With bars shut down and concerts cancelled, COVID-19 has turned the lives of musicians upside down, especially those planning to release music in 2020. Everybody seems to be just feeling their way through the darkness as there is no entirely right or entirely wrong decision. It seems like you can just basically do whatever you think is right given the circumstances and cross your fingers.
There are those that think it’s a safe strategy to postpone an album release during the pandemic like HAIM and Lady Gaga. And then there are those who say f*ck it, and release their album no matter the circumstances.
The Strokes mentioned that the pandemic did not seem like a fitting excuse to postpone. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, frontman Julian Casablancas acknowledged that the band would lose the opportunity to promote, but it was a trade-off the band members were willing to risk.
The decision to release clearly paid off as The New Abnormal is on track to become the number 1 album in the United Kingdom.
The pandemic could be a scary time to release music but it’s not actually so bad if you know how to make the most out of it. Here are some ways you can market your album during the pandemic:
In the past couple of months, live streaming has become one of the most prominent methods for businesses, brands, and musicians to speak and engage with their audiences. The industry is up by 99% year over year and it has grown over 45% in just March and April alone.
Live streaming allows you to communicate and perform for your friends, family, fans, haters, and anyone else who is willing to listen in real-time creating a unique experience for everyone involved. There are plenty of platforms to stream on and the choice is yours to decide whether you’d like to show off your fresh sweatpants and new quarantine haircut on Facebook, Twitch, Instagram or YouTube.
You can stream a Q&A, perform a new live set, or even teach your audience how to play your most popular song live. As with anything artistic, the more creative you are the more likely people are going to watch you. Treat these live streams as if you were in the room with your audience and the rest will come naturally.
She also talked about 2020 being an important moment for the music industry getting to grips with tips economies: “For a long time it was only Twitch and YouTube that had the fan-funding system. But you can in a way see it on Spotify [with its direct funding links] and you can definitely see it on Facebook with the stars. That’s coming, because we need to generate those types of income streams,” she said.
#2 Reach out to publications, podcasts, and interviewers
As important as a social media strategy is, it shouldn’t be your only digital marketing strategy. Building a larger presence online is extremely important as well and it will give you the upper hand during these trying times.
There are hundreds of thousands of music blogs, podcasts, and publications that are looking for independent artists to interview. Especially now, with so many professionals looking for content to publish in order to keep their audience’s minds off of the world around them, you are more likely than ever to have your pitch accepted. Cold call, cold email, and direct message these publications on social media with your story and your pitch.
The more people and publications you reach out to the more likely you will be to break through the clutter and find someone willing to write or speak about your music.
This larger digital marketing strategy should also include a website for yourself or your band as well as profiles on every music platform you can find. It is extremely important to get your name out to as many people as possible.
Consider if your music also may be suited for radio. There are a number of ways to get your music played on global radio. Read our article about DIY radio promotion. Use WARM to track if your songs get airplay and use the info to maximize the results.
#3 Get your music on all platforms
Similar to the last tip, you should be streaming your music on as many platforms as you can find. Spotify and SoundCloud are great starts, but there are thousands of other streaming platforms that will allow you to upload your music and create a free profile. Since you can’t go out and perform your new songs at open mics or concerts, you need to find a new way for your audience to hear you making the distribution of your music extremely important.
Similar to the social media strategy, you can not simply post your song and expect the masses to come and find it. You need to distribute your music and then strategically promote it across your other digital profiles. This means posting on social media, promoting through your website, or creating posts on your streaming profiles.
You can utilize social media with this step as well by creating music videos and promoting those across IGTV, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and any of the other thousand platforms that allow video. Having a video element attached to your music is extremely important today and as long as you have a smartphone you can create something.
#4 Promote your merch
As with most industries right now, many bands and artists are struggling financially. This could be the perfect opportunity to promote your brand specifically through your merchandise. You can use all of the tips above to promote your merch, but it is important to create custom band merch that people will want to buy, even if they’ve never heard of your music before.
There are millions of people who will buy a band shirt without even listening to their music. I can’t tell you how many times i’ve been in a crowd and saw a girl with a Nirvana shirt to find out she didn’t even know who Kurt Cobain was.
Your logo or artwork across your merchandise can help promote both your music and your brand without you having to even lift a finger. Band merch is like creating moving billboards.
If you would like to create new merchandise, this would be the perfect opportunity for you to work with a graphic designer who can create incredible art for you at a reasonable price.
There are thousands of freelance graphic design websites that will match you with an artist who can create a T-shirt design, hat design, or album cover design for you. What’s a good band without a good album cover, right? You can then go ahead and sell these items across the web on sites like Etsy, eBay, ThreadUp, or your own personal website.
Don’t forget about that backlog of old tour merch too. This is the perfect opportunity to sell those items and make space for new designs.
We gathered these tips from:
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.