Updated: Jun 22
Last year we produced a checklist to help indie musicians promote music more effectively. With changes to Facebook Ads and Apple Privacy Laws, we have updated our guide.
1. Write, record and produce the highest quality music.
Everything starts with incredible music. Remember, nobody listens to bad music twice, so it's important to get it right. Even if you can’t afford a studio to record your music, you can add a little sparkle, by paying for someone to mix and master your music.
2. Perfect your brand image.
First impressions count, and unfortunately, people do judge a book by its cover, so don’t start promoting any music until you have a consistent, professional image across all of your social media channels. You can now shoot HD photos on a smartphone. Choose Portrait mode and play around with the Aperture or F stop settings to get a professional background blur. Look to use one consistent image across all touchpoints (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Spotify, TikTok and website) so visitors know they have found the right artist. Use Canva to format images to fit in any space.
3. Set up your Facebook Ad Manager Account.
*You will need a Facebook artist page to set up a Business Account to advertise across Facebook and Instagram. The benefit of using the Facebook Ad Manager over promoting posts directly from your app is the ability to retarget previous engagers. Visit Business.Facebook.com to get started.
4. Create Saved, Custom and Lookalike Audiences.
Within the Facebook Ad Manager visit the Audience tab and look to build audiences you can use in your ads. Saved Audiences allow you to build an audience of your choosing. For example. Rock music fans, who live in the UK aged 25-55yrs old. Custom Audiences allow you to retarget anyone that has previously engaged with you, your pages or your content. For example. You can build an audience of anyone that has watched at least 50% of your selected videos. Lookalike audiences allow you to scale Custom audiences. For example. Let's say you have a Custom audience of people that currently Follow you on Facebook but there are only 3,000 by using Lookalikes, Facebook will identify the people who most closely match your existing followers, so you can quickly go from 3,000 to 250,000 potential fans.
5. Understand Privacy Changes.
Apple recently changed its privacy rules and this has had had a big impact on Facebook audiences. Now Apple users have to opt-in to be included in Ad audiences and unsurprisingly lots of people haven't, so advertising audiences have shrunk, and there are some audiences that have disappeared completely. For example, musicians could previously retarget anyone that had sent them a message on Instagram with an Ad. This was powerful because when it comes to engagement, taking time to send a message is a far better sign of engagement than just watching 3 seconds of a video.
6. Build a simple website.
Use Wix or Squarespace to create your own simple, professional website. Your site should include: Links to your social pages, a form to collect emails, a Spotify follow button and Spotify music players, a biography, and high-quality photos (consistent with the images on your social pages). Your website plays a couple of important roles. 1) Assuming it is indexed and optimised correctly, it should guarantee you a top spot on Google search 2) It provides a central access point to all of your social pages 3) Crucially it allows you to collect 1st party data (email addresses) the best way to escape Apple Privacy laws! 4) It provides a point of engagement - allowing you to retarget visitors once you have installed the Facebook Pixel.
On your website look to create a hidden landing page containing all your key links, post this into your Instagram and Twitter biographies (Don’t give all your traffic and data to LinkTree!)
7. Connect Your Facebook Pixel To Your Website.
Visit the Events Manager within your Business Facebook account and follow on-screen steps to set up your Pixel and connect it to your website. Once the Pixel is installed you will be able to retarget anyone that has been on your website with Facebook or Instagram Ads.
8. Create content to build an engaged fanbase.
As an independent musician, it's easy to collect followers when you should be creating fans. Use content to build an engaged audience before you even think about paying to promote your music. Remember a Like is easy to do and is a very low-level form of engagement. Create a mailing list and provide prizes and rewards encouraging people to sign up. Here are 10 ways to collect first-party data and meaningful engagement.
Run a sweepstake or competition
Offer coupons or discount codes
Share personalised recommendations
Earn loyalty points
Provide VIP treatment
Share valuable information or insight
Entertain with a fun quiz or questionnaire
Invite consumers to make content
Create an NFT with rewards beyond music alone
Talk to your fans!
