Marketing

Introduction

Ahh, good old marketing. It’s a big wide world out there in the realms of marketing – from digital to physical there is a never ending abundance of ways in which you can take your product to market. In this instance we are referring to your “product” as both your music and yourself as a brand and also, the “market” being your listeners, consumers, fans and potential future business relationships.

So, you have spent months – maybe even years in and out of the recording studio. You’ve articulated to hundreds of people what the purpose of this project is and what it means to you – why you scribbled the thousands and thousands of words to compile a full set of lyrics. You’ve spent hundreds – if not thousands of pounds to produce, record, add features, mix and master your project… Now what? 

This next leap will take a monumental shift in your focus – physically and mentally. Your marketing plan will incorporate and integrate many of the previous modules you have already worked through on this course. Which means you would’ve been subconsciously prepping for this moment throughout the entire creation of your project. You will already know the message you are trying to send, you will already have an understanding of the visual aesthetic your project will portray and most importantly, you will have an idea of the consumer base you are aiming to reach. 

Furthermore, it’s incredibly rare that in this day and age of social media that you won’t have been posting snippets of studio sessions, promo shots and behind the scenes from video shoots, etc. This means that the word would’ve gone out already to your followers that work is in progress and some fresh new music will be reaching their playlists very soon. There are the rare occasions when subtlety is key and the shock factor of a surprise release works well… but let’s not bank on the idea of this working for definite. Let’s also be real, this works well when you already have an ongoing active listener base who are watching your every move waiting for you to drop new music – Drake, BeyoncĂ©, etc. Whilst you are growing and developing as an artist and as a brand, maximising your messaging in a sleek and consistent manner will further your chances of achieving your previously set SMART goals (see module 2). 

Well, now we know why you need to create an immaculate marketing plan and all the work that you will (should) have been doing in the background; let’s get started on what this entails so you can switch from making off-the-cuff, random marketing decisions to making strategic long-term campaigns.

Your marketing strategy is a single document that sets the parameters of which marketing tools you will use to reach your audience, who that audience is, how much budget you will assign to this and the timeframes you will achieve them in. 

Luckily for you, by this stage you will have mapped out many of these parameters already in Modules 1, 2, 3 and 6. Your marketing strategy will identify how you ensure you achieve your goals within budget and get your music heard by the right people. 

Contents

  1. Goal setting 
  2. Audience definitions
  3. Branding
  4. Marketing channels
  5. Budgeting
  6. Action plan & timeframes

Goal Setting

Much of this section you will have already established in Module 2 (Goal Setting) however, there is no harm in a little bit of recap, sprinkled with the essence of marketing. 

If you are sitting here thinking “yeah ok cool but I am still not sure what my goals should be” – fear not! Just switch up the narrative and ask yourself this question: what is success to you? Is it a set number of views on your videos? Is it the number of streams on Spotify, Amazon, etc? Or perhaps its pairing up with a brand you have been looking up to for many years? Now quantify these goals. Think of the number of streams you want, the number of mailing list sign ups you want, the specific names and number of platforms you want to be seen on or the percentage of growth from your fanbase.

Your list should look something like this:

    1. X number of streams across all DSPs
    2. X number of playlist placements 
    3. X number of brand partnerships 
    4. X number of new followers across Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, etc. 
    5. Sell X number of merchandise units 

This list of goals will be your endpoint to work back from. If none of your goals are based around video views – don’t pump heaps of money into paid Youtube ads for the sheer fun of it. Instead, if your goals include a heavy weight on streams and playlisting, then make sure your marketing plan assigns the same weight towards achieving these goals.

Task

Look back at the goals you set in the task in Module 2 and make sure that they still align with your marketing goals set out here. If they all align and factor in everything we have mentioned so far – great! No further action needed. If they don’t, adjust them accordingly and then move onto the next section of this module.

Audience Definition 

Working back from the goals you have set, you now need to identify who it is you want to reach. With 8 billion people in the world, there is never going to not be a market for you to reach. No matter how big or niche, there will be people out there willing and ready to receive the news that you have released music which matches their taste to a T. 

