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5 Online Marketing Essentials for Musicians

With so much noise and confusion in the world of online marketing I thought it might be useful to lay out some basic starting points to form the foundation of a successful campaign. Here are 5 things that, in my opinion, are essential to maximum online exposure.

1 - An active mailing list with an incentive to sign up.

Here’s the basic idea: You exchange value to build a relationship with people who will become your fans, friends and customers. Your mailing list is how you stay in contact with people to build that relationship and how you offer them opportunities to buy in at a deeper level. You should offer a clear incentive to people on your site for signing up to your mailing list. You might consider offering them a free download or maybe something more creative. Use your imagination. Just make sure that what you offer has value to the person who signs up. This is an important part of the game, so don’t bury your signup form.  Put it out in front. 

Click here for an example from a site that I built for artist Stoll Vaughan.

You can set up a mailing list through companies like Constant Contact, Fan Bridge and Reverb Nation

2. - A Myspace, Facebook and Twitter account.

Myspace has declined in popularity, but it’s still necessary for artists and bands. It is still the quickest way for a person to get from point A to your music and people still expect you to have a Myspace page. When I worked in music licensing I always went right to an artist’s Myspace page because I knew exactly where to find the music. If you don’t want to worry about keeping your page updated and active, but you don’t want to be absent from Myspace then you can have a div layout done that hides your last login date, fan comments, etc. Ask me for more info. Facebook and Twitter are very popular right now, so it’s an obvious choice to have a presence where most of your present and future fans are. Twitter is full of very cool marketing possibilities, but that’s a whole other discussion.  Just know that it can be the quickest way to reach the highest number of people. 

3. - A Website with traffic analytics.

This should be the epicenter of your online campaign. This should be where you drive traffic to and this is where people should go to buy from you. Use your other social networking sites to drive traffic to your website. Track the traffic with either Google Analytics or a comparable setup. With most setups you can view how much traffic you are getting, where it’s coming from, what pages people visit, how long people stay on your site for and more. Google Analytics is free and easy to install on most sites. Need help? Contact me and I’ll point you in the right direction. If you don’t have a website, or are looking to set up a new one, then I highly recommend SquareSpace, which is very cool and very reasonably priced. Alternatively I build custom flash sites if you have a larger budget.

4. - Digital Distribution.

One of the first things you should do if you’re releasing your own material, is to sign up for digital distribution through either CD Baby or Tunecore. This will get your music to all the major players in digital downloads like iTunes, Amazon and a number of others. Be aware that it will likely take in the neighborhood of 6 weeks to get your music on iTunes, so don’t wait around - get on this! I recommend in most cases that artists link to iTunes for their download sales. It’s reliable, buyers trust it, and most customers already have an account set up, so the purchase is faster and smoother. If you go to or you’ll see that I’m not the only one that thinks this is the way to go.

5.- A Blog.

Blogs are very useful for a number of reasons. They’re a great place to post news, music, videos and all kinds of other forms of content. They’re easy to update and you can set them up for free at sites like One of the cool features you can set up is to have links to your blog posts automatically sent out on Twitter, Facebook and Myspace. It’s also easy to set up automatic links on your blog so people can share your posts on their facebook page, social bookmarking pages like delicious, digg and many more.

Get those five thing in order and you’re well on your way. Of course there’s a lot more to learn, but remember, the more you learn the more powerful you become. Resist the temptation to give up when you get frustrated. Take a break and then get back to doing your homework. If you take the time to push through the confusion then you’ll achieve clarity and you’ll understand how and why to use the tools that you have available to you in order to get what you really want - and help other people get what they want.

If you’ve got any questions about any of this then feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to help you out.

For more info on basic marketing strategy for musicians, check out my blog at

Reader Comments (8)

Bandcamp replaces the need for both myspace (media player) and a website (metrics reports) and does both really well. (So well they don't even need to pay me to make posts like this sticking up for them.)

The only reason to get a Myspace is for the instant google rank -- that's also a very good damn reason to still get a myspace. But Christ almighty, it's the biggest, most expensive graveyard online today...put your music up (and sell it and collect email addresses) at Bandcamp and use your Myspace to point people @ your Bandcamp right off.

I know there's 10,000 different ways to skin a cat but I advocate this one as the fastest, easiest and most effective one for new artists.

Facebook isn't worth much unless you're 1) working with a 4-digit fanbase or 2) paying Facebook to help push your brand/band. Otherwise, it's just one more social media shitwork task that artists don't need to be wasting time on.

Twitter is dope but only if the artist actually spends that much time online. I don't recommend Twitter to dudes who aren't already living online through one device or another. But we both know, if you're having someone give Twitter rote updates like "Check out our album" and not actually interacting with people, that's worse than not being there at all.

August 5 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

This was a solid post, I didn't realize I'd criticized you at such length until I hit the submit button.

But, I really do think the conventional wisdom here is 6-12 months behind the curve. Artists can now do more with less and they need to know that.

August 5 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Thanks for the comments Justin. Here's my take:

Re: "The only reason to get a Myspace is for the instant google rank"

That doesn't make sense to me. If you shouldn't have a Myspace page then why would you want your Myspace page to come up in Google rankings? If you have a unique band name then your Myspace page will probably rank somewhere on the first page of search results for that name. That won't help you gain many new fans because if someone searches your name then a) they probably already know who you are and b) your website / youtube videos / blog / etc. will also come up in those same results anyway. If you think your Myspace page is going to come up in search results for something that will give you traffic from new fans like "new music" or "electronic rock" then you're mistaken. The number of new fans that you're likely to gain as a result of Myspace search engine rankings is a number very close to zero.

