It‘s hard to find music marketing strategies that actually work. Most blog posts about this topic focus on shallow tactics and hacks, ignoring the bigger picture. But that‘s not enough if your goal is to build a successful artist career in the long run. In this definitive guide, I‘m going to share with you the three music marketing strategies that work in 2020 and beyond.
The difference between strategies and tactics (and why this matters)
The reason why 99% of upcoming artists focus on tactics and hacks rather than music marketing strategies is quite simple: Desigining and executing a strategy is much harder to do than copy-pasting the latest social media hack.
So what‘s the difference between a music marketing strategy and a tactic? Here‘s a great definition that clearly separates the two terms:
„Strategy defines your long-term goals and how you’re planning to achieve them. In other words, your strategy gives you the path you need toward achieving your (…) mission.
Tactics are much more concrete and are often oriented toward smaller steps and a shorter time frame along the way. They involve best practices, specific plans, resources, etc.“
– Source: clearpointstrategy.com
The problem with tactics
Tactics are sexy. They come with flashy clickbait-headlines like „how to gain 1000 new Instagram followers every day“ or „the five music marketing hacks nobody talks about (but are highly effective)“. Don‘t you instantly want to read an article like that?
The problem is that these hacks won‘t help you sort out your artist-brand. In no way will these tactics help you stand out from all the other music producers out there in the long run. They‘re designed to distract you from what you should really work on. Tactics might sound like a great shortcut to success, but all they really do is steal your valuable time.
The advantage of strategies
Strategies aren‘t sexy at all. They don‘t try to sell you quick and easy results. They’re hard to design and execute. But they work, and that‘s what makes them so much more valuable than tactics. Don‘t get me wrong, you will also need to work on tactics, but they should derive from an overarching music marketing strategy. This is what a lot of people get wrong when they try to understand what music marketing means.
So stay with me here and see which three music marketing strategies are going to work in 2020 and beyond because most likely, all the other artists around you will get stuck with tactics.
The 3 best music marketing strategies that work in 2020 and beyond
I‘ve distilled three strategies that I believe are going to move the needle for you. In a way, they‘re timeless, but in my opinion they work better right now than ever before. Let‘s get started!
1. Be a big fish in a small pond
The first music marketing strategy is about carving out your own niche. If you try to become one of the top 10 artists who produce big room peak time Techno, you‘re facing a lot of competition. How will you manage to stand out?How sustainable is that genre and what happens if it goes out of fashion in the next years?
Let me give you a counter-example: How many music producers do you know who produce avantgarde-electronica with the assistance of a self-designed artificial intelligence? I know exactly one artist and that‘s Holly Herndon. She owns that niche (even if I‘m sure that she isn‘t alone there anymore).
If you’re not familiar with her work yet, it might sound like a leftfield art project to you that doesn‘t generate any income. But don‘t be fooled: She‘s one of the most in-demand artists in contemporary electronic music.
You don‘t have to be that extreme
The example of Holly Herndon might feel a little bit too experimental for many of you. I‘ve used it to illustrate my point, but you don‘t have to go that far down the road of specialization. Take a look at Kamikaze Space Programme (interviewed on this podcast) who plays Berghain regularly but still „owns“ his little niche of glitchy but slamming Techno.
The idea behind being „a big fish in a small pond“ is that you‘re known for a certain sound in a sub-genre that isn‘t too crowded. It‘s easier to stand out if you don‘t have that much competition.
Here are some questions that help you identify your sonic niche:
- What comes natural to you in terms of composition and music production?
- What is something in your sound that you don‘t hear that much in other people‘s music?
- How can you take your unique qualities one step further and go where no one else dares to go?
- What are aspects of other genres that you could introduce into your genre of music?
- Can you merge two styles of music production in your genre and create something that hasn‘t been done int his way yet?
2. When everybody zigs, zag
This music marketing strategy focuses on differentiating yourself from the current mainstream of your genre. The easiest way to stand out is to do the exact opposite of what everyone else is doing. This strategy is based on a very interesting book by Marty Neumeier called ZAG. What’s important here is to not only do something different for the sake of it.
