How Music Marketing Works (The 7 Steps) – MM002

Music Marketing Strategy

Understanding how music marketing works is critical if you want to make it in music today.

Learning these simple 7 steps of successful music marketing will help you take your career to the next level.

It’s both a blueprint and a roadmap that you can also use to create the kind of music career you desire.

It’s also deceptively simple although the implementation will require that you learn some step-by-step techniques and tactics.



– Begin Transcript –

Hi, it’s James Taylor from the Music Business Institute

In this lesson we’re going to go through the 7 steps of successful music marketing.

It’s both a blueprint and a roadmap that you can also use to create the kind of music career you desire.

It’s also deceptively simple although the implementation will require that you learn some step-by-step techniques and tactics.

Step 1 is building lists of fans.

What is the one thing that all successful artists have in common – LISTS

Lists are the lifeblood of your business as a musician and without them it’s almost impossible to make a living from your craft.

What do we mean when we talk about lists? Chances are you already have some lists. Lists can include lists of your fans that have signed up to your email newsletter, lists of promoters you’ve worked with and lists of media contacts that you have a relationship with.

The reason why lists are so important is because they act as a form of currency in the music business. In music it is very much about who you know and we use lists to measure this. One of the first questions a record label executive, artist manager or agent will ask you is the size of your lists. The size and quality of your lists is directly related to how many records and concert tickets you sell and the income you generate as a musician.

So your #1 marketing goal should be to build your lists. Unlike your Twitter following, Facebook likes and Instagram followers, email lists provide you with a direct contact. This is the reason why email lists are the most important kind of lists you’ll want to build as an artist. As well as lists of fans you’ll also want to build lists of promoters, media and influencers.

If you don’t already have an opted-in email list then you need to START NOW.

You need to choose three traffic sources that you’ll use to build your lists. It could be Facebook, YouTube or something else. You then need to create what is called a Lead Magnet, which is some piece of value you’ll give fans for opting into your list. This could be as simple as a free track.

Step 2 is developing a relationship with your list of fans and this takes time.

The relationship with your lists will sustain you emotionally, creatively and financially over many, many years if you do it right. However if you disrespect your lists, speak down to them, or treat them as just a source of income then you are likely to have a very short career in music indeed. A true relationship with your list can’t be built up overnight but when done right you’ll have that fan, promoter or journalist on your side for life.

Historically musicians have needed a patron to fund the creation of new music. Beethoven and Mozart had the difficulty of finding one of the few kings or wealthy merchants to make it possible for them to create great music. Today it is both easier for you and more difficult. Instead of finding one big patron you now have access to billions of individuals who will pay you to write, record and perform your music. These are the people on your lists.

So in the case of your list of fans there are ten principles you’ll want to adhere to in order to build the relationship with your list:

1. Use your fans first names in emails (Email marketing services like Aweber allow you to automatically add the recipients first name in the email).

2. Give fans insight into your daily life, don’t just be trying to sell them stuff.

3. Involve your fans (ask questions).

4. Use competitions (e.g. Win tickets to one of your shows).

5. Be authentic.

6. Be accessible (Q&A’s, post-show meetups).

7. Don’t ignore your fans (respond to their emails).

8. Showcase your fans (include pictures of you and fans in your email newsletter).

9. Ask fans for input (e.g. ask them to vote on your two favorite designs for your new album cover).

10. Be honest and respectful (really think about the content and frequency of the emails you are sending them). Developing your relationship with you list of fans is also about creating your story and positioning yourself and what you and your music stands for.

Step 3 is learning what your fans want.

Steve Jobs said “It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

There exists two main schools (or Tribes) in the marketing of music. These two tribes have very different thoughts when it comes to innovation in music and the idea of listening to your fans.

On one side is the Tribe of the Cool Kids. They play the coolest clubs and are mentioned in hippest blogs. They have trendy haircuts. They’re about attention and followers. They spend more time updating their social networks and telling their clique what they’re doing than actually writing songs, performing on stage or promoting their music.

On the other side is the Musicpreneur Tribe. They drive the cool cars and live in the big houses. They’re all about tactics and making money and jumping on the bandwagon as soon as a new trend hits the mainstream. They work hard, make big bucks playing corporate gigs, and spend 90% of their time marketing their music and only 10% actually creating it.

The Cool Kids are broke and hip while the Musicpreneur Tribe are rich but creatively stagnant.

Thankfully what we teach here in the Music Business Institute is part of a third tribe. A middle way.

This third tribe is one where musicians and bands care about building a relationship with their fans, producing interesting and creative music, and making a good living from it. Now part of the Third Tribe philosophy is that artists need to learn what their fans want.

And this is controversial because many artists believe that getting your fans input should be discouraged.

Steve Jobs was right – a lot of times, fans don’t know what they want until you let them hear, see or experience it. Musicians should seek to innovate. The Musicpreneur’s go to the other extreme and much of their creative input is based on focus groups and only releasing what is currently fashionable.

However there is a third way to learn what your list wants. On the big musical innovations Steve Jobs is right, you need to take risks, follow your instinct and ruffle some feathers in the process. Sometimes an artist that has had multiple similar sounding albums needs to change tack to avoid the ‘sameness trap’.

Multiple studies have shown that creative individuals have a tendency to produce the most novel ideas when working alone (as opposed to crowdsourcing ideas from their fans). So how do you find out what your fans want without sacrificing your creativity?

The answer is to not ask them directly.

If you ask fans exactly what they want from your next album or tour then you’ll get generic answers that will stifle your creativity. Much better questions include:

* Which of our songs moved you emotionally and why?

* If you haven’t yet attended one of our shows then why?

