MVP – Minimum Viable Promotion
Seven steps to launch your music properly!
Ok so you have your music recorded and now you want to get it out to the world… You might be wondering “Where do I start?” or “What do I need to do to launch my new album and not hear crickets?”. If you are a musician and have wondered about the how to get your new music heard this blog post is for you.
To be clear, I will not post any affiliate links in this post, which means I am not financially incentivized to send you in one direction or another. I am merely providing and summarizing my knowledge acquired from years of building websites, promoting, and consuming music. My hope is that this post will save you some time and help get you started on making productive moves now.
So now that you have your musical idea recorded, polished, and bounced (as an MP3) it is time for the big day. The day you release it to the world. Are you launching on a solid foundation? This post will help you answer that for yourself.
This bullet-pointed list is an outline of the topics I will discuss in greater detail throughout the rest of this post.
Let’s start out with the 21st-century basics (#’s 1-4) and then the timeless high impact steps.
You need a website
You need social profiles
Email Sign-Up List
#1 A Website:
A website might be the most daunting and intimidating task to start on. Keep in mind there are many free or low-cost options. NO, a SoundCloud profile does not count as your website! If you are looking for a great free option I suggest you look at WordPress.com.
Best Free Options:
WordPress.com (the .com is important!)
Free – Free Hosting and free SubDomain (YourBand.WordPress.com)
Freedom of design and layout
Some Hands-on effort required.
You will need to set it up, but it has amazing tutorials and resources. You can start here
You do not own the domain. You only get to customize the subdomain (example: YourBand.WordPress.com rather than YourBand.com)
Free – Free Hosting
Musician Friendly – All websites are designed for musicians, so it is extremely easy to set up.
You do not own the domain name – You only get to customize the subdomain
Best Low-Cost Options:
WordPress.org (.org is important)
If you are looking for a low-cost way to manage your own website I suggest you look at WordPress.org or other third-party providers such as BandZoogle.com (Musician Friendly), Wix.com or SquareSpace.com.
Suggested option: WordPress.org
You own everything! – Custom Domain (example: YourBand.com)
Unlimited Flexibility – if you can dream it you can build it!
Don’t split your hard earned revenue.
You can sell your music or merch on your store and never have to split the revenue with anyone (other than the payment processor and uncle sam, or your countries government)
It is free! – But you must pay for hosting (can choose any hosting provider).
Open source – Which means it is always evolving in amazing ways without paying a dime for the updates! (think Android operating system).
Must pay for a custom domain (yearly) and hosting (typically monthly).
These are the minimum costs that everyone must pay if they want to own and manage their own website and domain. These fees are not associated with WordPress. WordPress does not dictate the fees for your domain and is not charging you to host (or store) your files. But you must pay for your domain and hosting in order for WordPress.ORG to work.
You are in charge of everything, and if something goes wrong, it is your fault. You must fix it.
(Pro tip: if you are confused about something, call your host, they can usually help you understand what is going on or fix what is broken).
BandZoogle is designed for musicians.
There is a monthly fee to run your site. They host your site but there are a limited number of things you can do to your site. You still need to buy your domain from a third party. BandZoogle is competitively priced and provides you with a domain upon paying them. There are some limitations regarding the number of songs, photos, and email subscribers and you may need a higher tier depending on your needs. You can check BandZoogle’s pricing here.
Wix & Squarespace
Wix and Squarespace are pretty similar to each other. They are designed to be for everyone who wants a website, so it is not musician-specific. Both are easy to design and manage with WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editors. I believe that both providers will enable you to buy your domain through their service. You will still need to pay them monthly for hosting. There are more design possibilities with these providers than BandZoogle but it is not an ‘out of the box’ solution for musicians and you will need to customize it to suit your needs. Check out Wix Pricing here. Check out Squarespace Pricing here.
#2 Social Profiles
By now you should be familiar with the major social networks and even if you don’t use them, other people do. You want your music, your band, and your brand to be visible and consistent on the major platforms. Do you need a profile on all platforms, ‘no’! You should only commit to having profiles on networks that you will update. I suggest you have at least three profiles/ pages set up so that people can find you online.
You do not need to update them daily but some consistency will help you gain some traction. Try to have your username be ‘YourBand’. (example on Twitter: Twitter.com/YourBand @YourBand or facebook.com/yourband). If you have a commonly used phrase or name for your band (ex: @sky) it might be difficult to get that username. Try adding music to the end of it. (ex @skyMusic).
(Pro tip: you can use a service like IFTTT.com to automatically share updates, posts, tweets, etc across your social networks. For example, when you update your WordPress website, you can automatically post it to FaceBook, or Twitter etc. Or when you update your facebook page it will automatically tweet it out to your twitter followers. You can set it up in any way you want, just watch out for creating a loop, which will infinitely repost a repost, of a repost, of a repost… you get the point).
- Suggested Networks:
- SoundCloud, Facebook Group & Page, Twitter, Instagram.
- Beatport, Periscope, MixCloud, iTunes Connect (Artist Page), Google+, Bandcamp, many others
#3 Distribution Plan:
Think about how people will consume your music. Streaming is the new norm for many people. You should take steps to get your music on iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora at the minimum. Google Play and Amazon Music are on the rise and many more digital stores are out there. This process can be confusing for some and there are professional distributors out there to help you out. Here is a short video to give you the basics and what to look out for when choosing a distributor. In short, you want to make sure that you retain ownership of your music and that you earn 100% of your music’s revenue. Do your homework! Just reading these few paragraphs is not enough. Make sure your music is distributed properly and that you get the money you deserve when your music sells or is streamed.
