How do I Market My Music on iTunes?

How do I Market My Music on iTunes?

Incidentally, taking a screenshot of your album in iTunes and posting it on your website might be one way to promote your release.

If you find yourself asking this question, you’re probably beginning to realize that music distribution and music marketing are two different things.

By taking advantage of music distribution channels (like CD Baby or TuneCore), you can get your music in popular online marketplaces such as iTunes and Amazon (and sometimes in physical brick-and-mortar stores too).

However, distributed music still needs to be marketed. Most of the time, distributing your music won’t automatically lead to sales. You have to make people aware of your release, and give them a reason why they should purchase it.

Here are several ways to market your music on iTunes.

Method # 1 – Podcast

Podcast to promote your musicThis method may surprise you. The reason I bring up podcasting is because it’s another way (besides putting out more music) for you to build a more noticeable presence in the iTunes marketplace.

Fans have to pay for your music on iTunes. However, podcast subscriptions are generally free. In other words, you can attract new fans to your music by offering free content. Moreover, podcasts are the ideal medium for distributing free content, as listeners generally subscribe to their favorite shows, and whenever you come out with a new episode, your subscribers automatically receive it.

These are vast generalizations to be sure, as not all listeners subscribe to the shows they listen to, and whether or not new episodes automatically get downloaded to their device or player largely depends on what software they’re using and how they’ve configured their settings. However, the advantages of the medium should be clear.

As for specific ways to use your podcast to market your music, consider the following ideas:

  • Release demos, outtakes, rough ideas, or rarities (like They Might Be Giants used to do with their Dial-A-Song service).
  • Record acoustic versions of your songs and showcase them on your podcast.
  • Talk about the recording process you used to create your latest album.
  • Brainstorm your own ideas with your band mates.

Method #2 – Utilize Your Website

Some musicians tend to overlook this point, because they don’t actually have a website. If that describes you, I recommend setting up your own domain name and self-hosted WordPress installation immediately. Note: setting up a website is a little beyond the scope of this post.

The simple act of putting up a link to your music in iTunes on your website might get you a few sales; especially if you have an existing fan base. However, it would be advisable to do a little more. Write blog posts about your release. Make audio samples available. Make a variety of videos (lyric videos, making-of videos, performance videos, etc.) and showcase them. Use attractive graphics. Offer free downloads for MP3s, wallpapers, liner note PDFs, and so on.

As you are generating content for your website, try to see things from your visitor’s perspective. What information would they need to make a purchase decision? Why would they want to buy your music specifically? What stands out about your band/music/image? What extras could you offer to close the deal?

If you don’t have a website, you are leaving a lot of money on the table. Utilize the medium to create a home base and community for your fans.

Method #3 – Run Social Media Campaigns

Social media is probably a common answer to the iTunes question. However, I wouldn’t just post random “check out our new release” type messages.

If you want to stand out from the competition, it would be wise to plan a social media campaign. In other words, instead of just posting randomly whenever you feel like it, you would drill down into the finer details of your strategy and think about specific ways to pique interest in your music and make your content insanely shareable. Your plan might include:

  • What you want your overarching message to be (i.e. this release is for any young person that has ever felt depressed).
  • What networks you will be posting to (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.).
  • How many times you will be posting in a day.
  • Considering what bands you sound like and getting the attention of their followers.
  • What group(s) to join/what group(s) to start.
  • What profile pictures and cover art to use.

If your social marketing is a planned event rather than a random occurrence, you will have a much easier time tracking the results and making appropriate adjustments as you go. As a result, you will also be more successful than the mass of bands that don’t have a plan.

Method #4 – Build Relationships with the Media

Press releases are largely under-utilized by musicians, but they are great tools for reaching out to the press and getting their attention. Taking it a step further, you should look into building relationships with journalists and the media.

Pitching news items or content ideas will prove much easier if you already know people that work for popular publications and websites. If you have the right connections, you can get your new iTunes release in front of people that are already interested in the type of music you make.

It’s never been easier to make new friends online thanks to email and social networks. Though you will have to do some digging to find the right people, you can immediately begin to build a rapport with them once you do. The best way to add value to the relationship is to look for ways to help them. Don’t just pitch ideas at them. Take some time to build the relationship before trying to get them to cover your story.

Another tool you can use to develop connections in the media is Help A Reporter Out. Here’s how it works: HARO connects media people with experts in their field. If your story fits the criteria that they’re looking for, you can get in touch with them and get coverage for your news item. Remember to carefully evaluate each opportunity, as they will not all be a good fit for you.

