Music Promotion Services & Independent Music Promotions
A search on the web for music promotion gives you a ton of advertisements. As a result, it’s reinforcing the message that music promotion is expensive and you must pay money for it. It’s simply not the case. Music promotion services range from independent radio promotion, freelance PR, social media promotions, and online tools to help you build and retain a fan base. Let’s take a closer look.
- Indie music promotion and marketing services.
- Free music promotion services and resources.
- Independent radio promotion services and freelance promoters.
- Social media promotions online and affordable tools.
- Effective music PR / publicity.
- The best ways to get more listeners, fans, and traffic.
- Music experts that deliver results for your band.
- What questions to ask the service before hiring?
1. Indie music promotion and marketing services.
There are some unqualified people offering services out there. Pay attention to the “mistakes to avoid” tips in this article to avoid being scammed. Let’s consider the variety of paid music marketing services, what you need and don’t need, and how they charge you. After reading you will know what specific services to search for and which types to avoid.
Promotion and Distribution are very different things.
It can be hard to distinguish a distribution service from a marketing service. If they claim to be both, ask for case studies, and get consumption figures.
Mistake To Avoid: Be careful not to get in a “distribution” arrangement, or sign anything that gives a service the rights to monetize your music. Many services are preying on musicians and leaving out important information. I even find myself clicking and accepting the terms of service for software like Java, Flash, and iTunes updates. We’re conditioned to quickly accept terms like they are standard. Music services include your intellectual property, so don’t accept the terms without careful consideration. In fact, the terms of service aren’t necessary in most cases. You should play 20 questions with their customer service team before hitting accept. “Who are your past clients?”, “Are there any guarantees for your service?”, “What are some specific targets for my project.”
YouTube channels that promise tens of thousands of views will sometimes claim the rights to your master audio and video in exchange for putting it on their channel. This could potentially make them thousands of dollars, and you could make zero on your own music. Considering a one time deal with a short term limit is OK in some cases. Think of the best case scenario before you accept the terms, and try to negotiate the length of the term. No more than one year is recommended.
A word about logos and testimonials.
Be careful of companies that just flaunt big name logos on their homepage and don’t provide a case study to actual testimonial to explain what exactly they did for that company. If they don’t back it up, you should assume it’s overstating their contribution.
Mistake to Avoid: Promotion should not be used as a broad term. Beware of pitches like “Tailored to your needs”, or “Complete Marketing Service”. Stay away from services that list services with very little detail like “We handle Internet marketing, PR, Radio, and social media.” Or “3,000” outlets. Make sure companies give you specific targets.
Different Types of Music Promotion Services
- PR firms & freelance publicists.
- Radio promotion companies.
- 360 marketing companies providing all services under one roof.
- Video marketing services.
- In-store media play services (MoodMedia, PlayNetwork, Screenplay, etc.)
- Paid influencer marketing campaigns
- Advertising agencies
- Paid email blasts and paid promotional opportunities
- Paid music placement services, compilation CDs
2. Free music promotion services and resources.
Word of mouth promotion, (or as I like to call “heat on the street”), is the best kind of marketing. Create some sort of emotional reaction to your music and make people want to talk about it or share it. If you constantly create something profound over and over again that adds meaning to your fans’ lives, it will spread like a virus. Below are some of the various free methods for music promotion.
USE YOUR PERSONAL NETWORKS
We often overlook our personal connections. Block off an hour and go through your cell phone contacts and pick out people that could possibly help you get music publicity. Post on your personal social media accounts”Who is a Writer, Blogger, Vlogger, Radio DJ, Social Influencer, or Podcaster?” Turn those replies into press for your new release.
Dig into your local community and connect with people and organizations in other areas of interest and collaborate. These collaborations make for great local or regional stories. At the same, time they add depth to your band’s brand and naturally build your story. Some examples are collaborations with:
- Film Students & Local Filmmakers
- Other musicians (local or national)
- Painters and Fine Artists
- Beer Breweries
- Sports Teams & Athletes
- Local Charities
LIST OF FREE PROMOTION TOOLS & SERVICES:
BandsInTown Promoter Tools – Can send a message to followers with custom call to actions.
MailChimp – Has a free email management service that lets you send up to 12,000 emails per month and have 2,000 subscribers. Absolutely free until you exceed those limits.
Pandora AMP – Take advantage of Pandora’s AMP portal for artists. One great free tool allows you to record radio style liners that are served directly to people who have searched for your music on Pandora. They also have song boosts which are are game changers for music streaming. Learn more here.
NextBigSound – Pandora actually owns this service, and your Pandora account can be connected to NextBigSound to monitor your Pandora spins, as well as your band accounts for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Shazam, Pandora, Wikipedia and more.
