The 6 Best Ways To Promote Your Music in 2021

best ways to promote your music

best ways to promote your music

It always amazes me when I open up the Sounds Sphere instagram and check out our message requests. Almost daily we have people we don’t know asking us to promote their music, spamming us with YouTube or Spotify links, or trying to get us to do something to help them.

Who is teaching people that this is the right approach to promoting music? In this article we’ll lay out 3 dos and 3 don’ts for promoting music. There’s a million sites and instagram accounts offering suggestions on how to promote. Our approach is a more human one, focused on relationships as opposed to crafty techniques or “hacks”.

Of course there are plenty of valuable courses and coaches out there, but if you’re an artist trying to be heard, following the advice of someone else’s system usually ends in wasted time and money. If you build something from the ground up yourself, in the long run results will be more sustainable and you’ll feel better about the outcome. Here are the best ways to promote your music in 2021.

Do #1 – Provide Value First

If I came up to you on the street and asked you for $20, if you didn’t know me you’d probably laugh, walk away, or tell me to go… well you know. If I came up to you and offered you $20 you’d probably ask what the catch was, but then happily take it.

This simple example clearly shows the right and wrong way to approach building a relationship with someone. The reason spamming people on instagram with your music links doesn’t work, is because you’re asking people for $20 up front without them even knowing who you are.

Of all the people messaging the Sounds Sphere account, the ones we respond to don’t start by asking us to do something. Rather they tell us about themselves, what they’re looking to do with their music, and offer to connect or ask us a question. Asking questions is a good way to illicit engagement because the other person feels like an authority. We all want to feel like our opinions matter so this is one strategy that can be useful.

This doesn’t mean to send someone a link to your music and ask “What do you think about my music?”. The questions you ask should be meaningful to the other person. For example, asking (in the case of Sounds Sphere) what types of artists we typically work with, or what trends we’re seeing in non-exclusive licensing. Ask questions that are relevant to the other person – not you.

Another good way to provide value up front is to do research ahead of time so you know what the other person is like and what they might need help with. If what they need is something you can help with, this is the perfect time to reach out and offer your services. Sometimes you can even hire the other person to do what they’re good at and then work towards a mutually beneficial relationship after the fact.

Do #2 – Show Support Often

I follow a strict rule when it comes to self promotion or asking things of other people. I call it my Support Ratio. The idea is simple: everytime I ask someone to do something for me (after already having built the relationship of course) I show my support twice as much. This 2:1 rule means I’m supporting others twice as much as I’m asking for something or self promoting.

It doesn’t have to be the same person you’re asking something of, but developing the mindset to put others first and show your support is a critical habit to have for long term relationship building and ultimately, your own success.

But it’s not just a means to an end. Showing support of others matters and our connectedness to others is a huge part of creative wellbeing. It feels good to show support, and although it’s sometimes hard if you’re battling envious thoughts, in the end you always win when you support others.

Here are some ideas for how you can support other people:

  • Send a text to a friend letting them know you’re thinking of them
  • Email a local venue or promoter thanking them for putting on a recent show that you enjoyed
  • Connect with local high schools or colleges and ask to be a mentor
  • If you have a unique skill (say graphic design) offer this service free of charge to someone you’d like to build a relationship with
  • Post all your artist friend’s new singles on your social media
  • Show up when you say you’ll come to something (an event, show, etc…)
  • Listen to other people’s problems and find unique ways to help

We tend to only think about ourselves and what we want. But shifting to showing support for others makes a ton of difference when you’re trying to build relationships and in the end, promote your music.

It’s not necessarily bad to promote your own music, but it needs to come at the right time and not seem spammy or salesy. Once you’re consistently supporting others, they will be way more receptive to showing support for you when the time comes.

Do #3 – Focus on Quality

Most things in life we can’t control. In the music industry, you can’t control how many listeners hear your songs and who likes them. But one thing you can control is the level of quality that you create and release.

Focusing on quality is a great way to stay consistently working and moving forward without waiting around on others. You can always practice and get better. You can’t always know how your music will be received externally.

Focusing on quality goes a long way towards getting more fans in the fact that once your quality is good enough, people won’t be able to deny the fact that it’s good. Cal Newport described this perfectly in his book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” which you can find a summary of here.

It makes sense if you think about it. If you want more people to hear and enjoy your music, having better music makes that easier. If you don’t know how to have better quality start asking other professional musicians their opinion and be receptive to constructive criticism.

Having a big ego and taking things personally kills progress and doesn’t facilitate growth. Someone else’s opinion might be subjective, but if they’ve been in the industry long enough and are coming from a place of sincerely trying to help, dismissing them probably isn’t the best idea.

Hiring good, talented people to help you with your music is a big part of improving your quality. As an independent artist on a budget, having a resource like Sounds Sphere might make sense.

Don’t #1 – Lead With Spam

Money is really just a way to measure value. The more value you provide, the more money you will earn. The key word is “earn”. This concept applies in relationship building and promoting your music as well.

As discussed above, you don’t earn someone’s support by spamming them with your music links if you’ve never interacted with them before. There’s a reason why this hasn’t worked for you and it’s because no one appreciates it. When’s the last time you were excited to check your spam email folder?

