How Do I Promote My Music Online?

Composing music is something I really enjoy doing but for me it is also very important that my music is being listened to and enjoyed by as many people as possible. Unless what you have is a truly amazing talent, resulting in a viral shock wave that promotes itself, you will most likely remain fairly unnoticed unless you take it upon yourself to promote your music.

In this post I will summarize what I do to promote my music on the Internet. I will also let you know of the efforts involved, the costs and the impact it has had.

This will be a long post and if you have little time, I suggest that you scroll down and look at the headers below and focus on methods you haven’t used to promote your music.

Create an Official Artist Web Site

Early on I made sure to register my artist name as a .com domain name. That was 12 years ago and you may find that yours has already been taken, but it’s still important to create your official site so consider to register the .net domain, or your local country suffix, and build an official artist web site.

My site is now in its 5th generation and I’ve put a lot of effort into developing it. Luckily I have some knowledge in web development so I can design, develop, and maintain my own web site. This may be something you need to get help with if you have little knowledge about development.

Experience, feedback, and statistics from the five generations of my site all point to the following criteria for success:

  1. Stylish but simple
  2. Easy for visitors to navigate
  3. Easy for visitors to instantly hear your music
  4. Links to and integration with social media (e.g. Facebook Like and AddThis)
  5. Search Engine Optimization with Search Engine Friendly URLs
    Each one of my tracks automatically get an unique URL, e.g. http://music.imphenzia.com/tracks/time-travel.html. These pages contain keywords and a description specific to the track and the benefit of this that instead of having search engines index just one page containing all tracks it will index, in my case, over 85 additional pages.
  6. Keep your site updated with your latest music and latest news
  7. Use statistics, such as Google Analytics, to see how visitors find your site

If, for whatever reason, creating a web site is not for you – I still recommend that you register a domain name and point it to your main point of presence on the Internet whether it’d be a MySpace page or a Soundclick page for example. Remember, an URL like www.imphenzia.com is always more appealing and much easier to promote than an URL such as www.soundclick.com/bands/default.cfm?bandID=701131.

Cost: I pay $10/y for my domain name and $50/y for my web hotel, $0 for development
Effort: Very high for custom web site with shopping cart, could be low for simple sites
Visitors/Plays: My artist site averages around 20-25 unique visitors per day

Mailing List

A mailing list is extremely important. It will enable you to reach many eager listeners waiting for your next release. I have developed my own mailing list but many artist sites offer this as part of their functionality.

Make sure that you send relevant information to your mailing list users and whatever you do, don’t spam them with useless information as it will only result in them unsubscribing from your list. This brings me to another important feature; make sure it easy to unsubscribe from the list as it will encourage more people to sign up. You can see my example image (click to enlarge) how I announce a new track release, also note the one click unsubscribe feature at the bottom.

Make it easy see and sign up to the mailing list. I value subscribers so much that I give away a digital album to everyone that signs up. If your list supports such a feature, or you develop your own mailing list, consider giving your new subscribers a generous gift.

The image above shows how I’ve presented my subscribe to mailing list feature. It’s located in the very center of my welcome page and signup is easy, just enter an email address and click sign up (the digital album will be sent to the subscriber’s email as a welcome gift.)

Cost: I developed my own mailing list for free, and there are free mailing lists available
Effort: Little effort is spend maintaining the list. It took some time to develop but there are free alternatives.
Subscribers: My list currently contains 737 valid addresses

Social Media Presence

Personally, I hate Facebook and all types of social media sites. I frequently get surprised of how willing some people are to expose themselves and their private affairs. Nevertheless, social media is an essential tool to promote your music and it is very powerful.

Facebook is the most important site to be on. Create an artist page and announce your new releases, special offers, teasers, previews, news and so forth. The more people you get that “like” your artist page the better. Every announcement you make will appear on their “Facebook wall” so in that sense it’s similar to an mailing list with the added benefit that you get comments and interaction with your fans.

