Are your music marketing efforts paying off?

Tony van Veen discusses how to identify whether the blood, sweat, and tears you’re sinking into your marketing efforts are actually paying off and translating into meaningful revenue.

Guest post by Tony van Veen of the Disc Makers Blog

Is your music marketing working? Is it generating streams, views, sales, and (importantly) revenues? Would you even know if it was?

I want to talk to you about your music marketing ROI (return on investement). Ever since I announced our Ads For Artists program, the question I get most often is, “Will I make back the money I spent on marketing in product sales or streaming royalties?” And the comment I get most goes something like, “I’ve tried Facebook advertising and I can’t track any sales or streaming royalties to it.”

Can you expect a return on your music marketing investment?

Before I go any further, I want to say this information has nothing to do with our Ads For Artists program. I’m going to address your music marketing ROI in general terms, regardless of where you spend your money and your efforts.


So, what do you need to generate a marketing ROI? Well, in order for your marketing efforts to pay off, you need four things:

  1. A qualified audience
  2. A way to track your results
  3. Something that people want
  4. Time, patience, and persistence

1. A qualified audience

For your marketing message to work, it needs to reach an audience. And not just any audience, but an audience that might be interested in you and in your music.

Marketers like to call this a “qualified audience.” I like to call them “suspects,” as in, “I suspect they might like my music if they hear it.” So, where do you find these suspects? Wherever people hang out who might like your music. For example, they’ll be at your concerts. And, if you open up for a bigger act, they will probably be there, too.

They are your social media followers, your mailing list subscribers. They are fans of fellow bands in your music scene, both online and in real life. They could be fans of other larger bands with a similar vibe or style of music. And of course, they can be readers of blogs and magazines and fanzines in your genre.

Target your market

If you think about it creatively, you can find suspects who might like your music in any number of locations. Social media, in particular, allows you to carefully target audiences that are highly qualified by selecting other bands’ fans, listeners of specific genres, and even geographic locations (which, by the way, is something that we do for you with our Ads For Artists program).

The goal of your marketing efforts is to get your message in front of a qualified audience, get them to see your name and hear your music, and then, hopefully, you’ll get some of those people to do what you want them to do: stream your song or your YouTube video, buy your CD, follow you on socials, like you on Spotify, subscribe to your YouTube channel, sign up for your mailing list, etc.

2. Tracking your music marketing results

DM Catalog

In order to know your marketing ROI, you need to be able to measure your results. How do you do that? Well, to be honest, it’s not always easy. The big ad platforms — Google, Facebook/Instagram, Twitter — all give you access to analytics that provide more data then you’ll probably know what to do with. In fact, it’s not just that messaging your results is not always easy, it’s frequently almost impossible.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say you run ads on Facebook, hoping to get people to watch your video on YouTube and, indeed, you see your YouTube plays go up gradually during your ad campaign. How can you measure which YouTube plays came from your ad?

You can probably measure how many came on from the ad in the YouTube analytics, but how can you measure which? You probably can’t. If some of those YouTube viewers now subscribe to your channel, how would you know? And if one of those subscribers ends up on your Bandcamp page and buys your CD, how on earth would you ever know?

All marketing works, good marketing works better

As an independent artist, you probably have no chance of tracking that sale of that CD back to the marketing dollars you spent. Heck, even at Disc Makers — where we have a whole team of professional marketers on the payroll, spend thousands of dollars a month on marketing, expertly analyze Google and Facebook analytics, and implement tracking pixels and campaign source codes for everything we do — we can’t attribute every sale to specific marketing campaigns.

So, if we can’t track it accurately, should we spend money on marketing? The answer is, yes. At Disc Makers, we always had the philosophy that all marketing works, good marketing just works better. We try to measure as much as possible and invest marketing dollars in those campaigns that we can track to be performing well. And so should you. Just because tracking is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to track your results as carefully as possible.

It’s not all about sales

There’s another big problem with tracking and generating ROI in today’s music marketing. The way most music is consumed today — through streaming and YouTube — just doesn’t result in you getting paid. If you drive fans to a Spotify track or a YouTube video and get plays, that’s good. You get visibility and the opportunity to have a new fan. But at a four-tenths-of-a-cent royalty rate per stream for Spotify, or six one-hundredths-of-a-cent per YouTube view, if it monetizes at all, you will never get an immediate financial return for your marketing dollars.

Let me rephrase this for clarity. If you send your target audience to a song on a streaming site or YouTube, you will pay more to get those fans to stream your song than you will generate in streaming royalties. It ain’t a pretty truth, but like it or not, it’s the reality in the current music industry. Does that mean you shouldn’t invest in marketing? Not at all. Every brand, whether it’s a giant like Ford or Facebook or a startup that you’ve never heard of, needs to invest in marketing.

