How to Market Yourself Like A Major Label

This is an update of an article originally published on VQS Studio
LA Music Review | Advice for music creators

What is your definition of success?

Photo by Wesley Tingey

As music creators and influencers, we all have different ideas of “making it.” For some of us, it might be getting your song played on the radio, reaching a million streams on Spotify or views on YouTube, or perhaps signing with an Indie Label.

Whatever that milestone of success is for you, you’ll need to know how to market yourself like a rock star!

1.   How Do You Become A Master of Resources?

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Today is easily the best day in age to be an independent musician.

Many of our predecessors did the heavy lifting for us by researching the pathways to success for indie artists. They crafted their findings into easy-to-digest, and – more importantly – affordable applications of that research for the Indie Musician to successfully compete with major labels on a fraction of a label’s budget. Don’t get me wrong – you still need some kind of budget, or expendable time.

singer songwriter collaboration of 3
Photo by VQS Studio

Here is a list of resources for the independent musician:

Indeprenuer: Indeprenuer offers courses for musicians on how to run targeted ads on Social Media to grow a musician’s following.

CD Baby: CD Baby began as a distribution company but has since expanded to offer so many more resources to the musicians that use their platform. CD Baby has become sort of a one-stop-shop for the independent musician.

Spotify for Artists: This is the backend of Spotify where artists can view the metrics of their music on the Spotify platform. They also offer helpful tips to artists on how to increase their monthly listeners and ultimately make the most of Spotify.

Tinderbox Music: Tinderbox Music pitches its artists’ music to college radio stations across the country. They also offer sync placement to their artists.

The Indie Bible: The Indie Bible is a collection of Independent Music magazines, blogs, podcasts, radio stations and various other media ingesting and reviewing platforms across the world. Seriously.

If there’s an Indie platform in the world dedicated to promoting indie artists…

it’s most likely listed in the catalog along with that platform’s submission guidelines and contact information. What’s more, the Indie Bible gives you extensive info on the “Dos and Don’ts” of pitching your music.

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2. How Can You Future-proof Your Career?

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Always believe you can create a budget for your chosen craft.

Great news! You are assigned a precious journey as an artist who can write, record and release your own music.

You’ll need to make a serious budget for the following:

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✔️ Radio Airplay
For a service like Tinderbox Music, although they do offer various packages for all budgets, a rough estimate for 6 weeks of pitches to college radio stations would be $2,400.

✔️ PR/Blog placement
The Indie Bible is an excellent alternative for those of us who have more free time to market ourselves than we do the capital to pay someone else to do it. You can also submit your music to be featured here at our VQS Studio Music Release Blog

✔️ Conferences (see #4)
Alternatively, you’ll need an extensive amount of free time to do these things yourselves. In which case, you’ll need to budget your time and practice discipline.

Various companies offer these and similar services, maybe even for less money! These are just the few I have experience using and would personally recommend.  

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3. How to Think Like a Pro

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Do everything in your power to make sure your content looks professional.

If you live anywhere near a college campus with a film or photography program, you’re sitting on a gold mine!

Check Craigslist for your city (with caution – if it looks shady, it’s probably shady), and I promise you’ll find a student or novice photographer/videographer looking to build his or her portfolio that will offer you a free or extremely low cost photo/video shoot in exchange for using your content in their portfolio.

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Alternatively, you can post a quick ad on Craigslist offering compensation within your budget for the same photography/videography services.

There are thousands of Facebook groups for local musicians in your area as well.
Ask for recommendations or if anyone in the group is a photographer.

If that’s not in the cards for you, really any current smartphone will capture footage and photos that you can easily edit to get that professional finish.

Adobe offers a monthly subscription for its different applications. For about $20/month, you’ll have access to any single one of Adobe’s apps – I use Premier Rush CC for video.

For $50/month, you’ll have access to Adobe’s entire Creative Cloud. If you’re digitally dexterous or just got jazzed about learning a new software application, this might be the best route for you! 

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4. How Do You Succeed In A Crowded Industry?

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Get yourself into exciting events that will help you connect as an aspiring musician.

Every industry, from health and education, to real estate and security, holds a number of conferences and conventions for the specific purposes of networking, marketing, and educating its industry professionals. The music industry is no different.

These are some of the most well known industry events for musicians:

✔️ ASCAP Music Expo
✔️ CDBaby DIY Musician’s Convention
✔️ SXSW – South by Southwest

Great news! You will meet…

…industry leaders, legendary musicians who define “making it” for some of us, and product manufacturers that are itching to find musicians to test and review their products. Add at least one of these events to your calendar each year.

5. What is the Best Approach to Your Musical Journey?

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Put yourself on the front line.
Be your greatest motivation and driving force.

If there’s a songwriter’s competition, submit yourself. If there’s a venue you want to perform at, reach out to book that show. If your end goal is to sign to a major label, start talking to those labels! Seriously, go to the website of Sony, Atlantic, Columbia. Any one of them will tell you to schedule a visit directly with one of their A&Rs.

Tell yourself you deserve it and you’re good enough.

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A number of different Pros – like ASCAP – offer the same face-to-face interaction. Today is the best day in age for Indie music creators! It’s no longer the labels or big media who run the show. It’s the independent artists.

The opportunities are there if you want them.

You just have to step up to take them. So if you think your big shot is riding on whether or not you get exposed to a label or meet the right person at ASCAP, reach out to them directly and promote yourself in person.

When you find something that works, stick with it and share it with your friends. We grow stronger together!


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