Top 3 Ways to Promote Your Music If You Don’t Perform Live

April 16, 2012{ 57 Comments }

What’s the last band you recall “making it” without touring?

Ummm…. Nilsson comes to mind (and that was in  the 1960’s).

The list of non-touring pop stars is probably not very long; but it IS possible to get national exposure without performing, especially now that so many social media tools are available to DIY musicians.

The world of viral video and sync licensing knows no prejudice when it comes to your band’s road miles or performance schedule. In fact, if you’re a musician who doesn’t play live (because of stage-fright, family commitments, technological constraints, unreceptive music markets, etc.), you’ll actually have more time to put into some of the other aspects of your music career–  aspects that are becoming just as important as your live show.

Here are a few ways you can promote your music career without having to lift an amplifier:

1) Create music videos worth sharing- A viral video can arguably do more for you than any tour. And the better your videos, the better chance you have of them going viral; the more time you spend on videos (time you might’ve spent rehearsing and performing), the better your videos will be. Check out The DIY Musician’s Complete Guide to YouTube for some advice on how to make the most of your video presence.

2) License your music- The industry has changed significantly over the past decade. The folks who choose the music for TV and film no longer care if the song is recognizable or has a big name attached to it. They want the song that best fits the scene, no matter who it’s by, and they want it cleared NOW!

Because indie musicians are more… accessible, they’re often more nimble in terms of approving their music’s use for sync licensing, and they’ve started to earn significant income from traditional licensing opportunities in film, TV, and video games. CD Baby can help you earn money from both traditional and onlin sync opportunities.

3) Stream your concert to the world- If you’re not touring because of logistical or financial concerns but you still have the jones to PLAY, consider streaming a concert from your living room. Check out Episode #65 of CD Baby’s DIY Musician Podcast, where we speak about live concert streaming with Matthew Ebel.

I’d love to hear from any of the musicians out there who do not perform live (or at least don’t tour); how do you promote your music? Why don’t you perform live? Have you explored alternate ways of connecting with “an audience?” Let us know in the comments section below.

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  • Damian Gaume

    Hi there. In my case I don't tour beacuse I am a solo artist, have recored my album myself, meaning have played all instruments, and because of the music genre I play , doesn't really make much sense to me touring and playing live with my computer, as it is more common with other genres other than Rock-Pop. I am promoting my album by making video clips and uploading them on youbue + Twitter + Facebook etc.

    • Great. Do you keep yourself on a production schedule or anything like that for YouTube clips?

  • How do you engage with those communities of DJs? Social media? Forums?

  • I do not perform live because I don't like all the energy that has to go into rehearsing a band, trying to get family and friends/supporters out to live events. Very frustrating when at the end of the night it has costed you to pay to play. Would prefer to invest valuable time and money on recording and connecting with people online (twitter, facebook, linkedin, youtube). Club owners and touring agents make it difficult for artists to sustain an income that makes it worth it to leave family and friends or a better paying job.

  • We've been using Stageit to do online shows from our home town. The shows are informal and acoustic but that's what people seem to enjoy about them. We also dedicate each show to fans in a specific city. Tonight's show was dedicated to our Seattle area fans. Wednesday night is for Portland, OR. Anyone can watch these online at:

    • Cool idea. Do you have an IM feature that allows them to comment while you perform?

      • We do – actually Stageit does. People can leave messages during the performance, then we can respond in between songs. Stageit also let's you sell virtual tickets to your show, so you can make a little money back. The split is about 60% to the artist, 40% to Stageit. However, that split covers any licensing fee to play covers legally.

        When someone buys a ticket, they purchase essentially a block of credits the first time that they can use toward any show on their platform. Artists make as many tickets available to their show as they want and also set the credit price. Many set it at "pay what you can" with a one credit minimum. As you play, those watching with tickets can also tip you during your show out of their credits. Once the artist receives 250 credits (equivalent to $25), they can request their payment.

  • Haiku

    Thanks for your post
    I am constantly told by others how big a mistake I am making when not touring.
    But my health after a severe traffic accident is not fit for touring, so I don´t have a choice.
    And yes, I find it very difficult promoting music without that possibility.
    kind regards

  • I've seen some decent shows with solo performers using Ableton. Also, that Boss loop station allows you to set and trigger multiple loops at once. Start and stop specific ones, bring them back later, etc. Plus recorded samples are storable too. Way better than the normal looping stuff when you're just limited to piling more stuff on top of what's already recorded.

