5 Beginner Mistakes to Avoid in Your Online Music Business (And What to Do About Them)
So you’ve decided to launch or grow your online music business? GREAT!
The following comes from Savvy Musician Academy, a proud partner of DMN committed to educating a brand-new class of successful musicians [9-minute read].
You’ve likely witnessed the complete shift in the music industry over the recent years…the Internet has flipped the model, and still so many musicians are waiting to be saved by a label or going viral.
The Good News? That is no longer necessary.
You have the power to find your fans directly without the need for a label or middle man.
Can you make a living with your music doing this? Without a doubt.
Your chances of making a living independently, these days, are actually BETTER than if you owed half the pie (or more) to someone else!
The truth is…signing a record deal can actually put you into debt for years to come (that’s the scary part they hide from you).
Labels are only concerned about making a good investment, and that means you’d be paying them back first!
It’s like borrowing a bunch of money from a bank on the hope that you’ll be super successful. This is not smart…
In fact, many bands that become successful within a label end up going broke, leaving the label, and then restarting as an indie artist.
This is the truth of the new music industry.
It can be scary to take on the huge world of music, especially by ourselves. Trust me, I understand this as a mom of five homeschooled kids.
My music wasn’t really created until after I started a family, so I often thought, “how will I get my music out there?”
After many late nights and mistakes, I discovered how the marketing game works, and my music was getting attention. I had no idea what was to come…
I’m now a recognized artist in my little niche, and my crowdfunding campaigns have totalled over $115,000 – all without a label!
My goal is to create a shortcut for you so you don’t need to make the same mistakes I did (that is not necessary)!
First, you need to understand the opportunities in music today are completely based on the internet. In fact, in the United States, digital advertising is now bigger than TV and print combined!
So if you are weighing your options on how to start, or if you’ve already started and are feeling stuck, don’t worry. I am dedicating a lot of my time to helping other musicians like you.
We’re going to begin by addressing the most critical mistakes I see beginners making in their online music business.
Beginner mistake #1: Failing to identify your micro-niche
As artists, we create unique pieces of work, and it is often times hard to put a label on it or put us in a bucket.. But music without a consistent style or niche is a marketing nightmare, can can cause major issues building your fanbase.
Think about it like this… if your music is all over the place, there is no consistency to your brand…
Even groups that do cover songs more so than originals still have a consistent sound and style… They often stick to the same genre and add their own trademark twist to the songs.
How do we pick a genre?
Maybe you enjoy several genres and you’re skilled in each of them? Let’s do an exercise.
Grab a pen and ask yourself these questions:
What makes you stand out?
Choose a large “umbrella” genre that you can narrow-down later. In the end, you’ll have a more defined niche which will define you and make you stand out.
Here are some ways to define a more specific niche:
Which genres or artist or bands have your interest and trust?
Consider all songs you have currently written – it’s totally cool if you have many tastes and influences!
Which genre do your songs already relate to?
Think wide range right now.
Now you should ask some friends and fans to tell you what your songs sound like. If you change something in the song such as a particular instrument, would your genre be wildly different? What does the combination of some of your favorite bands sound like? Consider how that would be described.
It’s hard to find anything truly “new,” but you can absolutely combine the sounds of your favorite bands to forge the path for your own “microniche.” Remember, the more specific your niche, the more that your potential fans will relate!
Beginner mistake #2: Not considering your artist brand/micro-niche when publishing music
If we’re being honest, the majority of bands/artist aren’t sure about their branding or identity.
A brand is way more than a logo, color scheme, or font (even though all of these should work well with the brand)…
Your brand is the feeling your fans get when they experience your music.
This feeling is not something that can be held in your hand or written on an ad. Have you thought about how to make your audience FEEL something?
The first step is by selecting songs that create the feeling you’re going after…
Here’s an example.
Let’s talk about my artist brand, LEAH. My Celtic Fantasy Metal brand is all about mystical castles, landscape, and things like Lord of The Rings — it’s what really allows my fans to escape.
