The Musician’s Guide to Marketing Plans – Part 1 by Ariel Hyatt, Brooke Segarra & Chris Hacker of Cyber PR

In this crazy ever-changing music industry landscape we see the same issue over and over again:  A vast majority of artists don’t have a long-term plan in place.

The reason for this is in today’s DIY landscape there is no one in charge of creating such a plan. To make things worse the pressure of consistently releasing great singles or EPs, social posting, writing newsletters, booking, plus learning new technology and platforms keeps artists busier than ever and these never ending tasks battle long-term perspective.

Marketing Plans used to be a combined creation of manager, label A&R and marketing team, booking agent, and publisher who would be responsible for coming up with a big picture strategy and implementing a plan for each domain that he or she was responsible for.  

Today, most agencies that indie artists hire tackle what needs to be done right now and handle only their responsibilities without taking a 30,000 foot view.

This sadly has a lot to do with how the artists approach their releases. We know once the music is finished a deep sense of urgency rushes in screaming – release release!  

We urge you to take a deep breath and read on…

It is completely baffling that an artist or band would work so hard on new music, dedicating hours and hours practicing, writing songs, not to mention spending large sums of money recording, mixing and mastering, creating visuals, and album artwork only to rush the release with no plan in place.

Here are the basic components of our long-term marketing plans to show you the key elements you need to consider before you get too far ahead of yourself.

Even if your release is not new, it’s important to backtrack and reset the stage.

There are 15 elements to keep in mind when planning a new release – they break down into 3 groups of 5.

THE FIRST 5: RAMPING UP FOR RELEASE

The 5 areas that need to be addressed before any official announcements should be made about a new album, EP, or even a single coming out are:

  1. Distribution
  2. Website
  3. Social Media
  4. Newsletter
  5. Press

Let’s dive in!

(again, if you already released music don’t worry! Backtrack and reset the stage.)

1. DISTRIBUTION 

Digital distribution moves a lot faster than it used to but you should still choose a distributor and make sure if you are ordering physical copies of your music that you get them in plenty of time, especially if you are running a pre-sale or having a release party and you want to offer physical product at the show.

*Note albums used to come out on a Tuesday and now Friday is the official release (if you going by industry standards)

Digital aggregators (CD Baby, Tunecore etc) will not cover everything and independently you need to also be aware of additional distribution outlets for increased reach, a list that includes Soundcloud, Pandora and creating playlists on Spotify.

2. WEBSITE

The music industry is built on appearances. To be taken seriously it is very important to have a complete and professional looking online 360 degree presence. This starts with your online home – your website. You need have a modern and functional site that you can update on your own. Your website should have a section where fans can easily listen to and buy your music (not a player that automatically plays please!), a news section with latest happenings and a newsletter sign up offering an incentive juicy offer such as exclusive tracks.

Ariel wrote a detailed guide to help you with the architecture.

3. SOCIAL MEDIA

Time and energy needs to be spent building a strong online presence in order to be taken seriously as an artist for when the time comes to start actively promoting.

What we see is many artists don’t know the basics. This will hurt your promotional efforts as music industry professionals, music bloggers, and fans you may be contacting will visit your socials to see what kind of existing following you have and how serious you are. Stale, overly promotional, or boring profiles will not help your chances or engaging anyone.

We will focus on the 4 most important: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.

Branding is Key

Upload cover photos and banners that are in alignment with your brand. Use a publicity shot or your current album artwork with text on top of the images that promote the single, EP, or album release date, new music videos, and tour announcements. We love a tool called Canva – https://www.canva.com/ for fast and easy banner and social skin creation.

TWITTER

We love Twitter because you can easily build a following of targeted users and jump into conversations.  Every single person you interact with in real life should be followed on Twitter (friends, musicians, producers, club owners, etc.) Jump start your followers by following people and many will follow you back. Lastly target similar sounding artists and follow their Twitter followers, as there is a high probability that they will also like your music.

To keep your profile active with Tweets use Hootsuite. In as little as one hour you can schedule a weeks worth of tweets. Vary the topics you tweet about from career news (which should be no more than 20% of your output) to your interests, passions and hobbies. News, politics, sports, culture are all great topics to share for people to engage and connect around.

