Radio Facts:

Do Indie Music Artists Need Promotion Companies?

indie music, marketing concept

Today’s entertainment industry looks remarkably different from the industry of yesteryear. With Youtube, Soundcloud, social media platforms, and the ease of a Google search you can find more content and reach more people on your own than ever before. While major promotion and artist management companies and other entertainment conglomerates still have an undeniably huge impact on the music scene, the question remains: do indie music artists need professional artist management or promotion companies to be discovered and heard anymore?

Whither Promotion or Management Companies?

Artist management and music promotion companies can be powerful allies for musicians and bands who want a wide range of listeners (and isn’t that every musician’s goal?) but who don’t know how to reach them. The right PR company can highlight an indie musicians musical strengths and get their music out to the right people–for a price.

For a musician looking to go the PR route, first make sure you have your goals firmly established. A PR firm can’t help artists reach goals if the goals aren’t clear. One goals are established, an indie music act should thoroughly examine music promoters to make sure their strengths are a good fit for your goals and genre, and that their approach to promoting artists fits the artist’s profile and level of hands-on engagement in their careers–do you want a firm that does everything for you, or do you want to dive in deep with them? These are the sorts of questions any indie musician needs to answer before they can consider hiring a music promotion company. 

Even still, while a music PR firm can potentially help an artist reach new fans their promotion success is never certain… and in all cases, the costs of hiring music promotion companies can build to unsustainable levels for an artist at the indie level. All these factors weigh on an indie musician’s choices: to hire a promotion company or to self-distribute and self-promote? And all this still begs the question: do indie music acts even need music promotion companies these days?

Indie Music Promotion in 2020

Modern indie music acts have a wide range of tools for self-promotion that weren’t available to musicians in earlier periods. The internet has dramatically expanded an artist’s potential reach, even to the point where an artist in, say, rural Wisconsin could reach fans across the globe given the right promotion strategy. So what tools do indie artists have for self-promotion in 2020?

In short, while major acts on major labels are a prolific part of our modern music landscape, the clever indie act has many tools at their disposal to reach audiences. Through distribution in the digital space to getting radio play in major markets, an indie act can become a household name–all they have to do is put in the work.

The Need For A Marketing Concept

marketing concept, indie music

For indie artists looking to stand out among the vast array of other musical acts, a sound command of the principles of marketing and their marketing concept is exactly what is needed to separate themselves from the pack and transition into a thriving career.

One way to think of a marketing concept (in business language) is the philosophy that a firm should analyze the needs of their customers, first and foremost, then proceed to make decisions to satisfy those needs better than competitors. For an emerging indie act’s music marketing efforts, that translates into a band or artist who analyzes the needs of their audience (both current and potential). 

As this translates into the principles of marketing, solidifying a marketing concept takes several steps.

First, musicians should identify who their intended audience is or may be. Who do they want listening? (And ‘everyone’, while desirable, isn’t a helpful or realistic marker). They should consider their own influences, music preferences, and the elements of their sound, and think of genres and demographics that fit that essence. The point, of course, is not to fit into whatever mold is popular–that strategy fails far more often than it succeeds. Instead, the point is to identify an artist’s sound and the audience that it speaks to, and hone their craft to meet that niche well.

The second step naturally emerges from the first. Once they’ve identified a target audience and their own strengths and sound, an indie act should be aware of other acts that sound similar. The goal is to look at both those bands traits and marketing strategies and what can set an indie act apart. The key to success will be to highlight how the Indie artist’s uniqueness can fit into the needs and desires of a specific audience.

Once they’ve thoughtfully mastered the essentials of their sound and have a strong understanding of their audience, that audience’s needs, and the ‘competition’, the key elements of their marketing concept are solidified. At this point an indie music artist will be on great footing to start the kind of e-marketing campaign that will get themselves noticed and help them stand out from the pack.

Free Music Promotion

Getting music out there is essential for an indie musician’s success–if potential fans don’t hear an artist they certainly can’t be their fans. Simultaneously, with so much content out there an artist has to make sure to point potential fans towards their content and to make themselves stand out. Once an indie artist knows who they are and who their audience is, there are many avenues for free music promotion available to them.

Major social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are still promising avenues to reach fans. One can promote tours, new singles, album releases, and even a band or artist’s thoughts in efforts to reach new audiences. Most major social media sites also allow paid promotions for a relatively moderate fee, dramatically expanding one’s reach in ways an artist can achieve without hiring a PR company–surely not free, but a dramatic cost savings versus hiring an external company. That said, being smart about how to use social media can often achieve similar or better results for free.

Finally, for indie artists managing their own careers, it’s important not to neglect other media avenues that can be sources of publicity and reviews. Any artist can spend time building relationships with journalists and music bloggers, reach out to other acts, and spend time solidifying an act’s ability to get coverage. 

The point is this: an indie music act has many avenues for success these days beyond paid music promotion. A smart act can plan their own distribution and promotion campaigns, and these campaigns can absolutely succeed–all an artist needs is to play to their strengths and reach the right ears.

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