When my fans interact with my brand through my website, social media, etc., they are interacting with media and song choices that align with this brand of celtic fantasy.
Strategic song selection is a process that many artists neglect, and that is a costly mistake.
If all the songs I wrote were published under my LEAH / Celtic Fantasy brand, there’s no doubt my fans would be confused (some of my songs aren’t a good fit for this brand).
For the songs that aren’t a good fit for your primary brand, save those songs for another project, or you can potentially use them for licensing.
Select ONE (1) project to work on at this time, where you will spend 100% of your music focus. It is not recommended to try more than one project initially as you will spread your resources thin and risk not going anywhere with either project.
So determine that main brand.
What is the music about?
What is the genre? What are the related topics? What movies would it make a great soundtrack?
Create a list of themes for your lyrics that you can revisit in your writing process. You can also use this list to help determine your microniche / microgenre down the road.
If you don’t have someone requiring you to write a certain way, I don’t suggest that you create for a certain group of people – this is not about making certain people happy. You will sound too “produced” that way. A lot of the major hits have the strangest lyrics and don’t make sense. You’re going for AUTHENTICITY here.
If you write songs, identify which have the most potential.
If you’re working with limited resources, start with just 3-5 songs.
Let’s say you aren’t amazing at songwriting – no problem! I’d look at older songs, or songs that you can recreate. Another option is to pay someone else to write the songs!
Beginner mistake #3: Not investing in high quality sound
This may seem basic…but if I had a nickel for every good artist with a bad quality recording…we’d both be rich.
Great quality isn’t always expensive, either! Home studios can produce really high quality…
It doesn’t matter if it’s a single, an EP, or a full length album…you can’t sacrifice quality!
Think about the first time someone new listens to your music… if the quality if bad, they may stop your music and never look back.
Here are some elements of POOR audio quality…
- Extremely low-end mics (however, there are affordable mics that produce good quality)
- Bad mixing can ruin a song. If you aren’t a mixing expert, you need to find one. This is not an area to overlook.
- Too much extra noise. Don’t let background noises, static, etc. steal the show.
- Distortion or clipping that isn’t intentional. This is not acceptable, and you don’t hear this on any high-quality recordings.
- If the vocals are clearly out of pitch, they may need to be edited. Off-pitch music is not pleasing, and it is not professional.
- If your songs are not on beat, this is a major problem! Tempo and rhythm is a fundamental part of almost ALL music, and that means it needs to be done right. I’ve even heard music so bad that different instrumentals were at different tempos AT THE SAME TIME- simply unacceptable. Get someone to help you if you can’t get your songs in time.
Quality music involves a lot, but these are a few tips that will help your music stand out with the pros.
Beginner mistake #4: Failing to prioritize your email list-building efforts!
First, let’s BUST A MYTH: email is NOT dead!
Think about it…most people check their emails every single day – email is still, by far, the number one way to promote anything!
It’s good enough for the big players! I will almost guarantee you that anyone with a big email list will produce more revenue than someone that is not focused on email (all things else the same).
Think of the process of creating any type of social media account….an email address is required to create an account! In fact, if your fans give you their email address, you can actually use their email to advertise to them on Facebook! This is a ninja marketing technique that my students use to promote their music and grow their brand.
If I was not using email marketing, I would not be selling $20,000 of music and merch each month. I promise you that.
Right, so what’s the secret to building an email list from nothing?
Well, you need to have an enticing offer for your fans. One of my favorite strategies to build your list if to offer a free song download in exchange for their email address.
Ok, does this work today?
Ha, YES, it absolutely does.
Check out this screenshot from my ads account…this is added email addresses from my FB ad campaigns. By the way, $0.40 per email address is pretty good. 😉
Even though this is an older screenshot, I still have the same ad running. After I dialed-in the performance, it continues to work every day.
I added over 5,000 NEW FANS to my email database in the recent months using the same free giveaway — just ONE song! 🙂
What if your music is available on Spotify or YouTube, will they still download your songs for an email address?
