Getting your music out to the public doesn’t always have to mean spending big bucks with major promotional companies, especially if you don’t have the dough, to begin with. There are a number of free music tools and resources that you can use to better your chances of reaching your intended audience.
If you’ve been doing music for a while, you probably already know of a few, or you may just be starting out and not be aware of any. Either way, this list can help you find old and new, free music promotion methods and tools, or assist you in rediscovering ones you might have forgotten about. Here goes…
A fan website is the first free music promotion tool you should be thinking about if you haven’t set up one already. Setting up a website allows fans to easily find you and your music, plus you can have private folders that only allow people you give access to view the songs within.
Of course, having a website that works for you means keeping it up to date by regularly posting content, including press releases, tour dates, and important announcements. This not only helps you to keep on top of the minds of your growing fans, it’s also good for SEO purposes, which is another form of promotion within itself.
Not sure how to go about starting a website, there are numerous ways to set one up. However, WIX Music makes it easy and it’s also a free option. A few artists who have built successful websites using WIX Music include Mike Tompkins and Ricky “No Clue” Brown.
Often times, people might be willing to help you with promo work, all you need to do is ask. They could agree to assist with distributing flyers and sending out emails on your behalf, as well as posting posters and other promotional content on their social media pages and websites for you. To say thanks, you could offer them free tickets to your next concert or free merch (someone wearing your branded t-shirt or other paraphernalia could also score promotional points for your music).
Have knowledge about an aspect of music that you can write about? Then starting a music-related blog could be a great free promotional tool for you. In fact, even if you don’t have specialized knowledge, you can still create a blog based on your experiences.
Over time, you might just grow a large following that you can then leverage for promoting your music, whether directly on the blog site or indirectly via an email list. Musicians who have popular blogs include Amanda Palmer, who also used Kickstarter (more on using Kickstarter later) to raise over $1 million for her music project, and Indie musician poster boy, Ari Herstand.
Reaching out to music bloggers and asking them to share your music on their blogs could be a great move as well. Such a move, if successful, will result in your music being exposed to the audiences of these blogs. If you happen to be a blogger as well, you may also reach out and ask to submit guest posts on topics that match with their readership.
Both approaches are great ways to gain access to people who might not have heard of your music otherwise. However, you might need to try connecting with a ton of music bloggers in order to get responses from a few. The truth is that sending emails to music bloggers doesn't mean the recipients will be interested enough to even reply to you.
Okay, so the future of SoundCloud might seem uncertain, but it still currently has over 100 million users, many of whom still search for new music. So, while it’s still active (and hopefully sorting out its financial woes), you can go ahead and use it for introducing new songs to the world. You never know how things might turn around for the platform, plus you really have nothing to lose.
Whether it’s Facebook Live or Twitter’s Periscope there are a number of streaming apps and platforms you can use to connect with fans for free. Each comes with different rules and best practices, but overall, they allow you to interact in real time with anyone who is following you on the respective platform. Ideas for using live streaming include while riding on a tour bus, during a live performance, or even just a random stream to say hi or thank fans for supporting your music.
It’s free to upload your music video to YouTube, which is still one of the most visited websites daily for visual content. Although Vimeo represents a somewhat different audience, it is also a great platform to share your musical portfolio.
As it relates to YouTube, the video hub has brought many talents from obscurity to fame. In the past, Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen, Psy, and The Weeknd (who also used his blog to post music videos, by the way) were all first discovered via YouTube before being signed by major labels.
Here’s a trick to doing this: Don’t just share your video from YouTube to Facebook, upload the file instead. When you do this, Facebook’s algorithms are more likely to share your video post to users.
Giving free stuff away might seem counter-intuitive to promoting your music, but many have found there are proven benefits to allowing fans to download or stream their music for free. It’s actually a cool way to attract new fans, many of whom might never have heard of you before, but might be willing to attend your concert or even purchase future releases from you after having the chance to consume your work for free. Artists who have benefited from this type of promotion include Fiona Apple and Daft Punk.
