How to market music with little or no budget [Emily White]

In this excerpt from her book “How to Build a Sustainable Music Career & Collect All Revenue Streams,” music industry thought leader, artists advocate, and podcaster Emily White lays out the basics of modern low-cost/no-cost music marketing, starting with an attitude check.

by Emily White

Emily White hosts the #1 Music Business podcast globally, How to Build a Sustainable Music Career & Collect All Revenue Streams, based on her #1 best-selling book. Season Two is livestreaming in January & February as interactive workshops at Volume.com. She’s the Founder of #iVoted Festival, the largest digital concert in history.

A Note on Attitude

“The grass is always greener on the other side” is a famous phrase for a reason. It’s completely understandable to look around and wonder “Why do they have that, and I do not?” I truly believe that if you focus on yourself and your own growth, you’ll get there. But if such thoughts continue to arise, reach out to the artists you are looking up to and connect. See if they’re willing to have a conversation on how they got to where they are. On one hand, these feelings are potentially more prevalent than ever in the age of social media. On the other, it’s that much easier to connect with your peers so you can learn and help each other grow as a community.

A Note on Balance

Before we dig in on spreading the word on your music, remember that you are an artist! So try to keep your mind balanced by not losing yourself within marketing and industry work so much so that you’re losing sight of your art. As important as everything I’m about to explain is, it’s nothing without your creative soul and spirit. I often advise artists to spend an hour a business day on their social media and emails. That way you are connecting with your audience, which is crucial. But you aren’t getting lost in social media accounts that are literally programmed to be addictive.

Email List, Text Club & Patreon Announcements

No matter where you are with regard to a track announcement, you’ll first want to connect with your loyal email list subscribers. Send this out as soon as your track premieres and your release is up on your website and Bandcamp. Draft a personal note thanking your subscribers for their support during your creation process. Tell your audience to stay tuned to your preferred social media accounts for additional announcements of your music’s availability on Spotify, Pandora, Tidal, Apple Music, and their favorite music platform. Let them know the best way to help is to spread the word by sharing your website and Bandcamp release on their social media accounts, telling everyone they know about it if they’re so inclined, and forwarding this email to friends. If you already have a release show and/or tour dates lined up, include those as well, but it’s OK if you don’t; I’ll teach you how to get that rolling in the following chapter. While you’re prepping your mailer, make sure you get an announcement up about all of the above to your Patreon subscribers as well. This is essentially your fan club, so the earlier you can break news to them on everything you’re doing, the better. And don’t forget about your text club! Message your fans via Community.com to share the news on your release and thank them for their support.

Social Media 101

Typing out posts is not enough! You want posts as engaging as possible to as many people as you can, so the audience not only sees your content but are also encouraged to share your news and music even more widely. On all social media platforms, tag any and every noun that you can—media outlets talking about your release, the journalist who wrote about it, the music platform you’re spotlighting (which should be Bandcamp out of the gate). Get in the habit of this until it’s mindless, so you’re always tagging venues, promoters, and other artists you’re per- forming with. Frankly, most people are terrible at this, so get ahead by showing music platforms, promoters, other artists on the bill, and media outlets that you are putting the effort in. This also tees them up to easily share or retweet what you are saying, spreading the word even further.

Sustainable PR

Traditional publicists might hate what I’m about to say next, but it really can help them as well. Every time you land any sort of press, be it on your own, organically, or via a publicist, grab that journalist’s email address and social media handles, and pop it into a Google spreadsheet. Our office calls ours a “Fancy Friends” list for each artist. This is a great way to keep track of tastemaker types who support your music. By growing this list, you have a way to communicate directly with people who are already into what you’re doing. Just like that, you can keep them in the loop about tour dates—always offering to put them on the guest list—in addition to music videos, remixes, and other news you might not have the budget for a publicist to handle. This way you can then still share what you’re up to in hopes that they help spread the word on it. Set up Google Alerts for yourself so you do not miss a single mention of your work in the media, and also file away the press report you’re given at the end of a PR campaign to reference in the future. If you’re not given a press report from a publicist after a campaign, ask for one. Compiling these contacts also ensures that when you do have a budget for a publicist, they and you aren’t starting from scratch every time. Is it frustrating when you work with a publicist and they’ve only landed press based on your contacts? Yes, but just know that you are doing something right on your own, and maybe PR doesn’t always make sense. And, make sure your publicist knows you have those relationships already, making it clear that you’re hiring them to hopefully expose your music to additional journalists and media outlets.


Another way to grow your audience is to launch a podcast. An artist we manage did just that, as they wanted to make a deeper connection with their audience than the engagement they already do on social media. I think this is brilliant, and if it appeals to you, I encourage you to do the same. You already know how to record, and there are a variety of distributors out there, with new ones arising every day, to get your podcast out on all major platforms.

Season Two of Emily’s podcast is livestreaming in January & February as interactive workshops at Volume.com

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