There’s no shortage of lists on how bands can get free music promotion, but I’d like to add one more. My hope is that this one is a bit more up to date, and shines light on some of the great free tools that have emerged in the past 2-3 years. If you have any other great tips for promoting music for free, feel free to add them in the comments below!
#1 Host a free virtual show With Stageit.com
Stageit.com has long been one of my favourite music marketing tools. The fact that it’s free is just the icing on the cake. If you’ve not used Stageit before, it’s essential a ‘Skype for bands’, where you can perform gigs from your kitchen to fans all over the World. Many good friends have used it and also found that it was a good way to raise a few hundred dollars for a couple of hours of performing.
#2 Add a Bands In Town app to Your Facebook Page
BandsinTown is a must-have app for your Facebook Page. In short, it displays all of your upcoming gig dates in a slick-looking Facebook App. A great way of passively raising awareness of your upcoming shows.
#3 Create a FanDistro project to help charities & reward your fans
FanDistro is another favourite of mine. After creating your project page and sending it out to your fans, each fan receives a unique link, which they can send to their friends. If their friends then share your music or buy any of your products, they are rewarded with free merch and 20% of the sales go to a charity in the fan’s name. FanDistro is a brilliant way of increasing your social media engagement – artists like Cosmo Jarvis generated ~19 new fans for each fan who shared his music on the site!
#4 Build an app for your music with BandApp
Created by a good friend, Adam Perry, BandApp is a great platform for getting a free mobile app for your band.
#5 Find some gigs using BandWagon
Bandwagon is a fantastic platform for finding gigs and applying for them for free online. Currently UK focused only.
#6 Upload your music to Soundcloud
Soundcloud is arguably one of the best sites to host your music on, especially now that they’ve announced heavy integration with many of Google’s services. If you haven’t already, upload your music on Soundcloud, tag it well, and encourage fans to leave comments on the tracks.
#7 Run an Adwords Campaign (with a £75 free voucher)
I have to admit, Google Adwords tends not to be a very effective way to promote music, as you’re relying on people clicking on your ad when they’re searching for something else. However, Google do offer free £75 vouchers (which you have to pay £25 to activate), so it might be worth a try. If it were me, I’d spend this on targeting terms like “gigs in London” if I had a gig coming up in London, or on similar artist terms like “bands like Metallica”. It’s a long shot, but it may work!
#8 Shoot a video & upload to video hosting sites via One Load
Oneload is a huge time saver that can help you get more exposure from your videos. It’s completely free and enables you to upload your video to 15+ video hosting sites, such as Vimeo, YouTube, Viddler, and MetaCafe, all in one click. You no longer have to waste hours upload them one by one – and ultimately your video appears on more video hosting sites, enabling you to reach a slightly larger audience (some ‘niche’ video hosts receive a surprising amount of traffic).
#9 Create a professional EPK using Presskit.to
In my opinion, presskit.to offer the slickest looking press kits currently available to artists. If you want to send your music to promoters, press, and others in style, creating a free presskit.to EPK is a must. What’s particularly nice about these EPKs is that they’re designed responsively, so they look great on any device.
#10 Search through Reverbnation’s opportunities and apply
There are a lot of services like Music Xray, Sonicbids, and Reverbnation who list opportunities for artists to apply to. They’re all great – and I recommend giving them all a shot, but Reverbnation is probably the most extensive feed of opportunities. The downside is that it’s probably also the most competitive. If you have a few minutes spare, have a scan over their opportunities here, and apply to any that look like a good fit.
#11 Apply to play at MIDEM’s upcoming festival
Every year Midem puts out a call for bands to play at the annual music industry conference. This is an excellent place to promote your music & learn about the industry.
#12 Create a Dizzyjam store & sell your merchandise for free
Dizzyjam is a free service that allows you to build a merch store to sell your merch directly to fans online. They take care of all the printing and shipping, you just upload your designs and you’re ready to go.
#13 Reward your fans & raise money using Pledge Music
Pledge Music is a great service for simultaneously raising money for your release (or tour, or video) while developing loyalty with your existing fan base, by offering them cool experiences and gifts for ‘pledging’ on your campaign.
#14 Find 3-4 relevant forums & get stuck into the community
There are literally hundreds of forums for musicians on the web. Pick 3-4 and actively participate in the community. You’ll ‘meet’ lots of like minded artists, and find lots of good tips on getting gigs, and building your fan base.
#15 Setup a fangate for your Facebook Page using Woobox
I’m a big fan of Woobox, and have used it many times to increase social engagement for my projects. While some of their tools are paid, you can quickly install a like gate and run basic social competitions free of charge. Like gates area good way of encouraging people to ‘like’ your Facebook Page, in return for accessing some exclusive content, such as a free download.
#16 Use search.twitter.com to find & talk with potential fans
Twitter is an exceptionally powerful tool when used correctly. I encourage all artists to learn how to use search.twitter.com to their advantage. Use it to find potential fans in areas where you’re performing – or similar artists who may be able to connect you with promoters or good contacts. The unique thing about Twitter is that it’s not unusual to reach out to people you’ve never spoken with, making it a great way to break the ice with potential fans, and contacts.
