An easy mistake for Producers to fall into is the "New Gear Trap."
We get it- the latest Kyle Beats ad has you thinking that your beats will finally be pro-quality if you just get that Drip plugin. You saw that tutorial on YouTube where the guy is using all the FabFilter plugins to make his mixes LOUD. You heard from your buddy who produces that if you just run your tracks through analog tubes that it will be the secret sauce to get you signed to a major label. That sample pack from your favorite producer will FINALLY be the thing that makes you sound like them. Really? If you believe this, I've got news for you; I've fallen for all the same promises, and I'm here to tell you one thing for sure:
Your best shot at getting signed to those labels, making your mix sound pro, etc is putting in the reps in the studio so that you train your ears to hear properly.
Until then, your time is better spent creating quality music, understanding EQ and compression, learning how to get the sounds out of your head and into your DAW, improving your songwriting ability, and developing your stage presence and performance skills. You've got to give the labels, promoters, and music reviewers a reason to care about you.
Let's be objective: how well do you know the synthesizers you already own?
Can you sit down and know which knobs to turn, how to configure the signal routing, and what waveforms to choose to make the sound you hear in your head? How many sample libraries do you have, compared to how many times you re-use the same sounds in tracks? How many of the same channel compressor emulators do you need? How often do you use different EQs? Are you writing music with a purpose, or are you endlessly scrolling thru snares and presets and throwing stuff into the arrangement hoping it will sound good?
Right. Developing your own sound isn't so much about how many toys you've got to play with, but how well you know flex the tools you've got. Which leads to the next question: how long did it take you to learn how to write and engineer music to a professional level, and how many plug-ins, sample packs, etc have you purchased along the way?
Now consider this: How much time or money have you invested into growing your audience, building your fanbase, or learning how to market yourself?
If a tree falls in the woods, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Like the proverbial tree, if you're making music but not promoting it, how do you expect anyone to hear it? Let's assume you're trying to grow a Spotify audience (since there are 150 million paid users, and 345 unpaid users consuming music on the platform.) You'll commonly hear that 60k new songs are uploaded to Spotify daily, but a recent article on music business worlwide reveals 22.4%, or 17.5 million of them – have been played fewer than 101 times since Spotify launched in 2008. Further inspection of the data shows there are approximately 78.4 million music tracks, and divide that by the 4888 days it's been (as of the time of this writing) since Spotify's launch shows ~16k songs uploaded daily.
While this number is orders of magnitude smaller than the commonly held 60k, 16,000 songs uploaded to Spotify every day is still significant- and you've got to compete with all of them, plus everything that's already up there, not to mention everything that's going up tomorrow. Do you stand out from the noise? Are you growing your fanbase there, or are there a lot of crickets chirping? Do your tracks have that >1000 plays indicator? Maybe they aren't connecting with potential fans.
Building a fanbase isn't easy, and no matter what anyone tells you, there's no magic solution that will take you from unknown to rock star.
The good news is, you have a better shot at "making it" today than ever before. The power of social media is unparalleled, and the tools to get your music in front of fans are available and very powerful.
Let's get to the juicy part already! Teach me something about marketing music!
OK, so how can you leverage these tools to get new fans? Either you've got time or money (or maybe both). Which strategy you use will depend on your personal situation.
1) If you are short on money, but long on time you can take the personalized route of connecting directly with people who are in your target demo. - Build a list of labels you want to get on.
- Build a list of artists you sound like.
- Build a list of venues you want to play.
Now spend some time on social engaging with the people who fall under these categories. Don't spam them, actually try to make personal connections. "CHECK OUT MY TRACK ON SOUNDCLOUD" is not the ideal first message to receive from anyone. A little "sales training" goes a long way in knowing how to interact with people from cold outreach. The key here is you're trying to make friends, connect with humans, not be "sales-y."
2) If you have too many responsibilities, or just can't bring yourself to go connect with people directly your other option is running ads. Ironically, you'll have to do the same basic prep work.
- Build a list of labels you want to get on.
- Build a list of artists you sound like.
- Build a list of venues you want to play.
Then set up ad campaigns that target those people. Here's the kicker- you can't just run ads and say "go listen to my music" you've got to give them something they WANT in exchange for their attention. You've got to interrupt their scrolling pattern and get them to take an action (click the link in your ad) so you need to have ads that speak to them and make them want to listen/watch.
Of course, this means you'll have to acquire some new skills and tools...
I know what you're thinking- 'But wait, earlier you said I shouldn't just buy a bunch of gear.' Well, actually, I said you shouldn't be blowing money on redundant plugins that do what probably at least two other plugins you already own do. I told you to stop wasting money buying a ton of presets and sample libraries you don't use. I didn't say there wouldn't be a cost involved with building a fan base... You'll need to learn how to use the various ad platforms, and how to set up your targeting correctly or you're going to waste a lot of money. You'll need to learn how to read analytics so you understand how your ads are working, and devise marketing strategies that hook your potential fans and get them to buy in to your artists journey. You'll need to learn how to produce and repurpose content so you get the most ROI for your spend. You'll need to ensure your brand is consistently represented across all channels so your fans recognize it's you without having to dig too far, otherwise they might just keep on scrolling. Don't make them work for it, make it as easy as possible to become your fan.
Does this sound too complicated? Did you think it was going to be easy, or free?
I told you there's no magic bullet. You will pay with time, or you will pay with money.
Getting signed may seem like the cure-all for this situation, but thats only if you're getting signed to a BIG label with clout. The truth is, until you've got a buzz, it's unlikely that labels that are worth your time will want to sign your music. Smaller labels, in my experience, invest very little in their new artists development, don't have big marketing budgets, and tend to focus on the wrong goals. Not to mention the likelihood you'll never see any of the important info regarding sales numbers, understand where your fanbase is developing, etc. (Here's a little secret, most small labels are created to boost the profile of the founder, so your music won't always be the A1 priority.) Which put's the onus to build a fanbase firmly in your hands.
Wait, wait wait... I thought this was about buying plugins or something?
Surprise, it was actually about mindset. The point here is you've got to decide how to best invest your time- whether that's improving your music, or learning how to promote it. You've also got to decide how to best allocate your budget, whether thats buying new gear, or helping broadcast your signal to a wider audience. If you already have a good computer, a decent set of monitors, a good audio interface, a decent mic/instrument, and quality compressor, EQ, limiter, saturator, distortion plugins (*hint* your DAW already has all of these tools built in), one or two solid synths (*cough cough* Serum) and a decent sample library (*ahem* Splice), buying more of the same is not a good use of your money. So if new gear isn't a good use of your funds, and you can't be bothered to learn how to market your music...
You're left with the option of hiring someone who does understand this, has experience with the tools, and can do it for you.
Good marketers won't promise you exact results, instead they can show you case studies on other artists they've helped, and give you a range of whats possible based on your needs and budget. Good music marketers will ask you lots of questions so they understand what your goals are, and who you're looking to connect with, then devise a strategy that will grow awareness and attract fans to you, but they won't promise you results overnight.
Ready to get started working with pros who have done it before and have proven, repeatable results? Drop your info in our Contact Form and we'll get in touch to schedule a call and learn if we're a good fit to work together. Still need more examples we've got the chops? Check out our Case Studies to see other artists we've helped, or read thru our blog for some additional breakdowns of strategies we've examined from afar and dissected for what made them successful.
More articles on mindset, marketing, and making music to come, stay tuned.