I regularly get asked for advice from emerging artists, so I figured I’d use my lockdown isolation as an excuse to answer a few of the most common questions.
If you find any of this useful, feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or buy me a coffee:
There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to getting your music heard, but hopefully some of this will help.
This is all fairly generic advice and not all of it will be relevant to you as an artist.
If you’d like more bespoke guidance tailored to your specific project, I’m available for consultancy, mentoring and campaign management. Get in touch.
WHO SHOULD WE USE TO DISTRIBUTE OUR NEW RELEASE?
There are a lot of digital distributors out there who essentially do the same thing: they get your music on all of the streaming platforms.
For emerging artists, I’m nailing my colours to the mast and recommending either DistroKid or EmuBands.
DistroKid have got the most straight forward upload process and their in-house pre-save tool is spot on, as are some of their other functions – such as adding lyrics for Instagram.
EmuBands have the best customer service and a similarly straight forward upload process. They don’t have as many features as DistroKid, but they’re great to work with, so if having an actual human being at the end of an email is more appealing than some cool tech features, EmuBands may be for you. Use my referral code if you like: UABRDH98
There’s loads more to choose from including CDBaby, Ditto and Tunecore, to name but a few, so do some research and see which one feels like the best fit for your plans.
One of the main reasons I like DistroKid (and Ditto and Emubands…) is that you keep 100% of your royalties. It may be that you’re happy to give some of your royalties away in exchange for the services offered by somebody like AWAL. It’s totally dependent on your own preferences.
You might also want to consider whether you want to pay an annual fee or a one-time fee. There’s no right or wrong answer, you should do what you feel is right for your project and your budget.
I’m also a HUGE fan of Bandcamp. Make sure you add all of your releases to Bandcamp and use it as your webshop for merch too – doing some limited edition physical versions of your releases and music/merch bundles is a great way to engage with fans, as well as to boost revenue. It’s not all just about Spotify and Apple Music…
I also recommend artists put each new single up publicly on Soundcloud on release day. If you’re putting out an album or EP, I’d just put the strongest track on Soundcloud, but it’s your call. Soundcloud is a good platform for sharing your track with blogs etc prior to release, so make sure your profile is always as up to date as possible with your latest bio and photo.
HOW DO WE GET OUR SONG ON SPOTIFY PLAYLISTS?
First things first, you’ve already signed up at artists.spotify.com yeah? When you’ve got a new release coming soon, that’s the only place to pitch your song directly to Spotify’s editorial team. It’s also jam-packed full of helpful videos and articles. Take some time to learn as much as you can before your next release, and importantly, make sure you give yourself at least four weeks (ideally 6) between sending your release to your digital distributor and your release date. You need time to pitch and promote.
I would also recommend that you release your music on a Friday. I’ve seen an increasing number of local/regional artists release on a Saturday – given that a lot of people in the music industry work Monday to Friday, you’re dramatically reducing your chances of exposure by releasing on a weekend. If you’re working with a PR company, they might suggest you release on a Tuesday or Wednesday to help land a media premiere, but if not, stick to Fridays.
Over a million new songs get added to Spotify each month, so cutting through the noise and getting on editorial playlists isn’t easy. Don’t forget that as well as editorial playlists (such as New Music Friday, The Indie List, Hot Hits UK etc), there are also algorithmic playlists (Release Radar, Discover Weekly, Daily Mix etc) and user generated playlists.
For algorithmic playlists, the more followers you have on Spotify, the better. If you have 5,000 followers, that’s 5,000 Release Radar playlists the week your new track is out. Ask your fans to ‘follow’ you and/or run a pre-save campaign (which is really easy to do if you use DistroKid or you use something like ToneDen or Feature.FM). Incentivise it by turning the PreSave into a competition. Increasing your followers really does help. Make sure your Spotify profile is up to date too – use the Artist Pick, update your bio, keep your photos fresh, make your own playlists etc.
User generated playlists can be a great source of new listeners. There are some brilliant independent playlist curators out there who you can reach for free through sites like:
Make sure you only submit to playlists where your track would actually work. Give them a listen – and a follow – to find the ones that fit the best.
