Your Music is only Half the Battle. Marketing is a MUST.
It’s not about followers or streams or views… it’s about strategy.
These days, making amazing music isn’t going to get you that sustainable money-making music career. As of September 27, 2022, 100,000 songs are uploaded to streaming platforms every day. While it brings an uphill battle for an independent artist trying to make it big, it is not an impossible thing to do, and there are many things that are not being prioritized that can really make a difference. No amount of followers, streams, merch or viral videos can make you famous on its own. There are so many platforms out there that are crucial to develop your brand and grow a true fan base that will actively seek out your music, tell their friends about it, and love your music forever.
It is somewhat of a “chicken or the egg” situation. Should you make content where your music is the focus, or create the music with the goal of becoming the soundtrack of a trend or challenge? Should you post the same thing across all the platforms? Is posting the only thing you have to do every day? Focus on growing followers or focus on growing streams or plays?
Map out what you want and you will see what you need
I can’t tell you how many rappers or producers or DJs ask if I can manage them or help them with getting their music out there. They talk a big game saying that they are currently in talks with a record label, but have 3 Instagram posts and 10k followers. Each post has 3 comments. Their story posts say “new music coming soon” for months and it is the only thing they do for promoting their music, expecting the streams to come overnight. Sometimes I’ll ask them, “what do you need help with?” and they say “my music”. So what I’m trying to say is – every independent artist needs a strategy to get to their definition of success. A strategy is just a roadmap of how to get to a realistic means to an end. You can’t buy followers today and then get a record deal tomorrow (I’d consider staying independent anyway). Instead of focusing on hard numbers like number of streams, take a step back and figure out the end goal and put yourself in the shoes of a fan of your favorite artist.
Example brand/artist profile – the good and the bad
For this example, lets say you are a rapper from California with an EP and 4 singles out on Spotify. Your lyrics are not filtered and you use a lot of auto-tune and include really explicit lyrics, but more for the shock value. You like streetwear like Supreme and BAPE and you eventually really want to perform at big festivals. You think that your music will make it on its own because its THAT good, so the first impression you leave is that you think you don’t need to talk to anyone because it will make you look like you are not as famous. So we will need to make some adjustments, because marketing is a required part of getting music out there and you want to be approachable to get new fans.
You will want to find something that your fan base can identify with and bring that part of you forward. Clothes and cars are too common. Is there anything else that sets you apart from other rappers? Maybe you are an activist, you wear the color pink with everything, you are super into crypto, you are a big fan of the Office… something so that your fans feel like you are just like them. This will make you more relatable to the people who you want to listen to your music, which translates to them becoming fans – as long as you are 100% authentic to these things.
Figuring out your fan base
Unfortunately, you cannot say that your ideal fan base is “everyone”. If you are inclusive of everything than you are generic to everyone. Find your core fans by thinking about who would listen to your music. I’d exclude anyone under 15, anyone over 30 and focus on the ages of 15-30 because they are most likely to listen to explicit music (under 15 might get in trouble with their parents, over 30 might have kids in the car).
If your fan base is ages 15-30, what social media platforms would they use? What content do they like? To figure this out, you can go with your best guess. I’d say TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. They probably use Spotify or Apple over Tidal or Pandora. The most important thing to remember is that going viral on TikTok, Instagram, or anywhere else is not the guarantee to “making it”. For one, that viral video should be seen as a blessing to capitalize on the number of people paying attention at that moment. Make quality content that features your music or reacting to videos or something other than just holding the camera singing your lyrics. Videos that are jumping in on a trend or maybe try a challenge. Whatever you post, use the next 7-10 days and go hard on making the content, posting multiple times a day across platforms, using hashtags, and sharing it across wherever you have people paying attention to you. Otherwise that moment is lost. Independent artists rarely get their big break from one video or one TikTok. Of course it does happen, but I say don’t bet on that being your big break, bet on that being a way to engage your audience.
Out of 1,000 Viral TikTok Songs…
Engagement is hard to do but it has to be done
Here is where a lot of artists burn out. If you want to make this your career, you have to put in a lot of effort, like making content consistently and staying in touch with your followers. You have your music, but supporting others with their music as well is good for everyone so find artists similar to you and interact with them. In the comments section, write comments that are genuine and compliment something instead of a few fire emojis. For any followers you get, pay attention to them and their posts and continue to post comments to show your appreciation for the content that THEY are posting. Then their followers will see you comment and more will follow you, then comment on theirs, etc. The back and forth is engagement – which is a ton of effort but a huge payoff.
Networking is everything
As you are commenting and following and gaining followers, the engagement is important not only for getting to know your followers but you may also come across people who can have an impact on your career. If you go through and follow booking agents or music managers or bloggers or playlisters, do the commenting here too. Show your interest in what they are doing in their content, and they will pay attention to you. Comments have to be non-emojis and enough to have a reason to respond to you while also complimenting something you feel that genuinely deserves a compliment. Everyone loves to hear them, so not only will it evoke a positive feeling for them, they will want to see who is giving it to them.
The networking will be what sets you up for success.
Some closing thoughts:
It is also against Spotify’s terms of services:
3rd-party promotional services that advertise streams in return for payment violate our terms & conditions, and using them could result in your music being removed from Spotify. Any service that claims to offer guaranteed placement on playlists on Spotify in exchange for money are in violation of our terms & conditions, and they shouldn’t be used.
No more excuses
At the end of the day, you have to be willing to do these things at the very minimum. Some have told me they have tried everything but have yet to comment or follow anyone because they think people should be the ones to follow them. Sometimes they are just lazy and have excuses for everything. Point is, this type of effort is not for the weak. It is for the ones who really truly want to make music for a living and will do what it takes to get there. The music world is tough, so find the people to keep in your network of people you trust. If you don’t do anything else…network, talk to people, and leave a good impression to let people know that you would be great to work with.