7 effective strategies to get your music noticed

by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan on December 14, 2009 · 118 comments

in Fast Forward,Promotion

Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan give you seven effective strategies to get your music noticed that are easy on the pocketbook

get your music noticedIn some music business schools, they still give students assignments that go like this: “Assume that you have one million dollars. Make up a marketing plan on how to promote a band.”

Here’s a more realistic assignment: “Go online. Pick a band. You have zero dollars. Now go promote them.”

Although most bands would like to have the kind of budget to promote their latest album on TV, radio, and billboards, they are more likely to have just enough to print up posters for the next gig. And yet indie artists can get the kind of attention that major label acts get. You just need to plan appropriately and implement a few tried-and-true strategies.

Here are seven effective strategies to get your music noticed. The good news is they’re easy on the pocketbook and can be acted on today. All they take is a bit of time and some thought about how to get your music directly in front of the people who are likely to be your new fans. While they may not have heard of you yet, if you follow these strategies, they will.

You have one thing to do before you get started, though. It’s the one thing that every band must know: who is the audience for your music? What are their ages? Where do they hang out? What do they do? What are their interests? Who are they? The better you know your target audience, the easier you’ll find the strategies are to implement and the greater the return on your planning.

Once you know your audience, dig in.

Seven effective strategies to get your music noticed

  1. The Standing-Out Strategy
  2. The Piggybacking Strategy
  3. The Agent Strategy
  4. The Multi-Tasking Strategy
  5. The Long Haul Strategy
  6. The Street Team strategy
  7. The Stay-Tuned Strategy

1. The Standing-Out Strategy
The first thing most musicians think of when they want to promote their music is to get it reviewed by a music publication or played on the radio.

Don’t start there. Publications and media that cater solely to music are probably the hardest place to get your music noticed.

The competition for attention in music publications and sites is overwhelming. For instance, National Public Radio’s “All Songs Considered” receives hundreds of CDs submitted every week. Out of those, only eight get featured. And those are sandwiched in between other songs, and played just once. The same is true with music reviews. Although they are good for getting quotes for your press kit, it probably won’t get you many new fans, since it’s a music review in a pile of music reviews.

Instead of focusing on music publications and media, think in terms of audiences. Put your music where it will stand out from the crowd. As an example, consider one of the biggest sellers in the early days of CDBaby.com: an album about sailing. Instead of following the crowd and sending the album to a music magazine, the band instead cleverly sent their album to a sailing magazine.

The sailing magazine – which wasn’t used to receiving music, much less an entire album dedicated to exactly what the magazine was about – ended up reviewing the album. The band’s CD stood out. It didn’t have to compete against stacks ad stacks of other CDs to get noticed. And because the magazine had a large audience and the CD got a great review, sales shot through the roof.

This is what we call the standing-out strategy, and the great thing about it is, there is room for everyone. While your music is in a musical niche, targeting the people that like that kind of music directly, represents only one, highly competitive channel for your music. By putting your music where there usually isn’t any, your music can get noticed.

2. The Piggybacking Strategy
When you’re not well known, the quickest way to get the word out there is to piggyback on something that people already know about. One the best known forms of piggybacking is listing out the bands you “sound like” on your website. This gives new listeners a clue as to what to expect by drawing on what they already know. Of course, another popular piggybacking tactic is to cover a well-known song. Often, these covers become your initial best-sellers. But they also act as a gateway. If listeners like your version, they’ll likely check out your original material.

But piggybacking on other bands or cover songs isn’t the only thing that you can piggyback on. You can piggyback on anything that already has an audience.

For example, our own band, Beatnik Turtle, wrote a song called “Star Wars (A Movie Like No Other).” It summarized the entire original Star Wars trilogy in a single song. Around the same time, StarWars.com released a video mashup tool and so we decided to make a video for the song. The video ended up getting played over 15,000 times thanks to the active community at that site. That popularity led to it getting picked up by Atom.com which in turn led to it being aired on SpikeTV to celebrate the Star Wars 32nd anniversary.

