Music Marketing for Musicians – The Problem with Immediate Culture

Music marketing is not as common a thing as you may think. The fact is, most artists would rather make up a concept about it than learn about it. When I released “Your Band Is A Virus” and launched Independent Music Promotions, I was surprised at how seldom terms like ‘music marketing’, ‘music promotion, and other similar phrases were actually being searched in Google. For example, as I check right now in my Google Adwords keyword research tool, I see that ‘music marketing‘ has been searched an average of 1,600 times per month for the last 12 months across Canada and the United States. How about ‘music promotion‘? 2,400.

Are you as shocked as I was?

Do you see a problem with this? What this essentially means is, when you see Facebook memes that say X percentage of musicians fail to earn minimum wage, you know that it’s not a statistic you should pay any mind to. I knew early on that “Your Band Is A Virus” (my music marketing book) may catch on among musicians who want to promote themselves online, but I also knew that this was a very niche audience indeed.

Is it any surprise that there tends to be so much confusion on the topic of music marketing? You have the numbers now. Most of your fellow musicians are more interested in studio time, jamming, and just about every other aspect of being involved with music – except music marketing. On the positive side, this gives you, the interested reader, a serious advantage.

The greatest folly for a musician is not necessarily the absence of music marketing knowledge, however. It’s what they fill the knowledge gap with. 

This is where I want to get into the heart of this article. From “good music will always be found” to “streaming services aren’t worth it”, horrid mythologies abound in the independent music world.

Music marketing follies

But that only covers the Hydra’s heads. The Hydra’s heart, perhaps, is immediate thinking. Perhaps we got it from growing up seeing Nirvana rise seemingly out of nowhere. We weren’t shown the years of intensive practice that led to the success. Perhaps it’s from the overabundance of data and analytic online tools at our disposal. We receive reporting for just about everything, and everything seemingly has an algorithm we can conquer and use to our advantage.

What we often fail to see, though, is that we tend to view our results on a micro-transaction basis. Long-term thinking is extremely rare. How is this a problem?

Music marketing immediacy in American Idol
It’s possible that some of our expectations of immediate results in music marketing come from the overabundance of karaoke shows such as American Idol.

A short term thinker will argue the merits of, say, investing in anything. Let’s take hyper-targeted advertising on Facebook for your music marketing as an example.

“What will we get out of it?’

“How many Soundcloud plays are guaranteed?”

“How many sales will it generate?”

If you find yourself holding off investing in your music because too many of these sorts of questions plague you, you suffer from a terrible case of immediate or short-term thinking. Popularity ALWAYS comes first. If you have 150 Facebook followers and you’re expecting iTunes sales, I’m sorry to say that you need to invest in yourself before others will. That’s not a bad thing either.

I can say this because I’ve lived it. Long-term thinking pays off. In spades. But you need to walk the walk and become popular before you’ll get a cent out of it. When I released “Your Band Is A Virus” and launched Independent Music Promotions, no one knew about me. I had no following whatsoever. I worked 12 hour days for the first 2 years I was in business. I lived on a budget and reinvested funds into hyper-targeted advertising. I had no choice. You wouldn’t be reading this if I didn’t.

I pitched myself to any music industry publication I could. That’s why you’ve probably seen interviews with me, articles written by me, etc. Each one took hard work to reach you. I worked heavily on SEO for the first 2 years, and then I hired a professional to help me take things a step further. I invested because I knew it would be worth it. Now, as a result, when you type ‘music promotion’ into Google, Independent Music Promotions is right at the top. It took a lot to achieve that.

SEO for music marketing
SEO is key for music marketing

I’ve invested an insane amount into SEO, Google Adwords, Twitter and Facebook advertising. Now, we have a larger social media following, as far as I know, than any other PR company worldwide. We get a lot of traffic on this site due to past efforts.

So what’s the point of all this? Your past investments and your past efforts pay off for you in the present moment. In spades. I used to put thousands per month in advertising. Now I don’t need to advertise. Don’t envy me though. I lost a few years of my life building this company, years where I could have been creative and work on other projects.

But I want to stress to my musician audience that long-term thinking pays off. Invest in yourselves. Get used to it. Feel good about it. You’ll never create momentum if you want guarantees at step one. An artist I worked with invested much more than just about any other band on their Facebook advertising. Other bands in their scene thought they were crazy. Then the A&R, touring and management offers started to come in around the point they passed the 25,000 fans mark.

Analytics won’t tell you that. There are no guarantees, but you absolutely must jump in the water to find out what’s in there.

Music Marketing