Musicians are always looking for a leg up in the industry. There’s a million different companies, people, and tools available that claim to help you build a career and grow a fanbase. But what can someone do who’s just starting out or brand new?
With the rise of new companies and technologies coming available each week, how do you navigate what to focus on and what can you do as a musician to grow when you don’t have a huge marketing budget?
In this article we’ll take a look at the 3 most overlooked tools that musicians can use to grow. While these do take some time to get used to and learn, it’s easier than you think to get started. Let’s dive in.
1. SEO/Keyword Research
Most people have heard the acronym SEO at some point in their life. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a powerful skill to have if you’re doing anything online. This includes musicians.
A lot of artists think SEO is just for big brands or corporations. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, anything you do online should be tailored to how search engines, specifically Google and Bing, will view your content.
Imagine having a 24/7 assistant working tirelessly to get you leads, fans, or business partners. Now imagine you didn’t have to pay them anything AND their work compounded over time to ramp up and increase results.
This is the power of SEO done correctly. Entire businesses have been built with SEO and all you have to have is your own knowledge and experience to get started.
What To Do?
If you’re an artist or producer having a blog on your website is an easy way to get started. Blogging is an artform and with so much saturation and so many websites, cutting through and getting traction isn’t an overnight process.
The trick is to start going after topics that have what are called long tail keywords. These are low volume search terms that people are searching for that you can become the authority on.
Imagine you are a singer songwriter who sounds a lot like Matt Nathanson. By using simple keyword research tools you can see all the search volume for various terms related to Matt Nathanson.
Let’s take the search phrase “matt nathanson lyrics” which has only 60 volume, but a high click through rate.
It’s a low difficulty word to rank for so if you wrote a comprehensive guide on all the Matt Nathanson lyrics, patterns in his songs, where he gets his lyric ideas from, etc… you could easily start to rank on the first page for this search term.
Now when people land on your article about Matt Nathanson’s lyrics, they see you also do music and hey, what do you know, you sound a lot like him and you’ve just made a potential new fan.
Now imagine doing this with every artist who you sound similar to, for every topic that is relevant, over the course of 1 year. You would definitely have an awesome lead gen tool to bring you potential new fans every day.
Pro tip – don’t go after search phrases that have only 1 answer, for example, “How old is Matt Nathanson.” Google prioritizes what are called “featured snippets” so the answer will be shown at the top of the page in a big bold box meaning your article will never get clicks.
Other SEO Resources
2. Email Marketing (Done Right)
You’ve definitely heard people talking about email marketing and why it’s important to have an email list. But are you leveraging it to its full potential or just building a list of irrelevant emails?
When thinking about your email campaigns the most important thing to focus on is high quality content that people will actually want to read. If you’re anything like me, you look forward to certain emails and skip over others. Why do we do that?
Analyze the emails you look forward to opening and figure out why. It’s probably because they provide valuable information, a great offer on something you actually want, or it gives you inspiration.
So do you really think emailing your list about your new single coming out in March is going to have people dying to click to open? Not unless there’s some captivating story or content around the release which gives people incentive.
Better yet, build all 3 reasons people open emails into your email campaigns – provide valuable information, give them an irresistible offer, AND inspire them. Then you’ve hit the trifecta of making others feel good which is all you can really hope for.
Why would you give someone your email address? In order to get something in return of course. These days the ebooks, free courses, and digital downloads are all popular as “bait” in exchange for people’s email address. So what can you do to set up a nice inflow of fans/leads/partners that want to give you their email?
Let’s say you’re an artist with a website and blog. You could create a free ebook or course centered around the type of music you make and what your process is. Or create a monthly free membership with unique content that only people on your mailing list receive.
Then set up a landing page or banners on your website to encourage people to join – clearly explaining why they should. You can take it a step further and run ads back to your landing page, thus increasing the inflow of emails you are collecting.
Pro tip – as you collect emails make sure you have a cleaning strategy for your list. Mail servers like Google start to devalue your domain if no one is reading your emails so you could end up in spam if you have a low engagement rate and no one is opening your emails.
You can manually clean inactive users with most email marketing tools, or set up automations to do it for you. Speaking of tools… let’s go over a few ways to actually engage with your list once you have one.
How do you get started with an email marketing strategy? First, you’ll want to sign up for a provider to host your email list and campaigns. Convert kit is recommended as they cater to creators and have templates built right into the platform to jumpstart your campaigns.
