How to promote your music online: content creation tips and resources for musicians
Like many aspects of our professional and social lives, the promotion and distribution of music now largely happens online. While many aspects of the online music world mirror and complement the more traditional options, there are other aspects that have evolved. Most notably, musicians now have more opportunities than ever before to reach and expand their audience, even beyond their local area.
However, while these opportunities can be a great boost to independent musicians, there are many significant pitfalls to watch out for as well. The music industry is notorious for rampant scams and unethical practices, from radio stations accepting bribes to play certain songs to talent scouts charging budding talent to review their work. This kind of backdoor wheeling and dealing hasn’t disappeared with increased digitization. In fact, just as digitization has offered new opportunities for artists, it has also offered new opportunities for scammers and those looking to cut corners. Desperate independent musicians pay for followers on Spotify while Internet ads make false promises about placing songs on influential playlists in exchange for a fee. As such, it is more important than ever that independent musicians are aware of how to effectively advocate for themselves.
That being said, independent musical artists are most effective when they’re able to wear many hats. In addition to their skills in music production, successful artists are also typically good marketers and all-around businesspeople.
Setting up a home recording studio
Before setting out on your project, you’ll need to understand the specifics regarding the setup and elements of your home recording studio. This can be influenced by many factors, such as the type of music you are producing, and the resources available to you. However, some typical steps that you will need to take when setting up a home recording studio include:
- Choosing your space: Factors such as the size and shape of a room, as well as the building materials that were used in its construction, can significantly impact acoustics. Typically, it is best to choose a small, rectangular room that does not have a lot of reflective surfaces like glass and tile. However, it’s also always possible to make adjustments to improve the acoustics. For example, you can add elements such as carpets and curtains to absorb sound, or you could even build a smaller sound booth within a room.
- Choosing quality hardware: The processing power of your computer equipment needs to be able to match the needs of the software you choose. If not, you could experience a wide range of issues with creating, uploading, and distributing your music. For example, poor processing power can result in lower bitrate and reduced audio quality.
- Choosing appropriate computer software: As an independent musician, you’ll be spending a lot of time using software to do tasks such as recording and managing your music, as well as making adjustments such as mixing and compressing the audio.
- Cable management: If you are recording, editing, and managing your music, it is likely that you have too many cables in your recording space. As such, it is important to implement an effective cable management strategy for the sake of protecting your equipment from damage, and for the sake of your sanity.
- Choosing recording devices: When choosing the necessary recording equipment such as microphones and audio interfaces, consider the needs of your upcoming projects, your available budget, and compatibility with your existing hardware.
- Using sound treatment: Sound treatment such as sound-proofing foam is used to improve the sound quality in your recording area.
Video production options to promote your music
Coupling your music with video elements can take your message to another level, whether that is for a purely artistic purpose, or a marketing one.
Music videos are a great way to flex your creativity, complement your music, or promote your brand. Exactly how you go about this will depend on your own needs, preferences, and resources. However, some good basic steps include:
Deciding what the purpose of the video is: Determine the goal of your video. Whether you want to share a story, improve audience engagement, or simply experiment with different editing techniques, defining your purpose before you start will help you make decisions along the way.
Finding reliable software and apps: Making a music video takes a lot of editing, so you should plan to use dedicated video editing software or apps that you are comfortable working with. And, since you are sharing music, you’ll want to use software for audio editing.
Finding good lighting: If you plan to film live-action shots, it’s important to find an area with good lighting or to use equipment to improve the lighting. Consider factors such as how light may change over the day and the changes in weather from day to day. In addition to lighting, be conscious of the ambient noise in different locations.
Scripting it out: Even for a simple video, it’s very useful to have a script from beginning to end. This allows you to plan more precisely for the time and resources you need. It will also help you share your vision with other people and get early feedback on how to improve your ideas. This is especially important if you will be working with other people or will need to obtain any approvals.
Practicing: Rehearsing the scripted video can give you a better idea of any obstacles that were not apparent during the scripting phase and can also help you think about lighting, noise, your backdrop, and props.
Editing your video and audio carefully: Editing your music video is the most important part of the process. How you edit your video — including the audio — can completely alter the audience’s perception of the material.
