As a former singer myself, I know firsthand how easy it is to get absorbed into your music and put things like marketing on the backburner.
“I’ll deal with it later”, you say… “I’m a musician, not a marketer.”
But I’m here to tell you that music and marketing aren’t mutually exclusive—you can be good at both! And if you want a thriving career as a musician, you need to be good at both.
Today, I’m sharing with you the best direct-to-fan music marketing tools for artists. Tools that will make independent music marketing easy-peasy (even for the self-proclaimed non-marketer 😉).
But before we dive into our list, you should understand why it’s so important for modern musicians to take your tunes straight to your fans.
How does direct-to-fan differ from traditional music marketing?
The traditional model of music marketing puts many people and businesses in between artists and their fans—manufacturers, music distribution services, promoters, and retailers.
Because of this, artists rarely engage directly with their fans. And unless you have a massive following like The Weeknd or Beyoncé, by the time sales from your products trickle back to you, you’ll have lost a significant amount of revenue from everyone else along the way.
In a direct-to-fan (DTF) model, artists engage, market, and sell directly to their fans through things like online communities and ecommerce stores. For independent music marketing, the DTF model is the most sustainable:
You learn more about what your fans adore
Talking and engaging directly with your fans helps you understand them on a deeper level. You can learn what your fans like and dislike, what music they want more of, and what types of experiences they want from you!
You get more artistic control over your music
Guiller Contreras, a professional indie musician and creator of All Above Me, decided to use DTF marketing from day one with his band because he didn’t want to lose artistic control from any labels:
With the direct to fan model, independent artists can have full control over their music and their career. If you are a fully-independent artist, you can choose to release any song you want because you know who your fans are better than anyone else. When you are signed to record companies and management companies, they have a say in which songs you can release and what sound and style you should have as an artist.
And because All Above Me has such a close relationship with their fans, they know exactly what types of songs their fans want to hear so they can write and produce hit after hit.
You keep more of your revenue
When you market directly to your fans, you get to keep more hard-earned cash. Razor-thin profit margins aren’t sustainable for anyone, especially indie artists who pour so much time into their craft.
Direct to fan music marketing tools
So how can you use direct-to-fan to your advantage? Let’s dig into different music marketing tools you can use to connect with fans and sell your music online!
You’re going to learn about marketing tools for artists to help you:
- Connect with current fans and reach new fans
- Make money and earn a living while doing what you love
- Create new tailored experiences for superfans
Let’s dig into the tools that simplify marketing for musicians!
Tools to connect with (and grow) your fanbase
You're busy writing songs, planning tours, and promoting your music and merch. But staying in contact with your fans is crucial. These tools help you connect with fans and grow your fanbase without taking up hours of your day.
1. Social media scheduling tools
Musicians are the top type of public figures followed on social media; your fans want to hear from you! To keep your followers engaged, you'll need to post consistently to your social platforms.
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Mary makes sure to stay in touch with her fans even when she’s busy in the studio. Image via @marylambertsing.
However, it’s important to note that social media platforms themselves aren’t quite direct-to-fan since you don't own your audience. When you post to social media, you're up against complex algorithms. Iconosquare conducted a study and found the average reach on Instagram is 34.37%. The means over half your followers aren't seeing your posts and won't see things like your music release announcements or show promos.
So, while social media is an important place to hang out, you ultimately want to pair it with a platform where you have more control over the content your fans see.
2. Email management
To get in direct contact with your fans, you need to grow an email list. There are many email newsletter tools, but we made ConvertKit specifically for indie creators (like musicians). You can use your email list to send promotional emails, let your fans know when you release new music or merch, and send fans personalized content.
It’s more about just building that connection and trying to stay in touch with people as much as possible, and we end up meeting these people in person a lot because they come out to our shows. So, we end up building a very, very personal relationship with a lot of these people.
Your email list is a versatile tool that you can use to sell, promote, or just open up direct conversations with your fans!
Tools to make money selling music and merch
Although your relationship with your fans is important, it’s equally important that you’re actually making money to survive and thrive as an artist. These tools will simplify the process of making money through your music.
1. Design tools
Most indie artists are running on a shoestring budget and can't afford to hire a graphic designer every time they need something new created.
