Updated: Jun 22
In this article, we explore the subtle, but significant differences between music marketing and music promotion and explain how understanding this distinction could be the thing that saves you money and elevates your career.
As an indie musician, it's very easy to get seduced by the promise of music promotion. There are thousands of companies offering to get you on that playlist, dramatically grow your social following or drive your video views.
I recently saw an example of this first-hand, a client of mine said she had been working with Ditto Music who had run a YouTube ad to help her 'promote' a music video. "It was the best advert I've ever run" she excitedly proclaimed.
Intrigued, I asked why was it so good? She answered...It got us so many YouTube views. It took me 5 minutes to understand what they had done to achieve this result. The advert they set up was targeted at all adults, worldwide. The result was thousands of cheap video views from India and Asia.
At face value, it's easy to see why this advert was considered successful, after all, anyone visiting her YouTube channel or searching for her music would now see one of her videos had been viewed thousands of times. Social proof is powerful, there is a reason restaurants want people sitting in the window, nobody wants to eat in an empty restaurant.
But what if you could get lots of video views by targeting an audience that is actually likely to care and engage with your music not only now, but in the future.
What if you replaced vanity views with valuable views? You might pay a little more but quality is almost always better than quantity.
That's where music marketing comes in.
If music promotion is the output, music marketing is the input, it's the thought and plan behind the action—the what, the why and the where. Music marketing considers the bigger picture and the best solution rather than racing to the quickest or cheapest solution.
So the next time you are on the brink of being seduced by the promise of sexy music promotion, pause, take a breath and consider the following.
Fans vs listeners
Becoming a successful musician is dependent on converting one-time listeners into repeat listeners and ultimately fans that become powerful advocates of your music. A real fan listens, buys, shares and recommends your music to others. Ten fans will always be more valuable than 100 listeners.
The best way to grow a fanbase is to really understand who your music attracts and then go and find more of them. Meta (Facebook) Business Manager allows you to take a seed audience of existing fans and engagers and scale them to create look-a-like audiences for you to target.
EG Identify the types of people that watched your last music video and let Meta find similar people to watch your next video. Or if you know your music attracts people that also like Radiohead, target your ads at Radiohead fans, in places where people watch Radiohead content.
This approach allows you to build scale among a relevant audience, which is so much more valuable than targeting all adults worldwide.
Positioning & Brand Association
Let's step outside of the bubble of music for a moment. Did you know that almost half (49%) of all consumers have a strong idea about which brand they will buy before they even enter the market to buy? Wavemaker, the company behind this research call this 'Priming Stage Bias.' As a consumer, we are always picking up cues and signals about the brands around us, our brain is always looking to automate our decision-making, using shortcuts so we quickly form judgements based on the things we see and hear. Our brains don't like shocks, and once we make judgements it's hard to see past them.
What does this mean for music marketing? Unfortunately, people really do judge a book by its cover, or a song by its video, artwork, advert, or playlist. So always surround yourself with quality, if you look amateur or desperate it's very unlikely people will give you a second chance. So think twice about where your music appears and what it says about you.
Words Mark Knight
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