1. Make a Plan / Be Prepared
Ok maybe that’s two things but they are closely related! People aren’t going to buy or stream your music just because it’s great, you need to figure out how you’re going to get your music into their hands. Before you put the record out you need to have a plan for how you will promote it – in your plan, I would always suggest thinking about how you will approach the areas outlined below:
- Distribution Strategy: how will you get the track to market and how much will this cost you.
- Video Strategy: will you make a video (the answer is yes!), where and how will you place that video for maximum exposure.
- DJs & Radio: who will play your track to others and which stations will support you.
- Online Media: what are the relevant media outlets, blogs, magazines who will write/post about you.
- Influencers: who can you get to endorse the record for you, what followers and reach do they have.
- Social Media: have you got the right assets (and enough of them) to use across your social channels, will you use paid advertising.
- Playlisting: what are the playlists that fit your record, who curates them, and how will you get on them.
I recently pitched for playlisting on Spotify, having carefully identified the key playlists targets we wanted for the release and sent them through, I was instantly hit with a long list of questions about our campaign covering all of the points above! This is why I say be prepared – it’s important! If I didn’t have the answers to these questions our likelihood of success would be greatly reduced.
2. Focus on the long-term
You’re not going to blow up on your first release. Unless you’re Ramz (and have the backing of a major label by the way). The way we consume music has changed, the present and the near future is in streaming, and 70 million of us are using Spotify worldwide (another 35 million are streaming via Apple Music). Spotify in particular is set up to showcase the success of single tracks – when you click on an artist profile you see their top 5 tracks, and those are the ones you listen to first. They don’t put albums into playlists as far as I know! I think this presents an exciting opportunity for artists to release a series of singles, with a view to building an increasing and sustainable following over time.
Many artists come and go, especially in urban music, but labels, DJs and influencers are on the lookout for people who are in this for the long-term and can demonstrate a consistent approach to releasing quality music. Don’t focus on ‘that one big track’ rather focus on having a continuous stream of music ready to release. Tech is driving how we consume music, albums are dead, singles are king.
3. Build Relationships not Transactions
The music industry can be fickle and some people are only hanging around for the ‘cool points’. You need to be aware of this as an artist but you also need to be building relationships with people who are in a position to support you and your music.
When you meet people, whether they be a manager, a label, publisher, DJ etc. I would suggest getting to know them and their interests first, before assuming that they will like or support your music and your journey. In life and in business I believe it’s valuable to create and curate sets of close relationships with people whom you can call upon as and when you need help. This is always better than only speaking to people when you want something!
4. Figure out Who Your Audience are (and where they are)
You aren’t (necessarily) your audience. Just because you think in that way, or you consume media in a certain way, that’s not necessarily how your audience approaches things.
Figure out who your audience are, where they are, and the best way to reach them. You can get started on this by analysing the data in your Instagram followers (you need a business Instagram account for this), the age and gender data are usually very useful. For example, if you have a young following aged 13-15, its very likely that they will be consuming music via YouTube first and then social media. All the data is out there, you just need to look for it! Some tools and sources below:
YouGov Profiles https://yougov.co.uk/profileslite#/
- Type in the name of a major artist who is similar in style to you…all the audience data you ever needed!
UK Music https://www.ukmusic.org/research/
- They produce an annual report into the UK music industry
IFPI – Global Music Report http://www.ifpi.org/downloads/GMR2017.pdf
- Similar to UK Music but operate Worldwide
5. Get Going, Do Something and Fail Forward
Your track may never be to the standard you want it to be as an artist, it will never be perfect. This is an art, but its also a business. At some point, you have to bite the bullet and get your music out there. The sooner you do it the sooner you can improve on it with the next track, and the next one and the next one. It’s far quicker to turn a ship when it’s going full speed at sea than when it’s stationary in the port. Get on, get out, and always be improving and building on perceived failures!
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