We hate to say it, but SO many indie artists are making mistakes with their music marketing &… it’s proper cringe!!
And what makes it worse is that (for marketing/ music nerds like us) it’s blatantly obvious. Like the type of obvious that slaps you around the face & says “Bro – check your IQ!!“. See, as an indie artist, there’s non end of music marketing strategies that you can employ. Digital PR is a good one, as is social media marketing, as well as good old-fashioned physical promo. However…
Just as with anything in the music industry (or indeed life) there’s a whole load of areas where (if you don’t know what you’re doing) you can slip up – sometimes without even knowing it! And that’s because in short, marketing yourself as an indie artist is less about what you do, & more about how you do it – catch our drift? Precisely why you don’t have to look far to find an indie rocker who’s begging for streams or an Indie Pop-wannabe who’s desperate for attention.
And that’s exactly why we felt the need to stop Reviewing Musical Instruments for a second, & write this blog. So buckle up & prepare for some harsh truths – because to help you develop a music marketing strategy for success, we’ve compiled 11 of the most common music marketing mistakes that’re being made by indie artists on a daily basis…
After something specific about which are the most common marketing mistakes made by indie artists? Or just want to read up on a specific slip-up extra fast? Jump into the menu below to get all your answers in 1 click…
Indie artists: please, stop making these mistakes…
While in creative terms, you might say there’s no such thing as a mistake, when it comes to music marketing – there is.
Fact remains that not only does the best marketing strategy differ from artist-to-artist depending on their fanbase, type of music etc., but there’s also strategies that are SO incredibly bad, that you’ll be kicking yourself that you even put money behind them. So before you start promoting your music, waste no time in jumping into these common (& albeit ugly marketing mistakes) which are sadly being made by indie artists ALL the time.
Here goes nothing…
MISTAKE 1: Denying that you need music marketing in the first place
If this is you – (pardon our French) but… SHUT UP!
Because in reality, your success as an Indie artist isn’t even largely down to your music (shock-horror!) In today’s world of short attention spans & constant tech, to make music a full-time career, you really need to pay attention. More specifically to digital marketing, how it’s evolving & how it can be applied to leverage your success & build a fanbase. There’s no getting round the fact that today’s forever-changing online landscape is pretty much the new gateway to getting BIG as a music artist.
So yes (before you rudely interject), you’re absolutely right.
What this means is that if backed by a lot of $€£ & marketing know-how, even a mediocre track that’s whipped up in 10 minutes can make the charts & maybe even score the number 1 spot! All while a sensationally well-engineered track with a perfect balance of tone & an unseen level of lyrical finesse (if not properly promoted) can slip through the net completely unnoticed. Have we got your attention now?
Good. Because take it from us, being stubborn to change never pays… literally.
MISTAKE 2: Failing to allocate yourself a marketing budget
As reiterated above, the music industry (especially over the past decade) has gone on a major commercial pivot!
With life online giving birth to increased revenue streams & at the same time taking the reliance off of album sales alone, there’s now more chances than ever to make your music profitable if (key word there) you’re willing to invest. In today’s world, you cannot market your music effectively without a budget. That’s just the cold hard truth.
And while of course, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be presented with sync deals, free podcast opps & sponsorship deals after releasing your debut song, these are all things that you can obtain in the future for FREE if you invest in making your marketing knowledge + your music the very best it can be.
Point being that having a budget when releasing music isn’t just important – it’s essential!
MISTAKE 3: Outsourcing your marketing to an agency ‘just because’
There’s no sugarcoating it – music marketing can seem like (& in many respects is) a steep learning curve, especially if you’re new to the world of online & all things digital.
But, that’s not to say you should just toss it to the side & dump your entire marketing campaign on someone else. Now granted, if you approach an established music marketing agency, they will generally have the know-how to add real value to your brand & what you do, however (take it from us) this level of expertise is by no means cheap!
So unless you’re a signed artist with a serious budget to burn, chances are there’s better ways to spend you £$€… & even then you still need to make sure that doing so, will give you a solid ROI.
REMEMBER: At the end of the day, knowledge = power.
So should you appoint an agency & bypass the issue of marketing completely, then should there come a time where you can’t affords their wisdom… you’re scuppered. Therefore, if you want our advice, you’d be be better off taking all the money you’d be spending on hiring an agency, & investing it into courses/ training to equip you with all the latest music marketing know-how.
That way you’re not dependant – you’re self sufficient.
PS/ As people who have previously worked in some of the UK’s biggest marketing agencies, we can also tell you that a LOT will overcharge substantially for very VERY simple things – i.e. capitalise on the knowledge gap between you & them. Exactly why even if you do require another pair of hands, we’d suggest checking out freelancers or private developers first. Take it from us – if you do so, the majority of the time, you’ll be better off!
MISTAKE 4: A complete & utter lack of branding
Excuse the marketing spiel, but there’s NO just getting around this one.
