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
This 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!
Author: David Andrew Wiebe
David Andrew Wiebe has built an extensive career in songwriting, live performance, recording, session playing, production work, investing, and music instruction. In addition to helping musicians unlock their full potential, he also continues to maintain a touring schedule with multiple bands.