How To Grow A Following As A Music Producer
London-based DJ/producer Dom Bishop has created a guide to marketing strategies for music producers, sharing tips to help get your music noticed.
When you first set out learning how to produce music, building a following might feel a bit daunting. There are many different levels of the industry, and many different paths you can follow.
If you're not sure how to market your music, hopefully this guide will help you kickstart your career. Some of the below music producer marketing strategies might even be things you're doing already without realising.
Don't Underestimate The Power Of Networking
It might be difficult to comprehend, but the vast majority of successful producers (whether they produce for other artists, or release their own music) started out at square one like you – using word of mouth to spread their music.
Of course, there are a rare number of artists out there that were dealt the lucky hand and blew up from one hit, skipping all the hard graft and reaping the benefits. But what would be the point in me talking about them?
I’m talking about the artists that are at every gig, conference or masterclass, trying to grow as a music producer. Making a name for themselves, day by day. Remember hard work beats talent, if talent doesn’t work hard.
Get stuck into the community you wish to succeed in. Seriously, get out there and find these events.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been in a smoking area, showing people my previous releases and receiving a gig or radio show in return. This for me, is by far the best way of networking.
There’s a very small chance an artist is going to listen to your music if you send it over with no intro – but if you’ve met them at a gig and had a quick chat, they can put that name to a face and it kicks off the conversation. Do not underestimate the power of word of mouth.
Take Advantage Of Social Media
Before the internet, networking at events and via radio, were the only real ways to get noticed as a music producer. As we now live in the era of social media, it would be silly to ignore the power it holds.
Almost all of your favourite producers will have some sort of social media nowadays. There will be a few hardcore producers that don’t feel the need to do this, but as I said before, the internet is powerful – let’s use it to our advantage.
On the various social media platforms, be sure to 'follow' anyone you feel sits within the community you’re looking to get involved with. And this doesn’t stop at other producers. Research radio DJs, publishers, agents, promoters – get to know who are the important people in your industry. When you’re confident your music is good and ready to be released, these are the people you want to be sending your tracks to.
When it comes to reaching out on social media, sometimes it's good to think ahead. Drop relevant industry figures a line and introduce yourself, but make sure you give them a reason to reply. Maybe say you saw them play, heard their show or read their recent article. Personalise the conversation, as it will give them more of a reason to get back to you. This, in turn, will mean they’re more inclined to listen to your music in the future. Play the long game.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve received a DM of a solo SoundCloud link with no 'Hello', nothing. You wouldn’t just throw a USB full of your tunes at a DJ while he was on the tube would you?
Hopefully you get the point. Just have a conversation. Show them you’re passionate and love everything about the industry, and that you’re not just here to get your tunes out there.
Launch Your Own Events
I’ve been running events for around about a year now and it’s not a walk in the park. Luckily, I have a great team around me – but there are a lot of things I found out the hard way while learning how to promote a concert or club night.
If this is something you’re interested in doing, I strongly suggest you try and do so with a good team. If you’re confident enough to do this on your own though, good luck!
Running your own events is a sure way of getting to play your own music. Whether you’re planning a club night, live gig or day event, it can get rather expensive. Playing at your own events is a good way to save a bit of cash, get yourself on lineups alongside more established artists, and of course – get people listening to your music.
One thing I will say though, is be humble. Don’t put yourself in the peak slots if you’re the smallest artist on the lineup. It’s a sure way to annoy the artists you’ve booked and the crowd that’s turned up to see them. You might think this sounds obvious, but I’ve seen some very strange running orders with established artists playing to nobody, whilst the residents lap up all the fame.
In short, if you have the time, the team, and the expenses to put on incredible events, you will be sure to meet many great people along the way.
Consider Your Online Brand
This is one thing that I think is difficult to understand on your own when starting out. A lot of producers in this day and age get into music through their mates – maybe from uni, or school. With this, the fun element obviously drives this interest.
Whilst you want to come across as interesting across your socials, you also want to hold a certain level of professionalism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a hilarious post to get people engaged. I use humorous writing, funny editing or even voiceovers in my posts. But be sure to think about the crowd that’s going to be receiving your posts. Try and keep it relevant.
I mostly use instagram to post any updates now. I try to minimise my personal posts to my stories, keeping any of my permanent posts music-related. I know everyone is different, and some people sitting here might be thinking – if I want to post videos of my dog’s eating tinned hot dogs whole, I can. Yes you can. But just remember, any artist that stumbles onto your instagram page after you’ve dropped them an email with your music and sees months and months of dog-related videos, probably isn’t going to take you seriously.
Try and keep your posting consistent too. Try to upload the same day each week or month, and if you have a lot of things coming up – spread them out. Don’t post five videos one week and then absolutely nothing for the rest of the month. If you want people to engage and follow your work, a good balance in upload time is key.