The best reason to have a Myspace is because people expect you to have one and will often go there as a quick way to check out your band. Not very many people find out about a band and say "those guys were cool, I'm gonna go home and check out their bandcamp page." Maybe someday, but not today. More on bandcamp later...

Re: "Facebook isn't worth much unless you're 1) working with a 4-digit fanbase or 2) paying Facebook to help push your brand/band."

Simply not true. A very large percentage of your present and future fans are using facebook regularly. You can go to and download an app where you can send messages through Twitter and Facebook at the same time. As I said in my post you can also set up a free wordpress blog to post to Facebook, Twitter and Myspace at the same time.

Re: "Twitter is dope but only if the artist actually spends that much time online."

Not true. Here's a story on how Indie musician Amanda Palmer used Twitter to make $19,000 in 10 hours. . Since she tends to have a busy touring schedule, I'm pretty sure she don't spend inordinate amounts of time in front of her computer. $19,000 in 10 hours sounds pretty dope to me!

Re: "Bandcamp replaces the need for both myspace (media player) and a website (metrics reports) and does both really well."

It does neither. It doesn't replace Myspace for the reasons I stated earlier. It doesn't replace a website as of yet by their own admission. This is from their FAQ:

"My band already has its own official site, can I integrate it with Bandcamp? or,
What about all the other typical band site sections, like upcoming shows, news/blog, bio, photos, etc?

That's all coming (and then some), but we decided to start with the most important, and the most technically challenging, part first: music. If you already have an official site, we respectfully submit that Bandcamp might be an improvement upon its music section, and suggest you simply let your Bandcamp site be your music section (you can see here that the band 20 Minute Loop is doing exactly that)."

Bandcamp looks to me like it's got a lot of potential. I like some of the features. There are a couple of things which scheve me out about it, but I'll refrain from commenting until I hear back from them on an email that I sent them earlier.

Although I disagree with most of what you said, I certainly appreciate you taking the time to participate in the discussion. Thanks!

August 6 | Registered CommenterScott James

The value of social networking on MySpace (facebook, etc) should not be discounted. Basically, any social networking site with a "friends list" has value. Its another medium and market to add to your data base and fan base. People that subscribe, add, or whatever the network is offering to connect people are the ones that will eventually form your core fan base. Afterall, they came to you and joined you. Thats golden.

August 8 | Unregistered CommenterDon Martin


1. Facebook. Sure, there's a lot of people on Facebook. Did I say there wasn't or something? Finding them and getting access to them -- not so easy. They're barraged by input daily, even more so than MySpace, and unlike MySpace, it's often very difficult to get around in the Walled Garden that Zuckerberg built. (This is exactly why many people prefer Facebook to Myspace, after all.) You can't just sit down and "add' people all day. They need to come to you and that follows from awareness.

As for the Tweetdeck, there's different contexts for FB and Twitter. On Twitter, people expect constant updates. On Facebook, that's annoying to most users. I think using them both for the same stream is a bad idea and I haven't seen any evidence or case studies to indicate otherwise.

2. Twitter. Really, dude? AMANDA PALMER? She's a perfect example of what I'm talking about -- someone who's already plugged into the internets in her daily life. Jesus, just look at her twitter feed, how many people she's interacting with, how often she updates. "In front of her computer" is a strawman and you know better. You've probably heard of iPhones and Blackberries by now, right? Right.

3. Bandcamp. Bandcamp doesn't offer metrics? Of course it does, I check in on them for multiple accounts. Myspace does not do that at all, Bandcamp does it quite nicely.

Bandcamp has a media player? Check. Bandcamps media player can be used as a "widget" and posted to other sites? Check. Bandcamp can collect email addresses for you? Check.

Throwing their FAQ at me is cute, but doesn't change my point. Bandcamp + Blog = no more need for MySpace.

August 8 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

@Don Martin

Have you tried importing your friends list from MySpace yet? The core question here is ownership. You own an email list. Myspace owns your friends list.

August 8 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I found Justin and Scott's debate in the comments more useful than the article itself. Good to see lively discussion on here!

August 16 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew McMillen

The number of micro blogging websites is increasing day by day with the increasing number of internet users. Most of the internet users are joiners of any of these websites. Twitter is the most commonly used micro blogging social network. The number of its users is increasing day by day because of its ease of use and the number of benefits, it provides to its users. Some people join twitter merely to extend their work because professional related to every field can be found on twitter. Proper interaction with professionals of a specific always results in some common benefit. Sharing of information can be of a lot of help for people. Musicians especially new singers and bands find twitter very helpful if the know the exact way to market their music. A lot of new fans can be found and even by proper marketing online sale of albums is eased. To get all these benefits simple public dealing techniques should be kept in mind. Some people try to benefit themselves by using twitter but in reality they don't because they try to influence people by using technical aspects but not the general rules for dealing people. A new musician should create his account on twitter and then start twitting. He should interact with people especially the music lovers and then by sharing some interesting information, he can become friend with them. He then can share his music with them, hence making his twitter friends, his fans. In this way the number of fans can be increased in a few days. Free mp3 songs and free CD's can be offered to fans on the home page of twitter. This can prove the fastest way of getting famous at expense of nothing. The only thing a musician needs to do is to regularly visit his twitter account.

Start sharing music with thousands of people on

January 2 | Unregistered Commentertwtmuzik

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