Why is music promotion important?

In this post, Brian Hazard, of Passive Promotion answers a subscriber’s question about why music promotion matters, and here is what he said…

by Brian Hazard of Passive Promotion

How I’m Promoting My Music This Month email subscriber recently asked:

I would personally be really interested in an overview post of where you are at and what you are trying to achieve with your promotion. Both in terms of fans, reach, impact and financial side – I’d love to understand the big picture of music promotion for you better.

You’d think that a hyper-organized guy like myself would have a mission statement written on a whiteboard next to my desk, but nope.

I rarely ever stop to think about what I’m trying to achieve. So let’s work through it right here, right now.

Keep in mind that I’m entirely making this up as I go! Apologies in advance for what promises to be a convoluted and potentially inconclusive exercise.

Why Promote Music

Let’s start by “trying on” two popular goals that I routinely hear from my mastering clients:

I just want to be heard.

It’s easy to relate to this one! As stoic and idealistic as it might sound to only make music for yourself, that’s not where I’m at. Music is about connecting with other people.

That said, simply being heard isn’t the same as connecting.

Case in point, anyone can get YouTube views with in-stream ads for less than a penny, but the odds of reaching genuine potential fans are slim.

I want to make a living from my music.

A far higher bar to clear. As luck would have it, I kinda sorta already do.

I’ve always worked in music: piano teacher, accompanist, producer, mastering engineer, and of course, recording artist.

I also make some referral income when you use the affiliate links in my posts. Thank you!

Oh yeah, and some curation money from SubmitHub, but not enough to cover my playlistads at $10/day.

How much do I make solely as a recording artist? Looking at 2022, here are some rough monthly averages:

$700 Patreon
$340 streaming
$170 Bandcamp
$100 merch
$50 YouTube
$30 Songtrust

That’s about $1430 per month, or $17K per year. I’m certainly not making “a living” here in Southern California. Granted, I haven’t made any offers or run any substantial promotions so far in 2022.

Hence the mastering engineer gig. These days I do nearly as much production and mixing as mastering.

So, what do I actually want?

As a thought experiment, would I be happy having just 40 super duper mega fans who paid me $2000 every year? (setting aside how uncomfortable I’d be with any fan paying me that much)

No, I wouldn’t. I’d want a bigger audience.

On the flip side, would I be happy having 100,000 monthly listeners on Spotify who never bought anything?

Again, probably not. I want fans who show a deeper level of interest. 

Would I be happy with 1000 “true fans” paying $80 per year?

Y’know… I think I would!

Currently, I’ve got 160 patrons on Patreon. I recognize every name and enjoy our interactions. I’m confident it could scale to 1000 patrons before becoming a faceless crowd.

I’ve also got 16K YouTube subscribers, and 34K Spotify monthly listeners. Of those, 11K stream my music from their “own playlists or library.”

The question is, how can I convert those casual listeners to patrons? Or do I just focus on building my audience and hope that a small percentage of listeners will make the leap on their own?

That’s been my anti-strategy so far. I’ve yet to find a way to boost my patron count reliably, and it’s not for lack of trying!

So what am I trying to achieve?

I’m growing my audience across platforms knowing that some small percentage of listeners will join my mailing list and ultimately become patrons.

I could also build my mailing list through opt-in ads. I already offer five free songs to anyone who subscribes on my home page.

I could also run another free + s/h offer and make a sale in the process, but it’s incredibly time-consuming.

Before Patreon, my measure of success was how many mailing list subscribers I had. Over the past few years, I’ve removed thousands of subscribers who didn’t open or click on my emails. I’m down to 1500 subscribers from a high of over 10K.

Today my primary metrics are number of patrons followed by Spotify monthly listeners. Any musician who tells you they don’t care about their Spotify numbers is lying!

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with over twenty years of experience promoting a dozen Color Theory albums, and head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Catch more of his promotional escapades in his How I’m Promoting My Music This Monthemail newsletter.

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