The word “spam” means “irrelevant or inappropriate messages”. It’s certainly both of those things to email, text, DM, or otherwise contact someone with an ask of them before you have even said “hello”.

But leading with what you think is an appropriate engagement can still be undercover spam. If you don’t know someone and have never interacted with them, here’s a good way to filter your potential message and decide if it’s spam or not:

Ask the question, “Am I showing interest in the other person?” If you aren’t then your message is probably not going to get a response.

At Sounds Sphere, I cold email people all the time. There’s certainly an art to it, but one thing I make sure to do is show interest in the other person. For example, I reach out to a lot of artists. I take the time to listen to each artist’s music prior to emailing them so I have an understanding of their style and taste.

Then, I craft my email to include specific feedback on their songs and what I enjoyed. Not only that, but since they’re an artist, I know they need production, mixing, mastering and some of the services we at Sounds Sphere provide. I always lead with a free offer to engage with us, whether as a featured artist, or signing up for a free account.

I never ask them to pay for anything or do anything cumbersome. I only offer what I consider to be valuable to them and I make it easy to say “yes”. Click To Tweet

Even so, most of my emails get ignored. This is normal and part of the work you have to accept when trying to do something hard (like build a company or promote your music). But a 1/20 response rate is better than a 0/20 response rate which is what I would get if I spammed people showing no interest.

Don’t #2 – Ask For Handouts

I was overweight, slow, and had very little endurance in high school. Yet I loved basketball and played all the time. When conditioning rolled around prior to the start of the season it was my worst nightmare. I was always the last one to finish and sometimes the whole team had to run more just because I didn’t make the time.

These days I’m going for 10+ mile runs regularly, am the healthiest I’ve ever been, and have no problem with conditioning. The work that I did to get here was long and hard. Literally hundreds of miles had to be put behind me to gain bit by bit the result I wanted.

Even if I had asked for it, no one could have given me the ability to run long distances easily. I had to work for it. I had to earn it. Why would you think becoming a well known artist or famous musician would be any different?

Most famous artists do have an origin story of struggle and perseverance. DJ Khalid was evicted 10 times while trying to make it as a DJ in Florida and spent 13 years grinding to make connections and build relationships.

The point is – no one at the top got there by asking someone to put them there. Anyone who you think was an overnight success was most likely working hard behind the scenes for years to get where they are.

You might be unconsciously doing it and that’s okay. But notice if you believe that asking people for favors or help “putting you on” is the path to success. If you do, course correct and start to pave your own way. There are tons of ways to grow and build a fanbase without asking for handouts. Many are even free.

Don’t #3 – Go For Hail Marys

I’ve made many costly mistakes since starting Sounds Sphere. When we had our first version of the website, or MVP, I naively thought that all we needed was marketing. I hired an expensive agency to roll out a launch campaign through Facebook ads and eagerly awaited to start seeing results.

The problem was I hadn’t yet dialed in my messaging or my offer. I didn’t do enough market research to know exactly what artists wanted and I didn’t know how to properly target them. We wasted thousands of dollars with little to show for it until I fired the agency and shut the campaign down.

Granted this particular agency wasn’t that great to begin with and in my opinion, didn’t understand the fundamentals of business – customer, mechanism, result, but at the time I didn’t either so we were both equally to blame for the failed launch.

My mindset going into the launch was one of hope and belief that this was all we needed to do to have success. But success doesn’t come through gimmicks and quick wins. It’s built over years and years of sustainable progress.

Even after the launch I kept spending money on software tools, ad campaigns, and other random things that I thought would get us over the hump. Each time I had the belief that once we do this thing or that thing, we’ll start to gain traction.

I was going for Hail Marys on 1st down instead of trying to gain a short amount of yards bit by bit. Imagine in football if every single play was a Hail Mary. The team doing that would lose every game. You have to have balance of running plays, short passing plays and the occasional long ball to win consistently.

The same is true for promoting your music. If you’re constantly spending money on quick wins, you’re essentially going for Hail Marys all the time which isn’t sustainable. Practice building brick by brick, fan by fan, until you look up one day and have a respectable audience.

Every single person who listens to your music is a win. Thank them. Engage with them often and practice gratitude.

Before you spend money or take on a new project ask yourself if this is a Hail Mary or a small building block. If the former, make sure you understand the percent chance that things work out how you want. If the latter, do your best to capitalize on the opportunity without having expectations.

Conclusion

There’s no magic bullet when it comes to promoting your music. Your music industry house can be built of cards or bricks, it’s your choice. Going for quick wins, relying on others to help you all the time, and spamming people is a sure fire way to get little to no results and become discouraged.

But by providing value, showing support of others, and focusing on getting better day by day, you can build a career you’re proud of and that provides fulfillment in your life.

Choosing to work hard isn’t always fun. There will certainly be times when you get discouraged or upset. I fought my own mind for years trying to figure out my path through the music industry and it was brutal at times. However, there’s always an invitation available to you to rediscover your passion for creating.

Each one of us has a reason we love music. By examining our own beliefs and changing those that don’t serve us, we shift into alignment with our unique experience. Then things like promotion and business take care of themselves without us trying to control everything.

There’s one thing I will share to end this article and that is this. You are a whole and complete person whether 1 person hears your music or a million people. Remember this always and never attach your self worth to external results.