Twitter is another one I hate, but again, you have to be on it. Link twitter updates with facebook updates (there are features on the sites to do this) to make your updates appear on multiple sites automatically with little effort. You should also encourage people to follow you on twitter and facebook whenever possible.

Follow other twitter users with similar interests – it is likely that they will follow you in return. This doesn’t mean you have to read everyone’s uninteresting updates because you can disable email notifications if you are only interested in twitter as a marketing method (as opposed to a social tool.)

Costs: $0 (free)
Effort: Little effort required to maintain presence at Facebook and Twitter
Visitors/Plays: I have 373 facebook fans and 116 twitter followers

YouTube Videos

YouTube is another great site to maintain your presence. Even if you don’t have music videos, consider uploading your tracks with a simple image because surprisingly many people go to YouTube to listen to music. You can also use free online tools such as “Animoto” to create some visually pleasing videos for your music.

Here are some examples of how I used YouTube (and other video sites such as Vimeo) to promote my music:

Create Tutorials

Creating tutorials, especially video tutorials, is another very powerful method to reach listeners. Granted, it will mostly attract other artists, but nevertheless they are humans and fans too. My tutorial videos have been viewed over 100’000 times and I’m not sure how many have actually turned into fans but such a large number of views is bound to bring some fans your way. Don’t forget to clearly promote your URL to your artist site in any tutorials you create.

Here is an example of a video tutorial I’ve created: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZO5u7hNA1mo

Cost: $0 (free)
Effort: Little for single tracks, high for tutorials and animated videos
Video Views: 163’139 video views

Describe Your Music with Keywords and Descriptions

Everywhere you are present, describe your music and videos with many interesting and relevant keywords. Use details such as equipment you used and sources of inspiration etc. Search engines will index your music and people will find you when searching for music created using a particular instrument or music that sounds similar to a particular artist.

Cost, effort, visitors: n/a

Join Artist Sites

Dedicated artists and musician web sites such as soundclick.com and soundcloud.com are important to be on. You can usually upload your music to be hosted for free although some restrictions will usually apply. Be prepared that the registration and upload process will require a fair amount of your time. Describe your music, preferably with varying descriptions for each site, to increase the exposure to search engines.

These type of sites come and go and some will remain active longer than others. Examples of sites that are no longer active where  I used to gain a lot of exposure at were mp3.com, ampcast, and peoplesound but they are since long gone.

Soundclick.com
Cost: I pay $9.95 per month for VIP account, but free account is available
Effort:  Little to maintain, initially high to upload music if you have many tracks
Visitors/Plays:  101’083 page views, 370’365 song plays

Soundcloud.com
Cost: $0 (free) I’ve opted for the free account at this stage
Effort: Little to medium depending on how many tracks you have
Song Plays: 1122  (I am not very active at soundcloud, yet)

Artist Sites Top Lists

Another benefit with artist sites is that they commonly have top lists and you will gain exposure if you can get one or more of your tracks into these lists. I have 370’000+ plays at soundclick.com and this is mainly due to some of my tracks ranking in the genre top lists. In an attempt to get into the top lists I decided to go for a paid promotion. I paid $25 for “Promo Song of the Day” (it is now priced at $50) and it rocketed my track to the #1 spot for the entire electronic music genre. Since then the track has promoted itself just by being present in the top 25 of the sub-genre.

Artist Sites Music Groups

Artists sites also commonly feature music groups that you can join and where you can share your music. At soundcloud.com, join relevant groups and share your tracks. I personally haven’t had much exposure through these groups but it may very well be due to lack of effort and involvement on my part.

Digital Distribution / Digital Stores / Streaming (Spotify)

Use an “aggregator” (such as Ubetoo.com, Tunecore.com, CDBaby.comRouteNote.com, Recordunion.com) to distribute your music to digital stores (such as iTunes, Amazon MP3, etc) and streaming services (such as Spotify.)

Peasonally I use Ubetoo for digital distribution because they allow unlimited number of singles and albums for an annual subscription fee of around $80. Ubetoo also distribute the music to 500 digital stores which I believe is more stores than any of the competitors.

