20 Promotion Tactics for the Independent Artist

Record executives and music industry know-it-alls say this time and time again, “Get your name out there.”  I have heard this phrase so many times that it has become a pet-peeve.  The problem with this phrase is that it is too broad and generic. First of all, how do you get your name out there and where exactly is “there?”  The answer is PROMOTIONS – something every artist will need to engage in to get the fans they desire.  The name of the game is PROMOTION, PROMOTION, PROMOTION.  Do it.  Do it every day.  Do it effectively.


Promotions work!  When I moved to Charlotte I didn’t know a soul.  I started off small by visiting and performing at open mics.  I made sure to hand out cards and collect cards from others.  I followed up with each contact.  I also placed Free Demo CDs in local businesses and coffee shops.  I collected as many emails as possible at my live performances.  I even passed out Demos on street corners.  One day as I was passing out CDs, a couple I did not know approached me.  They called me by name, knew exactly who I was and said they saw one of my YouTube videos.  I was amazed!  Experiencing results like that confirmed that what I was doing worked!  All the hard work I did to “Put my name out there” was finally starting to pay off.  It felt good and you can do it too.


Don’t know where to start?  Here is a list of 20 promotional tactics.  Have fun with these and let them spark your own creativity.  Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be coming up with even better ideas of your own in no time.


One of the easiest ways to get started with promotions is with an online presence.  This is where most people go to find new artists, learn more about an artist, or to keep up with their favorite artists.  Either way, you should do everything you can to establish a presence on the world wide web.



1.  Your Website.


There are lots of affordable options available to design and publish a website, HostBaby, Squarespace, WordPress, and Weebly to name a few.  Your website should include important information about you such as your bio, videos, photos, music, and how to contact/book you.  One of the most important things to include on your website is some mechanism to capture e-mails.  Be sure there is a way to do this on mostly every page on your website.  This will help build your email list and keep the conversation going with your new fan for future development and promotions.


2.  Free Profiles.


Always be on the lookout for websites where you can add your profile.  These website are made for you.  They are mostly free and most of the time they let you create your very own page.  This is important because the more websites with your name on it, the better.  These profiles, especially the ones that allow you to link to your website, help build inventory used by search engines to get you higher rankings on search results pages like Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Plus, if you find a popular site in your local area, it might have it’s own daily traffic which will help even more people find you.  Examples of these websites include, GigSalad, Reverbnation, Indie On the Move, and your local online event calendars.  Some cities have a cultural arts movement with an online presence.  They often let you include your music as a profile.


3.  Social Media.


Social Media is an important part of your arsenal when it comes to promotions, but not in the way that you think.  The purpose of social media is to connect with others in a way that mimics community.  It promotes open dialogue and connecting based on personal interests and experiences.  As an independent artist, you will see better results if you create your social media strategy with these principles in mind.  If you have profiles on websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you should be producing engaging content that will encourage people to talk with you, share your posts with their friends, and enhance your relationships with people.  Therefore when you do share heavy promotional based content like trying to sell your album or tickets to a show (which should only be 20-30% of the time), they will be open to hearing from you.  People will be more likely to spend their time and money with you when they know and trust you.


4.  E-mail Lists.


Your email list is your greatest and best promotional tool.  These are people that voluntarily signed up to hear what you have to say.  They either signed up through your websites or in person at a show.  Treat them like gold.  Give them freebies, backstage access, discounts and unpublished stuff.  Keep the conversation going with them through consistent (but not too many) emails.  Wish them Happy Birthday and let them know when you’ll be in their area.  Be very personal with them.  They will love it!  Plus, when it’s time to promote something, they will buy whatever it is you want to sell.


5.  Online Radio Stations/Podcasts.


The online radio world is our future.  More and more people are migrating from traditional radio to online radio and podcasts.  Why?  Because these options offer more targeted, personalized content with less commercials and more realness.  People listen to online radio and podcasts on their way to work, while working out, cooking, cleaning, doing their hair and while engaging in lots of other activities.  What’s more, hosts of these stations are always on the lookout for new music they can use without paying licensing fees.  This is your ticket to reaching a whole new market that you may not have considered.  The best option is to find a podcast or radio station that caters to your target market.  For instance, you might have a few songs about sailing.  What if there were podcasts dedicated to sailing?  People who listen to these sailing podcasts will most likely find a connection with you since they share a similar interest.


6.  Your Blog.


Your blog is an extension of your website.  This is where people go when they want to get to know the real you.  It’s a way to promote yourself and your image.  However, there’s another way to look at it.  Your blog can be used as a way to enhance your search engine optimization.  You can use blog titles, headlines, and keywords and search terms to help your blog and website find it’s way to the top of search results.  For example, if you want your website to show up on the first page of search results for people searching for artists in your genre and in your city, then write an article about why you love your city as an independent artist.  Better yet, write several articles using these keywords and search terms.  Sooner than later, you’ll begin to show up under these search terms.


7.  YouTube


YouTube is the most popular website on the planet.  For some people it even takes the place of TV.  If you don’t have your own channel, you’re missing out on a whole world of promotions.  You can do covers of songs that will attract people to your music.  You can release footage of your live shows.  You can host your own series where you engage with your audience.  The possibilities are endless.  I am just now starting to develop and pay attention to my channel and I’m already seeing results.  People are linking to my videos in their online activities.  They are looking up and watching my videos before going to my shows.  Also, I included my genre and city in titles of several of my videos, and they show up in Google’s search results.   YouTube is a great tool for the independent artist and most of all, it’s free.


Promotions can also be done offline.  In my opinion, the promotions you do offline are most effective because it’s usually done on a one-to-one basis. Here are some ideas for promotions you can do in the real world outside of the web.