There are many relationship building practices and benefits for being active on Twitter of course that we teach our clients, but by following these instructions you will at least have a respectable presence on this powerful platform.

Watch Ariel’s Twitter Video Class it goes over the basics:

FACEBOOK

Pay-to-play is the reality on Facebook for a Page to get any real exposure. We suggest you spend money from time to time but have goals in place before you do, and you should have a complete Page that is active with daily posts. Make sure the page has a cover banner as discussed above and install apps that work as promotional tools for you and your music. Three we love are artist profile Bandpage, a store Bandcamp, or CD Baby, and a mailing list signup form  MailChimp. Even though posts won’t get seen by a large percentage of fans who have liked your Page without advertising, organic reach is still possible and an active Page helps show that you are an active artist. Videos and images have a greater chance of being seen, so share photos and upload videos as much as possible and finally ask questions to increase engagement.

For an advanced deep-dive into Facebook Pages our resident Facebook strategist Andrew Salmon has a 2 part masterclass in the Cyber PR Social Media House Course.

Watch Ariel & Andrew’s Facebook Class:

Part 2:

YOUTUBE

YouTube is the first place millions of people go searching for music. It is a very powerful platform where artists are getting discovered. For any artist looking to increase awareness, it is imperative to have a presence on YouTube with a professional looking channel, with a cover image that is linked to your other socials so people can connect with you across platforms. Make categories to group your videos for easy viewing, such as “Behind The Scenes”, “Official Music Videos”, and “Live Performances”, and highlight an official music video in the featured spot at the top. The channel for The Flaming Lips is a great example of these practices put to use.

For the videos themselves we often see artists leaving off their artist name in the title of the video, which is terrible for search. Make sure you include keywords in your tags and place those most important keywords and keyword phrases at the start of your tag fields. Use adjectives that describe your music and similar artists as keywords with your artist name also being a keyword, the latter of which will will show up in the “related videos section” after one of your videos is viewed.  We also often see description sections left blank too. This is a crucial piece of real estate to tell the viewer what they are watching and provide links to other content you own, such as your website and iTunes, where they can go for more. Here is a video from NYC blog The Wild Honey Pie, they pack all their descriptions full of information where the viewer can go to learn and watch more. Their Channel is branded well too, utilizing the features discussed.

Read our guest blog post (from an Ex YouTube Employee!) as well:

6 Ways to Make Sure You Don’t Waste Your Time on YouTube

INSTAGRAM

The most popular visual social platform has experienced a meteoric rise. As of the beginning of 2015, there are over 300 million active Instagram users, over 20 billion photos shared and 60 million photos a day. If you haven’t yet, connect to people you already know on Facebook, and if you choose, you can also search and connect to contacts in your phone. Next, link your socials.

When you post photos, choose at least two hashtags, as this is how photos are found. http://top-hashtags.com/instagram/ is a site that will display the top hashtags trending in real time if you are stuck, or want to get into the conversation.

In addition to hashtags, you can also add captions to your photos before posting. I caution you to be selective about what you cross-post to socials. You want to tell a separate story on each social channel to get people to join you, and not get fatigued by the same posts across channels.

4. NEWSLETTER 

This is the most important part of the strategy that you will want to skip – DON’T.

While social media is key for attracting your crowd and building your numbers, email is still the most vital asset you will build for generating revenue.  You make relationships with fans on your social networks, but you turn those relationships into customers with email.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing produced an ROI (return on investment) of 4,300% — or $43 for every $1 spent.  

Contact your mailing list once a month with news. Spend money on a mailing list service provider that can help you design a rich looking email and provide analytics and tracking capabilities so you can measure the effectiveness of your newsletters and make adjustments where need be. A premier solution that many of our clients enjoy working with is MailChimp.

Here are Ariel’s recent articles on Newsletters:

5 Critical Things to Keep In Mind for Your Newsletter

Cyber PR’s 3 G’s – GREETING, GUTS & GETTING – How To Write An Effective Newsletter

5. PRESS

It might seem a bit early to start talking about press, but it’s not. PR takes time and effort to execute well.

