Before the internet the only way to get your music out to the public was to convince a radio station to play it. These days, with the internet and social media, you have the tools at your disposal to do it yourself.
But that's just the half of it.
It gives you a means to interact with the people who matter most - your fans.
Unfortunately for us musicians, that's where the good news stops.
To succeed in this brave new world, you need some serious marketing chops too.
"To have a successful music career, you need to be successful as a digital marketer"
– Justin Golshir, Tunecore Social Project Director
Game over, right?
No. Hell no.
Most musicians (and even record labels - especially record labels) haven't a clue how to effectively market music on social media.
Frustrated, they think social media is a BIG waste of time. And to be honest, it is a waste of time if you go about it the wrong way.
But the reality is it's not that hard. You learned the intricacies of a musical instrument right. Can you learn some marketing skillz to get your stuff out there?
Yes, you can. And we're going to show you how.
So here's a guide to social media marketing for musicians that's written especially for musicians.
Here's what we'll cover:
- The benefits of social media marketing for musicians
- How to get started with social media
- Social media for musicians - 10 tactics for success
- Which social media platform(s) should you use?
While this is a guide to social media, we're not saying social media is the be-all-and-end-all to building an audience. It's not. However big your social media following becomes, you're still on a third party platform which you don't own.
As Content Marketing guru Joe Pulizzi says:
"Those [social media] platforms own those audiences, you don’t; you’re basically renting them"
In a nutshell, you need to build your own platform as well as get busy on social media - that means building your own site, building an email list, so you own your audience.
But that's not the purpose of this guide.
The aim of this ultimate guide to social media marketing is to explain and simplify social media marketing so you can can start marketing your music on social media.
But first of all, let's get to the elephant in the room...
- The Benefits Of Social Media For Musicians
- How To Get Started With Social Media Marketing
- Social Media For Musicians -10 Tactics For Success
- Social Media Platforms: Which Should You Use?
Let's take a look...
The Benefits Of Social Media For Musicians
Not only can you reach more people more easily than you ever could in the pre-internet days, you have way more creative freedom.
Social media allows you to be yourself - in fact social media demands you to be yourself. Authenticity is everything on social media, so embrace the real you and don’t be afraid to open up.
Fans allow you to have a music career, period. Without them, you’d be in an office job like the rest of them. You owe it your fans to demonstrate your gratitude, and social media lets you do that.
Your fans are also your best focus group. Sure, you aren’t making music for your fans, but you’d be foolish not to bounce new concepts off your loyalist fans.
Improving your social media chops and ultimately building up a large social media audience can lead to collaboration opportunities.
Building up a presence across social channels leads to commercial opportunities too. Sell more stuff - merch, CDs, downloads etc.
How To Get Started With Social Media Marketing
The commonest mistake that musicians make is not to consider who they are trying to reach with each platform.
That’s right. You need to think who are you trying to reach.
And the complexity doesn't stop there. People you’re trying to reach don’t all use the same social media channels either.
1. Who are you trying to reach?
Groups of people you’re trying to reach could be:
As yourself what’s the typical demographic of your perfect fan?
- Location: where are they physically?
- Age: typically what age are they?
- Gender: male or female?
- Income: high earners or living on a shoestring?
- Education level: university degree or straight out of school?
- Religion: a particular faith?
- Ethnicity: are they white, black, asian?
- Marital status: single, married?
- Number of children: do they have kids?
- Where do they hang out on line?
Remember this may feel contrived but this exercise is purely to get you thinking more intentionally the type of fan you attract, so you can be more intentional about how you find and connect with them.
Fans may love Instagram, but if you’re trying to reach music journalists then Instagram might not be the best channel to reach them on.
Perhaps targeting Journo’s on Twitter is a safer bet.
Where do music bloggers in your style of music hang out? If it’s Facebook, are there specific groups where they hang? Find out where these taste makers congregate and get involved there.
Once you’ve established who you’re trying to reach, you can be a lot more deliberate about the content you want to share with them. The content you want to share with your fans might be totally inappropriate for music journalists or bloggers.
2. Define your success metrics before you begin
As I’m sure you’re beginning to appreciate, to make it as an independent musician takes more than you’re music being awesome. You need to raise your digital marketing game too.
And that means being strategic about what you do.
Yeah, I know, I know. You probably want to barf at the word ‘strategy’, I know I did, but once you get strategic about what you’re doing with social media, everything changes. Like everything.
So what do I mean by being strategic?
This: have a reason behind everything you do on social media.
Be strategic about what you’re doing. Be intentional.
How to measure success (and avoid the vanity metrics!)
The easiest metric to track is the vanity metric. It’s no surprise that many musicians focus too much on followers and likes to their facebook page. While it’s may serve as an ego boost (look at how many followers I have on Twitter) tracking such metrics is skin-deep.
What you should be tracking is engagement.
Let’s take an example:
Joe has 100,000 likes to his Facebook page and posts daily. On an average week, he receives a handful of comments, a couple of shares and a few likes.
Maria has 1,000 likes to her facebook page and posts the same amount of frequency as Joe. In contrast though, thanks to her close knit fan-base, in an average week her feed will explode when she posts, with sometimes hundreds of comments from just one post.
In the example above, Joe has by far the biggest following. If success was to be measured by likes, Joe would be clearly in front.
But if success is about engagement (which it should be) Maria is winning hands down. Maria only has a fraction of the following in terms of likes, but has real engagement.