8.  Network.


We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  Well the same can be true in the music industry.  The same can be true for your career.  You are providing a service and the best promotional tactic is word-of-mouth.  It starts with the people you know who know other people.  You should always look for ways to broaden your networking circle.  Join Meetup groups and start making friends.  Go to mixers.  Go to community events.  Talk to people.  Let the conversation go naturally to what you do and your music and be ready to hand out your business card and possibly a free download.  Get their information and follow-up every now and then with holiday greetings, how-are-you notes, and so on.  If they respond, be sure to reply back.  Add a P.S. line to your email signature asking for referrals.  It can go something like this:  “P.S. if you know of anyone looking for entertainment for their next event please send them a link to my press kit – http://…..”  Make sure the link is clickable.  The key to networking is staying in the relationship.  Over time, these relationships will bear fruit and a return on your time investment.  To keep track of it all, I like to use a contact database such as Insightly.  It’s free and it helps you manage your contacts, their information, and it even lets you set-up tasks and reminders.  The more people you know, the better chances you have at getting gigs.  Be diligent with your networking and you will start to get consistent private gig requests that will help fund your career.


Raise Your Local Profile. (More ideas on how to ‘get your name out there’)

9.  Ask local retailers & coffee shops if you can offer your DEMO CD as a freebie on their check-out counter.  Include your name, what type of music you do, why they should listen to you, and your website somewhere on the CD.  If you have a show coming up at that particular venue, even better. Include your show information as well.

10.  Borrow a street corner and pass out your DEMO CDs.  Be your own street team.  Grab a few friends and have them help you.  Do it at a specific event.  Identify when and where a mainstream artist in your genre is performing and be there to hand out your CDs to people going to see them.

11.  Open Mics.  Visit open mics.  Perform your best songs.  Engage with the crowd and network.

12.  Try busking. If you have the nerve, go out one day and start busking.  Be engaging and interesting.  Set out your business cards.  Offer a giveaway that will encourage passersby to listen to you and/or look you up.

13.  Put flyers up on community boards.  Include a great picture and a few words on what you sound like.  Also include your website and a link or barcode linking to your best video.  Make it interesting.  People will notice and take it home with them.



Don’t neglect the possibility of paid advertising.  Consider creating an advertising budget to invest in your career.  Advertising works.  If it didn’t, Wal-Mart wouldn’t be doing it.  The key in advertising is knowing who your target market is, and getting in front of them.

14.  Purchase a list of names and addresses and send postcards to them promoting an upcoming show or advertising your service.  Try to make them an offer they cannot refuse and don’t forget to include a call to action.

15.  Purchase advertising space on grocery store carts.  People push these around the entire time they are in the grocery store.  This can be a great way to start the name recognition process and build awareness in your local area.

16.  Dance Recitals, School Plays, even theaters and other programs like these print keepsake booklets and playbills in which they sell advertising spots.  People read through them while they are waiting for the show to start.  If this group is in your target market why not place an ad.

17.  Create an Adwords ad on Google or a commercial for YouTube.  Google and YouTube will deliver your ads to a specific demographic you set.  You pay based on number of impressions or number of clicks.  You can set your budget and determine how much money you want to spend on it.

18.  Facebook and Twitter have similar advertising programs.


Get others to promote for you.

19.  If you’re selling tickets to a show, create 2 for 1 tickets and encourage everyone to bring a friend.  Most people don’t want to go to a show alone anyway, so this gives them even more incentive to do so.

20.  Pass out Referral Cards at your shows.  Create business cards that have your name and information on them plus a link to download a free song or two or even an entire album.  Give these cards to the people at your shows in multiples and ask them to pass it along to co-workers and friends.  If you gave them a good time, the odds are they would be happy to do it.

21.  Just Ask.  Enlist the help of your superfans.  Ask them to share your latest video or a link to one of your songs.  Send them your referral cards with a handwritten thank you note for being the best fan ever and sharing your music with their friends and family. Ask your friends and family to share as well.


Whatever you decide to do, the trick is to be consistent.  Identify what works and keep doing it.  It’s like the snowball effect.  You start off with a small snowflake.  You keep rolling it little by little until it gets bigger.  It starts to roll by itself and picks up speed as it rolls all the way down the mountain.  By the time it gets to the bottom of the mountain, it’s as big as a house.  That’s how promotions work.  Start out by taking small steps and doing little things.  Do something every day even if you’re just spending 10 minutes on it.  Get into the habit of consistently promoting yourself.  Eventually, these things will add up and before you know it, you will start seeing results as big as a house!

About Anitra Jay

Anitra Jay is an acoustic soul singer-songwriter based in Houston, TX. She tours regularly up and down the US from Vermont to Texas and everywhere in between. Her music is a sultry down to earth blend of soul, pop, and gospel. After being laid off from her job in 2007, Anitra decided to pursue a career in music. She took her educational experiences in Public Relations and her professional background in marketing and applied it full force to her music. She's found significant success in establishing a lasting fanbase using her special brand of marketing techniques which she shares freely with other artists. In addition to being a full-time performer, Anitra runs TheCraftyMusician.com, a blog for indie artists sharing actionable tips and advice on how to promote, develop, establish a fanbase, and more. Her passion is to inspire other musicians and build a community of like-minded independent artists to encourage and promote successful careers in the arts. She appeared on HGTV's Tiny House Hunters in May of 2017 to share her music story and her Tiny House Journey with the world. Follow Anitra on Twitter - @IndieArtistsDIY and @Anitra_Jay. Join the mailing list to get practical DIY tips and tricks in your inbox - http://buff.ly/2gSwptO.

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