Current events and popular culture provide opportunities for piggybacking as well. When a topic is hot, a large number of people will be searching for information about it. For instance, The Brobdingnagian Bards, a Celtic Renaissance musical duo, are always looking for trends to ride, so when the Monty Python musical Spamalot got popular, they posted a blog entry about Spamalot and also mentioned that they covered a Monty Python song previously. The post got a ton of hits, got them noticed by new fans, and resulted in sales.

But piggybacking isn’t always about how to get publicity. It can be for a good cause as well. Grant Baciocco of Throwing Toasters put together two compilation charity albums called Laughter Is a Powerful Weapon, with music donated by himself and many other well-known comedy artists. The money from one went to the Twin Towers orphans fund and the other went to the Red Cross for Katrina victims.

3. The Agent Strategy
Most bands start out promoting and representing themselves because they start out small. But it’s human nature to think more of someone when they have someone acting on their behalf. In fact, it’s been shown to be true in various psychological and sociological studies. Even if you’re just starting out, find someone to represent you and you’ll have more successes.

Having an agent is even more useful during negotiations, because they can be as tough as they want to. If you negotiate for yourself and you give the other side a particularly hard time, they might start to dislike you, rather than your agent.

4. The Multi-Tasking Strategy
The musicians who have the most success don’t just rely on one project for their income. Most of them work on many things beyond playing live, selling albums, and selling merchandise.

For instance:
Jonathan Coulton participates in the Popular Science magazine podcast at popsci.com and licenses his music.
– Brad Turcotte of Brad Sucks maintains multiple websites, including stripcreator.com and also licenses his music.
– Grant Baciocco of Throwing Toasters writes and produces the multiple-award-winning podcast “The Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd,” does voice-over and acting work, and produces a podcast for the Jim Henson Company, among other projects.
George Hrab is a drummer in a popular cover band that plays at weddings and corporate events, writes and produces his Geologic Podcast, and has written a book.
– The members of Beatnik Turtle have day jobs, run IndieGuide.com, write books like The Indie Band Survival Guide and are regular contributors to Electronic MusicianThe DIY Advisor.

Not only do musicians like these have a lot of projects going on, they use the projects to promote the others.

5. The Long-Haul Strategy
While major labels had to focus on making one-hit wonders because of their business model, that was never the best situation for the musician. Furthermore, it’s not even similar to the way that most businesses work, which is to build a name over the long term and eventually get consistent income year after year. A band or artist can be just like any other business that starts out small and eventually becomes solidly established.

For example, years ago, Brad Turcotte released his first album online as a downloadable set of MP3s. The money he made from this allowed him to do a run of CDs, which got him another surge of new fans. Later, he released the source tracks to his music, this time making new fans among people who enjoy remixing songs. After he packaged the best remixes into another CD, he got a new surge of fans who loved both the remixes and the original material. By the time he released his second album, it not only did well in its own right, it generated interest in his previous albums.

6. The Street Team Strategy
Today’s artists are more connected with their fans than ever. In these days of social networks, word of mouth is many times more powerful than it’s ever been. Every fan you have is connected to many more people, and sometimes, all you have to do is ask in order to get their help in spreading the word.

In the past, a street team was all about putting fliers under windshield wipers and in coffee shops. With the web, they can distribute your music to new fans, get the word out about your shows through their social networks, or even get people to sign up to your mailing lists.

The key to a successful street team is to be explicit in asking what it is you want them to do. Then, be sure to give them the tools they need to be successful. And of course, reward them for their help by offering perks, exclusive material, special shows, or free merch.

7. The Stay-Tuned Strategy
Before radio DJs head into the commercials, they announce what they’re going to play after the break. This keeps people tuned in during the break. You can adopt the same technique. Always talk about your next project when you talk about your band, whether you’re talking to the press, your fans (via your blog, Twitter, Facebook), or other musicians.

Here’s why:

  • Your fans will keep tabs on you until that next project is released.
  • The press might ask questions about your upcoming projects and write future stories.
  • It gets people involved: If you don’t announce what you have planned, you might miss out on a fan who can help.
  • It keeps your own band members motivated and working toward the same goals.

So it helps to have a sound bite on the tip of your tongue about what you’re doing next. Movies have trailers, and a band should have announcements of what’s to come.

