Want to stand out in the music industry?
Then you have to win in the areas that aren’t subjective and have nothing to do with your music (yep you read that right).
Someone will always think your music sucks even if you’re Beyonce.
So what can you do to get your music heard?
One simple plan is to double down on things you can control and get better at the details that make a strong first, second, or thirtieth impression.
This means returning phone calls, following up with people, being organized, and overall just having your shit together.
There are so many lazy artists out there which is good news for you. While some artists are off in la-la land, you can be pounding the pavement impressing people with your processes and systems.
None of that sounds sexy, does it?
You’d rather create the music and have it speak for itself, wouldn’t you?
Sorry – that just isn’t how it works. The music industry is all about connections, work ethic, and preparation. Waiting around for someone else to make your dreams come true is just that – a dream.
Do these things instead…
How To Get Your Music Heard More (in 10 minutes or less)
Let’s knock through 10 easy things you can do right now in 10 minutes or less to level up your career and help you stand out in the crowded music space.
#1 Have A Good Headshot
The first thing people see when they visit your Instagram or website is probably your picture. If you don’t have a good headshot or worse, don’t have yourself in your picture at all, they might bounce and never come back.
A good headshot should give people who don’t know you an accurate sense of who you are as a musician. If you’re a soulful r&b singer, you might choose a darker, moody headshot with piercing eyes looking straight at the camera. An upbeat Pop singer probably wants a smiling picture with lighter colors and tones. You get the idea.
Here are a few pointers of what NOT to do when choosing a headshot:
- Your headshot should not be edited to the point where it looks unnatural
- Your headshot should not be your logo
- And it certainly should not be a picture of your cat
Changing your headshot every year or two is a good idea in order to stay current with the trends and your sound. Changing your headshot too often, can backfire and turn people off. Humans expect and respond well to behavioral consistency so in a social environment (like Instagram) unpredictable people are less likely to be liked.
A good headshot has these qualities:
- Clearly visible picture of your head and face (shot from the shoulders up)
- Proper lighting and focus on your head and face
- Clothes and jewelry similar to what you would wear for a show
- Facial expression matching your musical style
- Natural look and feel (inauthenticity is easy to spot)
#2 Have A Professional Email Signature
An email is one of the best promotional vehicles most people don’t take advantage of. Every time you send an email, there’s free promo space right there at the bottom in the signature field.
Your email signature should include the following things:
- Your name (what really?)
- Personalization or branding statement
- A call to action
- Social profiles
- Picture or logo
- (optional) showcasing awards or expertise
Here is the Sounds Sphere signature from our “info” mailbox:
Notice how we explain exactly what we do in the body. We have our logo and social icons plus our website all organized in an easy to read way. It’s clear, concise, and to the point.
If you’re a Grammy winning songwriter you could add that in the body section below your name. Have a new single out? Link people to your fanlink or Spotify profile right from your email signature.
#3 Have An EPK (and update it regularly)
An EPK (electronic press kit) is a “ready-to-go” link you can send out that has all the essential information about your music and brand. Think of it like your resume for the music business – a place to showcase your accomplishments and demonstrate who you are as an artist.
You will want to include the following things in your EPK:
- Music (duh…)
- Promo materials
- Notable achievements (could be within bio)
- Contact information
Here’s my producer EPK from when I was still active as an artist:
Your EPK can be as simple as a box folder (like mine was) or you can use sites like Bandzoogle to create an online EPK. Just make sure the link is evergreen and that you update the content regularly. You don’t want a 5 year old album sitting in your EPK.
You can use your EPK any time you are submitting for press coverage, submitting music, networking, or cold emailing (see section 10). The more organized and clean your EPK is, the more prestigious you will be regarded by the viewer.
The idea is to have all the relevant information anyone would want to know about you right in one place. But don’t go overboard and include too much – limit the songs to less than 10 (I’d say less than 5), and don’t have more than a 1 page bio.
(Get an “Industry Contact Script” and “Email Jumpstart Checklist” when you click here or on the image below…)
#4 Start Sending Thank You Emails
When’s the last time you said thank you to someone? Not a courtesy thank you like opening a door for someone (remember when we could touch public doors?), but a real thank you for bringing value to your life?
People don’t owe you anything and as harsh as it sounds, no one is thinking about you 24/7 because they’re too busy thinking about themselves! When working with anyone, and especially when someone is doing something for you, a simple “thank you” can go a long way.