ToneDen & Metablocks – Both companies offer both free and paid gate widgets for social media follows, streams, email subscribes, pre saves and more. These are great for running contests, or just giving people multiple options for streaming and sales channels with one hyperlink to a widget. Very useful for Tweets. TweetDeck is another friendly service.
3. Independent radio promotion services.
An independent radio promotion company (sometimes called an “indie”) works to get your song spun on radio stations. It can be a company with regional reps all over a territory, or it can be one or two people. Don’t confuse this type of promotion with a venue promoter.
Radio can mean a lot of different things. The most powerful and coveted form is terrestrial FM airplay. This is still the number one driver of music consumption in the United States.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF RADIO PLAY
- terrestrial airplay (commercial or public FM and AM radio stations with a tower and signal)
- satellite radio play (SiriusXM)
- programmed cable TV (Music Choice)
- Internet radio / streaming radio (iHeart Radio)
The Kind of Airplay That Sells Music
Not all “airplay” is equal. So if somebody tells you they can get you airplay, you need to ask them “What type of airplay?” “What markets?” “Will my song be added into rotation?” (playing weekly at least 5 times per week). How will you start the campaign off? What is the process? What time of day will the stations play it? Daytime and rush hour traffic are generally better. Nights can be good, but after midnight (called “overnights”) is usually not quality airplay.
Typically, freelance promoters focus on the terrestrial radio stations in each city and region and big national platforms like SiriusXM and Music Choice. Most major terrestrial radio stations have annual festivals. Indies can facilitate radio festival appearances. Radio promoters even bring on radio stations to sponsor the artists’ live shows in each market.
There are national syndicated programs for rock music like HardDrive, Sixx Sense, Scratch & Sniff, Rock Nation, The Alternative Project, and Loudwire. Syndicated shows are centrally programmed but played on select radio stations around the country. Specialty radio and college radio are open-minded outlets for new music and often not driven by revenue goals. “Promo” staff usually do not pitch Pandora and Internet radio. Depending on the company, internet radio falls under either digital sales, publicity, or digital marketing.
How to Find and Hire a Radio Promoter
To find an independent radio promoter it’s best to find somebody in the music industry that you know and trust and ask for a recommendation. These services can be very expensive. A major investment. Be wary of online services. Most of the good indie promoters that can get you quality airplay are not advertising online. They are selective about their clients and typically found by word of mouth.
Play MPE – A promotional music distribution service that delivers your audio to terrestrial radio stations. Don’t let the term “distribution” throw you. Their delivery service puts your music in front of the people that put music on the air, not Apple, Amazon, or Spotify. Every major label uses them for radio servicing, as it’s a requirement for most of the biggest stations.
4. Social media promotions online and affordable tools.
Social media promotion for music can be overwhelming. Understanding algorithms and the rule of thirds helps me focus and not get over-analysis paralysis. If you are in a band, you should divide and conquer the biggest social media platforms. YouTube is included alongside Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram as the four main social media platforms for music. I’ve listed some helpful free resources to manage and promote on social media below.
CURRENT SOCIAL MEDIA TRENDS
- Visuals are essential. Invest more in visual content.
- Live video is huge right now, especially Facebook Live
- Instagram is still growing rapidly
- Facebook is still king (for brands) by a long shot
- Facebook ads are dominant
The Rule of Thirds and Algorithms
Only one-third of social media is promotion and marketing. Your fans don’t use social media to have you constantly blast “BUY BUY BUY” messages to them. They want to get to know you. So if you are selling most of the time, you become a marketer – not a band. The algorithms on major social media sites reward artists that use the platforms the way their users want to use the platform. Clearly nobody wants to be over sold on something. So follow the Rule of Thirds.
One Third – Post content from your band. Songs, video content, lyrics, and photos.
One Third – Consumption messaging. Music sales, streams, ticket sales, merchandising, advertising, voting, contests. The easy stuff. It’s tempting to make it 50% or more sales related.
One Third – Write posts that bring out the personality of your band. Call this third marketing and branding. You want to reinforce the story behind your band. The mission. What you stand for. This is the most difficult but important part. Your fans want to know more about you, and this is your chance to bring out the unique characteristics of your band in creative ways.
Great Tools & Resources for Social Media Marketing
Social Media Examiner – A fantastic resource of how-to blog posts on any social media questions you might have. You’ll be hard pressed to find any other social media resource this thorough.
5. Effective music PR / Publicity.
The goal of publicity is to spread the artist’s vision, accentuate the brand, and draw out the human interest story. Press, PR, and public relations are interchangeable terms. Publicists or (PR’s) connect your music and brand with all media. Examples: magazines, newspapers, TV, radio interviews (not spinning your track), blogs, podcasts, public appearances (not concerts), sessions, influencers, and celebrities all connect with brand partnerships. Your brand is a long term investment and PR helps perpetuate and develop your brand.
WHICH PUBLICIST IS BEST FOR MY BAND?