Sadly, many artists believe that PR = blasting a press release out to the top 100+ music sites that they have Googled. This never works. because PR placements start with astute research.
Blog savviness gets placements.

You should be starting now to identify and familiarize yourself with online publications (blogs), podcasts, and radio outlets that are appropriate and strategic for you and your release. If you live in a smaller town (read: Not in New York, San Francisco, LA, or Chicago) there may be some local press that you can go after too.

There are thousands upon thousands of active music sites, and there are a million more non music sites that can feature your music as well.

Your big goal might be a review on Pitchfork, but what’s your backup when Pitchfork doesn’t respond to you and then doesn’t respond to your follow ups? Is Pitchfork even the right outlet for you to showcase your project? Sure, they have a large audience, but is it the right audience for you? It’s OK if the answer is no.

Not only will familiarizing yourself with music publications help you to know where to pitch your music, but it will also give you invaluable insight and ideas for your press photos, your music video, and pinpointing your genre.

Research is not the only thing you need before you send your first pitch. To find out what to do next, read our 5 Critical Things You Need Before You Start PR.

Pro Tip: Keep in mind that a music blog is made up of content written by individuals. When it comes time to pitch you will be pitching to these individuals. Increase your chances that they will be interested in you by first being interested in them. Make a connection by following them on social media and retweeting them. Better yet, try to strike up a conversation with them on Twitter if the opportunity aries. A conversation about literally anything other than your music is recommended.

This way when you send that writer an email about your music, or if a publicist does that for you, there could now be some familiarity there and existing relationships that will help in getting your emails opened and then your new music hopefully featured.

Now that you know how to build a solid online foundation and the beginnings of an online community dive in and do it.  

Do not cut corners here. Having a true base will put you  in a much better position when you are getting ready for your next 5 which is when you will start calendaring for your release, This is the topic for PART 2 of this 3 PART series.

In our next post we will discuss The Next 5: Ordering the Chaos.

 

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5 Critical Things You Need Before You Start PR

As an independent musician, a digital PR campaign can be a critical component to an overall marketing strategy that will help you to:

1. Reach new fans

2. Increase online influence

3. Create new content that can be used to continue to build strength of existing fan base through social media

4. Better understand marketplace position

While all four of these goals are essential for you to have, and there is no doubt an effective PR campaign can help you achieve them, many artists jump into full-fledge PR campaigns a bit too early.

In order for PR to be truly successful and achieve everything you want it to, you must have the 5 following assets at the ready:

1. Music For Release

Okay, let’s just get this out of the way. There is no need for a PR campaign, no matter what direction or niche you’re going to target during it. If you don’t have music available for the media to listen to, you’re wasting your time, the media’s time, and your money.

The ideal scenario is that you have at least an upcoming EP (containing at least 4 songs) that is set for release around 1 to 1.5 months from the date you start outreach. For the most part, bloggers don’t like to mention an upcoming release if there is any more than 1 month of lead-time between their feature and the release. And they’ll be less enthused about your single if there is no upcoming EP slated for release within the next three to six weeks.

And let’s not forget to think about the readers! With the web being the way it is, music blog goers are confronted with interesting info 24/7. Therefore, it’s really not in your best interest as an indie artist to space singles and EPs light years apart from each other. Keep the rollout tight and the momentum up.

That said, it IS certainly possible to do a PR campaign for music that has been released previously. Try to keep it conservative though, like six months, a year, but beyond that, you might be pushing it. When releasing previously released music, just know that there will be journalists who will pass just on the fact that the music hasn’t been released within the last three months.

Bonus Note: Your songs MUST be professionally recorded. Live tracks are fine if you are promoting a live release, but even then the mix needs to be of professional quality.

2. A Professional, Compelling, Telling Bio

A professionally written bio that weaves a compelling story about who you are and what makes you unique is not something to overlook and leave to your Twitter stream. A great bio (we call it a signature story around here) is an essential asset to an effective PR campaign.

Your bio should serve as a one-stop shop for bloggers to get the facts on you, your project, where you’ve been, and where you’re going. And, even though your music will speak for itself, you’re going to want to talk about yourself and your music in a way that will entice people to click that play button.

