A guide to the music promotion for indie musicians

A guide to the music promotion for indie musicians

Music Promotion - The Vaccines Live
Music Promotion – The Vaccines Live in Milan

This is a guide about Music Business and three tips of music promotion for indie musicians. In a very cool Berklee lesson that I suggest you (Berklee – Coursera Music Business Fondamentals) the teacher explains how many different kinds of music promotion you may have in these days. And a lot of different methods: every solution is useful for a specific kind of artists.

The major company system should be something that you get (if you want to get it because it’s not so important for every artist) only after a hard indie work. When your audience grows, then your business grows and this means that having a major than can spend a lot of money for your promotion may be useful. And so the right perspective should be to take the right steps in order of time. This is exactly Ed Sheeran story: he used to promote and sell music by himself until that famous day he signed with Atlantic Records and Asylum Records. And then he became the artist of + and X and now :  In this post we’ll talk better about his experience, suggesting a tool he used too.

Also in the great David Byrne book, How music works (everyone who wants to work in the music business should read it), he suggests that self promotion is a very good idea for an indie musician: nowadays everyone has the tools to do it. And if a band like yours knows how to promote the albums or concerts why should you pay someone else to do it? In the end a band is like a company and the purpose should be to have more earnings then costs. So in this guide we’ll talk about how to make music promotion and see the things under different perspectives.

But first of all, have you already liked The Vinyl Trip Facebook page? Everyday a lot of music and creativity.

Tame Impala Live - Music Promotion
Tame Impala Live in Milan


Let’s start with the basics. We have to realize how music business works right now to understand the right steps for music promotion. Long time ago( kidding I mean just a couple of years ago 🙂 ) the artist wanted to sell how many cds was possible to sell because that meant money and also success. Today things have changed. With the introduction of streaming services ( see Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer), an artist can’t count on selling cds but has to find other ways to earn money. This is why live music has become the most important market for a band (also with the negativity of secondary ticketing). Knowing this means to find a good strategy to do it.

Usually an artist earns with:

  1. People listening to streaming services (when someone listens to your music on Spotify you earn some cents, not very much but something);
  2. People buying mp3 or cds (we could call it vintage way);
  3. Concerts (as I have already said, a great source in these days);
  4. Merchandising (tshirts, stickers always);
  5. Sponsor (for example Ernie Ball choose you as guitar ambassador, yeah);
  6. Music for movies or other services (your friend needs a soundtrack for his movie and asks you for it. This can be a lucky thing!).

But if you want to earn this money you have to invest in some actions (for example producing your cd, paying someone to print your tshirts) and you have to do something fundamental: music promotion of course! So when an artist has a contract with a major, the promotion is done by other specialized people but he will also have to share the earnings (sometimes he only receives the 15% of the royalties). An indie musicians does it all by itself. This means more work but no sharing.

Jack Savoretti live - Music Promotion
Jack Savoretti live in Bari

In particular which are the most important figures of the music industry?

  1. The record company: a lot of time ago, when you signed with a label you were on 7th heaven. But today it’s different. To sign with a label is a point to start your new way working and not a guarantee. Because the record company can help you paying the production and the print of your album and then the promotion but these are advances and the artist won’t earn anything until the record company will have the pay back by the artist success. And then there’s also the royalty, as we have already said. The system of listening music has changed but not the payment, this is the real problem. The truth is that you have to get really famous to pay back the record company.
  2. Booking Agency: the booking agency find concerts for the band and organizes the tour for promotion. At the beginnings, when a band cachet is still low, the agency applies a commission of 15% over the earning of the artist.
  3. Press Office: a press office is the principal subject that promotes the album organizing interviews, making a strategic planning and making connections with magazines, webzines, blog, radio and tv. Of course it has a cost.

This is why an artist can choose the self-promotion. If you learn to do by yourself all of these activities you won’t need  to pay these costs: it’s exactly what the Berklee course I talked to you about it explains. In this post we’ll focus on music promotion and not about booking agency (maybe in the future) or press office: of course you’ll need to learn how to make a press release (you find an example here), build a press kit and then a list of blogs, webzines, radio to contact. Have you ever heard about Indiebible? Because it’s a very specific tool full of names to contact to send press release and send your music, specialized in press office.

In this post, instead, I want to talk to you about three specific fundamental steps in a musician career: social networks, crowdfunding and platforms to distribuite your music.

Music and Marketing: a compromise between poetry and business. Just before reading the rest, give a look at this post on the blog.

Club to Club experience (music promotion)
Club to Club experience – Turin

1. An artist is made by people: social networks.

An artist first of all loves the music, loves songwriting and sometimes it even loves producing. But there’s an important ingredient for success: sharing. Art means to share your creativity with other people. Show your work as Austin Kleon suggests you: one of the best ways to do it is to spread your work through social. So, what an artist must have?

  1. Website with sections for Music (of course), Videos, News (even if I prefer a blog section to stay in touch), Tour Dates and Store for Merchandising. And then the famous bar with Social Networks channel.
  2. Facebook page: to share every kind of music content
  3. Youtube channel: a lot of artists have started sharing a video performance each week. Have you ever thought about it? And Youtube for Artists is a great platform.
  4. Twitter: for a constant dialogue with the fan base
  5. Instagram: it is definitely the social network of this moment! It gives a lot of opportunity to share pictures, telling stories and also recording videos.
  6. Snapchat: I’ve never used it but I know that a lot of people use it to promote their own works and it seems to be useful

The most important thing to do is to publish at least a content each week for every social to create a solid fan base: this is your storytelling. During your concerts, always.

talk about your social networks to have more follower and people believing in you. A very important point also for the next steps.

Damien Rice live - Music Promotion
Damien Rice live in Pistoia

2.  Crowdfunding: if someone wants to listen to your music maybe will help you too

The crowdfunding is an important chance to realize dreams. There are platforms as Musicraiser or Indiegogo that can help you to find the money you need for producing and mastering your album. To have the amount you need, you simply ask some help to someone who believes in your music giving a reward as a cd when finished (pre-sale system), a dedicated live session, some merchaindising. Some artists even gave a music lesson.

This is a good way for three reasons: you can find the money you need for your album; you promote your album even before publishing it (always spread the word); you see the people reactions to your music. And you can make an idea and think about your strategy. Is it right or does it need to be corrected? I won’t talk about the legal aspects of music because this is a post about marketing and promotion. So, when you have the album, you are ready for the next important step.

Milan Music and Laser - Music Promotion
Milan Music and Laser

3. Distribuite your music: Tunecore is your new best friend

When I recorded an album, the distribution was one the most important aspects I was asking about. How can I upload my music on Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music? Well, I found the answer in an Ed Sheeran book: when he wasn’t famous yet he used to earn money through Tunecore! Well, Tunecore is a great digital platform where you can upload your music paying a fee and then you can put the album on the most important store of selling music and streaming. It is fundamental to put your music on Tunecore. Very easy and efficient. If you have a question you simply have to ask to the help center and in one day you’ll have the answer. In the payment section you see a scheme about your listeners (where are they from, when did they listen to your songs, which platform) and how much you have earned each month. And then there are a lot of other services (Royalties, Youtube collecting, mastering) that Tunecore can offer. Other platforms similar to Tunecore are CdBaby, Believe Digital and there are a lot of others.

The main important thing is that as an indie you have the 100% of the earnings.

So here’s the link to The Vinyl Trip music through Tunecore of course

Sting live in Milan
Sting playing live in Milan

Well, I hope you have enjoyed this guide about music promotion. Subscribe the Facebook Page and Twitter to stay in touch and share if you want!

All pictures by Maria Elisabetta Mancini.