It goes without saying that aiming to reach 8 billion people is a bit of a stretch – not to mention the billions of people who your music marketing would be wasted on simply because it is not their cup of tea. This is a harsh reality that you must face as a creative – what is beautifully crafted art with thousands of pounds of budget spent on it to you, will be the total opposite of that to others. Take that bitter pill, swallow it and move your focus to the millions of other people who will see your art for exactly what it is and what it’s supposed to mean. 

The beauty of marketing in this day and age is the sheer quantity of data you can generate just by being present online. Whether you have a social media profile, website, music already released onto DSPs or a mailing list – these platforms will be scraping heaps of valuable data you can then translate into realistic goals. Now is the time to dig deep on these, let’s look at what is out there for you to yield data from. 

Social Media 

Every social media platform which allows you to represent yourself as a business, public figure or creative will allow you to dive into the back end statistics or “insights” as many platforms call them. This data will include: follower growth follower demographics, follower location, top engaged with posts, the reach of these posts and the number of accounts reached. This information is all completely free and in real time.

DSP Back End Statistics

Through releasing your music onto the likes of Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, etc – you are able to log into their back end platforms to see your streaming statistics and audience demographics. 

Each platform comes with their own level of service and depth of information. Amazon Music has even recently updated their back end platform to allow for a variety of helpful features such as merchandise drop shipping, Twitch integrations to earn from live streaming and podcast RSS feeds. Each platform will host their own set of standard and unique features so it is well worth digging deep into the data and options available here.

Website / Mailing Lists

Similarly to social media and DSPs, your website and mailing list platforms will be tracking and presenting this exact information to you too. Be sure not to forget this data when compiling who your current audience is. It is easy to forget these and focus just on who is following you on social media or who is listening to your music BUT those who signed up to your mailing list or looking through your website? These users have shown an extra level of interest, they have clicked through from your social media or  streaming platform profile to find out more about you and have said “yes, please send me more information about what you have going on, I want to be first to know!”

PPC Campaign Data

In releases gone by, you may have run some PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns across Google Ads, Facebook or TikTok. If you haven’t – don’t skip past this section as you will need to know this for your next release once you have some PPC campaign data scraped from this release. 

The back end of any PPC platform is an intricate web of data and statistics detailing not just where the person who clicked on your ad is from or whether they are boy or girl – oh no, this will be able to tell you what these people have as other interests, where else they had been on the internet, what their purchase intentions are (great for brand alignment pitching data) and even, how long they spent watching your video ad before clicking it. 

Data Skews

We would all love it if in this world, all data meant exactly what it was representing. However, the world is weird and so is data – you can look through a complete set of data and make a hypothesis for how to steer your next project based on this BUT you must remember how easy data is to skew. 

With social media – not all your followers will definitely be those seeking to listen to your music – is your account built from an old personal account from 10+ years ago, flooded with people you met on nights out or university before you even started making music? These guys will skew your data – yes they may like your music but it won’t mean your main listener base is Oxford, just because you grew up and went to university there. 

This is why it is essential to use multiple sources of data in order to identify anomalies and trends to base your ongoing marketing strategy upon.

Task

From the various different sources we have already mentioned – create a list of the following:

    1. Top 5 listened to / followed in Countries
    2. Top 5 listened to / followed in Cities
    3. Gender demographic percentage splits
    4. Age demographic percentage splits 
    5. Similar artist suggestions 
    6. Other interests your followers / listeners have 

Take all this data from across all the platforms and identify ongoing trends throughout. This will then give you your current ideal listener profile. Answering all the questions of: who listens to my music? Where do they live? How old are they? What gender are they? Who else are they listening to? 

All of this information will help you navigate your future marketing audience selections when running paid ads, designing and selling merchandise and planning your live shows / tours.

Branding

Similarly to Goal Setting in Module 2, you will have covered all angles of your Branding Guidelines in Module 5. As this will be fresh in your mind, you will still be reeling back from how important it is to ensure all angles of your release emulate the essence of your branding guidelines. 

Your outward marketing strategy will reflect all aspects of your brand guidelines; from visual branding to your voice and messaging. For example, when designing your PPC adverts, make sure they scream “this is me!” or, when making your merchandise – dont make frilly skirts and tutus if your audience is primarily males who listen to drill. Yes, of course this is 2023 and people who listen to drill are more than welcome to wear frilly skirts and tutus but tailoring your merchandise to combine both your audience and branding will give it the best chance of selling to the masses. 