Next you want to plan out how you will engage with your audience when they come. What kinds of emails are you going to send? Again, having content that people actually want to read is key. No one cares about random updates that aren’t interesting, so don’t email your list just because you feel like you need to.
Cadence doesn’t necessarily matter as long as you are consistent. It’s a good idea to have a drip campaign as soon as people sign up for your list to set an expectation of how you’ll be engaging with them.
One particular newsletter that we read only emails once per month, but the content is so good it doesn’t matter. Once a month is fine as long as you set that expectation and deliver quality content that people want to read.
Here are a few ideas you could do within your emails if you’re struggling with topics or content to write about:
- Mini series on something specific (for example writing a song from scratch once per month and recording it on video)
- Interviews with other industry professionals
- Challenges, especially social media trending hashtag challenges
- Contest and giveaways
- Partnership announcements paired with an offer (usually discounted)
Of course writing about your new songs coming out or placements you’ve gotten is great too – just do it in a way that doesn’t seem salesy and still provides value to your readers.
3. Cold Emailing
Yes, another tool centered around email. Cold emailing people is 100% free and can massively boost your career if done correctly. But you’ll have to get used to the cold (get it?), harsh reality that most people won’t email you back.
In fact, probably less than 10% of people will email you back. The good news is that if your personal self worth isn’t tied to external circumstances (like people emailing you back) then you have no problem! And you can focus on the people who do email you back because those are the ones you can build a relationship with and grow with.
Okay so how do you get started cold emailing people? Why would you do this in the first place? Where do I find emails? Slow down there champ, we’ll get all your questions answered below!
Why Cold Email?
Email is a secret hack straight into someone else’s brain. Think about it – you have the ability to grab people’s attention and make them read something that you write to them. This is extremely powerful.
The best way you can structure your cold emails is AIDA – attention, interest, desire, action. This is a good blueprint to follow to grab people’s attention and keep them interested in what you have to say. Finally, the “action” part allows you to direct people to do some action that would, ideally, benefit them and you.
Here’s an example from the outreach of the Sounds Sphere company, to have a clearer idea:
This is an email to a producer whom they thought might be interested in putting some of their tracks up with Sounds Sphere – being a company that helps artists to sell beats online, create great songs faster and with less cost.
This is the attention grabber mentioned earlier in the AIDA framework.
Notice how they didn’t go on and on about their features or talk about anything irrelevant to this person’s experience as a producer. They’re providing value and asking for a discussion on next steps.
Where To Get Emails?
These days, people put their emails on instagram, on their website, or on their company website fairly often. If you’re trying to find someone’s email who isn’t listed anywhere, your best bet is a tool like Hunter.
You can even use tools like Zapier to automatically collect data for you from places like Twitter and dump it into a Google Sheet. Here, it’s very useful to monitor for email addresses of people looking to buy beats online.
Even Google is a useful tool to scrape emails using search queries like this: site:instagram.com intext:email@example.com
The above query pulls all the bios with [something]firstname.lastname@example.org which can then be put into a contact sheet.
So you’re using AIDA and sending emails to prospects, but what are you emailing them about? That part is up to you, but again, and we can’t stress this enough, emailing people to ask them to do something for you or to “checkout my new music” isn’t going to work.
Email to provide value and to be of service. That’s it. Don’t think of it as a sales email either – think of it as you have something exciting you want to share that would be beneficial to the other person.
If you’re pitching a music supervisor for example, call out the fact that they probably struggle to keep track of all the music they need and where to find it. Mention how you have all of your music organized into folders separated by genre and if they ever need *this type of music* here’s 1 link where they can find some.
Then follow through and follow up. Be organized. Be prepared for meetings and calls and show up on time. Always follow up with at least 1 follow up email no less than 3 days after and no more than 2 weeks after your first email.
Pro tip – Use gmail’s built in starring feature to star emails of people you need to follow up with.
Okay there you have it. The 3 most overlooked and free tools that musicians can use to grow. There’s a ton of additional information on all of these topics in case you’re interested in learning more, so feel free to dive as deep as you’d like.
The more you try and tweak, the better result you’ll have. Stay with it and keep your head up. All of these tools are part of a long term strategy that pays off after lots and lots of effort.
Hopefully this is a good starting point to get you thinking outside the box and taking action right away on a $0 budget. Happy growing!