6 Things Independent Musicians Can Learn About Growth From Successful Brands

Updated: Sep 24

In this article, Major Labl founder, Mark Knight considers the parallels between new businesses and new bands and asks what can musicians learn about growth from established and proven marketing theory.

Managing Expectations

One of the biggest challenges associated with promoting independent artists is managing expectations. There is an assumption that one campaign, or in some cases, one ad is going to be enough to transform their fortunes.

We recently worked with an artist who had spent £20 on an Instagram ad and before less than half of the budget had been spent, he declared… “It’s not working!” What did the artist expect to happen? The answer: Miraculous overnight growth in fanbase, engagement and Spotify streams.

In reality, the engagement ad in question, optimised to drive video views had successfully driven 6x more views than the standard post on the artist’s wall. A great start point for retargeting when the new EP came out.

What’s driving these unrealistic expectations? It could be that we’ve grown up believing all music careers start with a game-changing, X-Factor style audition moment! The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. Success takes time, and only a few will actually succeed.

Sustained Momentum

A few years ago I took part in a challenge to try and ‘break’ an unsigned band in just 10 weeks without any form of radio or traditional press. As part of our preparation for this project, a data wizard from our team studied BBC Sounds Short-listed artists on social media to try and identify a tipping point. After all, If he could find one, maybe we could replicate that moment with our own band? What he found, while frustrating, was also very insightful. Consistently he concluded, there was never one moment fueling their rise. Success came from sustained micro-moments of momentum, built over time.

The problem is most artists don’t have a plan in place to deliver these sustained micro-moments on the road to growth. Many artists lurch from everything (when they have a single coming out) to nothing (two weeks after the single is out).

Musicians as Start-ups

How do we change this? One approach is to step out of music and look to see how other business categories look to deliver growth. The start-up business feels like a good place to start, after all, a new band and a new business share many of the same challenges.

  1. Finding an audience

  2. Establishing product-market fit

  3. Building awareness