9. Establish both a Bonfire & Firework content strategy.
Independent musicians frequently fall into the trap of only posting on social media when they have a new release (Firework) for the remaining 10 months of the year they fall silent. This is counterproductive, maintaining momentum is critical to growth. So block produce and schedule content to keep your social channels buzzing between releases. (Bonfire) You can also reshare old content. Remember music is still new if you have never heard it before. Read more about Bonfire Strategies here
10. Promote music content to build engaged audiences before release.
Run Facebook / Instagram ads optimised for Brand Awareness, Video Views or Engagement to grow your audience ahead of a launch. If you don't know who to target start with a broad audience of 18-65 and then based on who responds you can quickly narrow down to focus on 18-35. Use this time to test out different audiences and different creatives to see what works best. For example, do you get better engagement by targeting Radiohead or Muse fans? Think of this phase as a science experiment, analyse the results in your Ad Manager to understand what performs best.
11. Start to plan your next release with a story
There is no story in the headline 'unknown independent musician' releases unknown song' so try to find a hook with engages people beyond the music. Your hero hook could come from a lyric, the story behind the song, the music video or just something that's important to you. For example, your hero hook could be about. Mental health, Politics, Surfing, Valentine's Day, Break-ups, think about what would your audience most relate to and engage with? Once you have your hero hook aim to create a minimum of 20 pieces of social media content for Facebook and Instagram. Use Facebook Creator Studio to schedule posts across a 4 week period. (post-launch) Split your content between Hero (engaging big idea) and Hygiene (my single is out now). Remember if you just sell at your fans for 4 weeks straight, they will switch off.
12. Record benchmarks.
Make a note of key metrics before you start promoting. These could include: Spotify followers, monthly listeners, save rate, Facebook and Instagram followers, and website traffic. You want to be able to understand how the release has impacted your growth.
13. Make use of pay as you go PR services
Services like the Right Chord Music Indie Collective or Musosoup allow you to submit your music once in return for the chance for your music to be featured on multiple blogs. Now you only pay for guaranteed PR coverage. Build your hero story into the title and press release to inspire blogs and writers to want to write about you.
14. Allow time to distribute your music.
Send your music to your distributor at least 5 weeks before release, this ensures you have the greatest chance of being included on the Spotify algorithmic and editorial playlists.
15. Create an artist playlist.
Create a best-of playlist and add your new single at the top. By directing fans to a playlist you could get 5+ streams for the price of one. Once your new single has sufficient streams to appear in your top tracks, redirect the link to your profile instead, this helps you pick up more followers.
16. Create and test your ads.
Create two or three different video ads to help promote your new release. Remember your first job is to stop people from scrolling. 80% of people view social media with the sound off, so engage their eyes first and give them a reason to stop and click. Ensure you have ads that work in Story and Feed formats. Look to create ads 15/20seconds long. This allows you to retarget only those that have watched 75% of your ads. If your ad is too short, engagement won’t mean too much.
17. Retarget engagers to drive conversion
Recognise that Conversion ads are designed to 'convert' warm leads not people hearing your music for the first time. Let's imagine you are a car salesman: Conversion to sale is much much easier if your prospects have visited your showroom, taken a test drive and sat in the car. You are really just giving them a nudge or further incentive to get them over the line. Musicians need to approach Conversion to streams in a similar way recognising very few people go to check out bands or artists they have previously never even heard of. A PR guy once told me the first job is to get your name known. If people recognise or think they know your name, they are much more likely to listen.
Run conversion ads for at least 4 weeks from launch day. Up weight your spending in the first week to give yourself the greatest chance of triggering the Spotify algorithms.
18. Monitor performance.
Download and check the Facebook Ads app to monitor the performance of your ads and make targeting changes as required. For example, turn off any ads that aren't performing and focus on the target audience that delivers the best results.
19. Learn from each campaign
Record your campaign results versus your pre-campaign benchmarks to understand what worked and where improvements are required.
20 Need help promoting your music?
Major Labl offers a FREE webinar showing independent musicians how to plan their next release. We also offer two training programmes that combine step-by-step video guides with face-to-face consultations and advice.