Task

Using your choice of graphic design software (Canva, Photoshop, etc) or a pen and paper to then handover to a professional graphic designer, mock up a “coming soon” advert for your latest project. This advert will be a social media story advert so be sure to make sure you create this in the correct aspect ratio to be uploaded. 

Remember to incorporate all the tasks from your brand guidelines (colourways, logos, imagery, fonts). Also remember to have all the relevant information on there – and relevant information only! Such as: date, platforms, your name, call-to-action to pre-save link button (swipe up / click below). If you are struggling on inspiration, have a look at some of the artists you have identified as similar to yourself and see what angle they approached this from. Do not – I repeat do not – copy for the sake of copying. Instead, draw inspiration from them and adapt them into your own branding.

Marketing Channels

What is a Marketing Channel?

A marketing channel is the term used for any platform or technique used to convey your product to the market. They tend to fall within the four main categories: Free, Paid, Digital and Traditional. A few examples of this are:

    1. Organic social media (posts / stories / reels / DM)
    2. Paid social media (Facebook / Instagram / TikTok ads) 
    3. Website / blogs
    4. Email marketing
    5. Live events
    6. Podcasts
    7. Word-of-mouth

Not all of these will work for you so pick the most appropriate based on where your audience is most active and also, how much budget you have. It is really important not to spread your budget and your time too thin across more channels than you can manage effectively. 

The best marketing strategies find a sweet spot between paid and organic, combining digital and traditional. For an artist, the core marketing channels that are a must are social media, email marketing, live shows and website / blogs however, again, these might not all work for your goals and / or budget. Remember, for websites and blogs this doesn’t always mean your own – although of course, having your own is great but this will be more tailored towards landing features on already popular and regularly visited music and relevant creative platforms. Examples of this are GRM Daily, The Grape Juice, The Playground, etc. 

Each and every marketing channel will take time and energy for you to execute them with consistency in timing, branding, to the right audience and to remain in budget. Factor this information into your plans when mapping out your marketing strategy. In an ideal world you would have a marketing team who would handle each aspect of your marketing – one of the many perks to being signed to a label being that each aspect of your marketing strategy will be taken care of for you. However – this is not what this course is for – you are here to find out how you as an independent artist can manage your own releases.

Task

Select four channels from the above that align with your marketing goals. For example, if you have a goal of increasing your followers by X amount – be sure to include social media paid and organic in your channels. Furthermore, if one of your goals is to create and grow your core listener base from X to X – transforming them into loyal consumers – email marketing will be an essential tool to this. 

Next to each of your choices, right down why you chose it. Is it based on the audience definition? Or perhaps it’s the one you could do for free alongside the other choices. Whatever your reasoning, make sure you can explain why you chose them throughout your strategy document.

Budgeting

So, you now identified who you will target, how you will target them and what your marketing will look like. You now need to ensure you have the budget to run these campaigns effectively and to drive the desired results. There is no point in deciding to overwork yourself with too many channels which you can only assign a small portion of the budget to because each element will simply not generate the impact you have set out to achieve in your goals.

If you think way back to Module 3 (Budgeting – surprisingly enough) you will remember setting aside your budget for marketing. As it was with goal setting, this marketing strategy should lock in and confirm if these budgets will work and yield the desired results. 

Therefore, before even starting this module, you will have had a fair idea of the budget you are working with. This strategy document should specify – down to the pound – what will be spent, where it will be spent, how long that will be spent for and the purpose for spending it. 

For example; “Google Ads Video Campaign to run for song X, for one month, with a total budget of £150. The goal is to achieve 50K views and reach people globally with an interest in Hip Hop, who have watched similar videos in the last 30 days” 

Task

For each of the marketing channels you identified in your last task, take your total marketing budget identified in Module 2 and assign a budget per channel. By the end of this task you will have allocated every penny of your marketing budget to each channel – hooray! Look at you go.

Don’t forget to assign subscription costs for things like social media content management systems such as Later or Hootsuite (more on this below), email marketing platforms such as Mail Chimp or Zoho. 

