Marketing Spends for Artists: Win Without Breaking the Bank

Late in 2021, fans of UK alt rock band Don Broco were shocked when the band’s Instagram account was apparently taken over by soccer celebrity David Beckham. Twenty-four hours later, the mystery cleared up: Don Broco released a new single – ‘Manchester Super Reds No. 1 Fan’, whose soccer-centric video, replete with a David Beckham clone, served as the backdrop to the band’s commentary on cyber-bullying.

Don Broco’s campaign not only went viral, making the song a hit and inspiring a line of faux soccer merch, it earned the song a place on Music Ally’s prestigious Sandbox list for 2021. The best part? The entire campaign cost less than £5,000 (approximately $6,750 at the then exchange rate).

A successful, low-budget (< $10,000) music marketing campaign can amplify audience outreach by anywhere from 10x to 10,000x. Such campaigns are typically effective only when the target artist already has a monthly listenership of at least 10,000 to 15,000 on DSPs like Spotify. 

Is music marketing only for artists with an established audience? What are some other ways to run a music marketing campaign without burning through the $$$? How much do the major record labels spend on marketing artists? If you have been looking for answers to these and more questions, read on…

Artist Promotion by Major Record Labels

Given the lack of a centralized database on how small-time producers and indie artists spend their marketing money, the budgets of major music publishers are a good starting point for understanding artist promotion. 

The 2019 annual IFPI report (as summarized by Music Business Worldwide) highlighted that the big record labels had expended a total of $1.7 billion on marketing music during 2017‒2018. The report further states that the number of artists signed to major labels during this period was 658. A rough, ballpark estimate or marketing cost per individual artist can therefore be derived by simply dividing the total marketing expenditure by number of artists:

$1.7 billion ÷ 658 = $2.58 million (exactly $2,583,586.62)

This estimate coincides closely with the IFPI’s 2014 estimate (as reported by Digital Music News) of $2 million for artist marketing; the inflation-adjusted value of this amount in 2023 is $2.54 million.  

Music Marketing on a Budget

There is obviously a huge gap between the two-million dollar marketing budget of a big name music publisher and the $6,750 price tag attributed to the Don Broco 2021 campaign. Smaller record labels and independent artists of necessity plan music marketing around much more modest budgets.

“Breaking” an Artist

On an episode of the ‘Cuttin’ Thru the Noise’ podcast hosted by DeNovo Agency’s Elliot Tousley in late 2022, Wendy Day, founder of RapCoalition, the famous, not-for-profit artist advocacy outfit shared how, in her experience, it takes approximately $150,000 to $200,000 to “break” an artist. For artists under Day’s mentorship, this includes:

  • identifying the best songs that can be used to expand the artist’s fan-base
  • creating multi-channel exposure to the artist’s music and brand
  • increasing audience engagement through social media campaigns
  • facilitating collaborations with other artists and deals with music publishers

Focused Marketing Campaigns  

However, not all artists either seek or require a cover-all marketing strategy. Oftentimes, musicians need help with a specific aspect of marketing their music. It might be the planning and execution of a specific album release, or a targeted social media campaign to increase their TikTok presence.

Whatever the case, these goals can usually be achieved more efficiently with the right marketing expertise. Although budgeting for focused marketing campaigns also varies across regions, agencies and individual artist and campaign requirements, the numbers below are provided by industry experts as bare-bones estimates:

Marketing Budgets for Indie Artists

In terms of both money and reach, marketing their music is often the biggest challenge faced by independent musicians. A comprehensive guide on music promotion for unsigned artists is outside the scope of this article. 

Nonetheless, this section highlights key stimulants of music career growth that indie artists would do well to focus on through their marketing campaigns. Starting with a list of thrust areas for 2023 underlined in a Forbes article by marketing experts, the following check-list represents a carefully culled subset of marketing goals that are most relevant to indie musicians:

1. Testing music, strategies and channels

Even the best musicians cannot hope to produce music that is uniformly excellent or popular. However, as a veteran producer put it, “when it comes to putting out music for your fans, nothing is better than something subpar”.

As professionals who routinely work on helping artists build presence and credibility, we cannot overemphasize the importance of testing every single piece of music for its  ‘ear-worthiness’. Likewise, it is crucial to find the right match between your marketing goals and your strategy as well as platform. For instance, initial exposure to your music can be better achieved through a YouTube ad campaign, while Twitter might be better exploited to promote events and merchandise.    

2. Investing in “content that converts”

By now, you are likely tired of hearing the trite advice to, “focus on video” while promoting your music. And anyway, everyone is doing videos. So how do you get yours to stand out?

The answer is simple – by shifting the focus of your promotional content from you to your intended audience. Whether using blogs, videos, podcasts or other tools, ensure that a significant proportion of your social media content is helpful and/or entertaining to viewers and listeners. Such content is far more likely to “convert” a casual visitor to a subscriber and a fan.

For example, a post or video on how you succeeded at capturing great audio of a whispered exchange in your last single is likely to garner lots of attention and interest. 

3. Building brand reputation and credibility

The music industry has always been at the forefront of influencer marketing. In its earliest days in the late 19th century, an early African-American traveling musician named Nancy Green  became the face of the American pancake mix brand, ‘Aunt Jemima’, helping to make it a household name. Today, with influencer marketing being a $16.4 billion global industry, there are numerous examples of its effectiveness at helping musicians scale up their brand and expand the reach of their music.

Aside from influencers, collaborations with well-known artists are a tried and tested strategy for ramping up interest in an artist’s music. In fact, musical collaborations have been known to succeed even in case of artists with radically different styles!

4. Increasing live (and virtual) music footprint through shows, concerts and tours 

Post-pandemic statistics show that live musical events are well on their way to being as big a draw as they were in 2019 and earlier. Global business analyst Goldman Sachs, in their 2022 ‘Music in the Air’ report, predict that the live music segment will continue to enjoy continuous growth (4% CAGR) all the way through to 2030. 

Up and coming musicians would thus do well to secure live engagements, and to maximize fan connect by promoting awareness of their participation. Check out this post for helpful tips on planning your next concert tour.

Next steps

Now that you have a clearer picture of how and what to focus on while promoting your music in the forthcoming months, you might want to explore how to optimize the growth of your musical brand and career, by placing your music marketing in expert hands.

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