Because with there being such a glut of music artists out there, you have no other choice but to stand out. And if you ask us (going by the current state of the music industry) a strong brand is exactly how you do so. Ironically, this is the part where most artists struggle. See, branding yourself as an artist these days isn’t so much the job of your music, but more creating an online identity. One that your fans can (A) relate to & (B) trust. It’s this which will help you stand out & get you noticed.
An easy way to think of branding is like cooking up a good cake, apart from all the ingredients are elements of you, your music & your image. For instance, some key ingredients of any music brand may be your: stage name, style/ genre of music & your overall sound + lyrical ability.
Whereas, some slightly more subtle ingredients, include things like: a specific editing/ photographic style you use, the look & feel of your website, your tone of voice when writing posts & certain aspects of your outfit. And it’s important to understand that it’s this identity that fans buy into. Don’t take this personally, but they’re not buying into you – they’re buying into how you present yourself & your final product. Fail to have a strong brand, & you risk coming across as random or slightly ‘bitty’.
Don’t believe us?
Check out some of the most popular artists out there. Madonna, Taylor Swift, Kanye West, 50 Cent – what do they all have??
A SUPER STRONG brand!
MISTAKE 5: Forgetting to trademark your stage name
The one area where consistency matters the most is your stage name. Fact – end of – no debate – zip-it.
Because when you really look at it, your stage name is what underpins virtually everything you do as an artist. Get a PR mention & what will be quoted? Your stage name. Design a website & what will somehow weave itself into your domain name? You stage name. On social media, what will fans be tagging? You stage name. When you release music, what will you be known by? You get the gist.
So, to get your stage name trademarked is just a matter of common sense, especially if you don’t want a MAJOR headache once you get popular because it just so happens to also be the name of another artist, or a company that trades in the same space as you. In short, trademarking your name should be your first port of call. End of.
To do so isn’t difficult either. In both the US & the UK, you can do a quick trademark search via the government website, which should immediately tell you whether you’d be wise to use a specific name. And granted, trademarking a stage name isn’t cheap. In the US especially, it can get quite pricey! BUT…
When you consider the amount off legal issues it prevents + how it protects your stage name from being used by anyone else without your expressed permission, it’s a bill that deffo worth footing… 100,000,000%.
Want to see first hand how it’s done? Jump into this video walkthrough of how to trademark your artist name in the UK (for the US it’s hardly any different)…
MISTAKE 6: Turning hella provocative just for attention
Ladies – it’s time for a serious chat, because this is something we see ALL too often.
Female artists who have serious talent, but as a last ditch attempt to get followers suddenly transform their social feed from an in-depth collage of their work, into a collage of semi-naked bikini pictures. And as disgusted as you may pretend to be at that last statement, you know exactly the pictures we’re referring to. Mhmm
Those pics where you’re try ever so hard to pretend the camera isn’t there pointing directly at your bare buttocks in what just happens to be an ‘insta-worthy’ location, when deep down… we all know that you do. #FakeCandid
Now, don’t get us wrong, we champion body confidence & self love in every sense of the word here @ Music Lowdown, BUT there’s a point where (yet again coming back to brand) you have to think: “hold up – why am I even doing this?” If your answer to that is indeed a last ditch attempt to get followers, then perhaps (as harsh as it sounds) you’re in the wrong career.
And the same goes for guys too. Flexing biceps or flash whips is great, BUT letting that overtake your music as the focus of your account, is (if you ask us) the opposite of good business sense… especially when it’s all rented!
Fact is, if you’re a musician (no matter how sexy you are) from a business POV, your music should be the main focus of your social presence/ public image.
Remember sexy people, stay on-brand!
MISTAKE 7: Botting your socials
And on the subject of obvious attention seeking, here’s another music marketing mistake to avoid: whatever you do, DO NOT use bots in any way, shape or form to try & manipulate your stats on social media. Why?
Because it doesn’t work.
And besides, not only are botted accounts incredibly easy to spot these days. Something that once discovered, really only screams one thing: “HEY, I’M DESPERATE AF!!” But it’s also an extremely easy way to KILL your social media engagement full stop. To understand why, you need to quickly understand how the algorithms on social media work. Typically they look something like this…
You submit a post. This post is shown to 10 or so people. Depending on how many of those 10 engage, it’s pushed out to more, & more, & more, & so on. All of which means that if you submit a post & have bought tons of bot followers (that by the way, never engage with anything you post), there’s a good chance that those first 10 chances you get to impress the algorithm will be lost, simply because all the bots get shown a copy of the post & do absolutely nothing. They ghost you. This tells the algorithm your post isn’t popular & voila, you get just 1 thing – instant karma.
This is the exact reason why you see artists with 80k followers that only get 6 likes per post. Heck, it’s even been said that music labels are using bots to boost the image of the artists.
Want to see how bad it looks? Jump into this video…
MISTAKE 8: Not having an official website
Social media – it’s essentially a HUGE website that’s in someone else’s hands.