Do you see why engagement is so powerful now? In the words of the much cited 1000 true fans article by Kevin Kelly, having a smallish bunch of super fans is much better.
Social Media For Musicians -10 Tactics For Success
You’re an aspiring musician and you don’t have much time to dedicate to social media. You’re busy. I get it.
The good new is there are certain social media smarts that work regardless of which channel you're on.
These tips are channel agnostic - i.e. they're perennial tips that can be used on whichever your platform of choice happens to be.
1. Quality is better than quantity
Generally speaking, quality beats quantity when it comes to social media. If all you do is hammer your feeds with posts (especially if all you’re using is a scheduler and repurposing old posts) your fans will quickly get fed up of you and either mute, unsubscribe or plain ignore you. Fewer, more purposeful / insightful posts work better everytime (we’ll take in a bit what kind of posts work well).
2. Be authentic
You’ve gotta be you on social media. The old days of having a wall between fans and musos is long gone. Whether you like it or not, being a musician these days entails having more interaction with your supporters.
3. Be interesting
Be anything but BORING on social media. I’m not saying you need to start sharing squirrels on waterskis - just don’t share boring stuff. Remember you don’t need to be sharing original thoughts or ideas every time, your job is to curate content and share stuff that’s interesting to you and your audience. There are plenty of content curation tools out there to help you do that.
4. Be spontaneous
With all this artistic license you have on social media, don’t be scared to whack on a video sharing app and live stream what you’re doing. Maybe you’re in the studio working on your next album, or chilling backstage after a gig. Heck, maybe you're sat round a campfire playing your best campfire songs. Share all that stuff.
5. Work smarter
Take advantage of some of the free social media scheduling tools to plan out your posts. I don’t mean to start spamming your page with updates on a loop. But a bit of scheduling can help to fill in the cracks when you’re too busy.
6. Ask your audience stuff
It’s not all about you, remember. The most effective engagement methods often involve asking the opinion of your following. Questions such as:
“Which artwork image do you like better for our next single?”
Or even plain dumb ass questions like:
“What to have for dinner today – healthy home cooking or greasy Chinese!?”
7. Announce stuff
Let your followers be the first to find out news: a new album, a gig, a piece you just got published in a music blog, general interviews or question and answer sessions etc. You could even run a competition to win some band swag - and make sure they’re the first to know about it.
8. Celebrate other events
In a typical year there’s ton of nationwide or worldwide events that you can celebrate or talk about in some fashion. Take for example the ever popular Record Store Day in the UK, where local record stores stock special editions and promo material.
9. Show gratitude
Every now and again thank your followers for being great. And try and be as responsive as possible - and don’t let a question go unanswered, especially if it’s directed at you.
10. When you’re ready, scale up
When you see social media starting to do well, it may be the time to scale up. When you can afford it, getting an extra pair of hands is a game changer. It could be a virtual assistant you find on UpWork, or just someone you know who’s after a bit of work.
Social Media Platforms: Which Should You Use?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the social media networks out there. My best advice is to start with one platform and master that one before you move on to other ones. That way you keep it simple and avoid overwhelm.
So let’s take a look at the four biggest ones:
Facebook has close to two billion users (that’s nearly a third of the world’s population!) so there’s little doubt about its reach. Used in the right way, it can be hugely powerful allowing you to target and promote your content in a variety of clever ways.
To begin with, you just want to focus on building up a page. If you have a Facebook account (who doesn't?) then you’ll be familiar with your personal profile and timeline etc.
What you may not appreciate though is you can build a dedicated page for your band (or just you if you’re a solo musician).
A page allows you to create a hub for your music. Every time you post something to your page the people who’ve liked your page will see your new post in their timeline.
Use Facebook for sharing informal stuff, ask questions and seeking feedback, as well as all the usual stuff like announcing tour dates, album releases etc. Facebook Live is massively powerful too, do spontaneous broadcasts.
While Twitter and Facebook get bundled together, they’re quite different animals.
Facebook is a social network and is great for engagement, whereas Twitter is a micro-blogging tool and works more effectively as a broadcast or news channel.
Just think about how many stories break these days on Twitter rather than by traditional news outlets.
You may find fewer fans on Twitter, but Twitter shouldn’t be discounted as a waste of time.
Use Twitter for announcing upcoming tours, new releases, published features in music magazines. It’s where your music industry professionals are more likely to hang out.
Under the social media umbrella we also have video behemoth You Tube. Used effectively, it can be massively powerful too.
Posting videos has three main benefits:
- Builds engagement with your fans
- Drives traffic to your website (assuming you have a website)
- Generates some extra cash (once you get a decent amount of views)
Instagram is huge, with 600 million engaged users sharing millions of photos & videos everyday to their network.
Sharing pictures of you and the band in various situations (backstage, in the studio, on a press shoot) is a simple tactic for growing your reach.
So there you have it, our Ultimate Guide To Social Media Marketing For Musicians. Was that helpful?
We've only scratched the surface of how social media marketing can be a powerful ally for musicians.
It's a steep learning curve to begin with, but you'll soon get the hang of it.
The trick is to dive in and get started. Remember to choose one channel and get comfortable with that before you move on to other social media platforms.
Ged is Founder and Editor-in-chief at Zing Instruments. He’s a guitarist for London based gypsy jazz band ‘Django Mango’ and a lover of all things music. When he’s not ripping up and down the fretboard, he’s tinkering with his ’79 Campervan.