March 7


More Music Marketing Mistakes — Goals & Strategy

By Keith Livingston

March 7, 2018

diy musician, music marketing

Music Marketing Efforts: Part Of A Strategy To Reach A Goal

I hear a lot of musicians talking about things they’re going to do, marketing-wise. “What do you think about using Facebook adds to drive traffic to Spotify?” “Do you think I need a Bandcamp page?” “I’m going to put my music on iTunes!” “I’m going to drive traffic to YouTube.”

I always have one question. Why?

I don’t mean why, as in “It all fruitless anyway, we should give up.” I mean why as in, “What are your goals for this specific action, and how does it fit in with your larger goals?”

What Is The Advertising Equivalent of ‘Exposure’?

Most musicians are pretty clued in about playing for ‘exposure’. We know that you can’t pay the rent with the exposure bucks you get playing at the local pub. You need real $.

But, they fall into the exposure kind of thinking when they start thinking about advertising. Think about it for a second. What is the point of advertising?

Never mind. Don’t think about it — I’ll tell you. The point of advertising is to make money. I’ll say it again. . .

“The point of advertising is to make money.”

Even when companies do ‘feel-good’ advertisements, where they barely mention their product at all, the point is to eventually make money.

If Your Advertising Or Marketing Is Not Part Of A Strategy To Make Money, Why Are You Doing It?

Vanity. That’s why. And you’ve bought into the online equivalent of ‘exposure bucks’.

So, if you ask me what I think about buying Facebook ads to drive traffic to Spotify, I’m going to ask you how you’re going to make money with that. And then I’m going to want to see some numbers.

How much is it going to cost you to get one person to put one of your songs on a Spotify playlist, and how much will that earn you? You can look stuff like that up (in a general way), and run some possible scenarios.


Metrics are simply ways to measure your success. When you create the scenarios, you should create metrics, as well. As an example, let’s suppose you have 1,000 people on your email list, and you’ve managed to sell $1,000 of your latest album to them. That list was worth about $1/person for that release.

You’re about to release another project, but you want to get some more people on your email list, first. You know that probably afford $1/subscriber, and still break even.

So, you run an ad, and you find it costs you about $10 to get one subscriber. You’d better pull that ad. If you find a method that gets you good quality subscribers for $.50, you can scale it, and throw money at it, as it will be profitable!

And this way, if someone offers you a publicity package for ‘only $5,000’, you can ask them some questions. Can you give me some numbers as to how many email subscribers/Facebook likes/album sales your past campaigns have generated? Or is it more along the lines of, “We’re going to do a lot for you, and maybe some of it will have great results. People in the industry will know who you are. It will look good in your press kit.”? In other words, ‘exposure’.

Harder To Quantify Goals

Maybe you want to get your music in front of producers, and land a recording contract. That’s a little bit harder to quantify. But you can say something along the lines of, “We’re going to use YouTube ads to drive our channel subscribers up to 400,000. Then we’ll approach record producers, and offer them a cut to produce our next recording. It should be more appealing knowing we’ve got a large, engaged fan base. Here’s what I think it will cost per subscriber.”

At any rate, it’s got to be better than, “We’re going to play clubs and hope a producer stops by and likes us.”

Vanity Goals

It’s cool if you just want people to hear your music, and you’re willing to throw money at music marketing. More power to you. This article isn’t for you, though. Most of us have to break even, at least, if we want to keep going.

One Focus

Once you get the “How is this going to make me money?” mindset down, it will make it easier to maintain your focus. And I’d suggest going even further. If you’re following 3 people about how to market your music, pick the best one, and get rid of the other two. Don’t bring another marketing channel/method in, until you’re getting consistent results with the first method.

Don’t go build an Instagram page because you’ve heard you need one. Don’t buy a marketing course because it’s hyped. Look until you find something that fits you, and dive deeply into it, until you figure out if it’s going to work for you, or not.



Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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