Covering other people’s songs may seem like a step back and might come with ridicule from some quarters. However, it’s important to note that some of the biggest names in music either kick-started their careers by redoing songs that were already popular or generated new fans from doing covers. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley have done it, as well as Natalie Imbruglia and Cyndi Lauper, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The thing is, music listeners are attracted to familiarity, so if you do a cover version for a popular song and upload it on, say, YouTube, it is possible you might just gain new listeners, who would then go on to check out what else you have on offer. If it’s a really well-done cover, it could even go further. Just make sure you have the proper permissions and licenses to do a cover version and/or release it commercially.
People are always jumping online to learn how to do stuff. Music listeners and even other musicians are no different. Some want to learn how to play the guitar and other instruments, some want to learn technical stuff such as piano tuning or removing vocals from background tracks, and others might want to know non-music related stuff such as digital marketing. Once you have experience doing something successfully, you can go ahead and do tutorials to show others how it’s done. In between, you can always insert links back to your music website, blog, YouTube Channel, or SoundCloud profile.
Webinars are usually for business promotional purposes, but they also can be adapted to your music offerings. For example, if you have created a course or eBook that you offer through your website, blog, on Amazon, or another portal, you can host a webinar that discusses what the content is about. While helping to educate others and giving sneak previews to what is on offer, there will be opportunities for attendees to get exposed to your music, whether directly or indirectly (when they eventually get your eBook or course).
Creating a podcast is also another excellent way to not just farm an audience but also introduce your music in a timely manner. Recent research shows that podcasting in on the rise, with over 24% of Americans listening to podcasts monthly, and at least one ad company expecting ad revenues from them to increase by 85% in 2017.
Like a blog, you will need to find a theme on which to base your podcast that will generate different topics for each episode. If your podcast is successful, it will attract more and more listeners, who might join in, not just to hear what is being discussed in an episode but look out for tracks that you intro or play. You can run a podcast via your website, SoundCloud, Mixcloud or other platforms that allow it.
Similarly to offering your music for free downloading, staging a free concert might seem to be in contradiction to what you’re trying to achieve. After all, how can you spend money you haven’t made yet? However, depending on how well you market yourself, you can find cheap venues or even venues that you can book for a few hours for free, so your cost to host an event is minimal.
In return, free live concerts could lead to more people learning about and buying your music, as well as merch. Speaking of merch, a number of indie artists have learned how to do it effectively. Here are a few.
BandsinTown allows concert seekers to find upcoming shows close to them. You can create an account and add your concert/tour dates, which will now be exposed to the millions of people using the BandsinTown app. Furthermore, you can add the BandsinTown tab on your Facebook page to also make it possible for your followers to be aware of where you’ll be next.
Community gigs such as weddings, funerals, and business functions also provide good avenues where you can introduce your music to target audiences. Know of a friend of a friend who is getting married? Then offer to perform a few songs for free at the reception. The same goes for a thanksgiving ceremony, or a shareholder’s meeting being hosted by a big company in your area. This type of promotion is most suitable for you if you’re quite new to the music business and looking to start building your fan base.
WhatsApp might not seem good for much more than sending fun messages and keeping in touch with friends and family. However, since its parent company added the Status feature, it has become known for way more. Nowadays, people can use it to put up ephemeral statuses that are viewed by everyone in your contact list. And with WhatsApp having over 1 billion users, of which 175 million users utilize the Status feature daily, sharing stuff such as snippets of performances, photos from photo shoots, etc. you could start building an audience right there if you happen to have a long contact list.
Same reason as WhatsApp Status. Just make sure you learn how to use the best features of each to boost fan engagement.
While many music competitions require an entrance fee, there are still some free ones around. Your choices include songwriting and lyric writing competitions, and talent shows. Entering these allows you the chance to win prizes, but more importantly, might help to expose you and your music to a wider audience.
Most blogs have comment sections at the bottom of articles and it’s absolutely free for you to add to the conversation or start one. Once you leave a comment, you can also attach links to your music website, blog, or music-selling platform.
