22 Apr '20

Joshua Jacobson

Setting a music marketing budget

After pouring months, if not years, into writing some music, spending a considerable amount of money on software and equipment to record/produce it, then paying even more to get everything mixed and mastered, and finally getting some artwork made...

...you can be forgiven for simply wanting to sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of releasing it into the world.

However, getting the music finished is only half the story.

With more and more music released each day, you can’t rely on people discovering you themselves. Instead, you need to put your music in front of them, ideally the people most likely to be interested, and encourage them to become a fan. That’s the process of marketing.

This article is part of our series on putting together a music marketing plan. We'll be publishing more articles in the coming weeks, so subscribe to our mailing list below and we'll let you know when they’re published!

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With the music complete, it might feel like there isn't any money left for marketing, 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, we suggest a ‘rule of thumb’ - spend the same on marketing as you did on making the music.

Cost of music making = Cost of music marketing

This could add up to a substantial number, but you don’t need to have the entire budget available on day 1 - especially if you avoid things with a substantial upfront cost (like press and radio).

So what should you spend a marketing budget on?

  1. Video
  2. Photos
  3. Digital advertising

1. 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, for example, is often better, as is an animation created by a friend.

2. Photos

If you can, pay a friend £100 to spend a day taking photos of you in various locations, and different outfits. This will give them longevity, and will be useful for your socials and to give to any blogs that want to feature your music.

In essence, these videos and photos will mean you have ‘content’ that can be repurposed 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.

3. Digital Advertising

It’s not that other forms of paid marketing like press or radio can’t be massively powerful, but digital advertising has some big advantages that are especially important when budgets are small.

Firstly, there is no upfront cost. You are in control of your budget and how quickly it gets spent, so you don’t need to have £1,000+ ready in order to get started.

Secondly, you’ll be able to very precisely track the results. For example, how many people start following you, listen on Spotify, or buy a ticket to a show.

Thirdly, retargeting. Anyone that engages with your Instagram post, visits your website, or watches a video on YouTube, can be part of a retargeting pool, and that means you can show them a ‘follow-up’ ad. This means, even if they don’t follow you, or subscribe to your mailing list, you can keep communicating with them.

And finally, you will get results that are consistent with the amount you spend. Pitching music to a magazine editor or radio DJ is not guaranteed results, so you might spend a high fixed cost hiring someone to do this on your behalf, but not get anything for your money.

If you don’t have a large number of followers on Instagram or monthly listeners on Spotify, it can make it even less likely that you’d get support via press or radio. 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. Again, digital advertising can help get you out of this 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, begin to approach you.

Now for some concrete marketing budget examples. We’re going to run through the early stages of an artist’s career; releasing your first single, EP and then debut album, and how your marketing budget might evolve at each stage.

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 was created using a free alternative to Photoshop like Gimp or Pixlr.

For an HD WAV master, and distribution of one single, the costs come to £48 + £17.99 + £9.00 = £74.99.

Perfect, spending the same amount on marketing - £75 - is a great place to start.

It’s this scenario that we built Feed 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 - whatever feels natural to you to keep people discovering the song.

With a budget of £75 split over 6 weeks (42 days), you can spend an average of £1.79 each day on digital advertising. Feed can use this to promote your posts to the people who are likely to be interested in your music, and re-engage those that have come across you before on social media.

Within Feed, you can also set the link for each ad, so you could send people to your Spotify or Bandcamp page. This means you can grow your following there at the same time as growing on Facebook or Instagram.

The EP

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 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 a digital distributor £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 we designed Feed 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.

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) campaign, you can spend an average of £3 a day, or £90 a month on digital advertising. Again, Feed can use this to promote your posts to the people who are likely to be interested in your music, but also re-engage 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. This can be more effective than an isolated burst of activity around a song release.

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.

The Album

So a year after the EP release, you’ve got an Instagram following in the thousands, a mailing list in the hundreds, and your first album is ready 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 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 on digital advertising. With Feed, 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.

If Feed sounds like it could be of use to you, then register for access to the beta.

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