Sending a “thank you” email or text keeps your name top of mind even for just a few minutes. The timing of your email might be just right where the person you are saying thank you too remembers all the skills you have and writes you back asking to meet or hire you for something.
You can get gigs, a placement, or a big introduction just for sending a thank you email. People are more likely to help you out if they have a favorable memory of your personality, so you might get a great opportunity from someone simply because the person remembers how great you are.
Going out of your way to send a thank you email doesn’t take long, but it shows you’re thinking of others. It shows you value the relationship of the other person. It shows you respect them as a human.
Here are a few situations when saying “thank you” might be appropriate:
- When you invite someone to a show and they actually show up
- If a press contact emails you back
- When a fan tells you they like your music
- If a friend introduces you to a potential collaborator
- When another creative goes out of their way to help you
- When a venue books you for a show
- If you get helpful information from a blog
Point is – saying thank you shows you care and builds a strong habit within your character.
#5 Start A Small Ad Campaign
Psst here’s a secret. The marketing agencies selling you Facebook ad courses don’t want you running your own ads. But I’m here to say you can totally do it yourself and get the same results.
I’m going to give you a step by step plan that others would charge you for, for free.
Start a campaign. Target Instagram only. Build 2 feed ads and 2 story ads. Make sure you have good ads. A/B them and see which one is better. Double down on the ones that perform better. Target fans of artists who are popular and sound similar to you. Send them to a link that has an option to collect their email address.
Having even $5 a day ad spend can bring in tons of new fans over a few months. Check out Lucidious – an expert in this strategy.
Running ads can lose you a lot of money quickly. Maybe not as fast as Vegas, but still… make sure you start small and change things that don’t work.
#6 Make A Master Media Contact Sheet
Getting press can be a game-changer. If the right blog writes about your new single or album, you could net thousands of new fans and potentially even the attention of industry movers and shakers.
But getting press isn’t as easy as sending 1-2 emails. There’s a process to follow and it does take work. You’ll have to be persistent and stick with it to get results.
A media contact sheet is just a simple repository of information about publications (blogs / websites), authors, and email addresses. You can include things like Twitter handles as well as additional notes if you’d like.
This is an example of a media sheet that you can copy and modify to your personal requirements. In my media sheet, I keep the following information:
- Twitter handle
- Relevant article to Sounds Sphere
- Email address
How you use your media sheet is important. A good starting point is to capture relevant information for your personal brand as an artist. Here is a quick 5 step plan that should get you started:
- Every time you see an article written about an artist that has a similar sound to you, written about a venue you’ve played in, or written about anything you can connect back to your own personal story, document the author and link to the article.
- Start to engage with these people on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc… and genuinely provide thoughtful comments and responses to what they’re doing.
- Build a relationship (even if they don’t engage back) over the course of months (not days) by engaging with their posts, content, and articles.
- When you have a new single or new show, reach out to them with a simple concise email referencing back to that first article you documented. Something like:
“Hey so and so, I saw you covered “such and such” band a while back when they put out their song “blah blah blah” (link to article). My name is “so and so” from “place and place”. I’ve been following you for quite some time and really enjoy your work. I thought you might like my new song “do da dill”. You can find a link to my EPK here (link to EPK from point #3) with more information about me. Thanks!”
5. Follow up with a thank you email thanking them for listening even if they didn’t. Then ask for a review of the song/album in a polite way.
Obviously, this is just one idea on how you can use your media sheet. Keeping general contacts here is perfectly fine too. I typically look back at my sheet at least once a month to see if there’s anyone I need to follow up with or reach out to.
Bonus tip: Looking for a record deal? Then you'll also want to check we are an article on how to contact record labels.
#7 Update All Your Profiles To Be Consistent
Here’s something easy to do in 10 minutes or less. Login to all your accounts (email, social media, even your ASCAP or BMI account) and make sure the information is up to date and consistent.
Your profile should be relatively the same throughout each website. This includes the same profile picture, bio, and links. Not much else to say about this one, but you’d be surprised how many artists don’t keep things consistent which can cause confusion and people bouncing from your page.
#8 Learn How To Do Keyword Research
There are an estimated 5.8 billion searches each day on Google. The keywords people are searching to include tons of relevant topics to you as an artist. Just think about all the value you could provide to people searching for topics you are knowledgeable about.
Or better yet – think about all the people searching for professional artists and how you can capture that search traffic. There are tons of keyword research tools out there (I use ahrefs and SEMrush). Some are free, but most you have to pay for.
The idea of using keywords to your advantage is standard practice for businesses. But you as an artist can use some of the same techniques to attract followers, establish yourself as an authority, and build a strong fanbase.
