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Music promotion: the basics, and us

Storyteller Written by Storyteller.

This article is part of a three part series. This is the first part. The other parts will be announced here when publicised.

Promotion is what record labels should excel at. It's all about building a brand and a promotional platform for itself and the artist. Before focusing on the Loving Music record label platform we're building a promotional toolkit, with the aim to make it easy and inexpensive to set up a promotional campaign for the music we'll put out. There are two basic promotional strategies, top-down and bottom-up. Of course they come in tons of different styles and flavours, but the basics remain the same. Both can be used from the artist and record label perspective.

Top-down

A top-down approach is currently the most conventional way to promote music in the electronic dance music industry. It aims to secure the coveted jackpot spot on particular radio shows with massive audiences - which are hard to get in to. In the electronic dance music industry this is usually achieved by sending promotional email to market influencing DJ's. After that, you can only cross your fingers they'll grant your track a spot on their show. It's hard; you're not the only one sending promos to trendsetting DJ's. Their (air)time is valuable and limited; they will only support the best.

Technically this strategy is fast and easy yet it can be quite inefficient: You rely on a single person to grant you access to his fan base, and it is very likely the majority of the listeners will not like your music enough to look you up on the internet - which is what you would want to start building a relationship with your new fans. The strategy has incredible potential but the success rates are usually low. It works best for those that have already built a reputation for themselves.

Top-down music promotion

Bottom up

The traditional route for artists has long been to perform in local bars (and if they're lucky) working their way up as their fan base grows along with them. Nowadays most of them attempt to get exposure by employing a top-down strategy. Most artists seem to prefer the ease of sending out promotional mail (top-down) over investing time and effort in a long-lasting relationship with their fans (bottom-up).

Bottom-up involves going back to basic; back to the classic version of word of mouth. Starting acts/artists will need to gather their own audience starting with (online) friends and family, building a reputation from there. Exposure will grow together with the fanbase. As the fanbase grows it will gradually spread the word about this 'crazy cool new artist to check out' further.

In today's digitalised world where social media reign supreme, using a bottom-up approach implies you should market your music directly to your fans. Get your friends talking about you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let your friends share your music with their friends and let your fanbase grow from there. A friend's recommendation is worth more than that of a brand with obvious commercial intent. The bottom-up strategy is not easy - it takes a lot time and effort. In result, the quality of the fan base will be a lot higher, the relationship with the fans will be tighter, they'll be more likely to pay for your music and - last but not least - they're more likely to spread your music among their friends.

Bottom-up music promotion

Round up

It is important to mention that neither strategy is perfect. They apply to different scenarios and aim to achieve different goals. If there is any advice we could give you it is to apply both simultaneously because they complement each other. Top-down is good to get your name out and the bottom-up approach works better to build up a solid fan base that can be monetized. Soon, our promotional toolkit should provide you the means to do both with just simple click on a button.

This article is part of a three part series. This is the first part. The other parts will be announced here when publicised. Part two and three will cover our point of view on top-down and bottom-up music promotion more thoroughly.

This article has been published on September 12th 2012.