How To Create A Marketing Plan For Independent Artists

One of the key goals of Digiindie is to, not only inspire and motivate, but also provide tangible marketing and promotion advice for independent hip-hop artists grinding around the world.

As independent artists working hard on making music, it’s easy to neglect other integral aspects that will lead to your success such as marketing your music, promoting your brand, networking with the right people and plenty more.

One of the first steps all independent artists should be taking for their career is creating a marketing plan which provides a comprehensive overview of all their promotional and marketing efforts as well as their overall goals in the rap game.

So you’re probably asking yourself, why do I need a marketing plan? Well, a few reason really:

  • for yourself – having a marketing plan can be useful as a reference point for your own career, you can track your success against the plan as you try out different things
  • for your team – whether that’s your manager, publicist, promoter, giving them a copy of the marketing plan will ensure everybody is on the same page and working towards the same goals
  • for investors and sponsors – these people might be interested in putting money into your career so having a thorough marketing plan to give to them will make you look like a better investment than someone who doesn’t
  • for record labels – more and more labels these days are looking for artists who can build their own fanbase, market their music and promote their own brand. Having a marketing plan is the first step for all these pints.

So let’s take a look at what goes into creating a marketing plan for an independent hip-hop artist:

1) Artist/Project Introduction

  • Brief introduction to the artist – think of it as a bio. Don’t write too much info about yourself, this is just an introduction so focus on the key points and move on.
  • If you’re also focusing on marketing a particular album and mixtape with this plan then include a summary about the project.
  • This introduction should provide the reader – whether it’s an investor, a label or some stranger on the street – with a strong overview of who you are.

2) Goals & Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

  • What are your goals for the music industry? Where do you see yourself in the next year, 5 years, 10 years?
  • Your goals can include anything – you might want to release a single before the end of the year, get played on radio in the next 6 months, feature on a website like Complex, start up your own independent record label, etc.
  • The main thing is that you have a goal, a timeframe and key performance indicators which you can use to track your success to date – e.g. you spoke to a blogger about lining up an interview, 55,000 Twitter followers, half a million SoundCloud plays, etc.

3) Achievements To Date

  • This is a great opportunity for you to showcase your past accomplishments and prove that you’re really serious about this.
  • You can list your key success and milestones in your career so far – sales numbers for last project, an interview you did for a publication, successful live shows, awards, etc.

4) Target Audience

  • Ask any marketer – knowing your target audience is the most important thing in any marketing plan. Do you know your audience?
  • Do you speak with fans who come to your show? Do you speak to them on social media? Do you know their demographic – are they just in the US or are they worldwide? Are they based in Europe, Australia, Japan?
  • The more you know about your audience, the better you’ll be able to market your music, merchandise and overall brand to them.

5) Branding

  • Like we’ve said in previous articles – an independent rapper’s branding is the key thing which separates them from other artists.
  • Make sure you spend the time (and money) working with a proper graphic designer to develop your logo and other brand concepts so you have marketing assets that lasts longterm, not outdated ones.
  • These logos and brand concepts will be used across all your marketing channels – whether it’s your website, Facebook, printed on merchandise or press kit – so make sure you put in the work.

6) Press Kit

  • Super important but underrated aspect for independent rappers – having a standout press kit to help them get featured on publications and websites.
  • A press kit typically includes:
    • Artist biography
    • Contact information
    • High resolution press photos
    • Tour dates – make sure these are up to date
    • Promotional videos – tour videos or music videos will work well
    • Links – website, social media profiles and streaming platforms like SoundCloud, Bandcamp,
    • Press reviews and interviews
  • How will you distribute your press kit? Via your website, social media or physical hand to hand?

7) Touring

  • Like we said: the most important and reliable revenue stream for independent rappers is touring so focus a lot of your time and energy on this section.
  • You need to do a lot of research and provide as much info as possible on past performances as well as your touring goals: are there any venues that you have a relationship with? Where have you performed before? Have you gone on tour with other rappers? If so, which ones and how did it go?
  • Labels and investors want to know that you’re a reliable artist who can tour regularly, understands which venues work the best for them and whether you can fit in with other artists’ touring strategy.

8) Radio Promotion Strategy

  • Don’t get it twisted – the radio game isn’t dead, it’s very much alive and remains the best channel for mass exposure for rappers.
  • Do you know which radio stations you want to target? Don’t just create a list that includes Hot 97 and Power 105.1 – do your research and figure out the station’s formats and where you fit in. An independent rapper won’t be interviewed on Hot 97’s morning show but Real Late with Rosenberg might be a possible avenue to pursue.
  • Have you received any support by your local radio stations? Do you have any relationships with the hosts, DJs or people behind the scenes? If not, get on it.

9) Fanbase Engagement

  • In today’s era, having a solid fanbase will give you all the power and will enable you to have a long and profitable career in the independent rap game.
  • Look at rappers like Chance The Rapper, Kevin Gates, Freddie Gibbs and Tech N9ne – these artists spent years and years grinding to slowly build their fanbase and are now reaping the rewards.
  • Do you know your fans? How do you engage with them? How do you get news out to them – social media, websites, press releases?
  • Do you collect email addresses from people who buy your music or visit your website? If not, you definitely need to get it on it.
  • You should also take a look at new and innovative ways of engaging your fans such as using BitTorrent to distribute your music. Leading independent rapper Currensy recently used BitTorrent to release music and it was a massive success.

10) Website & Social Media

  • It’s 2017 – you need your own website. Period. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and all those social media channels are great because they provide access to potentially millions of fans but at the end of the day, you don’t own that platform.
  • One of the reasons why having a website for an independent rapper is so important is because it’s a marketing platform that you own and manager completely. You can do whatever you want to do on it – sell merchandise, collect email addresses, provide daily updates, post up touring videos, interact with fans using discussion boards, etc.
  • In this day and age, your website and social media channels should form the bulk of your marketing strategy, no doubt about it.

11) Distribution & Retail Strategy

  • Distribution and retail strategy basically means how you get your product or service through various distribution channels to your fan. What’s your distribution strategy for your music? How about for your merchandise?
  • Is your only distribution method via your website and mixtape hosting sites like DatPiff? Do you plan on partnering up with distribution companies to get your music into retail stores and in front of more people?
  • If you are intent on distributing via retail stores, research and identify distribution companies who tend to work with independent rappers, then figure out a way to approach and build a relationship with them.
  • As far as going direct to retail stores yourself, you need to identify independent music shops that will support your music – just like researching radio stations, does your music make sense with what they’re offering?

12) Sponsors & Investors

  • If you’re pitching this marketing plan to investors and sponsors, make sure you talk about the people who have invested in your brand so far – this will give some assurance to other investors.

Words By: Hao Nguyen