If you pay attention to music marketing news at all, you’re already aware that the olden days of yore when celebrities were the go-to tastemakers are over. Now, it’s all about bloggers, YouTube stars, and social media mavens with dedicated followers. These “influencers,” as they’re called, can turn hundreds of thousands of fans onto products, technology and your music.
Getting a YouTube makeup guru to gush about how much she loves your new EP sounds great, right? Well, before you get too excited, know that the biggest and brightest influencers are usually represented by their own managers and agents. Some require a princely sum for even a mention on their channels.
What’s a DIY or indie artist to do? Focus on finding quality influencers that have a super engaged, if somewhat small, fanbase. You want someone who responds to comments on their social posts and YouTube videos, who creates Instagram stories, and who retweets and responds to folks on Twitter. Even if they’re up-and-coming (like you!), as long as they have eyes on what they’re doing, those eyes have ears that can hear your songs.
Here are are three ways influencers can change the way you think about music marketing.
They act as brand advocates.
As I mentioned before, influencers are the new celebrities, and who wouldn’t want a celebrity telling thousands of people, “This is my favorite song of the year!” while dancing around to your new single? It always helps to spread positivity about your music through word-of-mouth, and while we love our friends and family, their opinion seems a bit, well, biased.
An influencer’s opinion, on the other hand, is taken as gospel. It’s good to note that FTC guidelines dictate that whenever anyone on social media is promoting a product or service and being paid for it, the influencer must disclose it. (You may have noticed celebrities using #ad or #sponsored hashtags – this is the reason.)
With your music, however, as long as there’s no monetary exchange, the influencer is free to do what he or she chooses. And hey, someone saying, “This really cool band, XYZ, sent me their new song and I’m literally addicted!” isn’t so bad.
They excel at music marketing.
With all the digital noise these days and radio’s popularity on the wane, it’s hard to find new and creative ways to promote your music. Influencers are pros are coming up with creative contests and concepts. After all, sometimes they get paid to endorse cat litter or plastic bags or other random stuff that doesn’t exactly beget revolutionary ideas.
Maybe you’re in a death-metal band, but you find an influencer who plays the ukulele. Have her cover your most popular track on Soundcloud and turn it into an acoustic jam. Or reach out to an influencer who does cooking tutorials and ask him to include your track in his latest “music to cook by” segment. And that beauty queen who contours like a pro? I bet she’s looking for some background music.
Don’t limit yourself to influencers you’d traditionally think would be “good fits.” Your music may resonate with all or part of anyone’s fanbase.
Their content gives you a forum to talk about your music.
A good rule of thumb is to always follow up on any social media coverage you receive, whether it’s fans posting Instagram photos of your gigs or a simple tweet saying, “Hey, man, love your new song!” When influencers post about your music, it gives you a chance to jump in and meet people where they live, so to speak.
If folks are commenting on a YouTube video that includes your song and saying how much they love it, it’s a great time to comment back, thank them, and start that conversation. Don’t immediately tell them to go buy it on iTunes (and, by the way, the influencer should have already directed them to do so or put the link in the description box). Instead, show them you’re a real person and you appreciate them taking them time to say a kind word about your tune.
For bonus points, comment yourself on the subject matter of the video (“Wow, I love this cover! Awesome job!” or “I’m so impressed with your mad makeup skills – I’m going to try that eyeliner trick!”) and thank the poster for including your song. More than likely, the influencer will comment back, boosting your original remark according to most social media algorithms, which means more people will see it and check out your music.
To be successful, artists need to keep up with the latest music marketing trends. By using influencers, you’re not only making yourself competitive, you’re actually leading the pack. Do some research by browsing through YouTube, Instagram, and other social channels to see who might be a good fit for your music, then reach out. You have nothing to lose… and everything to gain!
Allison Johnelle Boron is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Goldmine magazine, Paste, and more. She is the founder of REBEAT, a “blogazine” focused on mid-century music, culture, and lifestyle.