marketing. You are trying to get people’s attention, so you can spread your product/service/message – in our case, music.

You should be thinking of all the ways you can effectively get attention – both using the things we talked about in this guide, and other ways we may not have mentioned or thought of.

Virality

This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of virality – getting something to spread exponentially. We’ve all seen viral moments. And they’re the holy grail in marketing.

But they can’t be manufactured – or at least it’s extremely difficult to do so. All of the stars need to align.

But if you can do something that goes viral, it will bring with it a whole hell of a lot of attention. The thing is, that attention can be both positive and negative.

So be careful with what you do to try and get attention. Don’t do dumb shit.

Building a Fanbase is a Grind

There’s just no getting around this fact – building a fanbase is a long, drawn out, difficult process that takes years to do.

And it’s not guaranteed.

But you have to put in the work – do the grind and slog through the blood/sweat/tears that are a part of this journey.

Things will seem impossible at times, you’l fail a lot and you’ll wonder why it feels like you’re just spinning your wheels.

But if you really want to do this, you have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, and continue the marathon.

Build your fan base… one fan at a time.

Continually Release New Songs + Content

We’ve talked about how you can market the music that you’ve ready to go in this guide.

But you have to remember that you’re a music artist. That means you make music. Unfortunately, you also have to do the marketing. But don’t let the marketing of your music take over the creation of your music.

You should be consistently releasing new music, while marketing, so that you keep each of the hard-earned fans you gain satiated with new product.

You want to stay relevant and near top-of-mind with your supporters. So keep putting out new stuff regularly. Besides, this way you’ll always have something new to promote!

Consistency is Key

Finally, the biggest driver of success in anything you choose to do is consistency

You have to do this shit religiously. You can’t expect any success if you try something once, fail and then never try again.

You have to keep going. Keep trying. And when you find something that works for you, you have to do it consistently for a long time.

It’s not 10,000 hours that brings mastery or success. It’s 10,000 iterations – 10,000 tries.

So put in the work, and put it in consistently.

As long as you take a small step forward, every single day, towards your goals/dreams, you’ll accomplish things.

But you have to do. So go do. And do it everyday, for the rest of your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Music Promotion?

Music promotion is a set of strategies and tactics to help get attention (the eyes and ears of music fans) to a new or older song or album from a music artist.

Does Music Promotion Work?

Yes music promotion does work when it’s done effectively, but an effective music promotion campaign is a difficult thing to do. Successful music promotion relies on a great product that resonates with lots of people.

How Does Music Promotion Work?

Music promotion works by publishing a song or album, and then undertaking various forms of marketing – advertising, public/media relations, content creation and distribution, and much more – in order to attract attention to a project and build a fanbase for an artist/band.

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    Final Thoughts

    Music marketing is a huge area of both study and practice. There’s so much to it, that even this ~5000 word guide barely scratches the surface of things.

    So continue to learn about ways you can execute on the ideas we gave you in this article. Try things out, and find things that work for you. 

    But don’t let the marketing overtake the making. That’s so important to remember. You’re a musician, you should be making music more than you market music.

    I know it’s a lot – it’s like having 2 full time jobs. But that’s the grind when you’re starting out. It just has to be done.

    But once you gain some traction, and start building a fan base and a buzz, you’ll be able to bring others on to help you with things. When you start having a substantial number of fans, you can start to build out your team to help you take some of the load off.

    But until then, it’s all you. Luckily, in today’s marketplace you have all the tools necessary for success at your fingertips.

    So does everyone else. 

    So how creative can you be in making it happen for you?

    If you have music that’s ready to be released, I highly recommend you use TuneCore to do it – they’re an affordable way to release unlimited music to Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and more!

    Thanks for reading this guide on how to promote your music!


    Deviant Noise Top Pick Recommendation:

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    About The Author:

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    Omar Zulfi

    Omar Zulfi is a music producer, rapper, singer, songwriter and digital entrepreneur. He is the founder and head writer at Deviant Noise. Learn more about what he's doing by clicking here.