#17 Schedule some tweets using Hootsuite
When you have a few minutes to spare, logging in to Hootsuite and scheduling a few tweets can be a great way to ensure that you’re continually communicating with your fans. For artists with a global audience this is particularly important as it means you can reach fans on Twitter in different time zones.
#18 Write a guest blog post on a high profile music blog
There are a handful of artists who I only know because they blog heavily on music industry websites. Tommy Darker, Brian Hazard, and Simon Tam are all musicians who I probably wouldn’t have connected with if it weren’t for their participation on blogs like Music Think Tank. If you enjoy writing and have some constructive criticism or ideas on improving the way in which the music industry functions, why not put a post together on one of these sites?
#19 Create a list of relevant bloggers & befriend them
In most genres there is still a collection of music bloggers who influence the listening decisions of many people. This is most certainly the case in the R’n’B and hiphop World. Use sites like Hypem to create a list of potential bloggers, and then begin communicating with them (but don’t jump straight to promoting your music).
#20 Create a list of promoters in your area & befriend them
You’d be surprised how quickly you can compile a list of all the key promoters in your town. A few years ago I had the (tedious) task of doing this for the whole of the UK, and that took about 8 hours. That said, it was worth it. Start building a database of promoters in your area, and then create a plan to be-friend them, perhaps by adding them to a Twitter list and talking with them, or inviting them for a coffee / lunch.
#21 Write a sponsorship proposal & email 10x local companies it
Sponsors can be a great help in providing your band with a bit of extra cash. The key is to understand what you can do that will help to grow their business. If you have a small number of fans, pick a local sponsor that doesn’t make you seem like a sell out (alcohol sponsors are always a good choice). The more fans you have, the more options there are.
#22 Find some zero-cost promotional partnerships
I’m a huge fan of zero-cost promotional partnerships. This is where you partner with someone and offer them a favour, in return for them offering you a favour, for free. A great example may be to speak to local stores and ask if you can put up posters in their store, in return for you promoting their services or listing them as a sponsor for an upcoming gig.
#23 Find a list of upcoming music industry conferences
Music industry conferences are a goldmine for artists. Not only do you have the smartest minds in the industry sharing their case studies and tips on what does and doesn’t work, but you’ll also meet lots of music industry contacts. Check out this list on music industry conferences, pick one, and go! If you want to keep it free of charge, stand outside the front and just chat to people as they walk in / offer them demos. You’d be surprised how few artists do this, and how valuable an opportunity it is.
#24 Set up a charitable event
While there are many altruistic benefits to supporting great causes, it’s also a fantastic way of getting the support of local press. Host a charitable concert, donate album sales to a charity, or even use something like Reverbnation’s Music for Good.
#25 Set up a mailing list on Mailchimp
If you don’t have a mailing list set up, fix that. Now.
#26 Get some free business cards & use them as download cards
There are many services like Vistaprint that offer free business cards. A cool trick is to order several hundred of these with a custom design that includes a URL to download your music. This can be a cost effective alternative to download cards.
#27 Start your own blog
I’ve written about why artists should blog before, but in short, it’s one of the best ways to build up a passive audience, communicate with your fans, while getting countless opportunities for you and your music. The only thing I will point out, that I’m sure many bloggers will confirm, is that you really do get out what you put in. Sticking a few rambles up on Tumblr is not going to cut it.
#28 Build relationships with key bloggers by commenting on their blogs
There are many people who I only know through them commenting on my blog posts – some of them have become very good friends over the years. For the sake of a 30-60 seconds, commenting on other blogs can be a great way to plant seeds, that may blossom into fruitful relationships.
#29 Give your music away for free on torrent sites
This one is slightly controversial, and I understand not everyone will like the sound of it, but I’m of the belief that your music is your business card. Sure, it costs money to make and you want to redeem that money, but I think a longer-term strategy is more valuable here. Seed your music on torrent sites, and encourage it to be shared far and wide. The more fans you have, the easier it will be to negotiate better gigs, sponsorships, and other high value opportunities.
#30 Find DJs to remix your music & post their mixes on Mixcloud
When I began my career as a dance music producer (after years of drumming in a metal band…?!) I managed to get my music released on various labels by offering to remix their existing artists. I’d simply approach a label and say “Hey guys, I’d love to do a remix of your artist X on the house. If it’s of interest could you fire over the raw files and i’ll get to work”. It worked so effectively because it was essentially free promotion for the label’s artists. Looking at this from the other side, try to get DJs to remix your music, and then you (or they) can then promote this on sites like Mixcloud.
#31 Read some music marketing blogs to sharpen your skills
There are many fantastic people sharing their tips on what does and doesn’t work in music marketing. I recommend following Brian Hazard’s passive promotion blog, Michael Brandvold, and Ariel Hyatt. Follow these guys and you’ll be in good hands.
#32 Learn what’s working and what’s not with Next Big Sound
Despite my reservations against vanity metrics, I am a big fan of Next Big Sound. If you use it correctly, you can identify lots of handy information on what is and isn’t working in your music promotion strategy.