Your music is a worthwhile investment

Marketing drives new customers. In your case, marketing drives new fans. Many startup companies lose money for years, mostly because of marketing, brand building, and R&D. It’s the same thing for you as an artist. You need to invest in marketing to build your fan base and you need to invest in R&D. Except your R&D is writing songs, recording, and releasing your music.

In this next video, I’m going to risk making myself unpopular with my thoughts on the remaining two things that you need for your music marketing. See for yourself.


3. Give the people what they want

For your marketing to work, your qualified audience must believe the product being marketed is something they actually want. In other words, it must address a need they have, be something that entertains them, or, in the case of music, provides pleasure.

History is full of heavily marketed products that failed because the market didn’t want them. Remember New Coke from way back in the day? Or any iteration of YouTube’s music subscription streaming service? Turns out nobody wanted a new kind of Coke or a YouTube music streaming service. Regular Coke and old YouTube were plenty good enough.

When I hear artists complain that their distributor didn’t push them enough and that’s why they aren’t selling, they never seem to have asked themselves if their music was actually good enough to get the market excited.

Is your music good enough?

So I’m asking you — I am pleading with you — to take a look in the mirror and be absolutely honest. Is your music so good that someone who hears it at a concert, in a YouTube video, in a stream or an ad, will want to hear the whole song and listen to it again and maybe listen to more of your songs and be willing to visit your website or your Spotify profile to get it?

That’s how good you need to be if you want your music to go viral. And, I’m sorry to say, many artists today love their own music, but they’re not particularly realistic about how good it actually is.

Artists love making music. They love writing. They love recording. It’s their baby. But, just because you love your baby doesn’t mean it’s a beautiful baby. Or that your baby will grow up to play basketball like Lebron or write songs like John Lennon.

So when an artist says to me, “I tried marketing and it didn’t work,” I think, that may be right, or it could be that she just can’t measure it, or maybe her music is not quite good enough for the audience to like her enough to click on that ad.

I’m not trying to put anyone down here, but I am a pragmatist and a realist and the fact is some artists, probably not you, but some artists just aren’t that good. The good news is that every artist can get better with time and effort, but that’s a topic for a different video.

Suffice it to say, your music and your recordings need to be on point enough that your target audience will get excited about it and want to hear more.

4. Time, patience, and persistence

Let me tell you a little secret. If you believe a potential fan will see your ad and click on it, you’re mistaken. It almost never happens that someone sees an ad for the first time and clicks on it.

Think about your own online behavior. How often have you clicked on an ad the first time you saw it? I’ve done it on occasion, and you may have as well, but it’s happened on only a tiny percentage of the ads I see.

Any marketing professional will tell you it takes at least seven marketing impressions before a suspect will take an action. They need to see your ad, hear your music, or see your name at least seven times before they take action.

Let’s get to work

What does that mean? It means you always need to be marketing. It doesn’t all have to be paid advertising, though you’ll probably need to spend some marketing money. It can be free social posts or boosted posts. It can be email newsletter impressions or flyers posted on a wall.

And to get those seven impressions, you need time. They’re not going to all happen in two days or two weeks. I mean, even after someone clicks on your ad, it doesn’t mean they subscribed to your YouTube channel or liked you on Spotify.

You need to keep marketing to stay in front of a potential fan so that they can catch the message that your new single just came out. In other words, you have to constantly be working your magic.

Now, does that sound exhausting or like too much work? If it does, then reset your goals and play music just for the sheer joy of playing and recording and performing. That, in itself, is incredibly rewarding. But, if you have bigger aspirations for your music career, you need to be prepared to market yourself and your music.

So, what about that marketing ROI?

Turns out marketing is more complicated than you thought, isn’t it? You need a qualified target audience. You need to track results across Facebook, Google, Spotify, Bandcamp, and another half-dozen sites. Then you need to have something the audience actually wants — your music has to be good enough to stop someone from scrolling through their social feed and click on your ad.

And finally, you need time, patience, and perseverance, and some commissary budget to get enough marketing impressions so that someone will actually take a desired action. To grow your career as an artist, you need to invest in your artist career.

You’ve made many other investments that probably haven’t paid for themselves yet. Buying your instrument, paying for rehearsal space, recording, paying for distribution, making CDs. You have to make a similar investment in building your brand early in your career. It’s called an investment because you put your time and your money and your effort in now and you hope for a return at some point in the future.

Truth is, the ROI from all these investments sometimes comes years after you make the investment — you just need to hang in there long enough.

Watch more great videos on the Disc Makers YouTube channel.

Tony van Veen is the CEO of DIY Media Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and BookBaby. As a college student, he played in indie bands, created his own LPs, cassettes, and t-shirts, and sold them at shows. Today, he collects CDs, vinyl LPs, and concert t-shirts to support the artists he loves.

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