How to pick the best music promotion for your track
You worked so hard for days or weeks: composing, editing, mixing and mastering your new track. Now your release date is finally here!
Your track is going public and your promo campaign is running full steam… but ouch! Plays, streams, downloads or purchases of your track don’t seem to go anywhere near where you want them to be.
“What is going on?” is the question you’re asking yourself. “Why is my promo not working?”
I frequently get this question from fellow music artists looking for some help. So, I decided to write this post for all artists looking to turn around their promo campaigns and to get the most out of them.
Here are the most common mistakes you may run into if your promo campaign doesn’t deliver on its expectations:
- You didn’t define a goal or objective for your promo campaign
- You didn’t set up a clear call-to-action for fans on your track
- You picked promotion channels that don’t actually support your goal (if you had one)
- You didn’t set realistic expectations
What does all of this mean? Let me explain so that your next promo campaign can be a bigger success for your music and your profile as an artist.
Define goals and objectives for your campaign
This is not as straight forward as it sounds. Your first reaction might be that your goal is to get your music heard of course. That sounds great at first. But what does that actually mean?
Do you want to maximize the number of ears that listen to your track – even if most of them would never engage with your music?
Or do you want to maximize the play or view count on your SoundCloud track, YouTube video, etc. to give the impression of huge popularity – no matter if you actually get any downloads or purchases?
Or do you want to maximize downloads or purchases – even if your play and view counts hardly move?
Or do you want your name and logo to show up everywhere across the web – even if your music is not actually getting played?
The point is: there are many different types of objectives and goals for a promo campaign. Here are a few examples:
- Maximize listenership
- Maximize play or view stats
- Maximize download or purchase conversions (if you using a download gate, this could also mean you maximize follower growth, reposts, comments and likes)
- Maximize visual impressions or brand awareness
- Maximize ticket sales for a show or gig
- Maximize merchandise sales
All of these are perfectly good goals. Which goal (or goals) you go for is totally up to you and may depend on your personal preference or where you are in your music career. Here are a few examples:
If you are an up-and-coming artist you might be most focused on building a bigger and better fan base around your music. Your campaign goal could then be to maximize downloads through a download gate to maximize follower growth.
If you already have a huge fan audience and even cultivated super-fans, you might be most focused on music, merchandise or ticket sales.
If you participated in a remix contest and the winning remix is partially determined by plays or view stats, then you might pick those are your main campaign goal.
Bottom line: Defining your campaign goal is an invaluable step in picking the right promo channels and tools that can actually deliver on your expectations (more on that below). You can of course set multiple goals for your campaign. This can help you decide which promotion channels to combine for your campaign.
Properly set up your call-to-action
This step is incredibly important if your campaign goal is to maximize download or purchase conversions. The concept is really simple: If you want your listeners or fans to take a specific action – such as downloading or purchasing your track – make it as quick and easy as possible for them to do so.
A good call-to-action is a short and obvious link or button that takes a fan directly to the desired action. The buy-link on a SoundCloud track – if set up correctly – is a great example of a call-to-action. It can take a fan to a download gate or music store with one click to get your track.
On YouTube, end screens, annotations or card overlays on your video are great for a call-to-action. If you are not in YouTube’s partner program (required to put an external link over your video without running an ad), then you could put the call to action into the first line of your video’s description so it shows up above the fold.
Whichever way you do it, you want the call-to-action to be immediately visible, obvious to understand (e.g., “Download here:”), and clickable.
You can’t expect fans to spend their valuable time Google-searching or looking around for a download or purchase or additional streaming options for your track. If you don’t tell them right on your track or video, then you are most likely going to lose them.
So make sure you set up your call-to-action and links correctly. Obvious and well-performing setups include linking from the buy-link on your SoundCloud track to your download gate or a music store. Or if you are promoting a preview of the track on SoundCloud to grow your Spotify listenership, then link the buy-link on your SoundCloud track to the full-length stream of your track on Spotify.