Consistency also applies to the content of your post. As I said before, I try to keep my music-related posts rather tongue in cheek and humorous. If you don’t like your posts to be of that nature and would rather choose a different tone of voice, just be sure that you’re keeping them the same as you go along. It will give people an idea of who you are as an artist and the content you’re likely to put out in the future. I know this all sounds very specific, but it’s not only your music that will get you to where you want to be. It’s how you present yourself online and in person. Being a likeable person get’s you a long way.
Press Pictures & Artwork
Your artist press pictures and music artwork are an important part of building a successful music producer brand. There’s nothing more off-putting than receiving music from an individual and then heading to their profile to find something offensive or completely irrelevant as their display photo – and this doesn’t just stop at your profile photo.
You need to remember that when you’re transitioning from a bedroom producer or complete newbie to the scene, you need to leave a certain level of your personal life behind when using the world wide web. If not this, then at least keep it separate and make a new artist account. It’s nice to share some elements of your personal life with your fans, but try and keep it more focused towards your music if possible. After all, that’s what you’re trying to push.
And finally, don’t forget to head back through your socials from when you were younger and vet your posts. We all grow up and change, but we usually keep the same social media accounts. You’ll be surprised what you might find, that you don’t want other artists finding. Kids can be weird…
Collaborate with other creatives
Building a brand on a small budget is very difficult, unless you possess a long list of creative skills – in which case, you can probably skip this part and go and set up an incredibly successful business on your own. There are many things you’ll need covering, but photography, artwork and poster designs are the key elements in building your brand.
If you know somebody personally that takes photographs professionally – hit them up and get yourself some professional photos taken. Nobody’s going to take you seriously if your profile photo is you dressed up in a duck outfit from last year’s quality halloween party. You need to have professional photos taken. Of course, a lot of you may not be able to afford to. This is where your networking skills that you discovered earlier on come in. There will be plenty of artists out there that, like you, are trying to build a portfolio. There are local facebook groups with photography students that may need a physical project to pass an exam. This is a great way to collaborate with artists outside of the music industry and help both of you out.
As I said before, you’ll also need artwork for your releases and posters (if you're running events). These areas of expertise in particular can get really expensive. But as I said before, head into online groups on facebook and discord channels and give them a scan through. You’ll be surprised who you might end up linking up with.
It’s also worth hitting up other producers or promoters and asking them who does their artwork. A lot of smaller creatives do their own artwork – I do all of my own. If you rub them up the right way, they may offer you a discount or even potentially hand out a freebie. Especially if you drop them a few new tracks and they like them.
The arts industry is an incredibly friendly place, and sometimes there will be times when you feel cheeky asking somebody for something. It might feel cheeky, but in the end they could feel incredibly humbled that somebody is appreciating them and they’d love to help you out. All it takes is a quick DM!
Be sure to think up a brief when reaching out to these creatives. Be clear and concise about what you want. Maybe get a mood board of artists profile photos you like, or a few poster designs and colour palettes that captured your eye. The more you can give them an idea of what you want, the happier you’ll be with the finished product.
Get Your Music Online
Once you've put the hours in at your local recording studio and gotten some feedback from industry folks, there are a few things you’ll want to know before putting your tunes out there.
Bandcamp is, by far, the most important market for uploading your tracks on the internet. The reason being – they take the smallest fee from each sale compared to every music site across the internet. Not only is Bandcamp good for this, but each time somebody buys your track, they can also choose to subscribe to you. This means that when you release new music, it will automatically land in their inbox with a notification.
I have a monthly radio show on Voices (sorry about the plug) and I find half of the tracks I’m going to play, by simply subscribing to artists when I’ve purchased their tracks and then grabbing their next release via my inbox. There are artists that I can’t even remember buying previous tracks from, but I now listen to every one of their releases because I bought just one. It’s an absolute must! This also allows you to send messages to your followers with updates on various other things – maybe a show you’re playing or an event you’re hosting. It really is great.
Another thing to consider before uploading your music is sending the tracks to online publishers. I always contact publishers on Soundcloud and Youtube to see if they’re interested in premiering my music. These pages usually have thousands of followers due to the sheer number of tracks they put out on their channels, making them incredibly valuable assets to having your music heard. If you can get your track on one of their pages, it’s also a great way of getting listeners over to your Bandcamp page and buying your music.
A few of the publishers that I always reach out to for my style of music are Ransom Note, Definite Party Material and BlueDollarBillz. But this will vary depending on the style of music you create, so be sure to do your research.
I hope this guide has given you a few things to think about when it comes to marketing yourself as a music producer. There’s a lot to take in, but the key is to not overcomplicate things. Approach people how you would if you were to meet them in the street, and my biggest point of all – don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. You’ll be surprised how many people out there are willing to support you, just ask them.