Music marketing handbook: a guide for indie record labels
Indie label promotion guide
Successful music marketing campaigns drive traffic and sales for independent record labels. Whereas majors have big Google ads budgets, resources and time, a smaller record company faces challenges. We have analyzed our campaigns to give indie labels an easy guide to a successful music marketing strategy. Our guide will help you to promote your music.
Let’s start defining key elements of a good marketing plan:
Brand awareness, social media platforms, connection with Digital Selling Points (DSPs) and finding and using the right data.
The value of a brand: the Coca-Cola example
Having a strong brand is of the utmost importance. Brands as Coca Cola, Apple Music or Mcdonald’s all have one thing in common: their brand value is higher than the combined value of all their physical assets. What would be worse? Coca Cola losing all their warehouses overnight, or by some miracle all people in the world who know Coca Cola suddenly forget what Coca Cola is?
Let’s start by building a strong brand.
Here are a few tips:
- Be consistent in brand image
- Quality over quantity
- Overwhelm your customer
An easy one to guess, but so important. Make sure all online impressions of your label are consistent with your brand policy. Same font, images and tone of voice. Make use of a proper style guide for your brand, and keep it up to date. Consistency means following those rules like clockwork; all staff involved should live by these rules. A modern-day music marketing agency can’t work without the rules of a style guide.
The importance of corporate identity
A good way to guarantee brand consistency in the music business is to create a corporate identity manual. Make sure all employees have a copy of this and make sure all moderators of your social media channels know how to follow the guidelines set out in the corporate identity manual.
Quality over quantity
Most important for any indie record label or independent artist is a good A&R manager who understands the target group and has a talent for spotting and signing upcoming artists. Find out if there is an upcoming show of emerging talent nearby and watch them play live. A live show is a good way to see how the fan base interacts with the band and to find out what people love. Instead of playing countless demo’s in the office, live shows are a much better way to listen to music.
Here are a few tips:
- Gather feedback on your releases. For example by creating a poll on your Facebook page or any other social media platform.
- Plan releases at least 4 weeks in the future to ensure good promotional efforts. 4 weeks is needed to contact curators of DSPs, create and share content on social media, collect pre-saves of your music and connect with the fan base. A true fan is always waiting for something new.
- Use data to find out what triggers fans to listen to your music. Like Spotify analytics, Facebook analytics or Songstats.
- Schedule weekly meetings with your fellow A&R managers. Learn from each other.
Creating a solid release schedule is a combination of good A&R, data collection and interpretation and planning ahead of time. A platform like Songstats is very valuable; it shows the most important metrics on all major DSPs such as Amazon Music, Apple Music and Spotify. It shows playlist adds, stream counts and overall performance on DSPs and social media. A must-have for the music industry.
Social media platform
Online is the most important way for fans to discover new music. A strong social media marketing strategy should encompass the following:
- Consistency (brands, photos and videos, tone of voice)
- Timing: when messages should be posted to reach maximum visibility
- Tagging, use of hashtags
- Use of the Spotify & Apple Music shout-out guide
- Creative material: stories, videos, backstage footage, user-generated content
- Using media such as TikTok or Snap to reach younger target groups
Connection with sales portals: how to get your music featured
Where majors all have their own dedicated channels to streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music or Amazon, an indie label has to find the right path to pitch music. Here are a few tips:
- Spotify for Artists: pitch your own music at least 1 week prior to release to ensure playlist features in Release Radar and Discover Weekly
- The Kwettr Distribution deal includes promotions to Beatport
- Timing is key: pitch at least three weeks in advance in case of a single and at least 4 weeks in case of an album release
What DSPs like: a tour schedule, a biography and images of the band or artist.
Almost like a modern-day radio station; Spotify has tons of playlists (both user-generated and curated) which contain a high value in music discovery. A playlist curator is a person who adds and removes tracks from Spotify playlists, but in most cases, they get help from AI tools. Some of the curated playlists are semi-curated; a selection of tracks from which an algorithm chooses which tracks are suitable for you.
How to get in playlists?
- User-generated playlists: companies like Kwettr have a wide network of curators. These curators place tracks in their playlists, in return for a payment. Tracks stay in these playlists for a certain amount of time, generating an x amount of streams. Rates are calculated based on the amount of added streams. These are organic streams; no bots or fraudulent activities.
- Spotify curated playlists: you need to pitch your song during the week of release using Spotify for Artists. This is not a guarantee to end up in the largest playlist (with the most subscribers) but it does get your track included on your Release Radar.
Does Apple Music have an option to pitch music? For an independent musician; no. But distributors like Kwettr can pitch your music for a feature. Kwettr also offers email marketing for their indie labels.
How to pitch your music?
Using Kwettr, you can pitch music to Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, YouTube Music and many more. All you need to do is create a free account, submit music and enter our music pitch forms. Kwettr music marketing services are available for all indie labels who sign up, without any extra charge on the standard weekly pitches.
A hot topic these days and a useful marketing tool: is the use of influencers on social media. Countless videos have gone viral just because a famous person on TikTok or YouTube used a specific piece of music. In fact, popular challenges like dance competitions and mimicking dance moves are often created by large influencer marketing companies. They look spontaneous, but often all is orchestrated.
Going viral on TikTok often means an increase in streams on a streaming platform such as Spotify. A few things to note:
- Services like TikTok have a very low royalty rate, so it pays off to drive traffic to Spotify
- Instagram and Facebook can be monetized too. X (formerly known as Twitter, does not have license deals in place with publishers or record companies.
- Influencer marketing is very expensive
There are basically two types of influencer marketing companies: agencies and platforms.
An agency is a company that usually works with retainers and on a commission basis. They have a large network of influencers on specific social media and know very well how to reach potential fans. Most of the agencies also have a relationship with music streaming platforms. Any musician who hires an agency knows that all is taken care of; their goal is to reach the target audience through compelling content on social media. Some of the biggest musicians known today started their music careers with influencer marketing to break through, for example, Dua Lipa.
The downside, as you may have guessed, is the costs. Agencies are very expensive, they charge a fee for their services and on top of that there is a fee for the influencer who makes the music video or other type of content.
On the other hand, there are platforms for influencer marketing. They charge a fee for the use of the platform and you need to pay the influencer. In some cases you can select the influencer you want to work with, the type of content and the budget. Some of these platforms even have ChatGPT incorporated to enhance the music marketing effort.
It is a modern way of music promotion, following the age of music bloggers and any traditional music marketing company. A new way for an independent musician to get new fans. A different approach as opposed to a Facebook ad or YouTube ads.
There are many ways for a music promotion company to promote your music and reach fans. A Marketing tool such as influencer marketing can be very effective but expensive, brand value and brand consistency are very important and getting the perfect promotional tools is challenging for music industry professionals. Kwettr marketing and distribution provides you with an account manager who helps you create the best promotions for your music.