The Fine Line Between Promoting and Spamming Online: How to Tell the Difference

Posted by Tyler Allen on Jul 16, 2015 09:00 AM
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We've all had this similar experience: you follow a promising artist on Twitter, only to receive various spammy autoresponders in your inbox, begging for a listen or download of their latest track. Or, you subscribe to a musician's newsletter and are bombarded with daily reminders, events, and news that isn't really necessary. In the marketing world, these messages that you can't escape are called interruption marketing. This includes pop-up ads that make you want to break your computer, radio and TV commercials, or unsolicited emails that somehow escape your spam folder. In other words, they're everything you hate about the internet.

And when musicians use it, it's everything you dislike about over-eager musicians trying a bit too hard to push their work on you. The helpful opposite to these messages is referred to as "permission marketing." The term was created by marketer Scott Godin, who gives all the details on that term here.

Permission marketing is the term used for advertising messages that the consumer has given permission to receive. Sounds nice, right? This includes a newsletter with an opt-in feature, or a blog where users have the option of going to read the posts as they please. By definition, since users choose to follow a brand's social media in order to receive messaging, social media posts are also a form of permission marketing.

Permission marketing should be your go-to avenue for marketing your music! Here are some ways to ensure that you aren't spamming on each channel – and how to ensure you're getting your work across properly.


Let's start with the go-to social media outlet that is Facebook. Facebook is obviously a great platform for artists. It's recommended simply because it's a main digital channel for people to consume information, but it's also great for its advertising features, which can help ensure your posts are getting seen or that you're getting some plays on your videos.

That being said, it's also a platform that can get kind of spammy.

Too many Facebook events

Events are a difficult tool in Facebook marketing. You want to use them to gauge results and see who can actually make it to your event. However, they're often used in a mass-message format. Folks just check off every name on their friend list, and next thing you know, you're getting an event invite to a DJ gig in Omaha, NE, when you live in Florida. It just doesn't make sense.

As a result, people tend to ignore these requests, so artists have to rely more on promoted posts, graphics, and the like to promote their eventThe fix here is to only send Facebook invitations to those in your city or region. Also, go other routes mentioned above – do a promoted post with the event link, or even create a graphic that showcases the gig information.

Too many posts per day

Ah, the good ol' quality over quantity mantra. It certainly rings true here. I have a lot of clients and musician friends insist that they need to be posting more – I've even had clients outright say "spam 'em." While a real-time channel such as Twitter might need a multi-message approach to an event, release, or news, Facebook doesn't work that way.

Go and check your timeline right now. Do it. You'll likely notice that some of those posts you are seeing on your feed are from yesterday or maybe even earlier this week. Facebook's algorithm is built upon engagement rather than real-time. A post may reappear later in the week on occasion, for a number of reasons.

Therefore, you don't have to post a message over and over or post more often, because fans might see it later in the day, or in some cases, later in the week. Keep your posts in line with your brand, but the industry standard seems to be one to three posts a day max. Also, make sure you're following that 70-20-10 rule to ensure you're on the right path.

Hitting up industry people via messages

I've managed social media for record labels, and the inboxes are a mess of mixtape links and EPKs. Which, compared to the "Hey, sign me!" messages that don't have any links or further information that are somehow even more common, make them not even look as bad as they are.

[5 Simple Social Media Etiquette Tips to Live By]

So, stop and think about it. Is a Facebook message really the way a label is going to find you? Whether it's a small indie label, a major label, or any other sort of industry person or organization, unsolicited messages begging for attention are kind of automatically considered spam. Yes, there might be times where labels ask artists to message them on Facebook – I've done it before with label clients. But more often than not, they'll ask you to email them or use a submission form on their website (the keyword here being "ask").


Twitter is real-time, so unlike Facebook, that post you made at 10:00 a.m. on Monday will be long gone by Monday evening. Therefore, if you need to repurpose a certain message or content, feel free, but it's still easy to spam on Twitter – and spam on Twitter is arguably more common than any other outlet. Here are a few ways musicians usually spam on Twitter, and how it can be resolved.