* Which element of our live show has the strongest lasting impact? You’ll also want to ask them about their age and where they live because this will help you with tour planning and getting sponsorship and endorsements.

The easiest way to ask these questions is to send them a survey using a free tool like

We constantly ask the fans of our artists to complete surveys to improve our marketing, pricing, tour routing and build a relationship. You should also constantly encourage interactions from fans.

Here are some ways to do that:

* When you send an email to fans ask them which venues in their city they’d like to see you play.

* When you post something on Facebook use it as an opportunity to also ask a question.

* Ask fans what songs from your set they’d like you to play at specific gigs (thanks to Steely Dan for that idea).

Step 4 is about creating work that excites your fans.

A musician today has two jobs; creating and communicating.

Music Business Institute is primarily about teaching the latter rather than the former because we have to assume you know how to create exciting work..

Creating is about honing your craft as a musician. Communicating is about learning how to market and sell what you have created. It’s why we call it the Music Business. Music + Business.

However all the best music business strategies and tactics are pointless unless you are creating something that excites you and others. In today’s lesson I want you to think about how much time you are actually dedicating to creating as opposed to communicating.

I’ve worked with some artists who spend 80% of their time creating and only 20% communicating. This can make for great art but a terrible living. The songwriter who spends years in his bedroom writing songs but who never performs or lets publishers hear them is in this camp.

Then there are the artists (including some successful ones) who devote all their time to communicating; to hustling, doing interviews and being active on social media. They haven’t created anything exciting in years because they are only about the business. Creating can range from working on that new song, recording some ideas for a future project, practicing a piece you plan on playing live or brainstorming on your plans for the future.

Step 5 is identifying the fan type.

OK, by this point you know that building lists, developing relationships with them, learning what they want and creating work that excites them is important.

With brands we talk about moving people up the relationship hierarchy. An example is with Apple. You might be introduced to the brand through buying an iPhone but Apple’s aim is to get you to buy everything they do; the iPad, the Macbook and the Apple TV. The same is true in music and we call it the ‘fan ladder’.

The ‘fan ladder’ looks to move someone from just being mildly interested in your music to where they will buy everything you ever produce (concert tickets, recordings, merchandise). You want to move them from being a ‘suspect’ to a ‘super fan’.


A ‘suspect’ is someone in your target market that may or may not be aware of you. If you are a Hip Hop artist it is all those people out there who are into Hip Hop music and culture. Your potential number of ‘suspects’ will be very large (usually in the tens or hundreds of thousands).


These are the people who already follow you on social media and have an interest in your music but who haven’t purchased anything yet. The only thing they have invested is that they have clicked the Like button on your Facebook page or followed you on Twitter. It’s great if you have lots of followers but followers don’t help you pay your gas bill or put food on the table.


‘Prospects’ are those that have actually joined your email list. They have given you permission to send them information on your new record, tour dates and other products. These people are more valuable than followers because they show a higher propensity to buy from you. Of all the metrics I measure I see this as one of the most important. If everyday you are adding more ‘prospects’ to your email list, then all things being equal, you should be making more money.


A fan is someone who has actually bought something from you. It could be a $5 concert ticket, a CD, a download, an online lesson, a t-shirt. Often musicians mistake followers for fans. Fans enable you to turn your love into a living.


Members purchase multiple products from you. They buy the ticket for your show and then a copy of your new album at the merchandise desk. They may have even paid an annual membership to your subscription site that offers exclusive tracks, lessons and behind the scenes footage. A one-hit wonder only has fans. A musician with a long-term sustainable career has members and also the next category, Super Fans.

Super Fan

They say that an artist only needs a 1,000 Super Fans to make a good living. Super Fans (also called True Fans) are defined as someone who will produce anything and everything you produce. They will drive across the country to see you live. They will buy the limited edition box set even though they already have the download versions. They buy your t-shirt, keychain and coffee mug. They can’t wait for you to issue your next work. They are Super Fans.

Let’s say a Super Fan spends $100 per year in support of what you do. If you have 1,000 Super Fans that’s $100,000 per year. That’s a pretty good living for most musicians. The most important thing to remember with Super Fans is that you must have a direct relationship with them. That is why turning someone from a follower to a fan (i.e getting their email address) is so important. It allows you to develop that direct relationship.

Once you have identified where someone is on the fan ladder you can then find out how best to get them excited about your music and your products. You do this by discovering their objections and their psychology.

Step 6 is about empowering your super fans.

Successful artists always have their own small army of super fans.

Beliebers (Justin Bieber), Swifties (Taylor Swift), Little Monsters (Lady Gaga), Lovatics (Demi Lovato) and Smilers (Miley Cyrus) are all examples of Super Fans.

Once you have build a loyal following of Super Fans then you need to empower them so they can spread the message about your music. Street Teams are one way to do this.

Street Teams are a group of fans that volunteer to support the artist in exchange for recognition, community stature, prizes, and/or just to give back. The reasons that you will want to put together a Street Team include:

* Cost-effective (estimated at 10x compared to traditional advertising)

* Extends your own marketing into new territories

* They’re decentralized and can form into self-directed teams

* Builds excitement around your new work and your brand What you can ask your street team to do (these are called ‘Missions’):

* Status updates/retweets

* Forum postings/community interactions

* Awards show voting

* Amazon/iTunes reviews

* Radio requests

* Flying/postcard hand-outs

* Hosting parties and special events

The missions are only limited by your imagination.

The final step is about promoting your work using events.
Firstly events they create excitement around your music. There are different types of events which can be used to promote your work.

There are product launch events, tour announcement events, promotional events and many more.

Think of the launch events Apple hold for their new products.

The second thing you need to know about launches is that they can be automated through the use of campaigns.  Campaigns allow you to leverage your time and scale up.