Congratulations! You’ve just finished a new track (maybe your very first track), and it’s incredible. Maybe the best song ever, right? You’ve submitted it to your distributor, and you’re ready for Spotify to place you on some huge playlist, the streams to start flowin’, and the fame to overwhelm you. When I released my first track, I’ll admit these thoughts ran through my brain. I thought fans would flock and I’d have a million streams within a year. People would be shouting, “HEY THERE’S PLUMMY!” as paparazzi cameras flashed. I’d hide my face behind my sunglasses and jacket as I turned down a secluded sidewalk in Minneapolis. Ok, maybe I didn’t think it was that easy. But I did think it wouldn’t be much work. But it is work. Dirty work. Music promotion. Promoting your music isn’t flashy, but it is necessary if you want to expand your audience.
A few weeks after my first release, I started to realize I would need to start seriously promoting my music if I wanted it heard. Nobody (besides me and one or two friends, give or take one or two friends) was listening. But through some chance of fate, I was lucky enough to stumble across a New Artist Spotlight reddit post, and 9 months later, here we are. And through the help of so many wonderful and musically talented friends, along with some kind souls across the world wide web, I now have a basic grasp on how to promote my own music. I will break it down into the steps I followed for my latest release, and share my experience.
Disclaimer: I am no expert in promoting music, nor am I guaranteeing tons of playlist and blog placements for anyone. In fact, I haven’t had a ton of success yet, and I’ll get into the whys of that. But I truly believe this is a great beginner’s guide to navigating your first venture into the world of music promotion.
· Create your Electronic Press Kit
· Submit to Electronic Press Kit to Blogs
· Submit to SubmitHub
· Pitch Your Song to Spotify
· Flaunt Any and All Coverage
Another disclaimer: A HUGE chunk of what I learned and what you’ll learn from reading this was thanks to Jon from twostorymelody.com. I signed up for his free, five-day email course on music promotion. I strongly encourage you to do the same, as he goes into a lot more detail than I will. Seriously, go do this before you read any further!
STEP 1: CREATING YOUR ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT
The first thing you’ll want to do is create an Electronic Press Kit, or, EPK. Your EPK will help you look like you know what you’re doing when you submit to blogs and playlist curators. If you’ve never built an EPK before, it can seem daunting. But you can use your first EPK as a template for all future releases. There are two methods of hosting your EPK: a Google doc, or on your website. I personally opted for the website, as it is a little more professional (there is nothing wrong with using a google doc) and I just really wanted my own website.*
*I personally recommend Wix.com. You can sign up for a free account, build a free website, and after a few days, they’ll email you some great discounts for a paid website. Plus, it’s so easy a Plummy can do it.
Now, I’ll detail out what your EPK should include, and share my EPK, which you can base yours off of.
Your song link- Since my song was in prerelease, I uploaded it to Soundcloud and set the link to private. Once the song is released everywhere, you can change the link to public.
Your artist bio- A few hundred words, written in third person. Don’t make this gushy. It should be objective. I recommend going to a few of your favorite artists on Spotify and checking out their bios. Take note of how they’re written and gather ideas for how you can write your own. If you’re a poor writer, have somebody help. It should go without saying that this should be proofread and free of any spelling or grammatical errors.
Your press release- Include the story behind your latest release. What it sounds like, what inspired the song, the meaning behind it, and similar sounding songs or influences. Include a quote or two from yourself or your band about the song. This can be a little gushier than your bio, but not too gushy. I pretty much made my entire press release up. But they don’t know that, only we do. And it’s our little secret now.
Your artist brief- One or two quick sentences about you or your band, and a short description of your song. I essentially took the first line of my bio and a line from my press release.
Artist photos- Get some fresh, high-quality photos of you or your band and have them available for download in your EPK. Cell phones have incredibly good cameras nowadays, and there are tons of free photo editing apps. Even better if you have a photographer friend or can afford to pay for professional photos.
Album artwork- Self explanatory (I hope), but the more professional, the better.
Links to previous coverage- This is where the New Artist Spotlight is SO AWESOME!! Take advantage of the 10 question interviews, the podcast, and if you’re lucky enough, Connolly’s Corner reviews! You can totally use this content if you haven’t been covered anywhere else yet (and if you have).
Links to your social profiles/contact info - Again, self explanatory. I personally didn’t include mine in my EPK since they’re at the top of my website, where my EPK lives. I also only include my email address on my website and no cell number.