Music publicists come in different varieties (Print, Online, Tour Publicity, or all of the above). While many publicists work independently, some work with larger firms that have publicists in all trades. Others work directly for the record label. I’ve worked with all three types, and in my experience they are all equal in ability.
The best publicist for your band is one that is qualified, but also a genuine superfan of your music and brand. Publicists typically work on a monthly retainer (3 month minimum). Hire them at least two months before release date of your album and keep them on for at least two weeks afterward. Prices on the low end are usually $500 USD per month, averaging $2,500 per month, and the top firms and well known publicists are as much as $5,000 per month. These costs also come with additional expenses to cover phone bills, clippings, press kit mail outs, etc.
Hiring a Publicist
First of all, ask yourself if you need to hire a publicist? If it’s a single launch, probably not. If you are hiring them at the last minute, right before an album releases, you’ve missed the opportunity. I’ve written about this in my post titled 5 Ways To Get Press Features On Your Own.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Publicity Contact List. Click here to get a free download. For those that already subscribe to my email list and want the download, just email me your request.
6. The Best ways to get more listeners, fans, and traffic.
Focus: The 80/20 Rule
It’s a mathematical principle and proven natural law of the universe. Pareto was an Italian scholar and economist in the late 18th Century, and after observing business and nature, he revealed that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. (Source: M. E. J. Newman Department of Physics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI)
Applied to the music industry or your band, it means that 80% of your income come from 20% of your songs. It works in reverse too. 20% of your fans will generate 80% of your income (sometimes called “super fans”). Most of your merchandise sales will come from 20% of your designs.
Put in 10 Times the Effort
Narrow your focus and put out 10x the effort. Make your goals ten times bigger as well. Instead of aiming for 100,000 streams, aim for 1,000,000. Or instead of aiming for 1 million streams, aim for 10 million. It’s better to fall short and be 4 or 5 times ahead of your lower goal, than to just hit the lower goal. You can will your way to success. The 2014, 2016, and 2017 MLB (AL) batting champion Jose Altuve willed his way to success. He is one of the shortest baseball players in the major leagues at 5’ 5”. He was constantly told that he couldn’t play in the majors because of his size. Now he is the best hitter in the major leagues and also one of the top base stealers. Most of all, if you put your mind to it, you can do it.
Market to communities
Your target audience and fans all hang out in various communities. Examples of communities are blogs, magazines, clothing brands, retailers, charities, Reddit, Facebook groups, etc. Annual festivals and tours can be communities. Any place that large groups of people in your target audience gather is a community. Identify these targets, make your band a force within them, and your fanbase will multiply.
A Search based economy
I heard this first from Grant Cardone, author of the 10x Rule. He discussed a new search based economy. Search traffic has replaced television, radio, and newspapers as the biggest driver of revenue. Eyeballs and ears equal traffic. When you sit down to plan promotion of your music, keep this in mind. Everything you do will usually result in some sort of search. A search on Google, Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, Spotify, Apple, a smartphone, or even an app. So make sure that you show up in the results and that you look great when new fans run into your content on a search result.
7. Music influencers and experts that deliver results.
Influencers or social influencers are people who have massive active audiences and a keyboard or camera can expose their audience to something they like in an instant. Examples of influencers are YouTube vloggers, athletes, celebrities, bloggers, podcasters, or comedians. Most of these influencers have managers and command high fees. Hiring social influencers is one of the most expensive advertising opportunities I’ve come across. Traffic and impressions sometimes determine the price but most often it’s based on what that particular influencer can command at the moment.
GET A MENTOR
A mentor doesn’t have to be a top industry exec, or even in this industry at all. It doesn’t even have to be a face to face relationship. You can get the same type of advice from books, blogs, videos, or interviews with artists or people that you respect. Finally, mentors will keep you honest with yourself, help you stay focused, and contribute to success in business, family life, and health as well.
Between writing the blog and my freelance work for record labels and managers, I have a limited amount of time for mentoring. But I do take on a few artists at a time as a coach for a fee. If you would like to inquire further, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
8. What questions to ask the service before hiring?
- What are some very likely targets you think you can land for our project?
- Can I see a list of recent clients?
- What recent placements have you gotten for your clients?
- How much does it cost, and are there any additional charges or expenses beyond the quoted rate?
- After you have all the materials from us, what are the next steps? How does it work?
- How do we know who you’ve pitched? Is there reporting and how often?
The options for music promotion services are numerous, but you can see there are many affordable and free ways to promote. Before paying money for any of them, ask yourself if you can manage the task on your own. If you’re in a band, you probably have three or four other minds by your side that will put more passion into promoting your music than anybody else. Most of all, go out there and tell your story. Then ask people to cover your band. You’ll hear “no” more often than not. But pretty soon, you’ll be a promotion machine.
I look forward to your comments below.