A lot of the playlists on the platforms mentioned above might only generate around 25 – 50 listens, but if you get on 20 playlists like that, it all starts adding up…
There are other similar sites out there, so do some research and see what you find! Seriously, do some research and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to find amazing music-loving independent curators.
I try to submit tracks to independent playlists within the first week of release – the sooner you get out of the dreaded <1000, the better! That said, some independent playlist curators are happy to listen to older tracks – so if there’s a song from your back catalogue that you think deserved more attention, there’s no harm in focusing on that before you release some new music.
As mentioned earlier, making some of your own Spotify playlists and having them on your artist page is a really strong move too. Share them on your social media platforms and tag in the other artists that are on your playlist. You never know, they might share too and all of a sudden their fans are listening to your music. It all helps keep those algorithms whirring. Consider making a collaborative playlist and invite your fans to add songs too.
I would also recommend submitting your latest release to independent playlist editors via:
- Submithub – there’s also lots of bloggers to send to here, which I’ll cover more in the PR & Radio section below
- Groover – very similar platform to Submithub, where you pay for credits to send your track to independent playlisters and bloggers etc
You may also want to consider a paid campaign with Playlist Push, although I’ve had mixed results through them and it’s not cheap, so as an independent artist, your budget may be better spent elsewhere. As with all of this stuff: just because it’s worked for one artist, doesn’t mean it will work for you – and vice versa.
There’s also Syncr, which has a number of opportunities ranging from sync to blogs to independent playlists. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend paying for the premium service, but there’s no harm in sending your latest track out to some of the media briefs they have.
If you want to read more about getting your music on playlists, these posts are pretty good places to start:
Of course, the most important thing is that your song is absolutely amazing. Don’t forget that after all is said and done, it really is the music that matters.
HAVE YOU GOT ANY TIPS FOR PITCHING TO PLAYLIST EDITORS?
Keep it brief. Keep it focused. Keep it friendly. Keep it personal.
Talk about upcoming press, radio & live highlights.
Use previous achievements to add credence to future releases – e.g. if you’ve been played on your local BBC Introducing show, you can say “Building on support from BBC Introducing”. If you’ve supported some notable bands, mention that. If you’ve had some good blog coverage, mention that. Sold-out a headline gig? Mention that. If your producer has worked with some other decent acts, mention that. If you’ve featured in some popular playlists before, mention that. If you recorded in a cool studio, mention that.
There’s no need to say when you formed or how this is your third bass player or that you started the band when you were at college. Remember that you’re competing with thousands and thousands of other artists, so you want to seem as professional as possible – but keep it personable. Personality and politeness goes a long way…
If you do get added to any playlists, make sure you share them on your socials and tag in the curators and other artists. Get your fans listening and sharing too – it all helps those spurious algorithms.
HOW DO WE GET PRESS AND RADIO?
Before you think about paying for PR or a radio plugger, there’s plenty of DIY platforms which I’ve found absolutely invaluable for emerging artists:
- BBC Introducing – don’t forget to keep your profile up to date, and make sure you only ever send in your best tracks
- Amazing Radio – upload your latest release at Amazing Tunes
- Fresh on the Net – submit your latest track between Monday and Thursday. I love the community spirit that Fresh on the Net fosters. Genuine and passionate music fans, with BBC Radio 6 Music’s Tom Robinson at the heart of it.
- Submithub – great platform for submitting your music to blogs, Spotify playlists and more. There’s a free option, or you can buy credits. They don’t cost much, so it’s probably worth going down that route in order to maximise coverage.
Make sure you share any coverage on your socials – and give the relevant websites and journalists a follow too where possible. Chances are if they liked your song, you’ll like some of the other stuff they post too.
There’s an ongoing debate around the ethical and creative value of platforms like SubmitHub. In my opinion, there’s some excellent writers using SubmitHub and for an emerging artist, paying ≈$1 to send your music directly to them – knowing that they’ll write about if you they like what they hear – is far preferable in the early stages of your career than spending hundreds – if not more – on a PR company.
Nobody is making you spend money to send your music go blogs, so if you don’t feel comfortable doing it or you don’t have the budget, then you can find contact info on most websites – no harm in sending them your music directly. Sometimes bloggers prefer the personal approach anyway, so don’t feel obligated to use Submithub et al.