Tools like Canva, PicMonkey, and BeFunky will help you create professional designs by yourself, which you can use for merch, album artwork, and promotional graphics (things like posters or social media posts).
2. Branded storefronts and landing pages
In a traditional music marketing model, intermediaries distribute your music, merch, and products to different merchants. These intermediaries get a cut from every single sale. But in a DTF model, you’re in full control of your sales and you need some kind of platform to sell your products.
You can use ConvertKit Commerce to sell digital products like downloadable music and access to online events. ConvertKit Commerce has premade landing page templates you can use, so you can start selling products right away–no technical skills required!
And unlike music platforms, ConvertKit doesn’t charge extra fees to sell your music!
We recommend you diversify and test which platform(s) work best for you.
3. Merch marketplaces
Instead, you upload your items to sell in an online marketplace:
Merch marketplaces don't give you direct access to your own fan base, and they can be competitive and crowded. However, you can reach a large audience (ideal if you’re just starting out) and can still pocket most of your profits.
4. One-off payments
One-off payments give fans the chance to donate an amount of their choice to their favorite artists. Tools like PayPal, Venmo, Cashapp, and Buy Me a Coffee let your fans send you donations as they wish.
Singer and songwriter Steve Bell uses Buy Me a Coffee, where fans donate small amounts (roughly the price of a cup of coffee):
Steve also has a donation page on his website that lists other places fans can make one-time or recurring monthly donations.
You can also add donation links to your email newsletter or social media accounts!
Another popular donation platform is Twitch. Twitch was originally for gamers but has grown to include creators and artists of all kinds. Musician Raquel hops on Twitch three times a week, where she sings, writes songs, and plays guitar for her fans!
Twitch lets you add links and buttons to your page where viewers can easily make donations.
5. Fan funding
If you think you need to plan a traditional fundraiser initiative—like a gala or banquet—for people to donate, think again. Fan funding, or crowdfunding, is a way for your fans to donate directly to you, no black-tie event necessary. On average, successful crowdfunding campaigns raise $28,656, and the average pledge of all crowdfunding campaigns is $88.
Bryan Duncan has raised nearly $10,000 to make music videos and write more music on his Indiegogo platform:
Bryan raises money by offering different perks in exchange for donations. For a $200 donation, fans receive a tribute video for their mom while a $15 donation lets fans choose between things like older CDs and digital downloads.
You can get creative with your fan funding initiatives and offer things like unreleased music, shoutout videos, signed merch, and more. It’s a cost-effective way to raise money!
Tim Inghan, the founder of Music Business Worldwide, analyzed Spotify’s payments to artists. He found that artists who aren’t within Spotify’s top-tier artists likely make around $12 per month on their streams.
Even though it’s easy to upload your songs and hope the royalties roll in, it’s easier to make a living through the other music marketing tools we’re talking about.
Tools to create new experiences for superfans
Your superfans are the ones who have been with you since day one. They are the ones who drive to different cities and towns to watch you perform and want regular updates about music and new releases.
These diehard fans are special, and they want more than a t-shirt and an EP from your website.
You can delight this segment of fans with unique experiences!
1. Paid subscriptions
Paid subscriptions provide predictable monthly revenue and allow musicians to form strong connections with their best fans.
While these platforms make it easy to collect payments from fans, they are third-party platforms where you don’t “own” your followers. If your account gets shut down, you will lose everything (including your recurring revenue).
But with ConvertKit Commerce you can collect monthly payments and manage your private communities on a platform you own!
2. One-off exclusive events
As a ConvertKit Commerce user, you can also host one-time events. Many of the above gated-community tools work well for fans who want a place to hang out consistently, but you’ll still have fans who want intimate experiences without monthly fees.
For this, you can host a one-time private event, such as an intimate Q&A session on YouTube or a private streaming of your latest music.
Direct-to-fan is the future for independent music marketing
Artists worldwide are beginning to see that they don’t need a formal business education to consider themselves marketers. A successful direct-to-fan music artist marketing strategy is achievable when you use the right tools (like those I’ve mentioned above).
As for your next steps, I recommend testing different music marketing tools to see which ones align with your goals and bring the most significant results.
And of course, the best thing you can do for yourself as an artist is to make sure you have at least one platform you own, which is where ConvertKit comes in.
Start reaching more fans by signing up with a free ConvertKit account!