If the thought of sitting down to create a music marketing plan makes you cringe, you’re not alone. It sounds like the boring business stuff, when you’d rather be spending your time on the fun, creative stuff.
But here’s the thing: the most effective marketing plans for musicians are creative — and, as you’ll see, require deep introspection. Just by virtue of being a musician, you’re going into this process with a huge advantage that less creative people don’t have.
With your marketing plan as your north star, you’ll find it much easier to take concrete, meaningful steps toward your music career goals.
So let’s look at how to create an effective marketing plan for your music. The five sections below will lead you to a sense of clarity and structure around your marketing efforts, but feel free to tweak or add to your plan so that it’s useful for you.
1. Establish your goals
A music marketing plan without a clear purpose is futile. So before you do anything else, ask yourself: Why do I need to create a marketing plan? What exactly do I want to accomplish?
Once you’ve identified the purpose, you need to drill down further to get to a useful goal. This is the first step in shifting your marketing efforts from reactive to proactive.
For example, if the purpose of your plan is to market your new single, is it more important to you to rack up Spotify streams or direct-to-fan purchases? How many streams or purchases would feel like “success” to you? How long do you want to give yourself to achieve that?
Don’t leave any room for ambiguity here — make sure your goal is clearly defined, actionable, measurable, and timed. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself aimlessly “marketing” without any idea if what you’re doing is working (or what “working” even means).
Now, how do you figure out what a reasonable goal looks like?
Your first point of reference should always be yourself. Have you set a similar goal in the past? What did the numbers look like for your previous release, and over what period of time? Use this as a baseline for your new goal, and adjust accordingly based on your current circumstances.
If you have no previous experience, don’t worry — everyone has to start somewhere. In this case, your best bet is to do a little market research. Find out what other musicians have achieved who seem similar to you in terms of audience and experience level.
It’s okay if you feel like you’re guessing at first. Just pick a target as a starting place, and you can always adjust it later once you have more information.
2. Define your brand
This might be one of the most difficult undertakings of your music career journey, but it’s also one of the most worthwhile. Every marketing decision you make will flow from how you’ve defined your brand.
I know it’s tempting to skip this part and let your brand “work itself out,” but trust me — taking the time now to define who you are and what you stand for as an artist will save you from the hassle of making a thousand tiny decisions down the road.
This doesn’t mean that the outward expression of your brand can’t evolve along with your artistry. But that core question of why you do what you do will always be there as your foundation, no matter how many visual or stylistic changes you go through.
As a starting place, think about the branding of artists you admire. What do you love about those artists? What stands out to you about how they brand themselves? What words do you associate with them?
Now, think about what matters most to you as an artist or band. What’s the driving force behind why you make music? What are your core values? What makes you unique? When someone listens to your music, how do you want them to feel? When someone hears your name, what words do you want them to associate with you?
Trust your heart on all of this. Write down whatever feels most authentic to you — not what you think your brand should be, or what you think a “cool” brand looks like.
After you’re done journaling, try to boil it all down to just a few sentences that capture the essence of your brand.
3. Identify your audience
Knowing your fans is the key to success.
When you truly know your audience, you’ll know where to find them (both online and offline), how to effectively communicate with them, and how to offer value to them.
Try to paint a clear mental picture of your ideal fan — the superfan who preorders your new album without hesitation, is in the front row at every show, and tells all their friends about you.
Just using your gut instinct at first (and later supplementing with any analytics or social media insights you have access to), write out your answers to these questions:
- How old are they?
- What gender are they?
- Where do they live?
- What kind of personality do they have?
- What are they passionate about?
- Who are some of their other favorite artists?
- What are they willing to spend their money on?
- What’s their favorite social media platform?
- What’s their favorite way to listen to music?
- What websites or publications do they like to read?
- What newsletters do they subscribe to?
- Outside of music, what are they really into?
Of course, there are far more questions you could ask, so feel free to jot down anything else that pops into your head as you go through this process. Don’t drive yourself to analysis paralysis, though — just think through the different aspects of what makes your ideal fan unique until you feel like you have a strong enough grasp on the bigger picture.
4. Lay out an action plan
Now that you have clarity around your goals, brand, and audience, it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty. This section of your music marketing plan is all about the where (your key marketing channels) and the how (the tactics you’ll use for each channel).
The specifics will depend on the size of your team, your budget (more on that later), your strengths, and how much time you’re able to commit. So if you have a full-time job and no team, for example, you’ll need to temper your expectations. Work with what you have, and don’t compare your efforts to artists who have more resources than you.
The marketing channels you choose to focus on should be informed by the work you did in the previous step around your target audience. Where do they listen to music? Where do they like to hang out? Which social media platforms do they use every day?
Learn more: 11 essential online music marketing tools
Depending on your bandwidth, you may also want to consider efforts around publicity, playlisting, advertising, content creation, touring, strategic networking, or whatever else you think will have a big impact.
Whatever you choose, just remember that every tactic in your marketing plan should be measurable and directly reflect your goal.
Once you’ve got your list together, map out how you’re going to approach each channel and tactic on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. (If you tend to feel stuck in the planning phase or get overwhelmed with day-to-day prioritization, Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done by Charlie Gilkey is an excellent read.)
Make sure that you’re monitoring and evaluating your efforts at least once a week. Look for bright spots and double down on what’s working. At the same time, don’t be afraid to nix something that’s clearly not working if you’ve given it a fair chance. Turn it into a learning moment and try to pinpoint why it didn’t work — you’ll increase your chances of success with every new tactic.
Bandzoogle lets you create a professional website in minutes with all the music marketing features you need including a blog, mailing list, and social media integrations. Build your website with Bandzoogle now!
5. Create a realistic budget
Just like any new business, it’s going to take time and money to see growth in your music career.
Planning around a realistic budget is crucial — otherwise, you’ll find yourself making rash decisions out of worry or desperation, and inevitably falling short on your goals.
Go through each item in your action plan and estimate the cost — in terms of both money and time. If you find that it doesn’t match up with your current reality, pare down your efforts to just what you think will make the biggest impact relative to the size of the investment.
Tweak as you go
We all know that marketing for musicians — and the industry landscape as a whole — can shift at the drop of a hat, so don’t be afraid to change tack when necessary. A channel or tactic that made sense for you three months ago might not anymore, and that’s okay. Your marketing plan is a living document that exists to serve you, so go ahead and make whatever changes you need to, whenever you need to.
Build a stunning band website and store in minutes
- Promote your music on your own unique website.
- Sell music & merch directly to your fans. Keep 100%.
- Grow your fan base with built-in marketing tools.
Free 30 day trial, no credit card needed.