Method #5 – Take Advantage of Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is essentially any marketing method that is low-cost, daring, and unconventional. Chalk drawings on the street corner or flash mobs or post-it note art are all examples of specific tactics. You can also Google ‘Guerrilla Marketing Examples’ for more ideas.

Musicians often have peripheral hobbies, skills or interests that could help them to promote their music. I know a musician that paints plates, and I also know other musicians that build instruments or create art pieces (speaking of which, I’m also an illustrator and painter myself). Can you think of anything that you’re good at outside of music?

The important thing with guerrilla marketing is to avoid stepping on other people’s toes. You don’t want to incur personal or legal troubles (or injury for that matter) if at all possible, so if your idea involves property that does not belong to you (or questionable behavior), make sure to ask for permission first, and most of all, use some discretion.

If you want to make the most of guerrilla marketing, consider the connections and resources that are currently available to you. Who do you know? What are you good at? What would get your attention if you were walking down the street? Take some time to think about what you can do right now that would be fascinating to others.

Conclusion: Marketing Music on iTunes

Finally, one of the often overlooked areas of music marketing is story. There is always a story behind the music, whether it’s a specific event that inspired a song or a weird thing that happened in the studio while recording was taking place (i.e. Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog”). Think about how you can connect those stories to your promotion efforts, as the best marketing always involves storytelling.

What are some other ways to promote your iTunes release? What tactics have you tried to promote your music? Leave a comment below with your unique insights, and help out the entire community!

How to Cope with Disappointing Audience Turnouts

How to Cope with Disappointing Audience TurnoutsAs artists, most of us have experienced an instance in which we booked, planned, and promoted a show only to be met with a small or lukewarm turnout.

Disappointment sets in. We begin to feel as though our efforts were in vain. Or maybe we even flashback to previous times in our lives when things did not turn out the way we hoped they would. Then we enter a downward emotional spiral that ends up affecting the quality of our performance.

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” we reason, “no one showed up to see us.” But is that really true? Is how you handle yourself at this juncture inconsequential?

Stop. You don’t have to go down that negative track. You get to decide what kind of meaning you attach to events in your life.

Here is a better way to cope with disappointing audience turnouts.

Step 1 – Take a Deep Breath

Deep BreathYour promotion efforts may have failed. But then again, there may be circumstances outside of your control that led to your predicament.

I can recall:

  • Hosting an open mic with no jammers. I made sure to let people know where to sign up after every two or three songs, but it was 90 to 120 minutes in before anyone even realized that they could come up and play. I also had to take breaks for each period in a playoff hockey game (I live in Canada; I’m serious). Fortunately, there were many upsides to this gig, including pay.
  • Booking a Halloween-themed show that very few people attended. I put together a band, and even got into costume for the occasion.
  • Playing multiple coffeehouses, lounges and bars where the only audience was the staff, the bartender, or the baristas.

It’s easy to go down negative alley, but first, take a deep breath and realize that your promotional efforts may not have been the root of the issue. Maybe a sporting event impacted your turnout. Maybe your local audience grew a little tired. Maybe another local event attracted people that would have been at your show. There are hundreds of possibilities.

So reframe the problem. Then, when you’re ready…

Step 2 – Get Realistic

Get RealisticMaybe you put your best foot forward, maybe you didn’t. Either way, you should take a moment to think about your preparation and promotional efforts leading up to the show.

By the way, even if you did the best you could, audiences are fickle, and there are times when things just don’t go your way. Also see the last point.

However, you can’t face what you haven’t owned up to. This is not a good time to blow matters out of proportion. Take some time to evaluate all of your efforts leading up to the show date. Are there any things you could have done better? Did anything fall through the cracks? Did you make any costly mistakes?

It isn’t necessarily fun, but you also have to take a closer look at how good (or how bad) your act actually is. You will get better with time if you commit to gaining more experience, but you might still be in a growth season at this moment in time. You can only gain a realistic perspective if you are ruthlessly honest with yourself.

If you’re in the process of paying your price for success, then realize that you will encounter a lot of resistance and disappointment along the way. Inevitably, you will have some underwhelming experiences on your journey.

Step 3 – Have Fun

Have FunNo one showed up for your show? No problem!

As long as the venue is okay with it, you can take the opportunity to rehearse onstage. There is no experience quite like live experience, and if you can keep a good attitude even when there isn’t anyone there to see you, you’ll have a lot more fun on your journey.

In addition, take a break or two during your sets to connect with your fans. Take Instagram photos of your band having fun onstage. Send texts to your fans letting them know that you’re playing. Post a few tweets about your “impromptu” performance. Show them how much fun you’re having.

