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How to market your music the personal way

[This post was written by guest contributor Anthony Ceseri.]

If you want to get anywhere as a songwriter or a performer, it’s crucial that you learn how to market yourself and your music. The issue is, occasionally a songwriter will get a “lucky break” with his or her music and fall into fame and fortune without having put in much effort. When that happens, every other songwriter on earth thinks that’s the way to make it happen. You just have to be lucky. After all, we all want a quick fix, right?

However, if you’re serious about being successful with your music, that’s not much of a strategy. I want to give you three important pointers on how you can be much more likely to achieve your songwriting goals, based on how you market your music and yourself as a musician.

1. Speak to One Person

Of course as a songwriter you want to appeal to the masses. You want a ton of people hearing, sharing and loving your music. I get that. But one thing you have to realize when you’re marketing yourself is it’s best to address a single person to increase the odds of getting their attention.

For example, let’s say you signed up for a band’s email list at one of their shows. Which of the following opening email lines would be more likely to grab your attention as a reader?

A.    “Hey Guys – We wanted to thank you all for coming out to our last show. We appreciated you guys being there and hope you can make it out to our next show at…”


B.    “Hey Bob – We wanted to thank you for coming out to our last show. We appreciated you being there and hope you can make it out to our next show at…”

Doesn’t the second one feel much more like it’s directed at you, specifically (well, assuming your name’s Bob)? The second one’s much more likely to get your reader’s attention. There’s a subconscious detachment that happens when we read phrases like “hey all you guys.” It makes us feel like just a face in a crowd, and we zone out. But when we’re spoken to directly, we’re much more likely to respond.

To get good at this technique, a great marketing approach is to create an avatar of your typical fan. Write out the name, age, gender, occupation, etc, of one of your fans. It can be someone made-up, who you feel represents your fan base appropriately, or it can be an actual fan of yours. Every time you write an email, tweet, or Facebook post, keep that person in mind. Pretend you’re writing to him only and not to everyone on the internet. It’ll help you keep your writings engaging for everyone who reads them, because while saying things like “Hello Cleveland” is kick-ass on-stage, it just doesn’t apply when you’re marketing yourself.

2. Give Value

Another big mistake a lot of songwriters make is they don’t make their promotions all about their fans. They make them about themselves. They say things like “We would really appreciate it if you came out to our show. It would mean so much to us.” That’s inwardly focused. It may work on their mom and siblings, but it just won’t appeal to someone who’s a casual observer of the band. In fact, it’ll probably turn that casual observer off, because it’s such a self-serving statement.

Another phrase I see a lot of songwriter’s write when promoting their stuff is “hey check out my songs, and let me know what you think.” There are two reasons this phrase is a bad idea: 1. Again, it’s self-serving. It’s all about the artist who posted it, which means other people aren’t likely to care. And, 2. It’s disingenuous. They probably don’t really want to know what you think, UNLESS you love it. If you hate their music, they’re not going to want you posting that on their page. I recommend staying away from that phrase altogether in online postings. It does the exact opposite of giving value.

Instead, talk about the benefits they’ll have by coming out to a show or buying one of your albums. Let them know why it’ll be a positive experience for THEM. People respond to what makes them feel good, so make them feel good. Don’t just talk about yourself. Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. Not someone else. Use that piece of information to your advantage when you’re inviting someone to a show or to buy your music.

3. Build Relationships

One of the best ways to market your music is to build relationships. This applies not only to people who can help advance your career, like club owners and bigger bands, but with your fans as well.

As far as building relationships with your fans, if you were in the crowd for a band’s show, wouldn’t you be much more likely to come to another show if the band members engaged you in some pleasant conversation afterwards? If you get your fans on your email list, you can continue the relationship, by offering them cool stuff in your emails.

