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Online Music Promotion: 3 things that don't work

13 Jul 2017 spotlight words by Terence Ill
Online Music Promotion: 3 things that don't work

Underground rappers and producers are the worst when it comes to promotion. With no money to spend they resort to practices that are down-right annoying, but they also simply don't work.

Here are a few of the worst ones.

Don't spam via private messages on social media

As artists, we tend to add as many people as possible to our friend circles - often people we have no other connection with - strangers, basically. Most of those people tend to be artist themselves. So, when they send us a friend request, it's usually because they want to sell us their music, not because they like ours. And this whole situation gave birth to this type of promo practice.

I recieved this private message via Facebook. I knew nothing about the dude.

Maybe there are people out there who listen to everything they are being sent this way. I'm not one of those people. In fact, it really pisses me off when people who have never made an effort to connect otherwise approach me this way.

When you receive a message like that without any previous connection to that person, it makes you feel like you are being taken advantage of. You were always just a spam target to them and that is not the best first impression when you are trying to build a fan base.

You as the spamming artist, you are the biggest loser in all this. All your effort of looking professional instantly go to shit.

In summary

Don't ejaculate your shameless self-promotion into stranger's private inboxes. It's no different to email spam, and it doesn't work. Since we're already talking about email, let's talk about email some more.


Don't use purchased email lists!

They are dodgy, it's illegal and it doesn't work.

If you have explored cheap music promotion options a bit, you would have come across these lists of email addresses you can purchase for a few bucks. They promise to include the emails of blog editors, music reviewers and even label executives. Yeah right, sounds legit.

Legal fact: Sending emails out to recipients without their consent breaches the Australian Spam Act. If reported, you can actually get prosecuted for doing this.

Fact number two: It's just not worth your time. I learned this the hard way. Years ago I sent an email blast out to about 2500 emails from one of those lists. More than half of them bounced back. I guess they didn't like getting spammed with music from people they had never heard about. I had emailed them a link to a Bandcamp release and the whole exercise did so little that I couldn't even see a tiny spike in the play and download stats. In fact, the only thing I did get was a bunch of legal threats and one guy even threatened to come find me and "pull my scrotum over my head".

Don't trust my judgement? Trust the numbers then.

The benchmark click-through rate for email marketing from musicians averages at roughly 2.84%. So out of every 100 people you email, less then three will click through and do what you are asking them to do. But these are not even complete strangers. These people have had some sort of connection with you before. Maybe they downloaded your music from Bandcamp and you got their email that way. Or maybe they actually subscribed through your website. When you do the same thing to complete strangers and without their consent, your numbers quickly plummet towards zero.

In summary

You will spend hours working out how to use these addresses and how to send out mass email and you will most likely get so little out of it that you won't even be able to tell the difference.


Don't approach outlets who are already telling you that they don't want your music

Blogs and magazines - and websites like this one as well - often have a very tightly defined audience and area of coverage. We for example only cover artists that are from Melbourne, or playing in Melbourne, or have some sort of other connection to the place. I think we're pretty clear about that. Yet, every week we recieve submissions like the message above, from artists from the US, NZ, Europe and every single town on the Australian continent that is not Melbourne.

And this is not the first time I have experienced this. I was an admin on an instrumental music blog some time ago. Almost on daily basis I would get message starting with "Not instrumental, but...".

What do these people think? They think that their music is so good that they can chuck it at anyone, that everyone will just forget their own preferences and that they will publish it on a platform that doesn't do that kind of music and whose audience is not expecting and probably don't like that kind of music. Frankly, if you are still doing this, I am 99.9% confident that your music is trash. But that's not even the point. The point is that even if it was good, noone would ever know. Because you are not respecting their borders, and they will think you are a dick because of it and not listen to your music in the first place.

It ain't gonna happen, not with us and not with any other outlet who cover an area that you are not a part of.


So? What can you do for music promo that doesn't make you an annoying douche?

Social Media

If you want to use social media, stick to sponsored posts and ads. You will reach more people and get better results. That person who would get annoyed if you just send them a Soundcloud link, may well pay attention when it is given to them in a less intrusive way.

Email works a treat when done right

Start collecting email addresses from your fans and sent them stuff that is valuable to them. If you use a list that you earned rather than bought, the engagement rates can go well above the 2.84% benchmark. For our Permanently Ill Recordings list for example we get a 70-80% click-through rates. That's because we only talk to people who have bought one before or who have subscribed to updates.

Websites, Blogs and Magazines

If you want them to consider your music, stick to their rules. If you don't, you are wasting their time and your own.

Offer them something that makes you stand out from the other thousand chumps who submit their music. If you offer a fresh idea it make them stand out when they write about it, and thats what they want. Offer them exclusive content for premieres or special deals for their readers only. Creating unique content in the first place will make promotion a lot easier.