Action Plan and Timeframes

Ok final part – you’ve identified the who, the where and the how (much) – it’s now time to answer the when. 

When will you reach your defined audience on these channels? It’s very important to understand that with marketing, consistency is key. Now if you’re a clever little marketer with their head screwed on (which you are now!), you will – instead of flooding all channels, all the time – you will spread the workload across your marketing channels. For example, if you have three active social media platform profiles, email marketing and live events as your active marketing channels; spread their activity out evenly across the week. This should look something like this:

    • Monday 1pm – TikTok Video 
    • Monday 8pm – IG Reel + Story Post 
    • Tuesday 2pm – Email Campaign 
    • Wednesday 9pm – live show / open mic 
    • Thursday 1pm – IG Post + story 
    • Friday 6pm – TikTok Video 
    • Saturday 9pm – Live show 

This will switch up in intensity and quantity based on the phase of release you are in, for example, should you have a video release coming out – tailor that week to be heavily leaning towards that piece of news. Be shameless, be bold and remove that “people will get annoyed at me posting this much” out of your head. Ask yourself this – do you follow any brands on social media? Do you get annoyed at them posting about their products over and over again? No – of course you don’t – you follow them because you enjoy that content and you want to be first in line to hear about what else they have coming out soon. 

Mindset switch time – you are this brand to your followers. People follow you because they want to hear from you. Remember this.

Schedule

At the beginning of every month, it is essential to map out your social media content schedule. This is a four week schedule which highlights what you will post, when you will post it and on what channels it will be posted onto. This schedule should include every element of your marketing: social media, email marketing, video releases, live events, ad campaigns.

Task

Using the timetable template and the list of marketing channels you have identified above, fill in your marketing schedule. 

Note – Module 8 is your social media module where we will dive further into the nitty gritty of the big wide world of social media. So for now, just note on which platform you will post on and at which time with regards to social media. We will cover the optimum time to post power chanel in Module 8 too. 

This spreadsheet will then be your marketing strategy action plan and timeframe. 

The reason you do this month by month is because each month your release will be in a different phase and therefore, the intensity per channel will vary. 

Suggested quantities to include:

Email Marketing: 1 – 2 x per month 

Social: 1 x post per day minimum

Live show: Aim for 2 per month 

Paid ads: 1 x month long campaign per project (minimum)

Podcasts: 1 – 2 x per month (depending on content type)

Traditional Marketing

In and amongst the realms of digital marketing, there are also many channels of traditional marketing which should not be ignored. Simple things such as business cards, banners for when you are performing or busking, attending open mics, walking into live music venues to speak to the bookings manager or even applying to speak on local music discussion panels. 

Thinking outside the box in ways to get people to hear your music and gain support from them all certainly comes under the umbrella of marketing. Establishing yourself as a local musician on the rise to your area is a great way of establishing a loyal listener base because as we all know, everyone loves to be a part of the come up story – capitalise on this! You can picture it now, the lads from the local pub who would enjoy your performance there every month telling their pals “I used to watch them perform down my local every month before they made it big – we have all bought tickets to their UK tour so we can watch them again” or “here, this is one of their original pieces of merchandise – they sold only 20 to us all at the local pub before they started gigging in the bigger cities”. You hear this talk all the time so nurture those around you on the come up as they will remain your biggest supporters for life. These are also the people who will take great pleasure in being “the one” to introduce new people to your music – the trendsetters and tastemakers from your local area.

Factor all the little handouts into your marketing strategy costs too such as business cards and flyers or the gig visualisers such as banners. These things do add up but are well worth the investment. 

Final Task

It’s marketing strategy document time! This is your document detailing each element we have spoken about above. By now you would’ve done all the thinking you need to do – it’s now time to collate all your thoughts and ideas together.

Using each header of this module as the headers of your marketing strategy, and incorporating all the tasks performed already; begin to craft your marketing strategy document. 

Remember these key things:

    • Don’t over fill your plate – stick within the boundaries of your time and financial resources.
    • Don’t spread your budget too thin! 
    • Set SMART goals (see module 2 to remind yourself on SMART goals) 
    • Pick the marketing channels which are right for you and will assist in achieving your goals.

Happy marketing!