There are two million songs released every month. But those artists, those songs, are not your competition. Your success is driven by your commitment and patience. And your great music.
I want to grab a moment and share a quick thought about how much music is being released nowadays and how you, as an independent music artist, can compete in the marketplace. I read an article that indie distributor Distrokid announced they were distributing one million new songs per month into the streaming marketplace: Apple, Spotify, Amazon, etc.
That’s a stunning number. It’s nearly 35,000 songs a day. If you add in all the other distributors — CD Baby, Tunecore, Ditto Music, ONErpm, Empire, Stem, and the local and regional players around the world — the number of new tracks that get distributed each month easily surpasses two million. And we haven’t even talked about label releases.
How will your music ever get noticed?
It feels like a pretty daunting task, doesn’t it? Well, I have bad news and I have some good news.
The bad news is, if you just release your music digitally and put out a social media post or two about it, your music will not get noticed by anyone except maybe a few close friends.
The good news is, if you do your main job as an artist, success can be yours. What job is that? Creating demand for your music. If you do that, it doesn’t matter that there are two million new titles released each month. Two million is a lot of titles, but if it were one million or half a million or even 100,000 new songs, your music would still get lost in the noise.
The way to get your music noticed is not by just throwing it into the ocean of new tracks on Spotify and Apple Music — though you need to be there so people can find you and discover you. The way to gain popularity for your music is by doing the grassroots work of creating demand for your music.
How do you create demand for your music?
In the early stages of your music career, creating demand is done very much locally by adding a fan or a couple of fans at a time. If you’re prepared to do that, the old fundamentals work like they always did.
- Write great songs. Not just good songs, but great ones that fans will want to share.
- Perform great live shows. Not just professional shows, but great ones that offer fans a transcendent experience that they’ll tell their friends about.
- Build a fanbase. Use opportunities you have as an opening act to introduce yourself to new fans and then figure out how to reach them. And, it’s not just about live concerts, you can collaborate with other artists on their socials, cover songs of each other, and then cross-link on socials to get in front of new fans. If you’re creative, you can find ways to get in front of more music lovers.
- Communicate. Collect email addresses and promote your social feeds to get new followers.
- Engage with your fans. Post engaging, fun, interesting content on social media. Reply to fan comments. There’s nothing that makes a fan more excited than engaging directly with an artist they admire.
- Invest in smart marketing. To build a sustainable fanbase, you have to be prepared to invest a few bucks. Organic, social, free posts are not enough. You won’t get in front of enough people. Facebook probably screens out 80 percent of your followers from seeing your social posts. You need to invest in marketing to get your music in front of potential fans. You can boost your social posts. You can buy some Facebook ads. There are affordable marketing options out there.
- Take the long view. Overnight success doesn’t just happen. In fact, it just doesn’t happen. For every artist, success comes from being patient and continuing to grind out new music and shows over a few years. Every new release builds on the previous release. It gets you a few more fans, followers, likes, and subscribers. And if you continue to work on your music, writing, recording, performing, promoting, and marketing — if you stick with it over time — you have a shot at achieving your music goals.
Don’t get thrown off or get discouraged by the big numbers of releases hitting the market today. Those artists, those songs, are not your competition. Your main competition is you. Your success is driven by your commitment and patience. Your commitment to creating great music and doing the marketing, promotion, and fan-building work and your patience to stick with it until your fan base is big enough to sustain you.
If your commitment falters or your patience runs out, you most likely won’t hit your goals. But if you keep grinding, and if you don’t give up, your goals are within reach.
Tony van Veen is the CEO of DIY Media Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and BookBaby. As a college student, he played in indie bands, created his own LPs, cassettes, and t-shirts, and sold them at shows. Today, he collects CDs, vinyl LPs, and concert t-shirts to support the artists he loves.
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