*All updates to this promotion timeline will be added to the bottom of the article. If notes or annotations are added to existing information, I will use this space to alert you to such additions. I’m also touring to promote this, read about that here.
The goal of this article is to document and share all the steps I have taken to market and promote my latest EP.
This project is not necessarily one I want to spend $3,000 – $5,000 on for a balls-to-the-wall PR campaign alongside a reputable PR firm but I did want to see how far I could push it on my own without a dedicated budget.
As I spend more money experimenting with services and find more ways to promote this release, I will continuously update this post to reflect my experience and to share results.
I have been actively emailing blogs, using services to find writers to pay for reviews, using other services to promote song plays, and I will share my experience using Submithub.com even though the results were as I expected. More on that below.
Before promoting any release, make sure your EPK is up to date and has everything that a blogger, magazine, newspaper, radio person or podcast needs to run a feature on you or include your music in their playlist.
I always create a press release and send it through mi2n.com’s free option anytime I am promoting a release or have something newsworthy to spread (such as an event).
There are other newswire syndication services that also provide free options but mi2n is focused on music which is why it is my first choice.
I also use the press release in my submission emails to blogs, radio, podcast and other publications when contacting them about possible features.
I have a two-tier approach to getting blog features.
Tier one involves finding blogs that support indie music and alternative styles of Hip Hop and then submitting to them whether it’s through a website form or an email address they provide on site.
Tier two involves paying writers who have music blogs to review the EP. In some cases I am also landing interview features.
I will break down the approach and results of each tier in further detail below.
Tier 1 – Finding blogs, submitting for free
Going into this release I had a spreadsheet with hundreds, maybe even 1,000+, urban music blogs listed with links and contact information.
As of this writing, I have sorted through 300 of those blogs; deleting ones that no longer exist, skipping ones that didn’t seem like a good fit, and submitting to the ones I felt I had a chance of being featured on.
Out of those 300 blogs, I have submitted to approximately 40-50 of them and have been featured on only two.
One of them simply embedded the Bandcamp widget with no editorial and the other copied and pasted the press release I submitted in my email.
In addition, I have been using search engines with phrases such as “indie music submissions” or “indie music reviews” to find non-urban blogs that feature various genres.
I have yet to be featured by any of the blogs I have found this way but will continue searching and submitting as I have time.
Tier 2a – Paying writers for reviews
Knowing I needed quotes for my EPK in order to appeal to booking agents, venues, promoters and bigger publications, I have been on a search for respectable writers who have music blogs who offer guaranteed reviews.
So far I have spent $104 on written reviews.
You can find the latest quotes and links in my EPK.
As I mentioned earlier I have also benefited from interview features and one site will be including their review in a hard copy magazine they distribute.
The best place to start finding music reviewers is on Fiverr (referral link).
Fiverr has a category under Advertising called Music Promotion (go there or just search “album reviews” or “music reviews”).
Please note there are a lot of low quality gigs but every gig is rated and reviewed by people who purchase it so make sure you pay attention to the reviews.
You can also message sellers before buying a gig to request a link to their blog or ask them more questions about their website traffic, writing experience, etc.
In addition to valuable quotes, these features have provided me plenty of fresh content for my own blog and my social media accounts. This has resulted in my social channels being more active which means more engagement and overall activity.
I took the 20 minute video interview I did with Ark of Music and chopped it into smaller segments which were shared across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter providing me with more content to share. By adding captions to these shorter clips, I was able to more effectively reach people who do not turn the sound on when watching videos on Facebook. It’s also easier to get people to watch an entire video when it’s 15-60 seconds long instead of 20 minutes which plays in your favor when it comes to social media algorithms.
Next Big Sound is a service I use to track my impact across various social platforms as well as places like Pandora and Spotify. The overall numbers on my last few reports have been significantly higher than before I started promoting this release.
At the end of this article I share stats from my Soundcloud, Bandcamp and website traffic which are all influenced by being featured on these blogs.
In some cases, paying for the review comes with the added bonus of ongoing social media promotion by the blog who published the article. This always compounds your reach on social media, especially when they tag you in their posts.
Tier 2b – Paying for placement or to distribute a press release
Above I talked about press releases. Even though I submitted mine for free, you are able to pay news wire services for premium distribution guaranteeing your press release/news reaches more places such as news blogs, news aggregators, e-zines and other places press releases are syndicated.
