In this article, Major Labl founder Mark Knight, identifies the three most common music marketing mistakes made by independent artists, and suggests simple ways to avoid them.
1. Don't plan to promote
Musicians often take months, sometimes even years to write, record and produce new music and once they have it finished, they want to share it... immediately. While it's easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new release, releasing without a plan is almost always a mistake.
Remember, one of the biggest advantages of being an unsigned or independent artist is you are beholden to nobody. That means you call the shots and set the deadlines. If nobody knows about a new album, they aren't expecting it. So take your time to plan how and when it's best to release it.
The worst thing you could do is release music, promote it badly and then try and promote it again. It looks amateur and is likely to confuse fans.
Solution: Once you have finished recording, stop and think what you need to promote your music. Then take your time to create all the assets you need first. Only think about releasing your music when you have everything ready. A partial checklist could include:
Highest quality finished music
Single, EP, album artwork
Artist / band biography photos
Promo ready social media pages (Updated and consistent images, biogs, links)
Full length video or video clips to promote your release
Press release and story of the release
Release strategy - EG Single, single, album or album release followed by two singles
Distribution / aggregator to ensure your music is available on Spotify, Apple etc
Release schedule with timings for first announcement, pre-save campaign, release day
Content calendar with a plan for social media posts across your campaign period
Budget for promotion
Booked supporting live shows
Schedule social posts in advance to avoid the daily grind
2. Don't budget for promotion
For some reason every artist has a budget to record music, but very few think about having a budget to promote music. You can have the world's best album, but if nobody hears it, it is wasted.
Solution: Always plan a budget to cover recording and promotion. For an unsigned or independent artist we would always recommend you start by investing in promotion on your own channels (the ones you can control) That means, social media and your artist website.
Start by ensuring all your social pages are complete with links and biographies, make it easy for people to find you by using the same names, and same high quality images. The benefit of promoted posts or social advertising is you have 100% control over how much you spend, the message, time and audience.
Social media advertising provides incredible targeting opportunities previously only available to big brands and ad agencies. So now if you only want to spend £5 targeting people that like The National, in California on a Sunday morning you can. Always start with low budgets and run split tests to see what performs best before upping your spend.
Avoid spending money on radio pluggers and public relations. Here is why. Radio and press are dominated by signed artists, so your chances of support are slim from the start. You pay PRs and radio pluggers regardless of success, so you could easily spend £2,000 for radio and PR and walk away with nothing or a token late night play and amateur blog that have no impact on driving fans or listeners.
Just remember advertising works on reach and frequency, that simply means: reaching lots of people, lots of times. So at the start of your promotional campaign always ask yourself how are we driving reach and frequency?
A one off radio play isn't going to work. But even a budget of £20 a week for three or four weeks on Facebook / Instagram ads can go a long way with a little bit of careful planning and testing.
3. Assuming people care
Unsigned musicians frequently fall into the trap of thinking, all they need to do, is put their music online and the audience will automatically find it. Sadly for 99% of artists that just doesn't happen. Infact, as an unsigned artist, if you only tell ten people, getting more than one person to actually listen more than once would be an achievement.
Just think 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 40,000 songs are uploaded to Spotify every day. Unless you actively promote your music the chances of your music ever getting heard is very, very slim.
Solution: Remember unless you are Radiohead or Beyonce a new release is not compelling. Use the insights available to you on your website, Facebook, Instagram and Spotify to identify your likely target audience. Then plan your story, remember to get people's attention you'll need a hook that extends beyond just music.
Think about the lyrics, themes or song stories and consider how you can use them to engage both existing and new fans? Remember, if you only talk about your music for 4 weeks people will switch off, but if you talk about a wider issue EG mental health, gun crime, love or loss, you have a much bigger opportunity for your music to become relevant to a much larger potential audience.
Further support for independent artists
Squall influencer marketing for musicians
The RCM blog for incredible unsigned artists
The RCM Takeover Live Sessions
Major Labl management consultancy and creative solutions for unsigned artists