D.I.Y.

Music Advertising 101: Grow Your Fanbase With Better Online Ads

With touring currently impossible, and PR campaigns an expensive prospect with mixed returns, running digital ads for new music is often the most affordable and effective option for promotion.

By Chris Robley for The Bandzoogle Blog

As a musician, you want a reliable way to build your audience. 

Touring (when it’s even a thing) comes with serious opportunity costs. PR, radio, and playlist campaigns are expensive crapshoots. Word of mouth only goes so far. Simply releasing music on Spotify or Apple Music, while super important, is NOT enough. You need a realistic plan to drive awareness and interest. 

That’s where online advertising comes in. Running digital ads for your music gives you an affordable and measurable way to reach new fans. 

Affordable + Measurable = Scalable 

6 tips to creating better ads for your music

Of course there’s no ONE way to create an effective ad or ad campaign as a musician. Plus, you’ll always find examples that stray from these “rules.” But here are some things to remember when you want to make a good impression online:

1. Your ad should disrupt their day

Your ad should look, sound, and feel surprising. You want to stop them in their tracks and shake them out of their digital malaise. An ad should compel a perfect stranger to stop scrolling, turn on the sound, or click the call-to-action button.

Be strange, funny, shocking, empathetic. Appeal to their heart, intellect, or gut instincts. Your ad should interrupt the default mode of their everyday routines.

2. Digital ads need to strike fast

It’s good to be impatient with your musical ideas: “Get to the chorus!” 

Same with advertising. Think like the stranger who’s on the other end of the screen. Don’t bore us! 

If you expect to KEEP their attention, you first have to capture it. When running video ads, avoid big intros. Strike quickly — within the first second or two.

3. It’s not ALL about video ads

As I said in The Musician’s Guide to Online Advertising, “VIDEO IS KING, but it takes more than a king to rule a kingdom.”

Obviously we’re living in the age of short-form video. Video ad content can feel more immediate, personal, and creative. With a compelling video ad, your costs will be lower and your reach will be greater. So invest time in video if you can.

But.. not all videos are created equal when it comes to advertising. Lyric videos, long videos, videos with extended intros — they generally don’t perform well as ads. 

Also, it can take a lot of time (or money) to create good video. And believe it or not, many platforms aren’t even optimal for video content. Twitter is still a place for text and images. Spotify is a place for audio ads. And so forth. 

So don’t invest EVERYTHING in video. Interactive banner ads can be really effective, and they’re really easy to build. Show.co will make an interactive banner ad FOR YOU in a matter of minutes. You just drop in a YouTube or Spotify link. Then your ad runs on premium music websites like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork where viewers can check out your music right there without having to leave the site they’re already on.

Want to boost your streams and video views? Show.co will help you build, target, and run an interactive ad in minutes! 

4. When writing your call-to-action, be an ITCH

In order to keep their attention, you want to convey a sense of mystery or drama. There should be a question or a problem that can only be solved when they click the button. Think of how you create tension and release in your songs; now mirror that in your ads. 

Your “call-to-action” promises the viewer they can scratch that itch. 

A good example is Smalltown Poets’ call-to-action: “Hear the song that got us kicked off stage.”

What the hell is wrong with the song? Even if I’ve never heard of this artist, I now want to hear the song and answer the question. 

5. Your ad content should remind them who THEY are

As a musician, your “product” isn’t really a solution — not the same way Kleenex is. And even if music in general is essential, there are a bazillion other artists to choose from when you open up a streaming app.

That means your advertising has to appeal to their personality. It should be about connection and branding. Not just YOUR brand, but the way the listener brands themself in the world. 

You should play to their personality. The way you talk, what you say, the sense of purpose in the ad should speak directly to someone’s sense of self. Here are some examples:

  • Anti-social EDM fans
  • Outlaw country for white-collar workers
  • Steampunk soccer-moms

Define who you want to reach, and remind them how your music helps them intensify their own uniqueness. Once you DO reach them, have a plan to deepen the relationship with that segmented audience via follow-up ads

6. Keep your digital ads casual

Forget formalities! When you can TELL something is an ad, it sucks. You skip it. You mute it. You roll your eyes. Those ads can feel condescending and “corporate.” 

Today’s viral ads look different. They’re casual and quirky. They feel like something your friend might have made, shared quickly, and then… oh look: a conversion goal! 

If the tone of this kind of ad speaks to you or your community, you don’t care nearly as much when you realize it’s an ad, because it feels right. It feels like it’s for YOU.

This trend away from the big-budget, glossy ad world is good news for scrappy, independent musicians who work with the tools and budgets they have. A “cheap” feel is fine, as long as it also feels “real.”

Before you make or share an ad, ask yourself: “Is this the type of thing I’d see my friends sharing online?” If so, run it!


By following these six simple rules, you’ll get way more return from your ad efforts. Granted, I know these rules are simple to say, less simple to execute. But hey, that’s YOUR job! No one knows how to relate to and entertain your audience the way you do. Trust yourself, and have fun. Advertising can be (almost) as creative as making music. 

To learn more about building your fanbase with digital ads, see “A Musician’s Guide to Online Advertising.”

And be sure to check out this free webinar: How to build your audience online with Show.co

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