  • Nice post…But as far as doing videos in place of touring, a LOT of artists aren't really putting in a lot of effort with videos. The majority simply have access to a Cannon DSLR and don't have any vision for a great video. It always comes down to the discipline and hard work the artist chooses to put in…whether they hit the road, shoot videos, or make music!

    • Completely agree. Though videos don't always have to be big budget to be successful, it helps if there's a great concept.

  • Hey RD – thanks for posting about your experience with StageIt. I've been thinking about webcasting some shows of mine, and have been weighing the relative advantages of doing a free show on Ustream or a paid show on StageIt. Are you guys doing paid shows, and do you have any insight on paid vs. free webcasts? Would love to hear anything else you have to share. Thanks!

  • Great. Glad to hear you're getting some attention that way. What streaming service do you use?

  • I used to play live 5 to 7 nights a week. It was my job full time to tour and perform. Then I stepped back to a couple of shows a week, then a few a month… But always pulling good crowds. They bought records (real records not downloading from a cloud) and we signed them. Fun times.

    Now my main stream is licensing. I perform live rarely. It doesn't make the difference for me that it used to since while you play people more distracted now. They will video with their phone, send the video, message what they are doing… watch a few minutes, check their messages, then video some more. They used to watch and get involved with the music.

    Although I will be out there live again this year I know that licensing will again be my main money stream this year and drive 99% of my sales.

    In 2012 here is how you greet a crowd…"Welcome everybody and thank you for coming to the show. Now who all has a smart phone, Win phone or any kind of app phone? (Everyone holds up a phone). Now what I would like you to do is check your apps for the one that says 'turn me the **** off and watch the show' and please download that one… thank you very much".

  • Matt

    We've found that it's hard to focus on more than one thing at a time. Video is a great way to keep your audience engaged if you're too busy to play out. Right now we're recording a new album, one song per month, and posting a video of the song each month. Sort of a song-of-the-month club. So far we've gotten a lot of positive feedback from our fans, via Facebook, YouTube, and our newsletter.

  • You should get one of those MIDI foot controllers for a bass sound, or… the Moog Taurus pedals! Easier on the toes.

  • Mary, glad to motivate! I have some friends who've moved down "south" to Portland, Oregon from Alaska… where there was probably a similar limit to the live gig opportunities. 18 hours! That's up there, huh? But I'm glad to hear you can put some of that energy into live streaming.

  • Clinton Degan

    Acts that made it huge without touring in the year 2011: Lana del Rey. Major label deal and the works, essentially off of a single video.

  • Heck of a commute to band practice.

  • Wow. I'd love to hear more about some of those ways you're generating income from your music. What's your website URL?

  • Glad to help, T.

  • Cheers back.

  • Nice to hear from someone outside the pop/rock/folk/hip-hop world on this stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • Sounds like a major effort upfront, but saves you some energy later on.

  • You've definitely got your good 2-second description down: Western Canada's only All-Weather Peripatetic Panpiper! That is amazing.

  • I haven't actually been to too many prog/metal shows in the states, but from the ones I've attended it sounds pretty similar to your situation. Many of those bands in Portland do a good job of supporting each other and throwing little festivals that get a lot of metal fans under the same roof at once.

  • Not sure what the CD sales or payouts are for those festivals, though.

  • Thanks for your thoughts. There are certainly pluses and minuses to going it alone, and the "no obligations" thing is a big bonus. As for your YouTube contest, my suspicion is that the mandatory entry fee (of a CD purchase) might be keeping folks away. You could try it again and simply let people submit videos using your music. You could assume they purchased their favorite track from iTunes!

  • Then when they post those videos that use your music, you'll earn ad revenue through the sync program.

  • solrac



  • Pro production can go a long way, for sure. It's necessary, especially if you're trying to capture a more traditional music video scenario (plot-driven piece, live performance footage, etc.). BUT I do think there are exceptions IF the concept is creative enough. I'll cite the oft-cited example, but those earlier OK Go videos were pretty lo-budget. They just had some quirky idea that was captivating, and a lot of time to choreograph themselves. But ideas THAT catchy are rare. Best to shoot for quality concept AND quality execution.

  • Yeah. Sounded good with that setup. But I realize the more equipment you have on stage, the more stress!

  • Great tips and we could help anyone wanting to do them. Any independent, unsigned artists get in touch with us on skype or email as we will record street sessions, feature you on the site, and just create an online presence for you. We don't charge either as helping you helps us…

  • You said this better than I ever could have and this is EXACTLY how I feel. There is so much apathy towards new music (even good stuff) that it does take the fun out of it sometimes. I think people that are like, "you should make music for you" are full of it. The whole reason to create then share music is to feel the sense of energy. Playing live as a solo artist is VERY costly in time and money if you need a live band and electronics like I do. The shows are usually pretty good, but it really does amount to pay for play.