As you can see, many different strategies are available to help you get noticed. There are no rules to this new music business, so we suggest experimenting with as many strategies, projects, and ideas to see what works best for you and your music. When you find something that works, keep it up; and when you find something that doesn’t help get your music noticed, just move on.

Billboard Magazine called Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Together, they’re musicians who are working on their 21st album, authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide: The Complete Manual For The Do-It-Yourself Musician, 2nd Edition (Macmillan), creators of the 15-hour online course, Making Money With Music (CreativeLive), and regular contributors to Electronic Musician Magazine, including the free weekly web column, The DIY Advisor. They also teach and consult about music business.

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{ 111 comments… read them below or add one }

BAGON DRAY September 8, 2015 at 5:11 pm



lewis bradley January 6, 2015 at 1:03 am

I know a kid who blew up real fast because of this ONE song he made. He used the “stand out” strategy and it really became bigger than himself. The name of the song is “Message in a Bottle” So he found this website that makes “Bottles” and next thing you know, his song is on their commercials! I love this guy. His name is Bass Prada.



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I will attempt to get the cling of it!


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that’s what this website is providing.


Kris April 9, 2014 at 4:46 am

Look guys CDs are going bye bye, albums are in again… Do what yo want with digital distribution you still have to create a daisy chain to get followers..
The point here the music industry has well crapped on the indie bands period. Indie bands more than ever are having to buckle down and eat top ramen. Why? Bc the music industry has split into pie segments and doesn’t share.
You have industry
sub industry
indie, garage, then street..
From here we get a great perspective as to why there is so much shit music out there, everyone willing to promote it, I-tunes excessive data bank of over 10 million songs to download, but no one does.. just mainly the top 10..
Music is changing and the people who make it are changing its listening concepts and recording status as we speak.
no more compressed files of mp3…people are doing aiff and better raw tracks with much more listening depth to it. Remember records, thats why they sounded awesome!!Direct recording transfer, no loss!
well the human race will chase its tail, and we will sell what the system allows, but people are already getting tired of the current format. looking for different types of recorded formats not in mp3 and not sounding like American Idol…
There is more but thats good for now…..


Mr. William C. Bushey April 1, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Dear Sir: Or To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Mr. William C. Bushey. My singing name is Billy Chas. Bushey, I am a Singer and a Songwriter and a Fair Musician. I write Country Song’s, Gospal Song”s, Contempery Song’s, and one Blue’s Song., And I also sing Cover Song’s, also. And at this time, I am looking for new musicians that wan’t to play and perform with me. I am really easy to get a long with. I really need a band to help me, when we do perform at concerts. And we can talk about what we can do Also. If you would like to sing he or she it would be great. Just to let you know, were I have Performed at Concerts. I have Performed at Fairs in Minnesota, Wisconsin, From 1984 to 2010. And also in 2010, I performed and played at and Outdoor Concerts In Chicago, And it was great and it was a big Concert at that time. I also Audition at DollyWood in 2010 also. But my wife did not want to live in TN. But I am a lot older know. But I can still play and sing and perform. So if you are interested in staring a Country Band and other Songs also. Could you let me know. You could call me or e-mail me. We could meet at Mc Doualds by Spirit Mountain At 12; 00 noon or Any Time Phone 1- ( 218 ) 722-7315 or e-mail me. Billychasbush40@aol.com.

Have A Great Day.
And God Bless.
Billy Chas. Bushey
Singer, Songwriter, and Musician
Date / April / 1 / 2014
Time: 6: 00 P. M.


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The Vaporized February 26, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Indie/garage rock from Connecticut



Derrick December 9, 2013 at 7:41 pm

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Chrissy November 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Search Christyyamagucci on Reverbnation/Soundcloud


Julius March 13, 2013 at 8:20 am

Great info! With domino effect steps.


