Setting a music marketing budget
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
Once you have poured months, or years, into writing music...and spent a considerable amount of money on software and equipment to record / produce it...then paid even more to get everything mixed and mastered…and finally got some artwork made... ...naturally, you might want to release it to the world and enjoy the satisfaction of putting out the single, EP or album. However, getting the music finished is only half the story. The next step is making sure people know about it and listen, aka marketing. At this point, it might not feel like there is any money left for that, and even if there was money, how much should you spend? Not long ago, the IFPI did some research into what record labels invest in a newly signed artist, and roughly 60% of the total release budget went on marketing, including video production and tour support. The rest went on making the record and the artist’s advance. Based on that, I’m going to suggest a ‘rule of thumb’ - useful, even if it’s something to disagree with. To keep it simple we suggest you spend the same on marketing the record as you do making the record.
Cost of music making = Cost of music marketing
You don’t need to have your entire budget available on day 1 of the campaign though, especially if you avoid things like PR or radio promo, and instead focus on content and advertising through platforms like Facebook and Instagram. PR and radio can cost anything from £1,000, and it’s hard to track exactly how it is benefitting your career, or if it was worth the investment. Facebook and Instagram advertising on the other hand allows you to spend little and often, and very precisely track people that start following you, listen on Spotify, or buy a ticket to a show. It’s not that press and radio support can’t be massively powerful, but pitching your music to a magazine editor or radio DJ is much harder if you don’t already have large numbers of followers on Instagram, or monthly listeners on Spotify. You might spend a high fixed cost hiring the person to do this pitching on your behalf, but not see a return for your money. This can often feel like a catch-22: you need support from the music press and radio stations to grow your audience, but can’t get their support without having an audience already. This is where Facebook and Instagram come in, to help you get out of the situation, and be less reliant on industry gatekeepers. As your audience grows on Instagram and Spotify, you may find the magazine editors and radio DJs, not to mention record label A&Rs, approach you.
So what should you spend a marketing budget on?
Advertising through Facebook and Instagram
The video, whether it’s a full blown music video, animation, behind-the-scenes footage or simply some stills, having something to go with each piece of music you release is important. It doesn’t need a £5,000 (or even £50,000) budget either, something you shot yourself in the Peak District is often better, as is an animation created by a friend. Secondly, photos. If you can, pay a friend £100 to spend a day taking photos of you in various locations, and different outfits. The variation in location and outfit will ensure they don’t look like they were all taken on the same day, and so will give them more longevity. They will be incredibly useful for your socials and to give to blogs that want to feature your music. In essence, you want to create as much ‘content’ that can be repurposed and used over a long period of time to help keep the conversation going about your music. You can’t rely on everyone hearing about the song when you post about it once on release day, so photos and videos will be useful so you don’t have to post the cover art over and over again. Now once you have the music, artwork, video and photos, the rest of the budget should go on getting it all in front of the people who will be interested! So thirdly, and possibly most importantly…spend your marketing budget on advertising through platforms like Facebook and Instagram, so you can track exactly what difference your marketing budget is making, and on an audience that you can contact again and again in the future. To give a more concrete marketing budget example, I’m going to run through the early stages of an artist’s career; releasing your first single, EP and then debut album, and how the marketing budget might evolve at each state.
The debut single
It’s really early days, so there might be a limited budget, and you’ve pulled everything together as cheaply as possible. You mixed the song yourself, and used an online mastering service like Landr to master and distribute the song. The artwork you created using a free alternative to Photoshop like Gimp or Pixlr. For a year’s worth of distribution, and an HD WAV master, the costs come to (4 x 12) + 17.99 = £65.99. Perfect, spending the same amount on marketing - £65 - is a great place to start. It’s this scenario that Feed is ideal for, it allows you to control your budget, spend gradually, and get the best out of the power of advertising through Facebook and Instagram. By posting regularly on social media, you can keep talking about the song for 6 weeks, both in the run up to release and after. Maybe you can make a lyric video yourself, or create playlists of songs that inspired you, or talk about the lyrics, whatever feels natural to you to keep people discovering the song. With a budget of £65 split over 6 weeks (42 days), you can spend an average of £1.55 each day - promoting your posts to the people who are likely to be interested in your music. This will grow your audience on Facebook and Instagram, but also on places like Spotify and Bandcamp - giving people lots of time to discover that the song has been released. Once they’re following you, they’ll be ready to hear about the next release when it’s ready. For ideas on what to post on places like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, have a look at this post from earlier in April.