Considering professional help: In some cases, it may be helpful to enlist a professional, whether it be a videographer, an actor, or a marketing specialist.
Choosing the right format: The video file format you choose can significantly impact the overall quality of the video, as well as its compatibility with various devices and platforms.
Deciding on the perfect platform: Choose a platform that is best-suited to the videos you are producing and that can help you easily archive and share your work. However, you should also look at platforms that will help you reach your audience, such as TikTok, Instagram Reels, or Facebook Reels. Creating a short segment of your video to share on these platforms will help spread your work and drive traffic to where your full videos are hosted. Video hosting and sharing platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo are likely the best options for your content.
Social media is a great resource for independent musicians to network, market their material, and distribute their music. How you choose to engage with your audience can make a huge difference in how successful your efforts will be. Supplementing your posts with video will attract more people to stop and look, and will encourage them to engage with your posts for a longer time.
Getting your audience to engage with you is a great way to attract more fans and increase the loyalty of the fans you already have. Creating opportunities for live engagement is a great way to build a more personal and authentic relationship with fans. Showing a performance, offering a behind-the-scenes look, or even just speaking to your audience live can promote organic conversations that may feel more genuine to your audience — if done right. You may even be able to cultivate this perception further by encouraging audience engagement in live chat events or asking for and responding to input.
Graphic design tips for promoting your music
When it comes to promoting your music with graphic design, there are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Keep it simple. Sticking to something simple is a safer choice, especially if you are new to graphic design. Simple designs are also just more readable for your audience.
- Develop your brand. Once you have ironed out the details of your personal brand, it will be easier to decide on the artistic direction for the different design elements of your brand.
- Think about your audience. Always make sure that you have tried to see your designs from your audience’s perspective. Consider their demographics, their interests, and what information they need.
- Choose your typeface carefully. The typeface you use should not be a throw-away part of the process. Font choices can completely change the tone of a design.
- Use a grid. Using a grid is a simple way to align and balance your design and also makes it easy to replicate elements of designs that worked well.
- Avoid clutter. Adding too many different elements to a design can make it seem sloppy and confusing. White space is just as important to your design as are the words and images you use.
- Determine a hierarchy. Consider what the most important elements of the design are, and emphasize those elements, especially if they are informational.
- Consider color theory. A basic understanding of color theory can drastically improve your ability to affect elements such as contrast in your design, and even to affect your audience’s mood.
- Don’t forget important information. If your design is meant to convey important information such as time and place, make sure that the information is clearly visible.
Graphic design resources
The following tools and templates can help you navigate graphic design in the realm of music promotion:
- Music Logo Maker: This free tool from Adobe can help you design a unique logo for your music brand.
- Music Festival Poster Templates: This is a series of free templates that can help you build a music festival poster.
- 12 Concert Poster Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of Your Design: This is a list of tips for making a good gig poster.
- Album Cover Maker With Online Templates: This tool can help you create unique album cover designs.
- How to Design an Album Cover: the Ultimate Guide: This is a comprehensive information resource for how to design cover art for an album.
- 24+ Sites to Find Free Images You Would Actually Use for Your Marketing: This is a list of websites where you can find free stock images.
- 20 Great Resources to Learn Graphic Design: This list of online courses and other informational resources can help you learn more about graphic design.
Distributing your music online
Taking the following steps will help you distribute your music online:
- Choose a good distribution platform. There are many different music-centric distribution platforms available online, such as Spotify, Reverbnation, LANDR, and TuneCore, as well as more generalized distribution platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. Each platform has its pros and cons, so it is important to do your research to determine which will best meet your needs.
- Network. Finding music communities online can help you learn, grow, and find new opportunities. Niche musical communities can be found across virtually all social media platforms.
- Advertise. There are many avenues you can take to advertise your work online, whether you want to use paid ads, distribute marketing materials through your personal accounts, or join an affiliate network.
- Create a website. Having your own dedicated website gives people you are reaching out to a landing place that is all about you. You can point to it from social media, YouTube and other promotional campaigns. It’s a great way to highlights all your work, showcase your accomplishments to potential partners, and provide a point of contact.
