There are over 20,000 songs added to Spotify daily, and if you’re reading this article, chances are that one of those may be yours at some point. Now that music is moving largely online towards streaming, the heat is on to convert casual listeners to fans. With so much music being created and disseminated on a daily basis over many different types of platforms, services and apps, we wanted to provide a few tips to help your music stand out in a room full of indie artists, so to speak.

Market Your Music Like A Business

If anyone can pull out a computer, make a song and upload it as soon as they’re finished, then it’s time you move beyond if you’re serious about your music breaking through and eventually generating some real income. Who predominantly listens to your music? Where do your listeners consume music? What type of content are they engaging with online? Who do your followers on social media ALSO follow? These are all questions you can ask as you begin creating social content and nailing down your target audience. You can also ascertain who else is doing the same types of music and competing against you for listeners. Questions like this help discover the best ways to reach fans, build relationships and raise engagement numbers overall.

By drilling down and learning your fan base, you can spend your money wisely when creating plans around your music releases. For example, you’re purchasing a Facebook ad to promote your new single, but you have not taken the time to develop your target market analysis. Facebook’s audience insight is an excellent way to begin narrowing the demographics and interests of your audience. The more precise your ad targeting, the less you will spend overall to build the awareness and sales of your new single. Marketing your music more like a business is a great example in general of working smarter, and not harder — key if you’re a one-person show with a limited budget.

Build and Nourish Social Media Relationships (On & Offline)

The best way to engage your fans is directly, when possible and within reason. The more popular you get, the harder this may be, but it is one that pays off. Social media is a numbers game, but not just the number of followers you have. It’s also the percentage of engagement your receiving from your fans that matters (and more important). For example, if you have 5,000 followers, and only average 150 likes per post, you’re currently receiving around a 3% engagement rate. This is considered low engagement. Ideally, try to maintain a 7% to 10% rate. To calculate your engagement rate, take your number of average likes, comments and/or shares (if applicable) and divide it by the number of fans/followers.

It’s also important to note – if you’re looking to collaborate with brands and monetize your social media accounts, companies will review your level of engagement, so it’s vital to focus on your engagement more than the actual number of followers you have. Your engagement rate also determines whether your account becomes ‘verified.’ Do not EVER purchase fake followers.

Post more than new song announcements and tour dates. Talk to your fans and anyone within your target audience. Sadly, MOST artists do not initiate conversations, so this will easily help you stand out. Do a few local events promoted on your social media channels and give away free tickets to locals. Brainstorm things you can do of a more personal nature that can balance your online & offline personas.

Embrace Technology

No, this isn’t talking about each and every social media platform that pops up. There’s more to technology for artists outside of gear and your Twitter account! Don’t be afraid of technology at all — it’s there to help and can make you look better out in the world.

How are you organizing your tour dates? A (free) Google Spreadsheet can help. Trying to track your spending while on the road for tax purposes? A quick snap of the receipt and then saving it to (free) Dropbox for processing later will save you time and hassle. If you’re an artist and can’t afford a popular program such as Microsoft Word or GarageBand, chances are there’s an “open-source” version of said software. What is open-source software? Basically, free software made by the people for people to use free for non-commercial purposes. If you can’t afford Word, check out OpenOffice. Need to edit some audio? Check out Audacity. Have a bunch of different social media accounts? It might be worth investing in Hootsuite, a platform that lets you manage multiple accounts from one location.

Video content is also quickly becoming the default medium for many platforms, and you should embrace this as well. While a few memes used to be good to throw up, these days fans expect a constant stream of content, and video is the quickest and easiest way to digest it. Musical artists can craft short videos featuring their music and offering a way of engagement with their fans, for example, and should predominantly focus on visual content over written whenever possible.  A little digging and some reading will get you up and running and enable you to polish off your presentations, speed up your business dealings (allowing you more time to create), create music on the go and even help you secure gigs faster. For every person like you who spends the time using tech effectively, there are five other people who don’t, giving you another advantage.

Collaborate With Other Artists

As we’ve previously discussed in our article, “5 Proven Ways For Indie Artists To Get Their Music Heard” collaborating with artists is a key way indie artists can work together to increase their own individual fan bases. How?

Cross-promotion is one of the most effective and cost-efficient examples of gaining new listeners and fans. As you nurture relationships according to the steps mentioned previously, your fellow artists may share your music with their followers and vice versa. If relationships progress to a point, there’s also the potential for musical collaboration, furthering your goals tremendously depending on your individual audience reach.
Of course, you should aim to collaborate with artists that have a similar sound and/or market as yours, in order to build upon your existing fan base. If you’re an R&B artist, collaborating with a Metal artist might not be the best fit for your sound and goals, for example. You can start by reaching out to musicians with a similar demographic and similar audience size. As long as you can find partners that are truly collaborating with you instead of using you, this can be a great way to help your music stand out to potential fans — there’s power in numbers!

Make Yourself Available

Do you want your personal information plastered all over the Internet? Of course not. Let’s imagine a scenario, however: A brand finds your song on Spotify, and need an immediate response from someone about possibly synching your song for a commercial. They go to your website, and there’s just a nondescript contact form. They try your Facebook page, and there’s no email either. In a last ditch effort, they check your Instagram bio to see if there’s any direct contact info there — nothing.

You can setup a throwaway email address and check it once a day, which is a better option than above. You’re only enhancing your chances of making money and establishing a relationship that could yield future dividends. Dealing with the few crazy fans and spam emails until you become an international celebrity, might be worth it. If you’re an artist with a protected account but no public facing accounts for your fans to interact with you, then you’ve already lost, FYI.

Perfect Your Talent On All Levels

How does the quality of your music stand up against other indie artists in your market? What about your video quality and online graphics? If your music is unmixed and unmastered, but a similar artist who you know is getting spins and major burn in the blogs and on SoundCloud, consider this as one of the problems preventing your music from breaking through.

You can still retain your artistic individualism while comparing your wares to other successful musicians in the market. This will help you compete and increase your chances of ‘making it’ in the industry. Dominate your musical style, establish unique branding, make quality music by investing in your equipment and post-production and make sure your live shows are an experience and not just an opportunity to snap live video to post on social media. Talent and artistry always trump everything.