Meta own IG & Facebook & Elon rules the roost on Twitter. So, as much as people say social media is the key to music marketing (trust us) it really isn’t. Having your own website (as less ‘down with the kids’ as it might sound) actually comes with a whole host of other advantages.
Not only can you make your website completely custom to you, which makes it the ideal tool for branding yourself, but it also allows you to retain one very important thing: control. Because let’s just say that you built a 1 million-strong following on IG & then over a period of 6 months, the platform died; people of all ages migrated over to TikTok & Zuckerberg was left hangin’. What would those 1 million followers be worth? Exactly – nothing.
Whereas if you have your own website, not only are you in charge of how many visitors you attract per month, but you can also build a mailing list & a online store off the back of it too. So not only does it function as a sales platform that can generate you funding for your next album, but it’s also somewhere that you… can be unapologetically you. Zukerberg can’t ban you. Elon can’t close your account – you can say what you like. It’s free speech & individuality all in 1 package.
Plus, it also doubles as a status symbol on socials too. Have a link to an official website in your bio & you’re immediately 10x more ‘followable’ (if that’s even a word?)
FYI: If you’re not one for coding, then you might want to check out platforms like Wix or Shopify. However, if you’re willing to get a bit more techy, something like Wordpress or Drupal, would probably be your best bet. Also bear in mind who owns the rights to your website. If you’re on a label, this is something you’d be wise to establish first before you invest your time in creating a site.
MISTAKE 9: Begging for streams like a lil b*tch
Don’t take the saying: “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” too literally.
Otherwise there’s a good chance you’ll be making yet another music marketing mistake – begging for streams. By this we’re talking about not asking, but telling your fans (like they’re some sort of sheep) to “stream my track now” & bombarding them with countless pieces of similar unengaging content.
Because from a fan’s perspective, this doesn’t come across as enthusiastic – more bossy if anything. To which most people’s natural reaction will be (you guessed it) “Oyy mate – F*CK OFF!!”. Hardly the reaction you’re looking for. Precisely why if you ask us, what you need to be doing instead is enticing your fans to engage with your music, perhaps through a merch offer, social media challenge, influencer marketing or some other form of passive marketing tactic.
A small difference that really does make all the difference! Because should you do so, you’re now persuading them to consciously make a choice to listen to your music, opposed to nagging them to death like a lil b*tch.
Hate to be so brutal, but what can we say – it’s the truth.
MISTAKE 10: Not setting up an LLC or LTD company
Chances are if you’ve got this far, then you’re serious about becoming a music artist.
& if that’s the case then you need to be taking the business side of things seriously right from the very start. You see, another incredibly common mistake music artists make is not setting up any form of LLC or LTD company – i.e. an entity that allows them to trade as a business, opposed to the normal working man or woman. A difference that has it’s benefits.
Tax benefits to be specific. So while of course, music marketing isn’t cheap, it is classed as a business expense. Something that you can potentially use to offset your tax bill. In other words, spending money on music marketing, may actually save you money in taxes, so as crazy as it sounds, the cost of marketing may not actually that big of a drawback.
FYI: We are NOT tax experts & are in NO way offering tax advice or any guarantees. If you want to learn more about taxes as a music artist, go see a qualified accountant. This is simply us suggesting a possible strategy.
MISTAKE 11: Settling for being a carbon copy
Music is all about individuality, so unless you’re giving the world something new – don’t bother.
Trust us when we say that individuality is the best strategy in the book for breaking an artist. Don’t believe all the junk they recite on YouTube. Because at the end of the day, you can put £100k behind a song & while you may get attention, you’ll likely struggle to gain fans. Why is pretty simple.
No one cares if you’re a carbon copy of Lil Uzi Vert, John Legend, David Bowie or whoever’s hot or iconic in your industry. Because (drum roll please) we have them already!! Imitating an artist or following the crowd makes literally 0 sense.
It’s this reason which is why we have a sticky relationship with Type Beats. Because while the producers behind these beats are incredibly talented, by imitating the sounds/ styles of someone who’s already current, you’re not pushing the genre forward; rinsing what’s already out is only going to make your genre stagnate!! Something that’s become especially obvious in rap music, which has understandably led to a lot of Hip Hop heads of the noughties coming out saying that: “all modern rap just sounds the same“. And you know what, we don’t think they’re wrong.
Point being that, copying the next man, especially in 2023, just ain’t gonna work. There’s only one way to success in the music business these days & that’s to stand out like a sore thumb.
And on that note, we’ll leave you with a little
speech rant from Tpain about how music is becoming increasingly repetitive. Enjoy…
Enjoy this article on music marketing mistakes & eager for more? Jump into our latest Latest Music Industry Advice, as well as all the knowledge we’ve accrued around Labels & Deals. Recently, we also wrote an article on Signing To record Labels + another on Questions To Ask Your Music Lawyer, which may also be a good read.