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Digital Music Strategy: Beyond Marketing Music Online

When potential clients reach out to me, it’s often about trying to “market music online.”  The conversation usually begins with them looking to use social media to get more fans and sell more music.  This is a fantastic starting point, as there are numerous case studies of musicians using online marketing to their advantage, but I often steer the conversation away from the narrow topic of social media and look at the bigger picture.  I ask questions like:

  • What are your long-term goals for your music career?
  • Who do you see as your ideal fan?
  • How do you typically communicate with your fans?
  • How important is it for you to build relationships with your listeners?
  • How do you plan to promote your music and interact with fans outside of social media?

An effective digital music strategy goes beyond using tactics to market music online. Instead , it uses different tools to build a platform that allows musicians to recruit fans, build stronger connections with them, and profit from those connections. Each part of a digital music strategy plays a specific role while working with the other parts to create this platform. These components include:


The first component is not tangible, but it’s arguably the most important part of a great digital music strategy.  In order to create an engaging digital music strategy, you have to establish a few things, like who you are as an artist and how you want to present yourself to listeners.  You also have to have some type of idea of how you communicate best, as this is very important to having natural interactions with your fans.  Possibly even more important, you have to either have recorded music or be in the process of making recordings or performing live.  The whole point of building a strategy is to sell your music in some fashion, whether it’s recorded music or tickets to live shows. Without music, you’re not a real artist. Looking at the other components, it becomes clear just how important Authenticity is.


Communication involves how messages are distributed between different channels within your strategy and shows up in other components.  In particular, you will look to build four communication channels:

  • Artist <-> Fan
  • Artist <-> Non-Fan
  • Fan <-> Fan
  • Fan <-> Non-Fan
We’ll go deeper into these channels in a separate post. Just know that they each serve an important purpose and work in concert with the other components.


Promotion is the component we’re most familiar with. It includes your “online marketing tactics” like social media and advertising.  Fans will be doing a lot of your promotion, so it’s important to know what works and create a message that’s easy for fans to communicate to their friends.


Adoption and Permission were made popular by Seth Godin, a marketing guru who has written many blog posts and books on the subject.  This component requires listeners to accept your music and open their world up to you.  It’s the point where they convert from listener to fan.


Distribution refers to how you get your music and other tangible goods out to listeners and fans. You want to make it simple for people to both get your music and share it with others.


You want to build a community among your fans for many reasons. A strong community can serve a number of purposes, such a communication hub, and can offer benefits like support and brand evangelism.

Over the next month or so, we’ll take a look at what makes a good digital music strategy. I’ll break the components down and give examples of tools and tactics that can be used to carry out each part’s goal. I’ll also offer examples in case studies that show how artist have successfully built platforms using the elements described above. Tune in next week for the column on Authenticity.

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