I’d also recommend doing a google search for blog coverage of artists that you like or that are similar in sound to you. Get in touch with the relevant bloggers and send them your music. It’s also worth searching Hype Machine for relevant blogs, too.
You might also want to take a look at things like MusoSoup and HumanHuman too. Previously, I tentatively recommended them both as routes emerging artists could use for picking up press and independent playlist support. However, they are all more expensive to use than SubmitHub and the quality of the results – particularly when it comes to the standard of journalism – really is a mixed bag.
I genuinely believe you are better off doing your own research and finding blogs/zines to send your music to yourself. There’s an increasing trend on both MusoSoup and HumanHuman for journalists to ask for additional payments in order to write about your music – that’s called payola, and we don’t like that!
Don’t forget about your local/regional press too btw. Here in the North East, we’re lucky to have the likes of NARC, The Crack and Point Blank – make sure you keep them in the loop with your new releases. Unlike blogs, who usually only need a couple of weeks notice, magazines and fanzines will need to be contacted around 10-12 weeks prior to your release date to ensure you don’t miss their print deadline.
On a similar tip, be sure to send your new release to your local radio stations, including any regional University stations. Here in the North East, Sunderland Uni’s Spark FM are particularly great for emerging artists.
Once you’ve had some success with the DIY routes to PR, you might want to pay somebody to get you some press. Before you do that, you should ask yourself why you want to get press and you should consider your goals: what would you consider a successful press campaign?
PR companies should, in theory, stand a better chance of getting you coverage in some of the bigger and more established mainstream outlets. There’s loads of companies out there, but I’m always happy to recommend Liberty Music PR and Super Cat PR. I also love Sonic PR, who do regional press – perfect if you have a UK tour coming up.
For radio pluggers, I’d recommend giving this great blog post on Fresh on the Net a read: https://freshonthenet.co.uk/2020/06/plugging-promo-dos-donts/
In my opinion, if you’re an emerging artist with a limited budget, you may be better off looking at ads and marketing instead of paying for PR. Find a mate who understands the murky world of social media marketing and think about how you can best drive potential new fans to your music.
IS THERE ANYHING ELSE I SHOULD BE DOING?
- Join the Musicians’ Union – it’s only a £1 for your first 6 months at the moment
- If you’re a songwriter, join the PRS
- If you play on your recordings, join the PPL
- Sign up to Sentric
- Make sure you’ve got a good bio – consider paying somebody to write one (I’d recommend SpithrS) if you’re struggling yourself
- Make sure you’ve added your details to MusicBrainz (the BBC, for some reason, use it for some of their artist data)
- Don’t just concentrate on Spotify, the likes of Amazon Music (thanks Alexa!) and Apple Music (now also incorporating Shazam) are equally important – they both also have their own artist apps, so get them download.
IS THERE ANYWHERE ELSE THAT HAS USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT ALL THIS STUFF?
- Kieron Donoghue’s blog http://here.org.uk/ is a treasure trove of info – get it read
- Sentric’s blog is great: https://sentricmusic.com/blog/
- The ‘Tips’ section on Fresh on the Net is ace: https://freshonthenet.co.uk/tips/
- There’s some interesting posts over at Right Chord Music: https://www.rightchordmusic.co.uk/whyradiopluggingmakesnosense/
- Right Chord Music also run Major Labl which is worth a look regarding marketing etc: https://www.majorlabl.com/
- AWAL’s blog has some really good content: https://www.awal.com/blog
- $1 will get you Mike Warner’s Work Hard Playlist Hard book: https://workhardplaylisthard.com/book DO IT! It’s worth it just for his YouTube URL tip…
- Ditto’s blog is spot on: https://www.dittomusic.com/blog
- You’ve already read the guide and watched all of the Gameplan/Best Advice videos at artists.spotify.com right?
- Check out some of the Grassroots Music Network’s resources: https://grassrootsmusicnetwork.org/resources/
- Have a look to see if there’s any support for emerging musicians in your area – here in the North East, the likes of Tees Music Alliance and Generator/Tipping Point have regular events that are perfect for acquiring vital knowledge!
The information, advice and support is there for you – take it all in and make sure you’re giving your music the best possible chance to be heard by a wider audience.
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