As promised, here is my EPK. I’m not saying it’s the greatest thing ever, but I think it’s decent and professional-looking. And I can reuse a lot of it for my next release.
STEP 2: SUBMIT YOUR ELECTRONIC PRESS KIT TO BLOGS
You’ve created your EPK, now comes the real grind: submitting to blogs. This is by far my least favorite task. It’s tedious, and you probably won’t end up with many responses. Remember Jon’s email course I mentioned earlier? The one you signed up for already? I’m going to share a lot of his advice in this section.
First, there are 3 different tiers of blogs. Top, middle, and low tier. Top tier blogs are the Rolling Stones of the world. Unless you’re Maaya Mattoo, you likely won’t be featured in these. Middle tier have some staff members that are paid, but have a lower audience reach than the top tier blogs. Low tier are hobbyists, have a low audience reach, and their websites might not have their own domain name (think blog.wix.com). Pitch your song to middle and low tier blogs for now.
Second, if your song is unreleased, try asking middle tier blogs to premiere your release. A premiere is more exciting for them, as they will have exclusive rights to premiere your new song when it drops. They may even ask you for a quote or two. Only one place can premiere your song, so if someone decides to, let the other blogs you’ve pitched to know. They may still want to cover your song at a later date, especially since another blog picked it for a premiere.
Third, when pitching, write your emails in first person, be professional, and keep track of everywhere you’ve pitched to. I used a spreadsheet (the email course sends out a nice template) with fields for websites, contact info, date pitched, notes, who accepted/rejected, etc. Make sure the blogs you pitch to actually fit your style. I will put some blog links at the end of this, but you should also google your genre(s) + music blog and find some sites that fit. Then, just look for their contact info.
In your pitch, you should include a quick summary of why you like their blog, why your music fits, a link to your unreleased track, your artist brief, and your EPK. Don’t go too wordy, as they get a ton of submissions. Here is an example of a premiere pitch I sent to a blog:
Hi X and X,
I (Plummy) was informed of your site through a fellow musician, really enjoying perusing through your write-ups. Especially digging the alt pop/pop rock stuff, like your recent article on SONG by ARTIST. I think my fans would enjoy your work and your readers would enjoy my new track, “Stop”, which drops on Feb. 12. I’d like to offer you the opportunity to premiere it.
Here’s a link to the pre-released track on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/plummymusic/stop/s-1ESjmrwIDZe
Here’s a little more info about Plummy:
Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, alt-pop artist Plummy delivers engaging and memorable music that blends together bluesy guitar sections, catchy melodies, and evocative lyrics. His latest single, Stop, is a dark-disco-pop-rock song with a ferocious groove and memorable hook..
Here’s a link to the full EPK (with artwork): https://www.plummymusic.com/myepk
Would you be interested in premiering this? Let me know if you need anything else from me.
Thank you for all of your work! Hope to hear from you soon.
Some notes: If you don’t hear anything, follow up with a blog about a week after you submit, as a good chunk of coverage actually happens after following up. Don’t attach a file of your song in your email pitch. Use a Soundcloud or YouTube link. Pitch to blogs at least a week before your release date, but preferably two or three. Some blogs may have odd requirements for pitching, such as submitting your song through their Subreddit.
STEP 3: SUBMIT TO SUBMIT HUB
Submit Hub is a website that makes it quick and easy to submit your music to bloggers and playlist curators. But artists hate Submit Hub. Why? Because they get a lot of rejection. Rejection that makes them scratch their brain. I submitted my pop song to a pop blogger and they told me it was “too commercial.” Let that sink in. Approval rates are also a lot lower if you don’t submit using their paid credits, because the bloggers and curators make a little cash when they review the premium submissions. But for all that nastiness, there is some good.
Submit Hub makes it super simple to submit your song to a lot of bloggers and curators at once. And the lessened effort level on my part made using it a lot more appealing than having to search through blog after blog to see if my music might fit. Submit Hub also guarantees your song is at least listened to for at least a little bit, and depending on how you submit, the bloggers and curators have to leave some feedback. If you want nothing to do with Submit Hub, skip ahead to the next section. If you want to try it out, keep reading.
The submission process is fairly straightforward, but there are a couple of different options throughout, and I’ll tell you what I chose and recommend.
First, sign up for an account at Submithub.com
Build your bio (I put my EPK link here) and upload the song you’d like to pitch.
