Promotion and Marketing in the Live Music Business

In a world that is increasingly online, and where audiences interact with music and musicians more and more through streaming services, a key aspect of marketing and promoting music is figuring out how to engage the fleeting attention of a potential audience. Online music marketing is a matter of actively engaging the audience on a personal level while still broadcasting the marketing signal as widely as possible.

Giving Fans an Online Destination

While a band can book a local gig even before they’ve settled on a name, they can’t start building a larger audience until they’ve established a basic presence online through which they can start marketing and promoting music. Fans need somewhere to find out more about the band, and a key part of a band’s online music marketing is offering the fans some way to hear their music, like a YouTube channel, a Bandcamp page or participation with a streaming service like Pandora or Spotify. Bands must also offer their online audiences a way to contact the band as well as a calendar of the band’s appearances.

Connecting With Consumers

Consumers become avid fans when they connect with bands personally, whether it is through social media interaction, brand recognition and parity, or direct engagement with the artist’s creative process. Amanda Palmer created a record (which hit the Billboard top 10), toured the world, played more than two dozen house parties, and made a large art book by directly engaging her audience through Kickstarter. She managed subsequent tours by coordinating with her fans via social media networks, which allowed her to extend her online connection to her audience into real space. As disposable income levels have increased, more fans have become interested in specialty packages and elevated reward tiers when they attend live music shows. Promotional efforts like these should engage audiences in a manner that allows fans greater access and more perceived value.

Targeting the Right Audience

Just as brand-name products increase their market awareness by sponsoring specific bands’ tours and concerts, thereby increasing concertgoers’ and festival attendees’ awareness of the products, so, too, should bands consider targeting audiences where they have brand appeal. Electronic artist Moby, for example, who is a self-declared vegan, may have more success seeking fans who enjoy a vegan lifestyle than he would by partnering with an up-and-coming sausage patty company.

Growing the Local Market

This manner of targeting audience parity extends to localization efforts as well. Bands should make efforts to connect themselves with their local markets, thereby creating a synergy of both sound and location (in the manner that Nirvana and Pearl Jam became synonymous with the Seattle “grunge” scene) that creates wider awareness beyond the local market. As awareness of live shows in a dedicated local market grows, consumers in other markets will express interest in either visiting these markets or in bringing these bands to their own local areas. Online music marketing is both local and global — local in its awareness, but global in its reach.

Successful outreach via online marketing and promotion creates broader audience awareness and engagement, thereby increasing brand awareness. While streaming services and online music marketing efforts make bands’ music constantly available (you can always watch a song’s YouTube video several hundred times if you love it), a fan’s relationship with the musicians themselves depends on personal connections, such as participating in a live musical event. Such events are, by their very nature, fleeting and timely — you have to show up at a certain time and place in order to hear your favorite band play — and successful promotion of these events depends on skillful marketing messages and opportunities that are both widespread in reach and personal in tone. It’s not just a matter of throwing out the signal that the band is coming to town; it’s important to find and tell those core audiences how and where they can see the show.

Learn about the Frost School of Music’s online master’s degree program in arts presenting and live entertainment management.


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