With any luck, you might have a few people show up for your second or third set (depending on how long you are playing for). However, even if that doesn’t happen, at least you made the most of an unsexy situation. Your fans may even remember it as “the time we missed out on a great show”.

Step 4 – Reflect

ReflectThe show is done with and you’re happy to have it in your past. Maybe you played to a small crowd, or maybe you played to an unresponsive crowd. Both situations aren’t much fun, but you’ve made it through, and you’ve gained some valuable experience. Maybe you even had the chance to work out some kinks in your set while onstage.

This is a good time to take a moment to reflect. If you truly have the desire to gain something from events (good or bad) in your life, you will have to reflect on them. The act of reflecting gives a chance for growth to catch up with you.

Did anything go wrong with the planning, organizing or promoting of your show? Don’t dwell on this question for too long, as it can direct your focus to the wrong place, but if you identify anything that you could do better next time, make sure to write it down.

In some cases, “nothing” really truly is the right answer. It’s entirely possible that a set of circumstances beyond your control made your show a less-than satisfactory experience. If so, you don’t need to spend too much time dwelling on it.

Here are a few more guiding questions to ask yourself:

  • What did I learn from this show?
  • What could I do better next time?
  • If a similar situation arises in the future, how will I prepare in advance to manage myself and my emotions better?

Conclusion: Audience Turnouts

Hopefully you’ve gained a better understanding of how to cope with disappointing audience turnouts. Most of the time, you can’t take these things personally. Let it be water under the bridge, and keep your end destination in mind. You may not be where you want to be right now, but if you persevere and adapt, you will certainly have better moments in the future.

Also note that you can learn to thrive in these situations instead of merely coping with them. When you know what you’re after and why you do what you do (i.e. your purpose), you’ll let the smaller things slide; and everything is a small thing on a journey towards success.

10 Ways to Market Your Music Online

10 Ways to Market Your Music Online

Marketing your music online can take a lot of work. You have to find a way to cut through the noise and stand out from the crowd. That’s a tall order for anyone, even with the internet (the best marketing tool in current existence) at your fingertips.

If hard work doesn’t turn you off, and persistence doesn’t give you a coronary, then you might find some useful tips on this list. However, it should be noted that the marketing activities mentioned here aren’t for the faint of heart. If the idea of losing a bit of sleep and putting more time towards your music career doesn’t scare you, let’s get going.

Here are 10 ways to market your music online.

1. Your Website

To me, this is the most important item on this list. When MySpace was still popular, musicians often used their profile as their home on the web. Today, there are many bands and artists doing the same thing on sites like Bandcamp and ReverbNation. I would heartily advise against this.

While it is nice to know that there are sites where you can sell your music on your own terms or display your whole press kit on a single page, it doesn’t negate the need for your own home on the web.

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s important to recognize that social media is rented space. You never know when the terms of service could change, and you also never know when a site could get bought out or shut down.

If you buy a domain name and a hosting plan, you own it. It costs money, but as long as you keep up with the costs, you will always have a place on the web where your fans can find you. Plus, it just looks more professional when the first search result in Google for your artist or band name is your domain and not a social profile.

2. Satellite Sites/Sister Sites

There are no rules saying that you can’t have multiple websites. In fact, there may be a good reason to build out your online presence, especially if you have extra time and resources on your hands.

If you have two or more sites, you can cross-promote projects, link up content between them, develop and sell different types of products (like an information product, perhaps?) for additional income, and send traffic back and forth between your two properties.

Just don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort that it will take to do this. Enlist the help of your band mates for content creation, or ask your fans and see if they would be interested in helping you on this project. Managing and maintaining multiple sites is a lot of work, even for the experienced.

If you find that you are easily sidetracked, then don’t build additional sites to support your main one. To me, focus is more important than spreading yourself out without an organized plan.

3. Blogging

Writing content on a regular basis isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do, but it is a great way to promote your music. It’s also good for search engine optimization purposes.

The main thing is to have some kind of plan. You can use your blog to talk about random subjects whenever inspiration hits, but this isn’t terribly sustainable.

A good topic to blog about would be bands or artists that you like, sound like, and music that has influenced you. That way, if your visitors do find you through search, they’ll get a sense of what you sound like too.

Additionally, make sure that your blog is actually hosted on your website. Please don’t go and start a blog on Blogger or LiveJournal. It’s not the same thing, and it almost defeats the purpose of content writing completely.

If you want to explore this subject in more detail, I have already written a lot about the subject. Check out The Ultimate Guide to Blogging as a Musician for starters.