Selling your music online
The following steps can help you sell your music online:
- Determine pricing. How you decide to price your music is ultimately up to you, but in general, it is helpful to weigh production costs against profit, as well as to research pricing for similar products.
- Consider crowdfunding. Crowdfunding can be a great way to fund your projects without breaking the bank, as well as an opportunity to test out enthusiasm for the project.
- Choose a good platform. When choosing a platform to sell your music through, make sure you do a lot of research. Consider factors such as creator reviews, any cuts the platform takes, and any unique options and opportunities offered through the platform.
- Work on marketing. Marketing your music is perhaps even more important than the music itself when it comes to sales. Take stock of your available marketing resources, determine who your audience is and where to find them, and review options for distributing marketing materials.
- Be realistic. You should have confidence in your material, but it is also important to be aware that you may have to settle for small financial victories, especially early on in your career.
Finding gigs and job opportunities
The following steps can help you find gigs and job opportunities:
- Collaborate with other musicians. Working with other musicians can offer an in for gigs that you might not be able to get on your own. And, it might even offer an opportunity for the event or avenue to become acquainted with you and invite you back on your own merit.
- Get involved with your local music community. You will be more likely to hear about available gigs if you are highly involved with your local music community. Additionally, it can be helpful if people get to know you so they can let you know about opportunities that may interest you.
- Research venues. Make sure you have a good idea of what venues there are in your area, especially those frequented by your target audience.
- Be aware of upcoming events. Try to stay aware of any events that are in the works or are ongoing. Find out who is in charge and how the event is structured.
- Use an online booking platform. Gig booking platforms can help you find gigs and contact organizers more easily.
- Stay organized. It can be difficult to keep track of upcoming events, offers, pending agreements, social contacts, etc. Stay organized with electronic tools like spreadsheets and online calendars.
- Leverage social media. Social media is a great way to stay in touch with venues, organizers, and the community at large.
- Make it easy to contact you. You don’t want to miss out on any potential opportunities. List the best ways to contact you and check those channels regularly. Organizers or potential partners want to know you’re easy to work with and a quick response is an easy way to show that you are.
- Be professional. If you want to continue to get gigs, it is important to be on time, be courteous, and perform your heart out every show.
Legal resources for online musicians
When marketing your music and trying to get yourself “out there,” you’ll also want to be especially careful that you maintain copyrights to your work to protect your future income. Helpful legal resources for online musicians include:
- How to Get Legal Help if You Can't Afford a Music Attorney: This is a resource for musicians who are seeking legal assistance on a budget.
- What Musicians Should Know About Copyright: This is an informational resource about copyright law published by the U.S. federal government.
- Hiring a Music Lawyer: This article offers advice on how to find and approach a music lawyer.
- Do You Need a Music Lawyer?: This article offers advice for when to consider seeking out the help of a music lawyer.
- Four Top Legal Tips For Signing A Music Contract: This is a list of tips and considerations for signing a music contract.
Music industry resources
Once you and your music start seeing some success, you’ll want to make good decisions about contracts and rights. Here are some helpful resources.
- How to Avoid Scam Music Producers and Mix Engineers: This article offers advice and considerations that can help you avoid being scammed as an independent musician.
- The American Association of Independent Music: This is an advocacy resource for independent music labels.
- The Future of Music Coalition: This is a non-profit organization that provides information and support for musicians.
- International Alliance for Women in Music: This is a membership organization that advocates for women in the music industry.
- The American Federation of Musicians: This is the largest union for musicians in the world, serving the U.S. and Canada.
Making the most of the digital age
In many ways, promoting yourself as a music artist has never been easier in today’s digital age (so long, expensive-to-produce CDs!). In other ways, it’s harder than ever thanks to increased competition and industry-wide disruption. Give yourself the best possible shot by focusing as much on your production as you do your songwriting, equipping your home studio with everything it needs to make you sound and look your best. From there, make you and your work easy to find, engage with, and share. Finally, know the scams to watch out for, and know when to ask for help — be it from lawyers, graphic designers, or other music artists.