Many of these distributors, such as TuneCore will help get your music into many different digital stores. You must pay these distributors for their services. Why use a distributor? They have experience with the process and will guide you along the way. Their job is to get your music out there and into the ears of your fans. They will help you but you must pay them for their services. Some distributors are country specific so be sure to make sure that the distributor you choose operates in your country. They can help you keep track of your data across many different platforms.
How do you get your music on iTunes?
You can reference this list of authorized or ‘trusted’ distribution partners for the iTunes store. Here is a great resource from iTunes. Reference the list provided to ensure you have everything you need to be accepted to the iTunes store, these requirements will likely change over time so use the link to get the official requirements. As of the date of this writing, you will need to have the legal rights to sell that music, a Universal Product Code (UPC) and an International Standard Recording Code (ISRC) for your music. You also need an Apple ID and a Tax ID.
Who is your distributor of choice? Let me know in the comments below.
#4 Email List:
Setting up an email list is easier than you may think. You can grab a notebook and a few pens and set it on your merch table as you perform. On the top write something like want to be notified when our next album drops? Or if you are willing to do it, you can write: ” Like free music? Sign up and we will send you a track (or album) for free!” Ok, ok I know the younger generation is thinking “paper is so old fashion!”. Well, who wants to leave an iPad unattended at a show? So you can transfer the paper list to a digital list after you perform. Better yet you can have a mailing list sign up form on your website (digital start to finish). MailChimp is pretty intuitive to set up and is free for 2,000 subscribers or less. You can connect it to your website, social networks and manually add people to your list (such as your paper lists for each show). You can tag your subscribers so you know where they signed up. If you are a touring band this can be especially helpful. Pretend you are touring and you gathered 70 emails during one of your shows. You can then send out a targeted email to those 70 subscribers letting them know that you just released a live recording from the show or that you will be touring through their city again and they can buy tickets now. The possibilities are endless. Yes, emails are useful. You can use your email lists to sell tickets, music, merch and more. Start collecting now and you can reap the rewards for years to come!
You can maximize your revenue when you perform by having merch. It should be noted that good band branding is critical. Read the next section on branding to maximize your impact. You can burn your CDs for minimal cost and sell them at your show. If you are the opening act at a show, crush it and get some of the main acts fans to become your fans as well. At the end of your set mention on the mic that you will be at the merch table at the back and will have CDs and merch for sale. During the main performance go and man /woman the merch table. Give people a bonus whether it is a hug or a free sticker with the purchase of an album it makes a difference. Not having anything to sell is a mistake. So take the time beforehand to burn 10-15 CDs and put them in a backpack with your other gear. Bring it and try to sell it all or even give some of it away! Your products will travel through the cars and stereos of your fans and likely will reach new people. Be a guerrilla marketer!
A great story, shared by Project Aspect, on episode two of the Freio Music Podcast was the fact that he was at a festival, as a fan (not performing), and walked around the campgrounds and gave away his CD to anyone who “liked free music” (everyone). The festival attracted people who like his style of music, so he was targeting people who like Music enough to pay to see artists for 72 hours straight. (Standing outside of a Bank and giving away your album is unlikely to have the same effect unless perhaps you only sing about money). Years later he performed at that same festival and people still have and remember him giving away his art (CD) and thank him for it. He made new and lasting fans form his efforts. Now that is a way to target your audience and sow the seeds for your future success.
This section should not be overlooked. Your music is your brand. You are your brand. Your Facebook page is your brand. Your logo, performance, apparel, attitude, and interactions are all apart of your brand. Create badass art that represents you and your music. Be consistent. Of course, you can change it but only if it is a better representation of your brand. Think of the AC/DC text. The Rolling Stones lips. If you have a logo use it! If you don’t have a logo make one or hire/ convince a friend to help you out. Use your logo for your profile pictures across all of your social networks to give some consistency. If you don’t have a logo and are stubborn than at least have a photo of you or your band and use it as a logo. People want to be confident that they are following the right band so don’t make them think hard. Make your branding consistent across all of your marketing platforms.
#7 Concert Schedule
Your music is intended to be played so, play it! Play it live, with energy and excitement. Keep it fun for you and everyone and switch it up from show to show. One band that I choose not to name I saw play the exact same setlist twice on the same day at a small festival! You can bet that I was discouraged by their lack of creativity and adventurousness, and have not seen them perform since that time. I understand practicing your set with the band several times but when it comes time to perform add a new song or two. Add a cover if you don’t have enough original material. Jam out and make the same song sound different. I can listen to an album on repeat if I want but don’t make people listen to the same thing again and again. If you are touring than maybe your audience will not notice that it was the same setlist but your band members will. Keep everybody guessing and add some flavor to the mix. You will improve faster musically when you are playing new songs, so go grow! A growth mindset will take you from where you are to where you want to be. How do you think your idols improved? Do you think they played the same song endlessly? No, they pushed themselves to learn new songs. They played the same songs in new ways. In short, they challenged themselves to play new music, so you should too!
Did we miss something? If so, leave your comments below and mention what else should be included in this MVP blog post.