My singing name is Billy Chas. Bushey, My real Name Is William C. Bushey. March 8, 2013 at 6:14 pm

My name is William C. Bushey, My singing and performing name is Billy Chas. Bushey. I am a lot older now. But I am a singer and songwriter and musician, I have performed and singing, at fairs and some outdoor concerts and indoor concerts also, from 1970 to 2012, I sang at fairs, and in 1994 some one heard me sing and perform at a Fair in Superior, Wisconsin, and this lady from Chicago, asked me I would like to sing and perform at a big outdoor concert in Chicago, in1994 also and she said, I’LL have some promoter call you. And I said, that would be find with me. And I had a great time there. And they asked me to come back again. And I also played at two other Church to go to and it was late at night and I lost the two promoter cards that they gave me to call them, and I really felt bad, and I den’t now how to get a hold of them at that time. Will God only now. But I really love play and singing and writting new songs also. I do have some CD I could send you. I could send them in the mail to you. I just don’t now how to put them on my computer. I would need your address to send them to you. ok.. Hope to hear from you. God Bless.
Billy Chas. Bushey.
Singer and Songwriter and Musinian.
Facebook Password
From Duluth, MN. 55811
Phone 1- ( 218 ) 722-7315
March / 8 / 2013
Time 5:15 P.M.

asked me if I


Rashell January 25, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Its sound advise, however some where easier said than done. I agree the Best way to keep your goals moving is to Stay Active, even if it means selling out side of music. Being Indie has the advantage point of Handling things IE; Music, Meets, Gigs how you want, but the down fall of no Industrial Investor at your finger tips.. so #Motivation #Dedication and #Drive are key factors every Indie Artist should have.. Hard Work = Success! #Best Wishes to every1


Ajay December 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm
Ajay December 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Great advise!!


JRKBrand November 14, 2012 at 3:49 pm

These are awesome tips. Thank You. We will apply these tips to our artist “Jae Retch”. He’s truly a gift to what he does. We will let artist around us know of your information. We all deserve to shine


Paul November 13, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I’ll tell you one way to NOT get your music noticed: promoting yourself shamelessly in the comments section of a blog designed to help musicians market themselves. No one reading these comments is going to buy your music – they are trying to get noticed too. Some of you guys need a reality check. Haha!


eddie ray September 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm

awesome info / i am going to use it / thanks


AlmostDawn.com August 28, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Great promotional tactics. Thanks for the tip on radio and reviews. I was actually looking at that method to use with Almost Dawn and now know that it is probably better to start somewhere else.


Mr. Dawn August 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Also, if anyone has any marketing suggestions for our website please send. http://www.almostdawn.com

Any help is appreciated.


vebanc@yahoo.co.uk August 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I really appreciate the insights on how to have your music noticed. I sing for a religious choir and we are launching our first album on 30th September,2012. I love the songs in this album and would love to have as many guest as possible to listen to this 12 track album. I’ll go for the three strategies to start with. Thanx to DM.
Banji Chisumpa


Seth August 24, 2012 at 12:33 pm
Sonny James Adams August 16, 2012 at 4:48 pm

All of the articles are off the chain….Thank you for sharing!!  SONNY JAMES  ADAMS         (SONGWRITER)  BMI MEMBER….THANKS FELLAS’.


Revo August 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Fantastic Article! My name’s Revo and my brother is Randum45! Check out our Music, we know you’ll love it. http://www.reverbnation.com/rezenartists

Much Love,


Danaya_music August 4, 2012 at 11:25 am

Nice article.


Ljmgmt July 18, 2012 at 10:14 pm

I started a print publication called Precise Publicity. It is an entertainment publication to help people promote themselves. This is a strategy I use to showcase my artist, Soundz of Perfektion and many more. Visit my website at http://www.ljmgmt.webs.com for info. And my artist at soundzofperfektion.webs.com


Everyone November 13, 2014 at 6:04 am

“Everyone” thinks you’re fucking annoying. Posting once is fine, but 3 out of every 10 posts is your fucking shit. Damn


Ljmgmt July 18, 2012 at 10:05 pm

I really appreciated this article. I now have new avenues for getting my artist outside of the local scene. They are Soundz of Perfektion. They did a song about Monster Energy Drink that everyone thought was hot. They just had a release party for their new single, She Badd. I promote them alot. It takes alot to get radio play and thats our next goal. Thanks again for the information. Check Soundz of Perfektions demo at reverbnation.com/soundzofperfektion and Wats Up at indiecharts.com.


