Marketing your music the basics

In marketing there is a well known model called the Hierarchy of effects which is highlighted in many marketing books but here we're going to look at how this fits into the new music business.

Everybody who 'buys into something' goes through a mental process. Whether it's a purchase of an expensive car or simply listening to music the basic steps remain the same and that's what we're going to cover here.


One of the more common textbooks in marketing is by a guy called Philip Kotler, and his approach to the hierarchy of effects model is this:

  • Awareness

  • Knowledge

  • Liking

  • Preference

  • Conviction

  • Purchase

The first stage is very simple awareness – where the music fan has now heard of you , but may not have listened to your music yet. This awareness can come in many different ways, an existing fan talking about you or an advert appearing in their social feeds. It simply makes them aware of you and leads very quickly to stage 2. The second stage is knowledge – where the fan becomes aware of what you do, the type and style of music you write or produce. This is most easily done by getting them to a streaming service that lists your music. Be it Spotify or Soundcloud, YouTube or Apple it doesn't matter, what matters is that they get to listen to your music.

Then comes the liking stage, now this may seem simple, they like your music, sorted yes?


Well No! Liking a track or tracks is not enough, you need to ensure that this fan is for keeps. They need to buy into you as an artist not just simply like a track they've just heard. This is where most musicians think it ends but the next three stages are vital to you growing your audience, especially one that could earn you money from your music.

Preference is the fourth stage and occurs when the music fan sees your music as a suitable option for future listening. They could simply like your music because their best friend does or they could like your music because of your lyrics hit a nerve but what you need is for them to have a preference for your music in future and that preference is when they make a conscious decision to listen regularly and to add you to their growing library of artists they love. This is when they follow you, add your music to a playlist or two or maybe join a mailing list. It's at this point that you can consider them to be a part of your audience. Preference is a really important part of the journey and something that many musicians simply overlook as sometimes you need to help your fans out with a little nudge. Tell them on your socials to add your music to their playlists & follow you on their favourite streaming platform, you'll be surprised at how many will do as they're told.


So why are followers & playlists so important? All streaming sites use followers & playlists in slightly different ways. The more followers you have and the more playlists you're on the more visible you are to those invisible promotion tools called algorithms. Algorithms are bits of code that seek out the newest and the best in new music and highlight it to the humans that build the promotional playlists that really matter. Getting onto a major playlist is the holy grail of music marketing but it's not something that you can easily control. There are certain things you can do however; to help yourself.


This excerpt is from Spotify for Artists:


“For example, if you have 100 followers, you’ll be in 100 Release Radar playlists every time you put out new music. If you have 1,000 followers, you’ll be on 1,000 playlists. And if you have 10,000… You get the point. It’s kind of like setting up your own personal distribution channel, so it’s a good idea to encourage your fans to follow you on Spotify.”

Release Radar is one of Spotify's most listened to Playlists. It appears top on every music fans profile on Spotify so the more music you release the better.


The next stage is conviction. In this stage the fan's attitude further forms from preference to a ‘decision’ to buy into your music in the future. As an example, the fan may think, “I'm going to see these live or I'm going to buy a teeshirt”, or maybe both!

The final stop on the marketing hierarchy of effects is purchase. Obviously this is where the fan spends money with you for the first time (which is usually referred to as a ‘trial purchase’ in marketing terms. It's a tentative step to gaining that fan more permanently and that's why the first sale is probably the most important sale and why it's so hard to get to this stage.


This is only a part of the understanding of how music marketing works. All you can do is learn from it and perhaps adopt a thing or two. There is no short cut or easy method but we think that following our Best Practice posts can only help.


Good Luck


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