If you can afford it, buy some credits (about $1 per), as the free credit submissions have a lower approval rate and can’t be used as often. The more credits you buy at once, the better deal you get
Click your song, click submit, and choose “Submit to Curators”
Select premium or free credits
Select “I care about feedback” (if they don’t provide feedback, you get your credit back)
Select “They cannot monetize”
Select three genres that best fit your song
The left pane has some options to pick from. I recommend selecting “really good blogger” and “shares to spotify” to start. I also recommend setting the approval rate between 5%-50%. You don’t want blogs that approve every single song.
Select the blogs and curators that interest you. Each one costs between 1-3 credits (if you’re using premium).
Add a personalized message to each submission, if desired
And that’s all there is to it. If you pay, it can feel like a gamble. But you’re paying for convenience and guaranteed listen of at least 20 seconds and guaranteed feedback of 10 words. And you will get rejected by most, it’s part of the game. Chin up, your music is probably great.
STEP 4: PITCH YOUR SONG TO SPOTIFY
Every aspiring artist wants their song to land on a Spotify curated playlist. Spotify is one of the most successful music stream platforms, and getting on one of their playlists means a ton of listeners and streams. You can pitch an upcoming release to Spotify through Spotify for Artists (the desktop website and I believe even the latest app update). Now, it isn’t easy to land on one of these fabled playlists, but a few New Artist Spotlight Artists have, and they’ve shared some pitching advice that I will regurgitate, mixed in with some of Spotify’s own advice.
When pitching to Spotify, there are a few things you can do to give yourself the best shot at landing on a playlist:
Timing - Give yourself and Spotify’s curators ample time. Pitch your song at least two weeks ahead of the release date. This will also help your song land on your followers’ release radar.
Freshen Up - Update your Spotify profile pic. Update your bio with the one you wrote for your EPK. Add some photos from your EPK to your Spotify bio. Update your social media profile pictures and stir up some hype for your new song while you're at it. Spotify looks at all of this (or so they say).
Pitch it Good - As you do for choosing blogs to pitch to and Submithubbers to submit to, select the right genres when you pitch to Spotify. Find Spotify curated playlists that your song would fit into, and mention that in the pitch. Mention any coverage you’ve received *cough* even New Artist Spotlight coverage *cough*. Mention if you plan to promote your song on any podcasts (not gonna cough again folks).
Get Those Presaves - Do all you can to maximize the amount of presaves. Once again, New Artist Spotlight is great in this regard.
Don’t Stop - Keep hyping up and promoting your song after the release date. Just because your song didn’t land on a Spotify curated playlist the day your song dropped, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future. I know of people that have landed on Spotify curated playlists weeks after their song came out. Plaster your song everywhere on social media following its release!
STEP 5: FLAUNT ANY AND ALL COVERAGE
Yea, flaunt it. Every little bit of press coverage and playlist placement you receive. So much that if I see one more post from you, I’ll be tempted to block you out of jealousy. Just kidding, I’ll be happy for you. Coverage leads to more coverage. If blogs and curators see that you’re getting noticed, they might be more likely to feature you in the future. Don’t be shy, be proud. You’ve earned it.
FINAL THOUGHTS AND ADVICE
Whew, that was intense, huh? It’s quite a bit of work, and not nearly as much fun as creating music, but it’s important and necessary. I mentioned that I didn’t have a ton of blog and playlist success with my last release, and this was due to one main reason: Time. I didn’t give myself enough time. I submitted my latest song, Stop, to my distributor about 4 weeks before I wanted it to release. Only after, did I start researching how to promote music. That research took a couple of days, then I decided to build my website, which took about a week. Then I wrote my EPK, another day or two. Then photos, art, and everything else. By the time I was ready to submit to blogs, I had less than two weeks to do so. And between working full-time and raising two kids, I didn’t submit to nearly as many blogs as I should have. It’s a learning process. So have as much of this ready as you can before you even submit to your distributor.
Don’t be afraid of rejection. It will happen. Over, and over, and over. I work in baseball, and the best hitters don’t succeed 7 out of 10 times. In this game, the best musicians might strike out 8 or 9 out of 10 times. It’s a cruel business. I’m sure Submit Hub curators would reject Beatles songs for stupid reasons like “poor songwriting.” It’s a human on the other end of the screen, either listening to your music and reading (or ignoring) your pitch. And every human is unique with their own tastes. At the end of the day, music promotion is not fun, but music is. Keep creating it, keep sharing it, and give it your best effort. You’ll only get out what you put in.