I remember the moment when it clicked. It was June 2018 when I realized I needed to completely rethink how I was approaching building a music career. There was a huge piece missing from my career development education and I knew that if I didn’t make an effort to fill that education gap I would be stuck where I was: exhausted, burned out, frustrated, and depressed.
The missing piece? Digital marketing.
Over the last 2 years of digging deep into digital marketing education for musicians, I have learned that not very many of us understand how powerful this stuff is, what it could mean for our career and why we should invest in learning these skills.
I’ve come up with 6 reasons why musicians should learn digital marketing and how these skills can open the door to real success for your career:
1. Digital Marketing Gives You Full Control of Your Music Career
Learning digital marketing skills, specifically as they apply to music, puts your career back into your hands. You no longer have to abide by what a label or management company wants from you and you can be free to truly be yourself creatively and find the people who will appreciate your music for what it is, not what a label presents it as.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great independent record labels out there that come alongside artists and make their visions happen. I don’t want to say that all labels are bad, but inevitably, with a record deal you will be sacrificing something.
Also, contrary to what many artists think, handing off the work to a label doesn’t let you off the hook. You still have to work, show up for your fans, write the music of course, and promote yourself. That’s right, labels won’t do all the promotion for you. In this streaming and social media renaissance, fans expect to interact with you regularly on the web and they can tell when you’ve handed off your digital content management to someone else.
Now more than ever, it is important for musicians to learn digital marketing skills, even if you want a label to sign you. They’ll be looking for how much success you’ve achieved on your own first. Many labels won’t even consider signing a band unless they have a large following, a strong online presence, and a successful career already in motion.
2. Digital Marketing Offers Consistent and Sustainable Growth
Leveraging digital marketing for your music career can provide you consistent and sustainable growth. With the power of digital analytics, data metrics are more robust than ever. You can extract information that can make a huge difference in the growth and financial success of your career.
For instance, a grassroots artist running a video ad campaign on Facebook and Instagram can use facebook’s analytics to track how many people have watched 75% of the video. This metric is crucial in determining which people are really into what you’re doing and have a higher chance of becoming a dedicated fan, streaming your music, coming to your shows, and buying your merch.
The old model – grinding it out on the road in as many cities as possible, trying to play for as many people as possible – is way more expensive, and you have no way of knowing if the people in the crowd are really the “right” people. By using the power of digital marketing and data analysis, facebook’s algorithm will learn the psychographic profile of your ideal listener. You can then “retarget” those people and follow up with more relevant content to bring them further into your musical world. You can know exactly who digs your music and let the machine-learning do its thing. The cost per result is exponentially more efficient than old-school grinding it in a van till you drop.
For an artist that is further along, digital marketing allows you to know what stage of relationship each fan is in. Some fans may be ready to purchase a higher ticket merch item, while others are still getting to know you and just want to hang out on your live streams for a while before they buy a merch bundle.
Someone who just watched 75% of your video may not be ready to buy merch or a ticket, but they may be open to liking your page and watching a live stream during the week. Someone who has been watching your live streams every week may be ready to sign up for your email list. Someone who has been reading your emails and absorbing your content for a while may be ready to make their first merch purchase, and so on.
Digital marketing allows you to outline the progression of a listener’s journey – from stranger to fan – and gives you the power to meet each listener exactly where they are in their relationship with your music at any given time. This provides you with the ability to track your growth and create a career that is sustainable.
3. Digital Marketing Helps you Find REAL Fans
Remember that example about 75% video viewers? It’s true, digital marketing gives you the power to find the “right” people for your music and fast-track your music straight to them. It eliminates the guessing game. This allows you to gain REAL fans faster and more efficiently so you can have more time and energy to create great music.
It’s nice to have support from your friends and fam, but we all want a real crowd of people outside of our inner circle that is into what we’re doing. It’s also incredibly motivating to know that the music you’re making is something people will love. You can step into your creative process with confidence and be excited about sharing what you’ve been working on when you know that support is growing every day!
4. Digital Marketing Builds Stronger Relationships
It sounds weird to say this, but “digital” marketing can actually deepen your relationship with your fans. There is nothing like being in person at a live show and no matter how advanced tech gets, it will never be able to fully replace that human element. However, digital marketing can provide more unique ways to connect with your fans on a personal level.
It all starts with the music.
People fall in love with your music first and then they want to know the person behind it. By implementing digital marketing strategies such as email marketing or an album launch funnel, you can create unique experiences and touchpoints with your fans that are actually relevant to them and their journey with you. These experiences tear down the 4th wall and allow you to connect authentically with the person on the other end. This makes spending time with your fans at shows much more special because you’ve built a solid relationship with them in between.
The business side of this is also affected. Keeping that relationship healthy means more people come to shows and more people buy merch.
(Side note about shows: digital marketing allows you to see where your fans are located geographically so you can plan your tour routes smarter. You can also target specific areas you want to grow your fanbase in as well.)
5. Digital Marketing is Creativity
“Marketing” can be an overwhelming, corporate, and sometimes uninspiring word for creative people. In reality though, marketing is the avenue for creative people to make an impact in their industry.
Marketing is professional communication and storytelling.
I’ve found that if someone is creative in one area, they are most likely creative in another. Marketing is another channel for creativity to flourish. It is a way for musicians to create a storyline and build a whole world with which their fans can live and interact.
Sure, there are numbers and data and certain details that may be challenging or uninspiring, BUT the story those numbers tell and what those details become when combined is something incredibly creative, unique, and inspiring. By applying your creativity in a different method of expression, you’ll find that your artistic muscles grow stronger in ways you never thought possible, which you can then take back to your music.
6. Digital Marketing Improves Transferable Skills
Ultimately, our goal is to be able to support ourselves with our music, right? And we all know the reality of the road it takes to get there.
Going full-time with your music doesn’t happen overnight, and digital marketing can get you there faster and more efficiently. However, just like anything else, it still takes time. Luckily, the skills you learn through digital marketing can be transferred to any other field. I know several independent musicians who work part-time in marketing elsewhere while they are building their music career.
“Digital” skills can also provide you with opportunities to work from home or do freelance contract work. This means if you’re on tour and still need some cash to pay the bills, you can put in some hours anywhere you have a good internet connection.
Digital marketing is a huge game-changer for today’s musicians. It has opened up opportunities for many bands and artists to have real careers that they can make their own. It has broken the 4th wall and opened the door for more genuine connection and community building between artists and their fans. Digital marketing has opened up so much opportunity for growth financially, creatively, and relationally in the music industry.
This is truly an incredible time to be a musician; it has never been more possible to have a real career as an artist as it is today. You really do have the power to build your music career the way you want and it really can support you at the same time. I truly believe that if you are willing to challenge yourself and expose yourself to new things, you’ll realize you’re capable of more than you thought.
If you’re looking for more information about how to educate yourself in digital marketing for musicians, check out Indepreneur. It changed my life, and it just might change yours too.
About the Author
Shekinah Toebbe is an artist, songwriter, musician, and performer who has been a part of many different creative projects and communities. From old school rock and roll to modern pop-punk and metal, her energy and enthusiasm have inspired many. Recently, her new love for digital marketing has fed her passion for encouraging and empowering other artists to succeed in the development of their careers in a way that is relevant to the music industry today.