Music Marketing in 2022 - Does Anyone Even Know What They’re Doing?
Spoiler Alert: Maybe Not.
This is a question I have been trying to answer for a few years now, both for myself and the artists I work with, without much success. The topic of “effective marketing” has been at the forefront of many online discussions this week in light of Halsey’s recent statement about being forced to make “fake viral” TikTok content in exchange for being allowed to release a new single. This really brings up the question of when an artist is off the hook for creating gimmicky content. Does it take having a number one hit? Multiple number one hits? An entire catalog of hits plus a headlining stadium tour? When is just simply making great music enough??
It seems that, in this current music industry climate, all artists from the very top to the very bottom are all facing the same pressure to do something extreme to get attention. This subject came up the other day when I was in a write, and it really got me thinking about what I am seeing people do to grow their fanbase that:
Isn’t a publicity stunt
I definitely do not claim to be an expert in this field, but I AM lucky enough to work with some artists who are really on their grind on ways that are getting results. These are not the immediate results of a "viral moment", but the results of putting time into a few different activities, consistently, for at least 12 months. Many keep up this work plan for several years and have now hit that coveted six-figure follower count, and it’s all from making time for the right things, being themselves, and finding ways to connect to fans that are genuine. There is no magic bullet for breaking through, but there are some things I keep seeing artists do that can help up-and-comers find the fanbase they need to earn money (and maybe even recoup their recording costs).
I would say the 3 key things I see successful indie artists do to expand their fanbase are directed towards 2 goals:
Finding new fans
Keeping existing fans interested
That seems to be accomplished by what I would call the “Growth Triangle”, which has 3 points that feed into each other:
Consistent Release Schedule
Regular Social Media Posts
That triangle would look something like this:
If you’re continuously spending your time on these 3 things, you’re setting up an ecosystem where each point feeds in to the others---you record music, which gives you great songs to play at your shows, which gives you a reason to bring up your social media, which gives you a reason to ask people to follow you, which also gives you live content to post, which gives your existing fans more content to consume, which gives them something to comment on your page about. The toughest part of the grind from what I hear friends of mine complaining about is the endless task of figuring out what to post. If you have a consistent release schedule and a healthy show calendar, those 2 things generate a lot of content on their own between video you take, to clips/photos you are tagged in, album art/photo shoot content, music video content. The amount of other content you have to whip up out of thin air becomes a much shorter list. Live shows can feed back into your release schedule because they give you an excellent forum to try out new material…you can see in real time what people are reacting to and adjust your release schedule as needed.
Depending on how much time an indie artist has to devote to growing their fan base (which realistically needs to be a LOT if you want to get the ball rolling) I think these goals would be realistic:
Play 2 shows per month (even if it’s just a writer’s round)
Post on social media at least every other day
Release a song every 8 weeks
Every artist has a different path to success and this strategy does not account for those lightning bolts or crazy lucky breaks that some people have. BUT, it does prepare an artist to capitalize on whatever lucky moments come, and give them a lot of firepower to blow surprise opportunities wide open. I have always believed that Thomas Edison quote that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, so this daily consistent hustle is key. I have seen it pay off in real life here in Nashville, and the work hours don't feel as daunting once you finally start seeing results.
Good luck out there to all the artists who are waking up every day trying to make something happen, as well as all of you that have been setting a great example of how to get s**t done. I’m right there in the creative trenches with you, and we all deserve a massive high five for every day we choose not to quit. If anyone has any additional insight to share, would love to hear about it in the comments below. Cheers guys!!