  • Jessica Quest

    I'd say online. Social networks all of the time, but only the useful ones – Twitter and

  • Thanks for the great info and links. I always heard that Nirvana never toured for "Nevermind", after it hit big they sort of broke up, then did the MTV unplugged gig like 5 or 6 months later!

  • Mirembe

    Hi,i will make 50 on 29. Nov .2012. i am an artist. i sing Gospel, actually, whenever i perform., people get touched and they don't remain in their seats BUT i ve tried to take my music on radio stations , they reject it due to the starndard of the studio. i use the cheaper ones because i dont have money.please, please, may you promote me? i am on FB . and i can send some of my songs if you dont mind. thank you so much

  • I've been trying to figure out how to promote myself with this video: – is it working?

  • Hi Chris,

    I've read your article about alternatives to performing live with interest. I have sporadic performances of my pieces on keyboard eg in a local covered market (for free) and more recently in a local music forum open mike night. During the latter I received good applause and it encouraged me Unfortunately, this was also unpaid, though I was again glad that someone might like my music.

    I'm not in a position to go touring or regular work in clubs ( oh maybe that) as I am my wife's main carer.

    I have tried getting radio stations interested – my music is a mixture, a lot of it having classical influence so I thought, 'yes! classic fm'.. Unfortunately, they are part of a huge big business and no one answers my emails. I think 'is it me' and ' these people do not care' and worse.

    Anthony M Spencer, Darlington, County Durham, UK

  • Paris Reese

    hi this is 2brezy from p.s krew , we have our own clothing line at the mall we rap and people buy our sweaters and shirts, but the thing is. even with all of that it seems we still havent got noticed for our true talent for rapping , we have been to different sites to get us known as well , if you guyes can help please email me

  • Dave

    Register and Upload EVERYWHERE. Create a Buzz.
    Look for every site, community, location, resource, etc., INCLUDING the usual (iTunes and all the others), and

  • Paul
  • yo mama
  • Rique Pagan

    Hi: Really want to be a part of the future network. I've played and traveled and toured some. I'm 55 and I'd do it still but my girlfriend,(who sings much better than I) can not dig that kind of life. In fact, really doesn't want to leave our rather remote Northern California home. I'm going to stop pointing out the obvious lack of musical opportunity here and focus on multi-camera discrete audio/video for upload.

  • Marc j

    Check out "Zone Music (produced by Aaron Wess)" by Marc J –

  • cat mario online

    Very interesting and very well done. I take exception to only one point: that “anything that returns a positive ROI is worthwhile”. Perhaps it’s true when selling a virtual product and the cost of adding one new user is close to zero, but for real world, brick and mortar
    businesses, where the cost of each product sold is typically 33 to 50% of the sale, a business really needs to reap a 5 to 1 ROI and the email example is close enough to call it a success.

    You are to be commended for this insightful article and all that went into it. Very few businesses will take the time to evaluate where they spend their time and money and hopefully business owners will see this and look for ways to evaluate their own marketing investments

    cat mario online

  • cat mario online

    Great article! I just wanted to say this post is right on the money.
    Apps are difficult to market, and games specifically have there own
    challenges. Video is definitely one of the best tools to get started
    with, and search engines love video. Most apps need explanation with a
    voice over, but most games dont, so you really need to present the game
    play in an enticing way and keep it short. You can make one yourself
    easily with your developer tool and a decent screen recorder. It takes
    some time but its well
    worth it. You could also just pay somebody to
    do it. I personally have used blue fortress media to make mine, but I
    know there are other good ones like appvj, wyzowl, and demo fuck. Either
    way good luck to you! And once again great article.
    catmario online thankss

  • Jasmy Stewart

    There are so many unsigned artists who couldn’t be perform publicly. One of my friend is a kind of this, he play his instruments himself and a damn lover of music. However, there are so many website who give opportunity to people like these. One can upload their solo performance on the website and get chance to be famous.

  • Richard McCargar

    There are too few venues for all the artists who would like to play out. In my case, in 2004, I had two strokes and a heart-attack that made playing impossible for years, much less touring.

    It’s only been since late 2011 that I was able to restart learning to play and sing. As my memory still hasn’t fully recovered from the strokes, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever play live again.

    Just this week, I put out an album of originals: . Please check it out. I’ll be putting it on cdbaby this weekend for distribution.

  • ApathyNihilism

    There are other successful artists who never toured. Enigma, for example….and lack of live performance did not prevent them from selling millions of albums.