4. Guest Posting

How do people find you on the web? Your primary fan base probably knows where your website is already, but how do you attract new fans?

For SEO, authority, and backlinking purposes, guest posting is a really good strategy. Just in case, the technical definitions of the aforementioned terms doesn’t really matter right now. It’s about what it can do for your website’s traffic.

Guest posting allows you to get in front of larger audiences, on sites where people are already interested in new music. It might take some research, and it would be effort-intensive, but the results should speak for themselves.

5. Social Media

I have a bit of a love-and-hate relationship with social media (especially with Facebook), and I would hate to see musicians invest all of their time and energy into it. However, there are far too many advantages for me to glance over it completely.

Musicians are basically media creators. They utilize a variety of media types like photos, videos, audio, and sometimes blog posts to promote themselves and their music. Social networks are the perfect place to engage with this kind of content.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SoundCloud and other music-oriented networks like PureVolume might seem like the obvious places to hit, but don’t underestimate networks like LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr either.

By the way, I know I beat this horse to death, but don’t just send generic “check this out” type messages out there. Take some time to strategize. Tell a story. Give people a reason to talk about and take interest in what you are doing.

6. Video

Video is a powerful form of media, as long as you keep it to about two to five minutes. In that sense, it’s perfectly suited to music (because most songs are in that range).

I wouldn’t get too excited about making it big and making a lot of money on a site like YouTube, as the odds are pretty much against it, but you can definitely use the medium to connect with your fans in more direct and personal ways. A fortunate side benefit may include monetary rewards.

Moreover, it’s media that you can share just about everywhere on the web, especially on a blog or on your social networks.

If you’d like to extend your reach, it might be worth looking into a tool called OneLoad. Using OneLoad, you can distribute your videos to multiple sharing sites all at the same time. It does take a little bit of upfront setup work, but the fact that you can be seen in more places across the web is a good thing.

7. Email

I think you’d be silly not to collect email addresses and run email campaigns as a musician. Unless you have a full database of all of your fans’ contact information (including phone numbers and street addresses), email is the only form of direct communication you will ever have with them. In fact, I think email is far more important than social media.

Whether you’re playing shows or sending people to your website, make sure to incentivize them to sign up for your list. A free giveaway tends to work pretty well.

For example, you could take a photo of your fans at a show and ask them to sign up for your mailing list. Or you could give them a download code for signing up. I’m sure you can think of other things to give away.

8. Podcast

I think podcasting is a little under-utilized by musicians, but it’s actually a great way to build a presence and following in the iTunes market and reach a different demographic. Think of it this way: if your music is “paid content” on iTunes, then your podcast is your “free content”; the gateway to your music.

Additionally, people might read a blog post or engage with a video for a few minutes, but with podcasts, people will often listen all the way through, regardless of length. You have a huge opportunity to embed your personality and music into people’s minds.

Like blogging or guest posting, podcasting can be pretty labor-intensive; it all depends on how produced you want your show to be. If you use a format that doesn’t involve a lot of editing, you can publish content simply and quickly. On the other hand, if you want to use bumpers, listener questions, opening themes and other elements, your production increases in complexity, making it a bigger investment of time. If you want to podcast, remember to make a sustainable schedule for yourself. Don’t go overboard.

As far as content goes, you could conduct interviews on your show, share marketing tips, showcase demos, play acoustic versions of your songs, and so on.

9. Broadcast Live Events

It’s not a revolutionary concept at this point, but you could use a site like Livestream, Ustream, or even Google Hangouts to stream your live performances. You could broadcast from your bedroom or home studio, or even a coffeehouse or bar.

You can use these opportunities to promote your website or product, blog or podcast, social networks, or anything else that you might want to direct your viewers to.

In some cases, you can also record your performances and post them to YouTube or another video sharing site later. It’s a good idea to re-purpose content when you can.

10. Crowdfunding

I view crowdfunding as the culmination of all of your online marketing efforts. Crowdfunding campaigns take a lot of work, but if you already have an email list, a blog, social networks, and other places where you can promote your campaign, you will have a much easier time making it work for you.

It gives you a great excuse to engage your entire fan base, and you will also attract new fans in the process. However, you shouldn’t gamble on the likelihood that you will have a high number of new pledgers; you need to have realistic expectations for your campaign.

Conclusion: Marketing Your Music Online

Again, this list is for individuals that can see themselves investing considerably more time and energy into their online presence. Every activity requires ongoing maintenance and follow-through. You can’t expect to do something once and see huge benefits from it.

Incidentally, I use every strategy on this list except for live event broadcasts. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t thought of doing it.