So far I have only paid to put my press release on one blog; which is Hip Hop specific, been around for several years and is an award winning blog. This cost me $5.
I have not hit this service very hard yet but I did an in-depth video interview with The Ark of Music and decided to use “Boost Post” to get it in front of more eyes.
Below are my results after a $7.00 campaign targeted to “friends and friends of friends living in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the UK”.
I will be back to update this with other campaigns I run and the results. I also plan on using Instagram ads to drive more eyes to the video interview clips.
CoPromote is a service and mobile app which allows you to connect your Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr and YouTube accounts in order to boost your content and reach more people.
I have gone into more detail about CoPromote in this article (3 Ways to Increase Twitter Engagement).
For this release I have been using it to promote the review and interview features on Twitter. If you scroll down to the results section, I have included screenshots from my Twitter Analytics Dashboard. Activity from CoPromote will be reflected in that data.
Feature.fm is a platform that natively advertises your music on other streaming services and music websites.
A new feature coming to Feature.fm is the ability to advertise your songs to people streaming on Deezer but I have not been able to try this type of campaign yet.
For this EP, I chose the single “Radio Lies” and created a $10 weekly “radio” campaign. The minimum spend for this type of campaign is $10/week or $50 for the lifetime of the campaign.
Below you can see my results after $10 and one week of plays.
Results of $10 radio campaign on Feature.fm
Previous to the release of my EP, I ran a $10 campaign promoting the video for my song “Endurance”. The minimum ad spend for this type of campaign is $10 lifetime.
To provide a comparison of the two types of campaigns, I have included screenshots from the results of my video campaign which was advertised on various music websites.
Results of $10 video campaign on Feature.fm
You can find a more detailed explanation of Submithub.com in this article.
I initially decided not to use this service to promote this release because I had a pretty good idea what the results would be after research and asking others about their experiences.
However, I decided to go ahead and invest $25 for 30 credits just so I could share with you exactly what happened in practical application.
Although my EP is a mix of various genres and I can only choose 1 song, I submitted to blogs that accepted Conscious Hip Hop. I chose 21 blogs and tried to stick to ones that might potentially dig the single “Radio Lies”, which is a collaboration/remix with UK progressive rock band Permanent Moods.
As expected, I was rejected by all of the blogs that responded, 14 out of 21 to be exact.
That means 7 blogs did not respond and I was refunded those credits for future use. I am considering submitting a different song as I have a total of 16 unused credits at this moment.
Submithub.com’s focus is on connecting your music to bloggers and labels in order to guarantee “consideration” or, if paying for premium credits, feedback (not actual features or reviews).
With that said, I had a decent idea of what type of feedback to expect and that is exactly what I received so no surprises on my end.
In my specific case, I have no interest in “feedback” on my music. I have been creating music for 15+ years. I am only interested in connecting with people who actually like my music the way it is, not paying “critics” to tell me their opinions on my lyrics and the quality of my mix.
With this said, I took the $25 hit simply to share this experience with you. Do keep in mind I have spoken with many others who received similar feedback as well as mostly being rejected.
Do not be discouraged though, there are certain genres of music that perform much better on the service than my mix of various ones. Also consider that the person listening on the other end might not be looking at your EPK or the information you sent along with the song. The system is designed for the blogger to click play and then react. They usually will not look at your EPK/song details unless they actually like what they hear first.
Below is the feedback I received from Submithub.com blogs accepting Conscious Hip Hop in the U.S., UK, Canada and Australia. These are just the quotes without the bloggers’ usernames or blog titles.
Note: you are able to rate each comment 1-5 stars. Can you guess which two received 5 stars from me?
Out of all these comments, the last one is the ONLY one I actually found insightful or valuable. Although cool, not worth spending money on.
Not really into the delivery on the vocals on this track, just seems a little more rigid, also not a fan of the guitar on a rap track.”
“Vocal style reminds me of The Beastie Boys. Sound did not grab me.”
“Thanks for sending this over. Our lane for what we choose to share on our outlet leans mostly towards uplifting and soulful vibes. The acoustic based production doesn’t usually resonate with our audience. Def keep sending this around, I think you’ll find some support at other outlets even if it’s not a good fit for us. Good luck!”
