How to break into the music industry

Funny lemur playing music with a trumphet

© The Shortlisted

As an independent musician in a market that is often described as “saturated”, it’s easy to feel defeated before you’ve even begun: no matter how good your music is, if you don’t promote it cleverly, it will get lost in the flood.
Social media can be a great way to get started, but it’s not the only way, and there is a wide range of other tips and techniques to help you maximise your musical presence and potential, finally break into the music industry.

How to promote your music online: 8 tips

1: Social media… of course!

  • 79.5% of Internet users worldwide are active on social channels, so using social media platforms wisely is of the utmost importance when self-promoting your music.
  • Comment on other people’s social media posts, keep the comments on other music-related pages concise and relevant and do not spam thoughtlessly. This will help your name gain traction and brings traffic to your sites.
  • Post on your own profiles consistently: whether you are creating a video presentation, a tweet, an Instagram picture, a short clip on Snapchat or a Facebook update, make sure you are consistent within your communication. Link your social media accounts to each other, ensuring that your music reaches the maximum amount of people.
  • The same way you can use social media to get a job, you may take advantage of Facebook & co. to build your fanbase and reach out to the right people in the music industry; LinkedIn is particularly useful to make professional connections.

2: Keeping your finger on the pulse

  • Search for the newest platforms and apps to share your music: by regularly scouring the app store and the 2nd page of Google for keywords such as finding new music and music discovery you may just come across a gem.
  • Analyse each platform: keeping track of your different music apps and platforms is important too, and also checking analytics to see which platforms are reaching the highest levels of engagement.
  • Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and keep trying and experimenting until you get your music in front of the right people!

3: Radio stations

  • It’s not all about The X Factor and BBC talent shows: radio airplay is still a great way to get your music heard. Many national and local radio stations have shows set up specifically to showcase new talent.
  • If you decide to connect with radio stations, do it professionally and not like a dumb: think about what you would never say in a job interview and start from there to present yourself properly!
  • Make sure your promo CD is polished and ready to be heard. Send it to the directors of all the radio stations you are interested in being featured on and keep track of who you sent it to. You can follow up if needed, but don’t be a spammer!
  • University radios, online radios and community radio stations are also a great way to start out and often lead to being played on bigger commercial radio shows as they want to see signs of effort and some sort of career progression. Their decision to play your music may sometimes rest on how much radio time they have, rather than on the quality of the music itself.

4: Music blogs

  • Consider other people’s music blogs: having your music featured on a well-known music blog can lead to a growth in listeners. Do some research into what music blogs often feature the music of a similar genre or style to your own and reach out.
  • No matter what music genre you’re into, you’ll always find some online music publications that can help you promote your work: the magazine that is hosting my article, The Shortlisted, has featured some very interesting independent music artists over the years, like British popstar Josh Kumra, Norwegian rockstar HM JohnsenIrish pop musician Graham Miles, and, when it comes to classical music, Albanian cellist Redi Hasa, Emmy award nominee Sarah Class, British Soprano Joanna Forest, the cinematic instrumental duo AVAWaves and Italian film score composer Stefano Fasce.
  • When pitching your music to specialist publications, always keep it professional: include links to your social media accounts as well as polished tracks on reputable platforms like YouTube, Spotify and SoundCloud.
  • Be especially careful when handling your own PR: pitching journalists without enclosing all the relevant information is a bit like applying for a creative job without enclosing your work portfolio: you’re not going to make it if you don’t get the right documents… right!
  • You can also start your own music blog and use it to promote your work: having your own space to document your musical journey is a great way for the interested parties to track your progress. Update your blog consistently – start slowly by posting at least monthly; then, if you find you have a lot more things to say then increase the number of blog posts but don’t over-commit; you could also post links to what you’re listening to, a little bit of personal information about you, maybe some pictures of your trips abroad and bits of your own musical process like new tracks, rehearsals, gig schedules.

5: Mailing lists and newsletters

  • Newsletters are a great way to grow your fanbase and reach out to your listeners; an opt-in mailing list will help keep your fans and followers in the loop and ensure they are aware of your new tracks and projects as soon as you release them.
  • Growing your mailing list is easier than you think: when you meet people that seem interested in your music, simply ask if you can send over a sample via email.
  • You could also include a newsletter signup form on your website, social media pages and at the end of each blog post you write: as your mailing list grows, so will the number of people your music reaches.

6: Personal branding

  • All your communication — whether a newsletter, a social media post or a blog article — should be branded: build a clear personal brand for yourself and your music and keep it simple and consistent.
  • When designing a logo, it might be useful to have a look at the principles of colour theory to decide what palette and shades better communicate your values.
  • Some good examples of well-branded music communication are Maxim of The Prodigy and Jukebox the Ghost singer and cartoonist Tommy Siegel: even though they both have a second career, their websites and social media channels are perfectly branded and consistent.
  • Use the same avatar on all of your sites, social media channels and platforms and make sure you cross-link these.
  • Don’t forget to include the links to your various online platforms in your email signature and at the end of blog posts, as well as a sign-up form to your mailing list.
  • Last but not least, don’t neglect the power of word of mouth: in the old days of electronic dance music, musicians would promote their live gigs by street flyering!

7: Digital marketing budget

  • While many of these techniques are free, it is useful to put aside a small amount of money each month for digital marketing.
  • Paying for music promotion is a guaranteed way to get more listeners. There are several services available out there, and it is worth choosing one or two to get your music heard.

8: SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) 

  • Search engine optimisation, better known as SEO, is another great way to draw traffic to your sites and, again, to attract new listeners.
  • The basics of SEO involve using keywords and terms to help your website rank higher up on search engine results; SEO is an often overlooked way to maximise the chances of your music being heard and loved by your future fans and followers!

★ Enjoyed this list of tips for wannabe rockstars? Read our interviews with real rockstars to get more inspiration!

About The Author

Founder of Open Mic UK

Chris Grayston is the founder of Open Mic UK, the UK’s premier singing competition for unsigned acts. He is also an A&R scout for The X Factor and Sony Music Entertainment, as well as the author of The Secret to Success in the Music Industry.