If you have used a particular music service for whatever reason and feel pleased with the results, doing a video testimonial can be mutually-beneficial. For example, if you used Tunedly to professionally record a song and it turned out great, you could make a short video detailing the process, what you liked, and how the results turned out.
You could then send the video file to the company requesting that it be published. If Tunedly agreed and posted it on their website and/or social pages, all its followers would not only gain insight into what it’s like using the service but would also learn about you and your music, depending on the details you include about yourself.
After many years, Craigslist still remains one of the most popular sites for free advertising. As of November 2016, the platform has over 60 million users and pumps out an average of 50 billion page views monthly. With that level of traffic, you can possibly catch a few eyes with pictures, videos, new music announcements, and other promotional content.
There are a few online platforms that allow you to create free electronic press kits for your music releases and other important information. Tunedly is one such website. With Tunedly, you get a free professional EPK as one of the perks for signing up and once you’ve set it up, you can use it to quickly and easily share your best music with music industry executives and professionals, which could lead to more exposure.
If you’re on Spotify or Deezer, you might want to try getting your music on curated playlists. On Spotify alone, there are roughly 2 billion playlists that are owned by normal users, brands, Spotify’s official curators, unattached curators, and the app’s own algorithm-based playlists that automatically add songs every week.
Getting on one of these Spotify playlists isn’t as simple as it sounds, especially if you are an unknown; you might need to network and build relationships with playlist curators first before attempting to pitch your songs. Also, you might need to approach more than one playlist curator and pitch several of them before getting in. Another thing, when trying to get your songs on playlists, you want to target those that play the kind of music you create.
Finally, you want to ensure your music is registered with a recognized PRO before having it up on a streaming service, so that you can receive royalties at the end of the day.
Email remains a powerful promotional tool. To exercise its power, you can collect emails, whether through your blog, newsletter, or your website and then add them to your growing list. Use MailChimp or another email service to send announcements, links to new music, and other goodies to everyone on your list.
While this isn’t necessarily promoting a song that you have released, it’s a gateway that could lead to pre-promotion to an audience that might be interested in what you have to offer. Popular crowdfunding sites that you can hook up with include Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
Whether it’s Sirius XM/Pandora or free internet radio stations, there are many options that allow you to submit your music for consideration to be added to radio playlists. If your song is good enough and gets added, you could be exposed to hundreds, thousands, or even millions of listeners, depending on the clout of the station(s) you get played on. Heads up: there is an upcoming app called Stationhead which could revolutionize how people listen to music on the radio, so look out for it as a possible avenue to promote your music.
Disc jockeys play music, often to crowds of people, from house parties to packed arenas. Some have pretty dope mixing skills as well (think Skrillex). If you managed to partner with one who is fairly popular, it’s possible that your music could end up reaching a wider and more diverse audience. Not only will the DJ be able to spin the remixed track at his/her next gig, you can also promote the new version on all the promotional platforms you’re using to compare responses.
While most music conferences and conventions are not free, they can help you to meet a ton of industry professionals and even peers, who could help with promoting your music if you network properly. You could even research and apply to music conferences that might be looking for bands to perform at the event. MIDEM invites applications from bands each year for its annual festival and conference. Mondo.NYC is another event that you could consider, especially if you live in New York or plan on visiting at some point in the future.
Yes, there are numerous tools, music websites, and methods that are available to you for promoting your music, but one that many musicians often miss out on is their own image. Drawing attention to yourself could turn out to be the best, free music promotion tool at your disposal if you know how. Need examples? The Weeknd drew attention with his weirdly unkempt hairstyle, Lady Gaga raised eyebrows with her out of brain costumes, and singers such as Usher and Chris Brown used their insane dancing skills to complement their vocal prowess.
As you can see, there are tons of ways to get free promotion for your music. While success is not guaranteed with any, the more you try, the higher your chances to get a positive outcome. One thing to bear in mind when trying to promote your music is that the higher the quality of your songs, the farther they will go. With that said, make sure you spend time choosing high-quality music recording studios and professionals to help you create the right sound that is expected for radio-ready songs.