And as far promoters, bigger bands, etc, who can help your career along, building relationships with them is key as well. You’ve heard the phrase “it’s all who you know.” Well start knowing people. But again, it’s about them. Don’t try to build relationships with people by seeing what they can do for you. No one will want to deal with you. Just be cool and get to know people. Later on down the line, you might able to ask for things, and it’ll be okay because you’ll have that relationship. But start out just by getting to know them, and even see if there’s anything you can do for them. If people like you and get to know you, they’ll be much more likely to want to help you succeed.

The opposite of building relationships would be to spam people online. This includes sending emails to people who didn’t ask to receive them and posting your music on sites that weren’t looking for it to be posted there. Things like that will only aggravate people, and possibly even get you blocked from the sites you want to be on. You’re doing the opposite of building relationships.

The problem is, most songwriters think in numbers. They think “that Facebook page has 20,000 fans. If I post my music there, SOMEONE will hear it, and I’ll get famous.” What’s much more likely to happen, is you’re just going to annoy the owner of the page. Think about how you feel when random people you don’t know post their stuff to your page. Instead, try to develop a relationship with the owner of the page. Maybe he’ll eventually promote your music to his page, if it’s good. And if not, that’s fine too.

Last Note

Marketing your music and yourself as an artist is crucial to your success as a songwriter. It’s just as important as understating songwriting, stage performance, recording and theory. Actually, it’s probably more important, if you want songwriting to be more than just your hobby. So use this information to avoid some unnecessary mistakes throughout your journey to success and have fun.

[For a lot more useful information about writing songs and building your fan base, grab my free EBook here: http://successforyoursongs.com/freeoffer/]

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[Globe picture from Shutterstock.]

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  • Adam_B_Harris

    I keep seeing these points over and over again in DIY texts and marketing blogs everywhere. Maybe there is something in it?

  • Jordan Metra

    I have read a lot of blogs about marketing youself but this one takes the cup.. I like the bit about "checkout my song" I find myself using that phrase a lot to gonna change and not be self centered focus on the fans.. http://www.gotinstrumentals4u.com

  • r.

    This applies to me in a lot of ways, so thanks. I do find myself meeting other musicians and immediately thinking about what they can do for me, versus just building a relationship. Relationships are what I want.

    I’m wondering if you can give some examples for #2. I like what you say there. I’m definitely guilty of saying “please check out this song” or “it would mean a lot to me if you check out my album.” But you don’t give examples of what to say *instead*. So…

    “Instead, talk about the benefits they’ll have by coming out to a show or buying one of your albums. Let them know why it’ll be a positive experience for THEM. People respond to what makes them feel good, so make them feel good. Don’t just talk about yourself. Everyone’s favorite topic is themselves. Not someone else. Use that piece of information to your advantage when you’re inviting someone to a show or to buy your music.”

    So how do I do that? “Buy my cd, it’ll be good for your ears!” “Come to my show, you’ll have a good time!” It’s a good point but I feel like the “how” is missing. How do I make *my* shows and music about *other* people, or make them feel like it’s about them?

    Anyway thanks for a good heads-up article.

  • No, you say stuff like "OMG! we have some amazing stuff in store for you at tonight's show, so make sure you get down to watch us, you'll only regret it if you don't!" or "Tonight is going to be amazing, are you ready for one of the greatest gigs you'll ever see?"

    In terms of selling album stuff, say "So my band is just about to release a new record, If you are a kind heart person you'll buy it… Otherwise the puppy gets it! And you wouldn't want to be responsible for the death of a cute puppy would you :(" obviously that is an extreme example, but just showing you, you need to be creative and talk to peoples emotions. Think outside the box.

    Luke – Soul Sanctuary

  • Ben Makinen

    Thank you "Guest" for the reminders here. Marketing ourselves is often the last thing we learn, and by then we have typically grown into know-it-alls of music. i have learned something by reading this anonymous post and i appreciate it!