If I’m asked by my fans if they can hear my songs on Spotify I tell them, “Absolutely! But I also would like to let you download it so you can add it to your library and have an mp3!” They really like this!
Guess what, if it ever stops working, no problem! The main point is to offer something they want, and as long as you’re putting out good music, there will always be SOMETHING to offer. Right now, it’s the song downloads, and I suggest you take advantage of this.
OK – here’s how to start building your own list:
First, you need to create an account with a reputable Email Service Provider. You can’t market from your Yahoo or Google account…it’s actually illegal!
I recommend using something like MailChimp or Drip. We use Drip – a bit better than MailChimp for our use as musicians.
Next you’ll want an easy way to create landing pages, which will be your webpage that offers your free song.
I use Leadpages. It’s second to none. You’ll soon discover that the better your pages convert, the lower your marketing costs. Leadpages is hyperfocused on high-converting pages, resulting in better results for you.
DO NOT PROMOTE YOUR HOMEPAGE to build your email list…
There are so many reasons why you shouldn’t send people to your homepage when promoting a specific offer, but to sum it up, it creates way too many options (distractions)!
You want to send your fans and potential fans to a page that has only two options: YES or NO (not 20 different things they can explore, like on your homepage – then, they’ll never put their email address in the form)!
Above all else, even social media, EMAIL should be your NUMBER ONE focus when it comes to marketing. Build your email list, build your fanbase, build your revenue.
If all social media goes away tomorrow, you would still have your email list.
Remember what happened to Myspace!
Beginner mistake #5: Failing to nurture and monetize your existing organic social traffic!
Listen, these days, paid advertising is a critical component of a serious digital campaign, BUT you can’t ignore the basics that produce good results from your existing organic traffic.
Social media dead ends – NO NO NO!
Make sure your social media doesn’t lead your fans to a DEAD END such as in your “about” sections, etc. You need to send them somewhere to take an action
Take some examples:
Instagram: You can use Linktree or Link in Profile to make the most of the ONLY link you can put in your bio. Then tell your audience to click the link in your bio – nobody can click links in your captions/comments! Think they’ll copy and paste the link? Forget about that. You want to make it easy for your audience..
Facebook: DON’T USE YOUR PERSONAL PROFILE! Use a professional artist page. One reason is that Facebook requires in their terms and service that we not use personal profiles for our business. Plus, you don’t get the benefit of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) from personal profiles! Put links (URLs) in your main banner! Guess what you should link to? Your music! Don’t make them search for ages to find your stuff. How can they BUY your music? Facebook has some really cool tabs that you can add to your artist page that provide navigation to pretty much anything you want to provide your fans (think Shop, Email opt-in/song download, etc.).
Don’t forget about a Facebook Messenger bot! This is a great way to automatically respond to your fans and give them ways to interact with you and your brand. Send them to a page to download or buy your music!
YouTube: Okay, YouTube is probably the most underused, undervalued social platform. BIG potential here for musicians!
You need to be making the most of the description section in EVERY video. Think about adding things like:
- A link to download a free song (email opt-in)
- A link to BUY your music
- How to follow you on other social platforms
You can do ALL OF THE ABOVE!
Taking the time to tag, describe, and link your videos correctly will pay dividends in the future as more and more people view your videos.
There are tools to help you with the work involved to properly set up each video. My favorite is called Tubebuddy. There’s a feature in the upgraded version that will paste a pre-written, pre-formatted description for you! This feature is super valuable when I have certain promotions going on, and I can change the descriptions of many videos at once, then change them back once the promo is over.
I hope these tips have been eye-opening, even if only one of the points resonated. If you take action on these now, you’ll definitely see much better results in all your efforts!
Helping you and other musicians is my goal as a fellow artist. Sharing and teaching the techniques that work for me and my students is another passion of mine.
If this post resonates with you and you’re interested in learning more, hit the link and join me in my free class called the Sustainable Music Map to learn how to Explode Your Fanbase online! I hope to see you there. 🙂