“The delivery on here did not really sit well with me.. Production was fine but sounded a bit outdated.”
“Lyrically you have some cool ideas, just not sure there is any soul in your vocal which makes it hard to hook into.”
“Great energy on this track but the overall sound wasn’t quite distinctive enough amid other submissions of a similar style and the the hook sort of lost us. Thanks for sharing.”
“nice lyrics but the slow was not cutting edge enough for me”
“this is cool but the vocals don’t sound mixed well”
“Hey thanks for the submission. We weren’t feeling the lyrics/ the rapping on this one, for that reason we are going to pass.”
“interesting mix of backing beat and build to track that works well just not over keen on vocal flow ”
“I think the vocals sound a little too ironic and the lyrics don’t really get to me ”
“Thanks for sending this along. Interesting ideas in here. Some great elements, but I don’t think it comes off as a single that will attract new followers. Feels like a good track on an album that lets already existing fans go deeper.”
I shared some of these comments with a friend and we had a good laugh. I shared them with another friend and he told me to never let him use that site for his music!
The thing to understand about Submithub.com blogs is that the majority of them are, or formerly were, listed on Hype Machine.
The other ones have been personally invited by the owner(s).
Bloggers who find the site and signup on their own have to be approved; if they don’t play by the rules they are kicked off the service.
Most of these cats pride themselves on only accepting the best of the best and attempting to be trendsetters in their little bubble of the music world.
Just note that Submithub is not for every artist. It is cool if:
- you’re younger and eager to be accepted by the “trendsetters” (the meaning of that depends on your perspective).
- you’re new to making music and are looking for critical feedback on your songs.
- have a thick skin and don’t care when people speak critically of your songs (in other words, cast a wide net and see if any fish bite).
- have had success on HypeM in the past or feel that HypeM-esque blogs are a good fit for your music.
From my months of observations:
- Pop, Indie Pop, Electro Pop and Electronic/Dance genres seem to perform the best.
- Singer/Songwriter, specifically more poppy/mainstream stuff, does really well.
- Rock, Punk and Metal does not seem to be that popular (and I’ve spoken with PR people who say it’s not a good service for those genres) but there is a lot of Alternative/Shoegaze.
- Funk, Jazz, and Blues are rare to non-existent, however (Nu)Disco is a thing if you make that type of music.
- Hip Hop/Rap… good luck. I have been considered Conscious Hip Hop for over a decade and you see how “Conscious Hip Hop” blogs responded to my submission.
SH separates Conscious Hip Hop from Rap so if you’re music is more “rap”, you might get different results.
Hopefully by this point you can make an educated guess on how well you’re music might perform. Just don’t do what I did and spend $25 knowing no one would feature you 🙂
This is a situation when self-awareness of yourself, your music, and your style is crucial.
Below are screenshots of plays for the EP on Bandcamp as well as Soundcloud plays for the “Radio Lies” single. You can also find summaries of my Twitter account and website traffic.
The activity on Soundcloud is (mostly) a direct result of the money invested in Feature.fm.
However, a tiny bit of activity will be from submissions to blogs considering Soundcloud is one of the preferred platforms for listening and embedding by most music bloggers.
The official release of the EP was November 16, 2016. We did not begin promoting until a week or so later.
In the below graphs you will clearly see the difference in typical daily activity (no active promotions) versus the spike in activity from promoting the EP.
Bandcamp Plays during first weeks of promo.
Soundcloud Plays during first weeks of promo.
Here is a screenshot from my Twitter analytics dashboard. This spike in activity is directly related to the promotion of this EP and my use of CoPromote to boost the various features I have received from other websites.
This is an overview of my website traffic over a 30 day period beginning just before I started promoting the EP. On a typical day my website traffic is minimal to none. You can definitely see an increase in visits happening as we promote this project.
There are still actions I have not taken that I will be adding to this article. Tools, services, etc I have yet to use or put into action.
Another aspect of promotion I will be adding to this article will be Radio and Podcasts.
For example, Vittek Radio in Italy put “Radio Lies” into rotation and their broadcast is syndicated to a long list of places in the world. The only way I will be able to track the results of these spins is through royalty collection via BMI and Soundexchange which could take as long as 6 months for me to see.
I will be back with more updates soon.
I have made this section it’s own article. Find it here.