There are lots of options. It’s just important that the call-to-action directly supports the campaign goal you defined before.
Pick the best promo channels and tools
You defined your campaign goal and your call to action is set up. Now it’s time to pick the best promo channels and tools to deliver on your goal. But how? There are so many options!
You could run ads on Facebook, YouTube or Google AdWords. You could get radio promotion (for AM/FM or online radio) or focus on SoundCloud reposts. You could promote your track on music blogs or places like Hypeddit’s Top 100 Charts (shameless plug! ;). How can you possibly decide what helps you the most with accomplishing your goals and objectives?
Here is how I approach it. It’s a mix of common sense and experimentation that leads to better promotion results.
At a fundamental level, music promotion is about getting your music in front of music fans. Music is all about listening of course. That means at a minimum, your promotion channel needs to deliver people that (a) want to listen to music and (b) can listen to your music – that means they need to have a high probability of active speakers or headphones on with volume turned up.
It sounds pretty simple but it’s actually not the case for every promo channel. Just consider most Facebook ad formats. It’s mostly about visuals, not audio.
But even if you focus on channels that can deliver audio promotion, not all music listening is equal!
Consider when, where and how people listen to music. You might be listening to music right now as you read this sentence. You might be listening to music when you drive your car. You might be listening to music at work – or when you work out at the gym. And you are definitely listening to music when you check out the latest Beatport releases, Hypeddit chart breakers or Spotify’s Release Radar.
Although lots of people listen to music nearly all day, there are important differences related to when and where they listen to music. It’s their focus on the music and their level of engagement.
This is a key when considering what music channels best support your campaign goals and objectives:
- How likely are music fans in this channel to actually listen to your music?
- How likely are music fans in this channel to engage with your music (e.g., buy, download or stream your song)?
Let me give you a few examples:
Radio promotion is great to reach a huge number of listeners. That sounds pretty exciting. But most radio listening takes place as a secondary, background activity. People listen to the radio while driving their car, while being at work, at the gym or doing some other primary activity.
If you radio-promote your new track and your goal is to get as many downloads as possible, how likely do you think it is that someone listening to your track while driving their car will find a way to look up your track online and download it? It’s not going to happen.
Radio is great to repeatedly reach a large audience of listeners to build awareness for an artist, song or sound, but not to expect immediate conversion. The listener engagement level is very low.
Now view this in contrast with a placement of a promoted track on a transaction-focused website (i.e., focused on buying/selling music) such as Hypeddit’s Top 100 Charts. Using this channel, you reach listeners that are already in front of their computer or at their mobile device, actively looking for new downloads.
These listeners are genre-targeted, highly engaged, guaranteed to have audio on, and will most likely download any track they like. So even though you may not reach as many actual listeners as you would through a broad radio campaign, your conversion rate to downloads will be a lot higher. You are dealing with a smaller but extremely engaged, genre-targeted audience.
Then you have huge global ad platforms such as Google AdWords, Facebook or YouTube. When promoting your music on these platforms, I always recommend that you first consider which ad formats are most likely to reach actual listeners with either headphones on or volume up on a decent set of speakers (after all, your new techno hymn might not sound at all impressive when previewed on the tiny speakers of an iPhone).
YouTube is always a great option. For the most part, you can assume that an ad served on YouTube reaches actual listeners since most viewers consume YouTube videos with sound on. That may not be the same case for ads that show up in a Facebook stream. Facebook visitors may either not have their volume up at all or they may be listening to music from another application.
So just because you can reach millions of people via Facebook who would have an easy time clicking through to your track to download it, does not mean that you get a fair shot at reaching actual listeners.
Most of this is pretty obvious if you just analyze your own listening habits, when and where you engage with music. But to further realize how fragmented media consumption is, check out this recent US-based research.