Other aggregators usually charge an annual fee per song and album and turns out to be a lot more expensive than Ubetoo if you have 5 albums and 85 single tracks as I do. The exception is RouteNote and they now have a free alternative but they don’t reach as many digital stores as Ubetoo so I don’t think I will switch.

Some important things to be aware of with aggregators:

  1. All aggregators have awful terms and conditions – you give them exclusive rights for distribution with terrible termination clauses but as an independent artist you can’t do anything about this other than leave it or accept it.
  2. Reporting and processing times are what you’d expect from a third world country. It takes weeks and weeks for tracks to appear on Spotify and the statistics make it very difficult to understand where the royalties come from.

Regarding Spotify, simply having your music in the Spotify catalog will likely not result in much exposure by itself. Saying this it is still important to have your music on such popular streaming sites because once a fan has discovered they will probably enjoy having easy access to your music through such services. 

Cost: $80/y (Ubetoo)
Effort: High initially to upload all your tracks and define releases (if you have many)
Plays/Royalties: I get about $50 in royalties (100%) from Ubetoo every 3 months. Due to awful statistics it’s difficult to way what store or service the royalties come from.

Blog

The main purpose of this blog is simple; I write posts to attract an audience through search engines and I hope that my readers will also discover and enjoy my music. A positive side effect of this promotion method is that I may end up helping other artists along the way =) It’s also a good way to give your fans insight to what you are up to.

Cost: $0 (free) There are free blog sites available
Effort: Medium, it takes some time to write blog posts
Visitors: 10-60 visitors per day

Music Forums

Internet forums, especially specific to the genre of music that you create, are useful for promotional purposes. The downside to forums are that you may have to spend a lot of time to get involved in discussions before you promote your music in a non-spamming fashion.  At the same time, if you enjoy engaging in discussions, this may be the perfect way for you to build a name.

A good approach is to first introduce yourself. in the forum Make sure you have an appealing forum profile signature with a link to your web site. Write feedback to other artists seeking feedback. Announce your new releases only in sub forums for such announcements because anything that could be considered to be spam will backfire. Seek constructive feedback on your music as it will both improve your music at the same time as you will gain some exposure.

Cost: $0 (free)
Effort: High to build reputation and maintain presence
Visitors/Plays: Unknown

Paid Promotions

I’ve made a few attempts with paid promotion, such as Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. These cost a fair amount per click so it may be out of reach for independent artists and I don’t find it to appealing to go this route due to the costs involved.

The most effective promotion, by far, has been the promotion features at soundclick.com that resulted in thousands of plays in a single day for $25.

Cost: I’ve paid around $200 for Facebook ads and $100 for Google Adwords
Effort: Little effort is required to create paid promotions
Visitors:  Google and Facebook ads only resulted in around 500 clicks. Soundclick promotion resulted in thousands of song plays.

Fun, Odd, and Individual Promotion Methods

In addition to the above, there are additional attempts I’ve made to promote my music but they are very specific to my hobbies and interests. I’ll mention them anyway for the sake of it =)

Develop Games – I make simple computer games that feature my music. Some of the games are released as freeware and the game Beat Ball, for example, was featured in a large German computer magazine that to this day (10 years on) turns out to be a large source of my German fans.

Sponsor Virtual Racing Team – A virtual Live For Speed race team I founded, Nordic Racing Group, features the Imphenzia logo and Imphenzia URL on the race cars:

Conclusion

There are many creative ways to promote your music online and you have to be prepared to make a huge effort in order to get noticed. I’ve released over 85 tracks (and 5 albums.) I’ve spent countless hours promoting my music online for over a decade using the methods above.

You could argue that it’s not worth the effort, and solely from the perspective of time and economic reward it clearly isn’t. But knowing that my music has been played over a million times (including historic sites such as mp3.com), and looking at the positive feedback I receive from my listeners, I feel that it’s been well worth the effort.

I hope you found some useful ideas to promote your music and best of luck reaching a wider audience.

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