#33 Set up Google Alerts
All bands should have Google Alerts set up on their band name – find out what fans are saying about you online by getting a real-time or weekly summary of all mentions of your band name across the web.
#34 Be active on niche social networks like Pinterest
Despite being largely populated by foodies and interior decorators, Pinterest receives huge amounts of traffic, and is relatively uncompetitive for musicians. The challenge with promoting music on Twitter and Facebook is that you’re competing with every other band – this isn’t the case on Pinterest. Remember, the hardest place to sell a book is in a bookstore.
#35 Record a cover of a popular song & upload it to YouTube
A lot of artists I know are very against recording cover songs, as they feel it comes across as selling out, or not being able to write original music. Some of the more successful artists I know use covers in an incredibly smart way – to attract the attention of likely fans, and introduce them to their original music. There may be 100,000 searches on YouTube for Bastille’s new song. If your fans are also Bastille fans, consider covering one of their songs to grab the attention of those 100,000 people looking for Bastille.
#36 Get free Internet radio play with Jango Airplay
Jango (or ‘radio airplay’) is a huge network of online radio stations. If you head over to their site you can get 100 free radio spins free of charge. For tips on getting traditional radio airplay for free, I thoroughly recommend this great post that EmuBands put together by interviewing Ally McCrae from BBC Radio 1, and Julie Barnes, a radio plugger.
#37 Organise your own meetup
There was a good post on FanDistro’s blog recently that suggested that you should become the hub of your local music scene by hosting meetups for the community. Having organized a few myself in London, I can definitely vouch for this.
#38 Ask for help
It sounds simple, but most artists are too afraid of asking for help. If you don’t believe me, I recommend watching Amanda Palmer’s great talk from TED, where she explains how asking for help has helped her music career.
#39 Tag your fans in photos on Facebook
The image below is of a genius marketing campaign by DJ Tiesto. He put up a banner of himself in the entrance to one of his shows, and his fans got photos taken in front of it. Afterwards, he uploaded all of these photos to Facebook for fans to tag themselves in. This is so effective, because the friends of the fans who were tagged would have then been exposed to DJ Tiesto. Another easy, free, powerful tactic.
#40 Use BandPage Connect to update all of your profiles in one go
Bandpage Connect is another fantastic time saving tool that enables you to update all of your social profiles (Facebook, Reverbnation, Last.fm, Twitter, Myspace etc.) in one go. There are several other similar services, but Bandpage Connect is probably my favourite of the bunch.
#41 Order some free flyers
Similarly to business cards, there are some services like Club Flyers that offer free postacards and flyers. While I suspect they may have an advert for the company on the back, this is a good way to print a bunch of flyers for you gig free of charge.
#42 Recruit an intern / street team to help get the word out
The limitation with music promotion is that you only have so many hours in the day, and so while there may be hundreds of options to promote you music, you need to prioritise – or outsource. Recruiting a street team is a great way to encourage others (your fans) to do your marketing for you.
#43 Host a Google Hangout with your fans
Google Hangouts on Air have become increasingly popular over the past six months, especially as they can be automatically uploaded to YouTube afterwards. Why not host a hangout with a bunch of your fans to do a Q&A or studio update?
#44 Do something remarkable
This may be the single best piece of advice in this blog post, as it essentially applies to every piece of advice here. By definition, people remark on things that are remarkable. If you want to spread word of mouth about your music, you need to be doing things that are worth them talking to their friends about. Lady Gaga is a master of this – while her music may not be particularly remarkable, her costumes, videos, and lifestyle certainly are.
#45 Post your gigs on local Gumtree / Craigslist pages
While Gumtree may not seem like the coolest place to list your gigs, it gets a huge amount of localized traffic, which is perfect for promoting your upcoming gigs.
#46 Try out a new (controversial) service
When uStream and ChatRoulette came out, it was musicians who jumped onto the opportunity and reaped tonnes of PR value out of them. Keep an eye on emerging services and think creatively about how you might be able to use it to get coverage for your music.
#47 Improve your merch designs
Your fans are unlikely to buy your merch if your designs suck. Hire a designer to make them so good that even someone who’s never heard your music would want to wear them.
#48 Enter music company competitions
Admittedly, most competitions suck, but not all. Keep your eye out for good competitions and offers hosted by music companies. FanDistro and DiscMakers recently gave away $500 worth of free CD duplication & t-shirts to give away on FanDistro.com. Tip: follow the Facebook Page of artist service companies to keep tabs on competitions that may be worth entering.
#49 Record a video testimonial for music services you use
Virtually every service built for musicians has a website with testimonials on it. Most of these sites list their testimonials on the home page, in front of vast numbers of people. Do these services a favour by emailing them a quick testimonial that they can use on their site. It’s only a little bit of extra exposure, but it’ll sure help and is a great way to establish a relationship with these companies.
I hope these tips have all been useful - if you have any other tips, please post them in the comments below. As an aside, I’m going to be re-launching TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk over the next few weeks as a free platform that ranks different music marketing tools, based on what artists believe are the most effective. If you want early access to the new version of the site you can request beta access over on The Musician’s Guide.