  • Joss

    This is a well written article with sage advice. In a similar vein, I have started a new technique on a Tumblr page recommended by a musician friend who had huge success promoting a show this way. For every one thing you say about yourself or your music, write two articles/blogs/links/posts about another artist who is involved in the show, in the recording, in your circle of musicians, etc. It shows that you are more then one person but more like a collective, and that you're connected to many other artists. It also promotes other deserving artists and widens everyone's readership. Be sure to #tag the posts with the other artists names, links to their websites and even the genres of music if it is different from your own. Keep it social, keep it friendly, keep it humble. Give to receive. Music is about sharing and spreading the good vibes. Cheers,

  • I HARDLY LEAVE A COMMENT BECAUSE OF HOW DIFFICULT AND ANNOYING SOME SITES MAKE IT. I just want to say to the team of CD baby "thank you" for the great articles you always send. It does help. It feels like someone cares which is helpful when you're trying to build a music career. Cheers and more power to you guys. It means a lot to me.

  • Thanks Anthony, nice post, and good food for thought 🙂

  • Mohamed Sawwah

    Great Job , thank You

  • Ditto. How exactly does one enable that advice? If I knew of some other way, I would have said it. I need a little more than, 'don't do that.'

  • There's probably no really working set of phrases you should be using. I think #2 is about communication skills and being a cool person in general. No one wants to be told what he has to do. "check out this" and "buy that" are counterproductive as we humans automatically don't do what others tell us to do (or did you do your homework because your mum told you so?). Maybe you don't need to be that creative with letting your fans know about new opportunities for them. A simple "here's the latest *yourbandname* track (plus a short phrase specific to your audience)" might be enough. If I love an artists music, and/or he/she is a cool guy I'll follow their activities anyway and I#m just waiting for their next release. If there's a new CD I'll listen to it. No need to tell me that I have to buy it.

    I'd also add to #2: Though in most cases ppl are looking for a "positive" experience, your specific audience might also look for something else. Music is about emotion. Some might be looking for some sort of pain for example. You could communicate your latest release e.g. like this: "My world is broken. Never in my life a person hurt me that much. I try to get over it with this song. Maybe sharing my pain with you can heal some wounds. url:link_to_youtube_video". You would do that of course only if it applies to you as a person/artist, and the song, and the way you communicate with your audience.

    My additional advise: Be real and honest with your audience. Be yourself. In your music and as a person.

  • A great article! You could charge huge sums for teaching this!

  • Again, good advice!

    A question to point #1: In the old ListBaby, there was an option to insert the Name of the recipients, so that indeed the letter would start with “Hey Bob”, “Hey Anne” and so on, for each recipient – but I just don’t find it anymore. (Also, inserting calendar entries, cities and so on, doesn’t work now).

    How to do that?

  • pari

    wait a minute, you mean it's not all about me?

  • Thanks, KC. Glad you enjoy the articles, and we're happy to have you in the CD Baby community. Cheers!


  • Yep. Both of those things are still options. Use the filter functionality to send to any city or state, and use the vaiable {name} for the recipient's name.


    • Andrea Gerak

      Thank you Chris! Yes I just tested it and it does work! I have not thought of actually TYPING the {} 😀

  • excellent post …if you are interested in networking with musicians like myself for the common good feel free to contact me …ps no money required to effort ….

  • Here is what I get from this article in a nutshell. In your relationships it is better to give that receive. Get rid of the ego and serve you fan community. All in all great business advice for advancing a career in music.

  • Kellie Sue

    Luke this was very helpful — thank you. Cool of you to be so generous with those of us who are like, "ummm…. AND what to say, Anthony?" Examples rule.

  • Derrick A. Rodgers

    Good info. I am constantly trying to make a splash in the music industry.


  • I think one thing you have to do is take massive action. One way I do that is through reaching my fans online. Giving value is important especially when first meeting people. Here are some more ideas on the subject to help get you there. http://musiciansempowered.com/MusiciansEmpowered/5-secrets-to-selling-music-online-secret-1/

  • OHead

    OHead – Do It Like Me (Official Video): https://youtu.be/BngNfRPDy48