Promotion is so tough. I say this a lot, but I don’t like being salesy or promote-y. It feels fake and I’m not good at it. I mostly write and record songs, not put together “PR packages” (is that even a thing people say?).
So I did some brainstorming and came up with five creative ways we musicians can get our music out into the world. These are by no means completely original, but these are things I’ve tried and I’ve been happy with the results.
1. Write guest posts on music blogs
By writing guest posts on music-related websites (like Sonicbids, for example), I’ve gotten a lot of visits to my blog and official music website. There have been hundreds of referrals from music advice websites — most of these blogs include an author bio at the bottom of each article (see below!) with a link to my website and my blog.
Now, that’s not why I write for these websites. I started music writing because I find it super rewarding to help my fellow musicians, and now it’s grown to be a large part of my music career.
Getting those referrals is sort of a side bonus to the gratification and the paycheck writing brings.
2. Start an SEO-friendly blog
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” So an SEO-friendly blog is one that Google and other search engines like to show on the first page of searches. And if you can start and maintain a blog on your official music website, that could bring Googlers to you.
You don’t have to sell out to do this. You can write about what it’s like being an indie musician, tell stories from your tour, and share anecdotes from the studio. First, write the post. Then use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner and LSI Keyword Generator to help you find words and phrases that you can naturally include in your writing.
The whole idea is to drive organic traffic to your blog, which can lead people to your music page.
3. Collaborate with other musicians and songwriters
Not only is collaborating fun, but it also benefits all parties involved. Let’s say you write a song with a friend and you’re both super happy with it. You both decide to record and release it.
That’s some free exposure for both of you. It’s natural cross-promotion -- your fans hear of your friend, and your friend’s fans hear of you.
And it doesn’t have to be co-writing. You can produce other artists, you can play shows together (I’ve done this), you can ask other musicians to remix your songs (I’ve done this).
Collaborating fosters community and gives everyone in that community exposure to new fans.
4. Give away free stuff in exchange for an email
People love free stuff. At least I do. So if you can find something your fans would love, you can give it to them for free in exchange for their email address.
Email marketing is the thing right now, and it’s been the thing for a while. It doesn’t have an algorithm like social media platforms because people use email for productivity. They need their emails to show up in the order they arrive.
So you can give people early access to your music, free merch or tickets, or behind-the-scenes footage of you in the studio.
Bottom line: Just be you
This is something I’m drawn to more and more every day. I’m sick of the pressure to put on a face for promotion’s sake. I’m tired of “keeping up the brand.”
And it turns out, being yourself can really attract people. When you’re yourself just for the sake of being yourself, people resonate with that. We’re all compelled by brutal honesty. We all can relate to some part of everyone else’s story.
So try being yourself instead of protecting your image. You’ll feel better and you may get some new fans.
Caleb J. Murphy is a songwriter and producer based in Austin, TX., and the founder of Musician With A Day Job, a blog that helps part-time musicians succeed.