There are three main routes of DIY artist promotion: marketing your music on social media, email newsletters, and the old-school method of hanging posters and handing out flyers. You should be doing all three– here's a guide to each for bands and artists just starting out.
Plan your promotion
What are you pushing? Your debut album? An upcoming show? A single? The how and when of your artist promotion will depend on what exactly you're promoting.
- A campaign for album promotion should start at least two months ahead of the release. Ideally, though, you'll roll out a 13-week campaign like this one.
- Promotion for an upcoming show should begin at least a month in advance. Try creative methods of promotion for an extra boost. If your show is booked last minute, consider marketing it as a surprise event, be sure to thoroughly blast social media or even reach out to fans individually.
- To share a new track or video with your fans, choose a digital media platform (e.g., Bandcamp, SoundCloud, YouTube) that's appropriate for the content and your audience, then use social media to promote it.
Tips for better social media results
Anyone can use social media for artist promotion free of charge. Accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat don't cost anything, after all. While there are options for boosts and sponsored posts, you can employ these strategies to get better results every time you promote your music – without paying any fees.
1. Vary your content
2. Encourage engagement
Ask your fans what they think of the new single. Poll for setlist picks. Single out a superfan, thanking him or her for the support. The more action you get, be it comments or likes, the higher your post engagement soars – on Facebook, more traffic means more people will see your post.
3. Connect your content
When planning out how to promote your music on social media, don't think of platforms like Facebook or Twitter as mutually exclusive. Consider the lot of them as a collective entity – your entire social media presence. List links to other accounts on your profile on every platform, and use each in a way that helps promote the rest.
When you upload a video to YouTube, for example, head to Facebook and Twitter to promote your music to your followers. You can drive more traffic to your accounts by encouraging fans on one platform to check out the content available on another.
4. Time your posts for maximum reach
Each platform has its own windows of peak times when more users are engaged and content reaches a wider audience. You can use a program to schedule your content in advance (many are free), or just make a concerted effort to post specifically during peak usage times.
Posters and flyers
Concert posters and handbills (small flyers) are still relevant marketing methods in the digital age, especially in the independent music realm. If you've got an upcoming show booked, at the very least, it should be advertised on a poster in a high-traffic area at the venue you're playing.
Promoting new music, however, is different, and the old-school method of handing out CDs isn't very effective (and can be costly). Instead, try handbills with clever artwork with information about where to listen to your tunes for free and how to find the rest of your social media pages.
1. Tips for creating eye-catching art
Include all the relevant info without overdoing it design-wise. Go for simple but attention-getting; if you're feeling uninspired, look to the stellar posters and flyers of other bands for ideas. For newbie poster-makers not especially skilled in design, check out online tutorials or use a free graphics program that effectively guides beginners.
If you don't feel your skills are up to par, seek out a local artist looking to build his or her portfolio. The artist might be willing to barter for show tickets or merch. A "best design" contest is another option.
2. When and where to flyer
About a month before your show, hand out flyers at like-minded concerts, especially during the post-show exit rush. Also try bars and clubs where potential or existing fans are hanging out. (Note: These are good opportunities to hang up posters, too – just ask the staff beforehand.)
With Facebook and other social media platforms increasingly pushing paid promotions, email newsletters remain one of the most reliable ways to directly reach your fans.
1. Grow your list
Encourage signups at your shows at the merch table. Post on social media about your newsletter. Include an option to sign up on your website or Bandcamp. See our post on how to get an email list going from scratch here.
2. Use a service
There are plenty of free options, like MailChimp, which caps the no-charge version at 2,000 subscribers but offers a handy Facebook plugin. Mailigen allows a list of up to 5,000, but the design is somewhat basic. Others, like GigMailz, can be a little costly, but features like targeting subscribers in a specific location (useful for tour notices) may make paying worthwhile. Check out the pros and cons of the five most popular services here.
3. Designing your newsletter
If you can afford it, hire a professional to help you create a template you can add information to yourself. For tight to nonexistent budgets, try bartering with an up-and-coming designer. If you go the DIY route, look to tutorials from your service, and make sure you can follow the content tips below.
4. Creating content
Your newsletters are a means of directly connecting with your fans in a way that feels more personal than a general post on social media. Offer exclusives, like an early viewing of a new video or free merch in person, in thanks for their loyalty. Incorporate plenty of visuals to keep things fun.
Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-bred music journalist currently based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where she juggles owning a venue called Club 77, freelance writing and, of course, going to the beach as often as possible.