It’s been 6 months since the first song came out, it’s been streaming well and quite a few people have even bought it on Bandcamp. You’ve also been putting money aside each month towards the release, so there’s a bit more money available. In those 6 months, you’ve been busy finishing up the rest of the EP. The songs are again mixed by yourself, but this time you’ve been able to get them mastered in a studio for £400. A friend helped create the artwork for £75, and you paid CD Baby £25 for distribution. £500 overall. So, this time that’s £500 to spend on marketing. There’s a lot of marketing you can do for £500, and Feed is built to grow with you. At this point you might want to consider paying a friend £50 to take some photos. These can be used on your Instagram account, but also be given to blogs that want to write about you. Using the free credits available through SubmitHub is a great way to get started with submitting your music to blogs, Spotify playlists and YouTube channels. There is a useful article about getting the most out of the service on IndieShuffle. The EP includes the single released 6 months ago, but each of the four remaining tracks can be released 6 weeks apart to build a 5 month campaign. With the £450 remaining in the marketing budget and a 6 month (150 day) long campaign, you can spend an average of £3 a day, or £90 a month - promoting your posts to the people who are likely to be interested in your music, but also reengaging the people that discovered you when the first single came out. Promoting posts on Facebook or Instagram consistently like this means that people are reminded of you and your work repeatedly and helps them become long term fans. An isolated burst of activity around a song release doesn’t do that as well. My previous article, “Thinking long term”, goes into this in more detail. Alongside directing people to streaming services like Spotify, or your Bandcamp page, having a mailing list can be another great destination to direct people to. It’s important to know who your fans are and how you can contact them again in the future, and things like a mailing list or Instagram following allows that. Then, when the album comes, you don’t have to pay to market to those people again.
So a year after the EP release, you’ve got an Instagram following in the 1000s, a mailing list in the 100s, and your first album to release. At this point, be inspired by Kevin Kelly’s “1,000 True Fans” article. Adapting it slightly for music in the UK... you only need to convince 1,500 people to buy a vinyl (£20), t-shirt (£20) and gig ticket (£10) each year, for a total of £50, to earn £75,000. Hopefully that feels a more achievable goal than gaining millions of fans, and one you are well on your way to achieving. There’s a bit more budget again this time, a mix and master was done in a studio for £2,000, the cover art was licensed from the artist for £200, and a friend helped design the layout for £100. Distributing the album through CD Baby cost £25 again, so that’s a total of £2,325. That means a marketing budget of £2,325 for the album. Photos are again important, so maybe £150 can be allocated to that. And for video, an animator got in touch after discovering your EP, and agreed to create a set of animations for £500. Basing them on the artwork meant that with slight variations a video could be created for each song - Clark’s album Feast / Beast is a great example of this. SubmitHub led to a couple of blog features for the EP, so this time it’s worth considering premium credits, maybe £50. An album campaign can easily last a year, so that’s 365 days to spread out the marketing budget. With the £1,625 remaining, you can spend an average of £4.45 a day, or £133.50 a month. The number of results you get increases with the amount you spend, so you should see your audience grow more quickly, and more people signing up to your mailing list, visiting your Bandcamp page, or heading to listen to the album on Spotify.
To wrap up...
These figures are unlikely to exactly match-up with your experience or budget, but hopefully it inspires some ideas on what could work for you. If you’re a band, your recording costs might be higher than if you produce your music on Ableton at home, but you have a team already and each band member can bring different skills. Maybe one of you is a designer, the other a film director… so there is more you can create for yourselves for free. Adjust these figures and ideas to suit your situation. Feel free to email me if you have any thoughts on the article or want to discuss the topic in more detail. And if Feed sounds like it could be of use to you, then you can sign-up right here.
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