Let’s say your music is similar to Taylor Swift. There are 1.6 million searches for Taylor Swift each month and various phrase match searches too (“Taylor Swift Age”, etc…)
You can use this data to build articles answering questions people are searching for through a blog or your website. If you become the top authority on these keywords, people searching for this information are now coming to your site, being exposed to your music, and the best part is it’s all free from Google.
Take a look at this data for the various searches related to Taylor Swift. The number in the green box is the difficulty of the keyword (how hard it would be to rank for it). 0 is super easy which means you could probably get your page in the top 5 within a few months after posting an article related to the keyword.
Ignoring the unfortunate sexist searches, you can see that there are a lot of interesting ideas for a post. For example, you could write the definitive article on Taylor Swift's Golden Globes appearances. Or write about her cats and capture 37,000 searches per month!
One tip – even though it looks appealing to write on her height or answer how tall she is, because the nature of the question is objective, Google prioritizes one answer at the top. This means there aren’t very many clicks related to the search because people get their answers right away.
So just to recap. Find similar artists to you. Research keywords related to them that you can capture in articles on your blog or website. Write great content related to the keywords. Promote your blog and website to start generating free traffic from Google.
#9 Use Technology To Your Advantage
Artists and songwriters aren’t necessarily known for their organization skills. I once had an artist cancel a session 3 times in a row because they forgot, double-booked, and then got lost on the way to my studio. To top it all off when they finally got here, they spent most of the session on their phone.
All you have to do is be slightly more hard-working than the status quo and you’re already ahead of the game. A big tool that can help level up your organization is technology. And not just email – I’m talking about software tools like Box, Trello, Notion, Ahrefs, Hunter, and many more.
The specific applications don’t necessarily matter as much as the concept of keeping yourself on track to achieve your goals. Planning an album release? Break down the project on a board and layout all the tasks you need to get done. Then check things off as you go so you have a visual representation of your hard work.
Having a professional file storage system can go a long way, especially for a producer sending large files and sessions. I use box.com with separate folders for things like session stems, tracks, documents, and media. I can quickly and easily send any digital file to anyone I want without scrambling around for USB drives or worrying about file size.
#10 Learn How To Cold Email
Attention. Interest. Desire. Action.
I’ve done it again. This time was way worse than before… she couldn’t believe it when I told her and I bet you won’t believe it either.
I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I bet I got your attention.
When cold emailing people to establish a connection you always want to get their attention. If you start with something boring like: “Hey so and so, my name is blah blah blah from locationville. My grandfather was born in 1928…” your email will be on the fast track for the trash bin.
People don’t care and if you are lucky enough to get them to even read your email they will only keep reading as long as you can keep their interest. Which is point number 2.
After you’ve got their attention you want to pique their interest. This essentially means how can you benefit them. This is a great place to demonstrate your knowledge of what they do and how you can provide value to help them.
This is not a place to kiss their ass and tell them how great they are. Be concise. Be courteous. And get to the point about what you can do for them.
Once you’ve gotten their interest you want them to desire to continue the conversation. Here’s where you tell them the “how” of what you’re offering or why they should give you the time of day.
List out your bullet points of what you’ve done or why you believe they should work with you. Again, don’t write paragraphs about random stuff they don’t care about.
Finally, you want to call them to action. Do you want to talk to them on the phone? Want them to click a link to listen to something? What exactly are the next steps? Make it super easy to understand and easy for them to know what they can do if they want to continue talking to you.
Here’s an example of a cold email I sent to a producer who’s now on our platform:
I know that many producers are tired of the overly saturated market of selling beats online so my first sentence called that out. I then peaked interest by indicating I have a platform that can help.
I then explained a bit about how we do things differently and why I thought we would be beneficial for this producer’s music. We scheduled a call and now he has some tracks on our site.
Note that a good rate of response from cold emailing is about 40%. Typically only 2 or 3 out of 10 people will respond so don’t get discouraged if you don’t get responses. You can try tweaking your approach and using different opening lines to get a better response rate.
There you have it. Knowing how to get your music heard doesn't always involve your music.
You just learned 10 things you can do in 10 minutes that will quickly level up your appeal as an artist.
To give you a jumpstart, we’ve created a public board where you can see all the tasks in a checklist-style project. You can create your own or copy ours to knock through all 10 items and be on your way to a new and improved brand image.
(Get an “Industry Contact Script” and “Email Jumpstart Checklist” when you click here or on the image below…)