Think about it strategically and ask yourself the following questions:
- What is something that everyone else in your genre is doing but somehow doesn’t resonate with you at all?
- How could you offer an interesting alternative?
- What are some things that you already do differently but haven’t highlighted yet in your music or branding?
Let me give you some examples: When Techno is getting faster and faster, you could take the opposite direction and create something slower but still heavy. When House music is mainly based on the same type of stock-vocals, start collaborating with talented singers in your area and record your own little library. When every electronica artist around you tries to copy Bonobo, go for different instrumentation, and use less common harmonies.
3. Become a visionary thought-leader in your space
The last music marketing strategy that definitely works in 2020 and beyond is a tough one, but super-effective. Becoming a visionary thought leader in your space means you have to have the guts to develop your idea of where the genre is heading and actively promoting it.
You can’t do this half-heartedly, you have to go all-in. The reason why this is so effective is that it can turn into a shared vision that others start to believe in as well. This is, in essence, why Seth Godin’s “Tribes” concept makes so much sense in the sphere of music.
So how do you become a visionary thought leader? Here’s what I think are some critical ingredients:
- You have to develop a unique perspective on the future of your genre or at least a certain aspect of it.
- Don’t rush it, use pen and paper, or at least a digital document to formulate your ideas and develop a clear vision.
- Speak about your ideas with others in your genre and observe their reaction. If they at first refuse it but then start to show interest and “kind of get it”, you’re on the right track.
- Slowly start promoting your ideas publicly. First of all, use your existing audience on social media and your email list, then move on to use interviews and podcasts as platforms to promote your vision.
- Be ready to deal with criticism and haters because your ideas might sound crazy to some people.
- Make sure you’re promoting a positive vision; extreme negativity might bring some extra attention in the first place, but nobody enjoys following a grumpy person that constantly complains about things.
How does this look like in the real world?
Let me give you an example: I’ve personally decided to go in this direction myself. Even if I’m earning a full-time living as a mixing and mastering engineer, I believe that the “age of sound-engineers” is over.
But I believe that’s a good thing! We’re moving into a new age of mentors, where more experienced music producers and engineers are sharing their knowledge and services with the ones who aren’t there yet. The whole business model is shifting (which is why I’m offering 1-on-1 coaching and share everything I know with you).
My vision sounds crazy and even offending to some “old-school” engineers and even some young cats who think that they’re the new hotshot who artists look up to. To me, that’s completely silly and I support the empowerment of artists 100%.
Conclusion: Whatever strategy you choose, commit to it long-term
These music marketing strategies are a great starting point for you. Now you have to choose the one that naturally resonates with you. Then, you need to break it down into action steps.
What I believe is important here: Don’t expect a fast return on investment of your time and energy. These strategies are designed to work in the long run, at least a year from now, often much longer. But that’s exactly their power. Once you’re “there”, nobody can push you from your throne.
Putting it into action: The best music marketing strategies in 2020 and beyond
So what should be your next steps? Here are three things that you can do right away to get started. I’m convinced that it pays off massively to invest time and energy into executing a music marketing strategy like the ones I’ve explained above.
1. Analyze your current strategy and positioning
- Do you already follow a music marketing strategy? If so, what characterizes it?
- How are you positioned in your genre? Is there something that lets you stand out from the rest?
- What are some weak spots in your branding and positioning?
- Collect a list of bullet points and see what your opportunities are.
2. Decide which of these music marketing strategies feels the most natural to you
- Commit to one of the strategies above and choose the one that resonates with you. This can only work if you really stand behind it.
- Be ready to play the long-term game here and don’t expect quick wins.
3. Start implementing the strategy by breaking down the next steps you need to take right now
- It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with such a big strategy. So start breaking it down into sub-tactics and action steps.
- Start with the first small steps and build up momentum to move in the right direction.
Alright that’s it. Now I’d love to hear from you: Which of these strategies do you think works best and why?
Let me know in the comments, I read everything.