I Hate my understudy July 3, 2012 at 9:09 pm

This was a very good article, helpful and keeps the mind goin


Amanda Somerville June 22, 2012 at 7:24 am

Nice article and some good tips. I was inspired! Even being relatively well-known through my work I’ve done in Europe the past several years, touring world-wide, being featured in TV series, writing jingles for big companies, etc.(speaking of multi-tasking!), it’s still essential to keep the ball rolling. It’s tough to keep that up in this roller coaster industry, but it’s essential to keep thinking outside the box and stay focused.

Another idea: don’t forget where you came from! If you’re originally from a small town (like I am), be sure to tell local publications, businesses & stores about what you’re doing, where you’ve been, who you’ve worked with – people need something to be proud of and there’s nothing like tooting the horns for someone who’s “made it” from YOUR home town! Maybe the local video rental place could feature / sell your CD on their counter with a “Support _(town)_’s own _(band / artist)_!” sign. People will see your name, CD & website, plus perhaps you could have a newsletter signup sheet there, too.

Rock on!
Amanda Somerville (Trillium, Aina, Epica, Avantasia, Kamelot…)


Poppa Madison January 22, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Amanda………..That’s what I thought!

But guess what?

The local newspapers did not even bother to respond to an emailed open invitation to an interview with me about my music. The local shopping centres did not want to even consider my offer of putting on a free show in return for allowing me to have a table set up to sell my own Cd’s.
The local Radio Station did not even bother to reply to my email offering to come in a share my Cd’s and my story with the local community on-air.
The local people just walked by without even a blink at my stand set up with my Cd’s on display at a local council market place.

It appears that either I am living in Hicksville, and that people are so busy getting their music for nothing that the thought of paying out is an anathema to them.
As for the local Radio station…..well, they are seemingly pre-occupied with “whatever” while claiming to “Keep the local community informed”.

So guess what?

They will all get nothing from me now and I shall look for other opportunities well away from my disinterested so-called “Local Community” !


Luis Cuevas April 14, 2012 at 6:32 am
Wendy April 3, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Beaking down the objectives make it oh so much more doable.


Raoofasidd March 20, 2012 at 1:59 pm

This is good stuff. All these people promoting in thier comments but how many people are actually checking them out?


Dollahdaadmirail March 16, 2012 at 9:08 pm

renegade society ent


Louis March 6, 2012 at 8:57 pm

Good advice. For positive, uplifting spiritual NON-DENOMINATIONAL cds, check out blessedbylove.com


randy hammonds March 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm

I just read some of the comments-What is wrong with some of you people! What are you so mad at! It’s like Bob Dylan said- It’s just music so what’s everybody mad at!!!!!!!!! Sure some people have talent some not so much but- It’s a dog eat dog business so keep on barking and cool it with the growling! Just give it your best and forget the rest.Bye the way good article thanks!    Randy Hammonds-Songwriter.


Alric Thompson July 31, 2012 at 7:33 pm



Eoin February 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

If your a musician check me out and I could help you with your career too  


MAJORTRIADZ February 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm





freelance writing jobs February 3, 2012 at 11:28 am

There are hundreds of groups that do not have money even for that! Playing in bars for a penny! But they have really talented!


matheus rex January 27, 2012 at 11:10 pm

uptown kings – doing me via soundcloud or youtube


Matt Spire October 2, 2011 at 4:01 am

When it comes to networks I HIGHLY recommend Soundcloud, I’ve gotten the
best feedback and most listens/downloads there, hands down.


White Berry October 1, 2011 at 9:49 am
Georgie August 23, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Hey, that’s great advice. I’ll be visiting this place more often.


SuperUltraMega August 14, 2012 at 10:05 am
MAJOR TRIADZ August 18, 2011 at 10:37 pm

its all about MAJOR TRIADZ  =UK HIP HOP :)


Tyler Robert Baugher August 9, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Reverbnation and twitter are excellent tools, many people I never met are diggin me now, myspace is not helping that much, but facebook is alright. 


Motivation July 22, 2011 at 9:09 am

Releasing a demo music album and make it free for download at social network sites. its the best way to promote.


Ljmgmt July 18, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Reverbnation is a good site for that. My artists, Soundz of Perfektion, released a demo and it was hot but catered to one group. Their new single, She Badd, just dropped July 14 @ their release party. New type of music and it was a hit!


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