The 10 best ways to utilize a small music marketing budget for your next release
Although marketing is one of the most important things an artist can do to support their music, it also remains one of the most confusing. Here, Christine Elise Occhino shares some of smartest ways to utilize a small music marketing budget for your upcoming release.
Guest post by Christine Elise Occhino
Marketing is an integral part of getting the word out about anything, especially new music. In my time as head of Lock City Music Group, it’s something we are always hyper-focused on, and yet it’s also the biggest source of confusion among our artists.
With all of the “pay for plays” schemes that exist online—and the scandals that follow them—from “companies” claiming they can get you thousands of streams and placements, there is a lot of noise to sort through. Lucky for you though, I’m here to share some secrets, culled from my own experience, to help you out.
I worked in digital marketing at Columbia Records prior to starting my own label, and I can tell you firsthand that artist advertising will run your funds dry if you let it. But what worked for my roster there (Beyoncé, Adele, Foster the People, J Cole, Tyler the Creator, and so on) will not work for just everyone.
In fact, I would be lying to you if I said I thought there weren’t a lot of old and tired methods being used, and wasted effort/money that could’ve been better spent utilizing alternative resources. So with that in mind, here are the best ways I recommend you put a small marketing budget towards your next release.
1. Get professional photos done
Content is king in this era of digital sharing! Without interesting, aesthetically appealing content to share, it’s going to be nearly impossible to market anything professionally and successfully.
For those with the budget for it, hiring a pro photographer is definitely the move. Luckily, there are tons of resources out there to help you find someone in your budget; like Thumbtack and Fiverr for example.
Just make sure to have a clear vision of what you want and the scope of work required to make their job as easy as possible, and to also ensure they are giving you the most accurate quote they can.
Alternatively, you could purchase a mid to high-end camera yourself with a tripod and remote controller to stage shoots yourself. I have a lot of friends in the industry who do this very well, and it pays for itself almost immediately. If you’ve got any creative friends that are willing to lend their equipment and time, you can pull together some great shots that way as well!
2. Invest in quality digital media promotional materials
Once you have the content, you’ll need to use it to create quality digital media materials as vessels for sharing. Similar to my suggestions above, there are a few different ways to go about this.
The full DIY route consists of ponying up the money and buying the Adobe Creative Suite yourself (including Photoshop and InDesign), and taking advantage of the many free and low-cost educational options out there to learn how to do the design work yourself. I’m a big fan of learning as much as you can so you can truly “do it all.”
But if you’re crunched for time, the quicker option would be to find a graphic artist to help you design some nice materials with their know-how. Upwork is a great resource for finding talent, and may even help you develop meaningful relationships with visual artists in the long run.
3. Make sure you have an easy-to-navigate, aesthetically-pleasing, mobile-friendly website
Consider this your home base where all of your fans and B2B opportunities will filter through. You’re going to want to make sure your website is totally optimized for mailing list, ticket or merch sale conversions eventually; but in the meantime, just make sure it’s ready to publish and up to date when you launch your new single.
You can set up a website with a music website provider like Bandzoogle and you’ll have everything you need to promote your release right at your fingertips. You can set up your website with a mobile-ready website template in minutes.
4. Target your audience with paid and free social media promotion
You will definitely want to convert your personal pages to business pages on Facebook/Instagram so you are able to utilize more of the available analytics features, if you haven’t already.
From there, it’s all about getting to know the real audience who’s out there engaging with your music. It might not be who you think. Take a closer look at who’s interacting, clicking, sharing, and listening; and if you’d like to be reaching other demographics, that can inform how you choose to market your upcoming release.
Target accordingly, and take advantage of the many resources (that you can find through a quick Google search) explaining how the present algorithm works in order to get as much action on your posts as possible.
With a basic knowledge of when to post, what to include in your caption, how to use trending hashtags, and a few other tips to increase engagement, you’ll be well on your way to more organic reach to promote your music! Then when you’re ready, “boost” your posts for even more targeted visibility with campaigns starting as low as $30.
5. Explore sync licensing opportunities
SongTradr is one of my favorite resources for independent artists to license their music in film, TV, advertising and other media placements. They also provide access to large blanket licensing deals like business radio, apps, social media, YouTube, and more.
Monetize, baby! Consider reinvesting your licensing earnings into future marketing budgets to continue to grow your career while maintaining 100% ownership of what you create! That’s what it’s really about, isn’t it?
6. Make sure your music is shareable on Instagram Stories, TikTok, etc.
Most major music distributors nowadays allow artists to make their music shareable on all the latest trending platforms to encourage listening, sharing, and opportunities for virality! Just make sure you choose a distribution platform that is up to speed and supports this, and double check that those boxes are ticked before your next release.
CD Baby is a good choice for global music distribution. They’ll take care of all the heavy lifting for you by sending your music across 150+ download and streaming sites worldwide.
7. Curate a release announcement for your mailing list
I always tell people, you’ve got nothing if you don’t have direct access to your fans. One of the most important things you can gather as an artist is consumer information, especially in the form of email.
If you create a website with an all-in-one platform like Bandzoogle, a mailing list tool is built-in, as your mailing list works hand-in-hand with your website. You can also look at a provider like MailChimp to send email and gather analytics about your most engaged fans.
8. Create engaging video content to broaden your music
Whether via a teaser video, lyric video, or full-out music video, people love to enjoy their music with quality, creative visual accompaniment. Why not do it yourself?
One part of the Adobe product suite is Premiere, which will help you develop your own videos if you’re the DIY type, or you can try something more entry-level like Apple’s iMovie just to simply get some photo or video footage set to music.
But of course, there’s never a shortage of videographers out there to help you bring your true vision to life if you can afford them and some actors for the shoot. It’s certainly worth the money if you can create a beautiful, timeless video.
9. Pitch to playlist editors, blogs, radio stations, and other channels
Spotify now allows you to pitch your new release directly to their editors for playlist placement opportunities. This is free, and so is pitching the many local and college radio stations who are always accepting submissions.
I know The Birn at my alma mater, Berklee College of Music, is always looking for new music releases from their alumni. Make sure you check out local independent and college radio stations near you, too.
SubmitHub is another good resource for connecting artists with bloggers, labels, playlisters, YouTubers, radio stations, and influencers. They have both free and paid submission options that are easy enough for any indie artist to explore right away.
Create an EPK on your website to help you pitch easily and quickly to these outlets when your new release is ready.
10. Gather your data and track your progress
ForTunes.io has created an interesting all-in-one music insights app for artists, bands, and producers that’s both helpful and affordable. All you have to do is create an account and point it to all of your channels on social media and streaming platforms.
They’ll collect your data 24/7, and provide you with visual insights so you can better understand who is playlisting and uploading your music, when and where it’s happening, who is writing about you, and how your audience is growing.
This information is critical for checking back on your release strategy as you grow. It’s amazing how much a modest marketing budget can drive your new release, if you play your cards right and keep an eye on the data coming in.
Christine Elise Occhino is a serial entrepreneur with a passion for the music business. In addition to being a vocalist herself, she is the Founder & CEO of Lock City Music Group, and the Founder & Executive Director of Hope in Harmony, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that uses music to help and heal those in need. Christine holds a BM in Music Business & Management from Berklee College of Music, and is a member of the Grammy Recording Academy, ASCAP, and Berklee College of Music Alumni Association. She also currently hosts the music-based web series & podcast, Soundbytez.