Unfortunately, one paragraph saying that you are a musician from so-and-so making rock music that will blow everyone’s mind is not going to make anyone want to click that button. What will make people listen, is a bio that communicates your story and pays acute attention to detail and nuance.

Pro Tip: There are bloggers out there who will repurpose your bio in order to create enough content for their blog. These are few and far between, but you will run across them! This is, however, good news for you if you have a strong bio! The fact that many bloggers will re-purpose the bio means that you now have the opportunity to control the messaging of their features, telling their readers the important points about you that may stick out to fans as unique and intriguing.

A professional bio can run you a few hundred dollars, but it’s reusable and will come in handy long after your campaign has ended.

3. Professional Promo Photos

Do you know what gets people to click on your write up? The photo. It might be kinda sad, but it’s true. If you have any doubts, just think of your own knee-jerk reaction when checking out artists without a household name. Because of this natural human instinct to care about imagery, you’ll want to pay close attention to the messaging in your photos. What do you want the takeaway to be for people who glance?

You can’t get away from needing great photos. All bloggers (and even some podcasters) will want a photo to go along with their feature. Many new media makers have a quality standard to uphold and poor photos of you and/ or your band could actually be a deal breaker.

On the other hand, unique, creative and well thought out promo photos can be the ice breaker needed to get bloggers to check out your music.

Here are a few great promo photos of a few Cyber PR® clients that absolutely helped them to have great campaigns:

Zoya http://www.zoyamusicofficial.com/

Syre & Fresko http://www.syreandfresko.com/

Taylor Casey http://www.taylorcasey.com/

 

4. A Niche to Conquer / Some Serious Consideration of Genre

Identifying a specific niche to target and/or pinpointing your genre is a critical component to any successful digital PR campaign.

Let’s talk about niches first.

It is important to note that your niche does not, in any way, need to reflect your genre of music. Anything that you are passionate about, anything that has inflicted you as a person (such as a disease or social plight) or any part of your upbringing that has helped to define who you are as a person and a musician can be a great niche.

The idea here is that on music blogs, you are just another musician being covered, however on, say a positivity blog or an anime blog, you are the one, or one of very few musicians being covered making your story and your music far more unique which can help it to resonate with the reader-base.

Okay so genre.

The media is getting to a point where it hears singer-songwriter and their eyes glaze over. You probably are a singer-songwriter, and that simple categorization is important at times, but it may not work for everyone.

It’s important to think of the publications you want to be in, read them, and see how they describe/talk about music. If they label everyone as singer-songwriter, you’re good to go! If they are approaching things from a more intricate perspective, you might want to think of yourself in those terms as well. You don’t have to be a music journalist yourself. You just have to be conscious.

There are many more genres (and subgenres) than just rock, pop, country, jazz, EDM. Do some poking around!

5. A Social Media Presence

Too many musicians underestimate the importance of a social media presence to a digital PR campaign. While it’s all important- the music, the bio, and the promo photos- there are two reasons why it is so important that you also have a strong social media presence:

1. With so many musicians and publicists inundating the inboxes of bloggers and journalists, it is inevitable that they will check out the social media presence of each submission as a filter for who to, and who not to, consider for coverage.

This certainly doesn’t mean that you need to have a HUGE social media presence with hundreds of thousands of fans, but it does mean that you need to be consistently posting content to your socials that communicates “you”, and you need to be engaging with your fans (and the media too!).

Ultimately, apart from being introduced to totally awesome music, bloggers are interested in driving traffic to their sites. A blogger wants to know that if he or she is going to take the time to cover your music, you will be able to return the support by sharing the feature with your fans, helping the blogs to build their followings as well.

2. In order for PR to truly be effective, each feature needs to be properly leveraged through social media to mobilize the existing fan base.

In other words, each feature is new content that you can use to engage your fans without having to say ‘listen to my music’… this form of sharing your successes is a much more subtle form of self-promotion than the much dreaded shameless self-promo that all too many musicians practice (and no one likes).