As general guidance, here are some music promotion goals and objectives with media channels that may line up pretty well:
- Goal: Maximize listenership > Radio promotion
- Goal: Maximize play or view stats > SoundCloud reposts, Spotify playlists, YouTube ads
- Goal: Maximize download or purchase conversions > Promote on transactional sites where listeners are already looking for new music to buy or download (e.g., Hypeddit’s Top 100 Charts or similar), your own email list
- Goal: Maximize visual impressions or brand awareness (does not require audio) > Facebook, AdWords
- Goal: Maximize ticket sales for a show or gig (does not require audio) > Facebook (good for geo-targeting), your own email list
- Goal: Maximize merchandise sales (does not require audio) > Facebook, your own email list
Once you have decided on one or more channels, it’s time to start experimenting. Channels may offer different ad formats (e.g., Facebook display ads vs. videos) and you may test different versions of ads/promotions.
Picking a media channels that is most likely to support the promotional goals for your music is not an automatic key to success, but it is an important foundational step to help you make the most out of your time and promo budget.
Set realistic expectations
It’s always great to dream big as a music artist! That’s as long as you don’t expect to automatically book Ultra Music Festival or Coachella from a $5 music promo service on Fiverr.
OK, that’s a bit over the top. Dreams are very important and will make you go faster and further. But it’s always good to educate yourself on a particular promotion channel before investing your hard earned money. That way you can support your investment decision with some indication of what to expect.
Platforms such as Facebook or Google AdWords show you estimated results as you set up your ads. Other platforms don’t display this information but you may get it if you contact their customer support. It never hurts to ask.
If you go for SoundCloud reposts on a particular channel, just check out the channel’s tracks reposted more than five days ago. Scroll through 20 to 30 of these recently reposted tracks and look for the ones reposted by this channel that have the lowest number of plays. Those are likely tracks that got only promoted through this channel and didn’t get any other promotion.
This can be a good indication of the reach to fans available through this channel. This is important since experience has shown that the follower count of a channel alone is not a good indicator of the actual reach, which is more of a function of the number of engaged followers.
If you would be happy getting the same number of plays as the tracks with the lowest play count you found on this channel, then go ahead. If not, then just consider alternatives.
And with any channel you decide to invest your hard-earned money in, it’s always good to start with their smallest possible campaign size. Dip your toes, see how it goes. If you like the results you can always scale up. This way you limit the risk of blowing your budget on something that does not give you the results you want.
Important: As you research or ask for the results you can expect from different channels, beware of promoters who promise you precise results (e.g., you will get 5,000 plays and 100 reposts in 24 hours). This is a warning sign that this channel may be using bots or other fake techniques to deliver promised results.
Music is very objective. Few people can comfortably predict results of a promotional campaign since a lot of it depends on how much fans like your track.
A good promoter should always be able to promise a specified campaign scope (e.g., one repost, a thousand ad impressions, a hundred radio plays, etc.). But how this promotion scope converts to downloads, purchases or other goals you’re tracking is near impossible to predict. The key asset in any music promo campaign is art: your music.
Time to sum it all up to help you make your next promo campaign a bigger success for your music and artist profile. Let’s recap:
Start your next promo campaign by defining your goals and objectives upfront. This helps set your expectations and pick the best possible promotion channels.
Before you kick off your promotion, make sure your call-to-action is set up correctly to help you maximize conversions. This is especially important if your campaign goals include any downloads, purchases or follower growth (anything transactional).
Don’t just blindly pick promotion channels and tools for your campaign. Be smart. Apply common sense. Find ways to reach actual listeners that are most likely to perform your desired actions (e.g., download, purchase, follow, share, etc.).
If you are starting out and are unsure about what to expect from a particular channel or tool, start with a small budget. This limits your risk and gives you more budget to experiment with variations of your promo tactics.
Analyze results and identify what works best. Then invest more into those winning channels and tools.
Thank you for making it all the way through the end of this post 😉
Now over to you: What are your promo goals and objectives? What channels and tools perform best in maximizing results for you? Let us know in the comments.