Posting too much promo

I love Twitter because it's real-time. You can have a conversation in your timeline, and it's no big deal. You can also live-tweet an event, or partake in a Twitter chat and it's not too foreign or annoying to followers. It's commonplace. However, when you post the same link over and over in rapid succession, that's pretty spammy. The 70-20-10 rule comes into play yet again. Ensure that you're posting about yourself and networking other artists' content, and then maybe one post a day (if that) should be promo.

There are also some creative ways to do promo that's not outright asking for views, such as retweeting people's reactions, screenshotting the number of views on your video, or tweeting a thank-you message. Or maybe even throwing out some behind-the-scenes footage or photos from your recording session. Tie it together without being too promotional!

Sliding in the DMs (and autoresponders)

I recently went to follow a band I had found on SoundCloud by chance. Loved their work, but was met with an automated direct message (DM) that said that they only allow followers who pass a Captcha test and was led to a website... where I then had to do a Captcha just to follow this random band on Twitter. Which, obviously, is a bit much! The irony here is that they were likely doing this to ward off bots and spammers, but, in doing so, they became kind of spammy and a little too complicated.

This may be an extreme case. The most common case is when you follow an artist and you get the automatic DM that lets you know their single is on iTunes or streaming on Spotify. While you should always thank fans for a follow, be personable! Write them directly, thanking them and commenting on their tweets. (Maybe you're from the same area, or you're both vegan. Comment on it!) Be real and be authentic.

[4 Exceptional Musician Twitter Accounts You Can Learn From]


Instagram is another real-time channel, but it's also not really that big of a direct marketing channel. Most of your fans are following your Instagram because they want to see your personal side. Sure, they want to see performance clips and tour announcements, but they also want to see your cat photos and your sweet #GymFlow selfies. So, you kind of have to tread lightly on being too (outright) promotional on this channel.

Posting too many concert posters

Instagram is a fine place to promote your event poster, but please don't do it every other hour, or even more than once a day. Again – find other ways to promote your event. Maybe do a concert flyer, and then a live performance photo with body copy explaning the gig. Space it out while still making it relevant.

DMs, comments, and more

The great thing about Instagram hashtags is that they allow new people to find your work, and allow you to find cool folks to follow. The bad thing is that they bring about a lot of spammers. A lot of people will watch the #IndieRock #HipHop #Music tags and bombard your comments with links and "link in my bio" messages. Don't be that guy. Just as we discussed with Twitter, be real, authentic, and if you want to network, leave a sincere message about the track, photo, their work, or whatever it is you want to convey.

Newsletters and email

Emails were the first spam targets, right? Whether you're doing a newsletter or simply writing the press or a label, you want to ensure you're being concise and professional. Your emails need to be to the point, well balanced, and not too frequent.

Emailing too often

If a fan subscribes to your newsletter, you need to respect the number of emails you send. Once a week may be fine, but it's likely overkill. Every other week or even monthly is likely the sweet spot. You should also let fans know how often they'll get the newsletter when they opt in. You can even title it as a weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly newsletter to ensure they know what they're in for.

[Rock Your Email Marketing: The Dos and Don'ts of the Ever-Daunting Band E-Newsletter]

Too long or too many PR/label emails

If you're submitting your work, keep your cover letter concise. But more importantly, don't follow up every day. Wait a week, and then follow up. Maybe, if you think you have a chance, even follow up twice. After that, it's likely that they're either dealing with a large influx of submissions, or they just passed on your project.


These are just a few small ways that you can ensure that you are promoting rather than spamming. Check out my website to learn more on proper digital etiquette and how we can work together to ensure that your profiles are clean rather than veering on the spam side.


As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more at

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Topics: social media, Music Business 101, Marketing & Promotion


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