Again, having hundreds of thousands of fans isn’t the point here, but rather you need to have a consistent content strategy that covers all 6 rooms of your social media house, which includes (but isn’t limited to) Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Blog, Newsletter. Here is a quick outline of how often you need to post to each platform in order to remain ‘consistent’:

Facebook:

1 Post Per Day

Twitter:

2 – 3 Tweets Per Day

Blog:

At least 1 new post every other week

Newsletter:

1 newsletter per month

Youtube:

At least 1 new video per month (note this doesn’t need to be a professional music video)

Instagram:

Posting at least 5 times a week.

Just to recap for successful PR outreach you will need music that’s ready to go, a professional, compelling bio, great promo photos, a niche to conquer, and a social media presence. If you don’t have these five things, get to it!


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#SocialMediaHouse Week 9 – Final Week, Crowdfunding, Fan Funding and Continuum Programs

The Final Week

 

How do I join the revolution? How do I get my fans to support my dream? Will a fan funding campaign help me find new fans? What happens if my campaign fails?

The internet is a powerful way to raise money for projects and get your fans to fund endeavors, attend VIP events and participate in special opportunities with you. Many artists complain that they feel like carnival barkers when approaching fan funding. Find out how to create a program that will get you paid and keep your self-esteem intact.

 

If you’d like to join in on the excitement please subscribe to my YouTube channel.

 

Watch week nine’s videos:

Introduction To Week 9: Fan Funding and Continuum Programs

Week 9: Fan Funding and Continuum Programs

 

Download the Action Sheets here:

Action Sheet 9: Ariel’s Treasure Trove of Sites that can help you

Action Sheet 9.1: 5 Things Needed to Pre-prepare for a Crowd Funding Campaign

Action Sheet 9.2: Crowd Funding Campaign Checklist

 

And again, don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss out on a single thing!

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#SocialMediaHouse Week 8 – Newsletter

newsletter

 

Newsletters are all spam, why should I write one? How do I get people to open my newsletter? What’s the point of a newsletter with so much social media available? How do I track my newsletter?

In week 8 learn how to write captivating content and distribute newsletters that build trust and loyalty, whether you are on or off the road. An effective newsletter strategy will result in higher sales.

If you’d like to keep up with all things Social Media House please subscribe to my YouTube channel!

 

Watch week eight’s videos:

Introduction To Week 8 – Newsletter

Week 8: Newsletter

Download the Action Sheets here:

Action Sheet 8: How to Write an Engaging Newsletter

Action Sheet 8.1: 11 Things to Consider When Sending Your Newsletter

Action Sheet 8.2: Brainstorming- Creating a Rapport with your Email List

 

 

And again please keep up with all the action by subscribing to my YouTube channel!

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#SocialMediaHouse Week 7 – What is Pinterest?

Bday

 

What is Pinterest? I hear only females use it and it’s for shopping… is that true?

Sharing photos have just become a fun (and easy)! In week 7 learn how Pinterest can be a way for you to showcase your personality, and connect with fans that can lead to meaningful blog traffic.

 

Please subscribe to the Cyber PR YouTube channel to keep up with Social Media House!

 

Watch week seven’s videos here:

Introduction To Week 7: Pinterest

Week 7: Pinterest Mini Masterclass

 

Download the Action Sheets here:

Action Sheet 7: How to Create a Pinterest Account

Action Sheet 7.1: How to Set Up Your First Ten Pinboards

Action Sheet 7.2: How to Sync Your Pinterest Account to Your Facebook Fan Page

 

And again please remember to subscribe to my YouTube channel so you don’t miss out on any excitement!

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#SocialMediaHouse Week 6 – Why Blogging Is So Important

blogging

Why should I blog? I have nothing to say… How do I get bloggers to pay attention to me? How do I optimize and monetize my blog? How do I blog without wasting a huge amount of time?

This week, learn the easiest blogging platforms and how to blog without wasting huge amounts of time or causing yourself stress.

You can still keep up with all the action on our YouTube channel.

 

Watch week six’s videos:

Introduction To Week 6: Blogging

 

Download the Action Sheets here:

Action Sheet 6: The Cyber PR Guide to Finding Blogs

Action Sheet 6.1: Installing Google Analytics on Your blog

 

And again, please subscribe to my YouTube channel to watch all things Social Media House!

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