Have you heard about a Wellington folk band called Boatshed Daydreams before? Neither had we until very recently. Late last month the duo of friends Abbie McKoy and Temuera Forbes released their debut EP ‘Moments Passed’, and while still flying very much under the radar locally have amassed a whopping 35k monthly listeners on Spotify alone in the first two weeks since its release. How does a virtually unknown folk act go about creating relative success for themselves without playing tons of shows or any attention by conventional media, you may wonder? Well, you’re in the luck, because Boatshed Daydreams were happy to tell us!
So you’ve become more creative during the lockdown and written songs that you think are magic. You recorded them and have this huge feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction. You just know everyone is going to love your music. You get the courage to upload a song on Spotify and you wait with anticipation hoping the whole world will finally listen to the masterpiece you created.
You press refresh a few times – seeing how many new listens – 5 – all yours – and then you feel crushed, feeling like no one will hear it.
This is a common story of many new artists trying to get their music out into the world. It can be daunting and a lack of early engagement can fully take the wind out of your sails. I’d love to share some tips I’ve learned along the way to help you gain some momentum and get your music out there and into ear holes. We live in one of the best times for your music to shine!
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about marketing. I was a business development and marketing consultant for brands like American Express, Pernod Ricard (Jameson, Malibu, Kahlua), Armani and Kodak in the US of A when cameras were still cool, so I know a few things. But today marketing is a whole new world and you need to know how to do it if you’re going to get your music out there.
I have written songs ever since I was a kid and had my first real band in my first semester of university, called A Fall Semester. It had been 10 years since I had done music when my Dad came down with cancer. I went back to the USA to take him to chemo and it unlocked this crazy creative part of me that wanted to write again. I wrote a whole album in a month and recorded a song over there as well, called I’ll Miss You. It was about my baby getting older and missing him as he changed. I posted it on my personal Facebook and it got over 20,000 views, nearly 400 likes and 275 comments. It was shared by some key mum influencers which helped get it out there even more, and was written about by some mum bloggers too – link here and here. *********************
I tell you this story to inspire you. You can write about anything – including your kids – and find your tribe of interested listeners. Marketing your music is all about knowing who your audience is. My breakthrough back into music was writing songs about my family. After I’ll Miss You I put out another one called 10,000 Miles, which got 10,000 views in the first two days after it was released. Knowing your audience is always the most important place to start so you know where to share your songs. To get these specific songs out there I joined a ton of Facebook mum communities to share and this approach worked really well for getting that early engagement. Here are a few other tips that I hope will help make your indie song a success.
The first thing you need to do is figure out who your songs are for. Are you writing about love, your kids, your dog, your car? Whatever your focus is will help guide you in your marketing efforts. Keep in mind each song may have a completely different audience so understanding this too will help you widen your reach and ensure people are hearing your songs that can relate.
I wrote a song about my plane ride home after taking my Dad to chemo and put out this video about the journey – please don’t give up. My Dad shared it on a bunch of his Facebook cancer support groups and it got several thousand listens and shares. I got messages from families on the same journey saying how much they could relate.
Understanding who your songs are for is a really important part of ensuring the songs are reaching the ears of those who need to hear them.
During lockdown, I had a dream about a childhood friend of mine that passed away three years ago. He had struggled with addiction for many years. It was amazing getting to see him and talking to him like he was still here. When I woke up I was devastated realising that I couldn’t call him. One Day At A Time, which is on our Boatshed Daydreams EP has the most plays on our Spotify. It has been listened to over 15,000 times which I think is a reflection of the vulnerability of the song.
When we first recorded it on my phone, I shared it with my friend’s family and we also shared it on Facebook groups for families struggling with someone dealing with addiction. So many people in these groups wrote me and thanked me for sharing it. Our journeys are powerful and sharing them is such an important part of getting people to listen and understand your music.
There are a lot of sites that help get your music onto all the major platforms. Make sure to select a good one so you can track how many listens your songs are getting and on what channels. This will also help you track your royalties, get paid when your songs are played and make them more accessible. We used Distrokid after a recommendation from a friend. It is super user friendly and ensures you are on all the good sites so your music can be accessed with ease and you can get paid for it.
When we first released our EP we just put up a link to the Spotify/Distrokid account so people could check it. Unfortunately, this approach resulted in very little engagement. Often these links don’t do enough to make people want to have a listen.
To get it out there we knew we would need to leverage video which is much more engaging to encourage people to listen. You can either create your own content by filming yourself playing or leverage content from filmmakers hoping to get out there more.
For Moments Passed we worked with a filmmaker that had filmed a story similar to what our song represented and we edited his material by ourselves in inShot – an app I really recommend if you’re hoping to create your own videos. It is what I’ve used for every video that we have put together.
You can easily upload your song and any video content you have. Your video doesn’t have to be complicated or professional. A lot of bands are doing very low key videos these days taken from their phones. Providing even a little snip it of a cool part of your tune will encourage a lot more listeners to check you out. When you’re posting make sure to provide a link to your Spotify so you can increase your following and get more people listening. It is easy to think people can find you themselves but the best approach is always making your music pages as accessible as possible.
These days there are so many platforms for sharing your music. Many artists use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and TikTok to get their music out there. It can be a bit overwhelming especially if you’re like me and tend to just use one of them.
Share your songs with your friends and ask them to share them. Your good mates will love feeling like they can help. One of my friends who is obsessed with TikTok shared a video I made and it got over 150,000 views.
He told me his strategy is to add tags from other popular videos with views over 1 million and to post regularly so you continue to have new content. This is a whole new ball game for me but I’m learning slowly and it is a great platform because other people can add your music to their videos too. If you have a cool beat and know how to dance you can also create a dance challenge that others can take on with your music as the backdrop.
You can get a lot of engagement without boosting your music through adding yourself to music community group pages on Facebook and Reddit, adding good hashtags with a lot of followers in Instagram and Twitter, however, sometimes you just want people to see it.
If you’re creating ads Facebook is a great channel as you can boost video posts for as little as 1 cent per engagement and they can play on both Facebook and Instagram. This is how much we paid on almost all of our videos. We boosted each one with $5-10 which resulted in a lot more people hearing our music and sharing it too.
When you are targeting your audience make sure to include keywords that reflect people that would like to listen to your song. For example – Moment’s Pass – we had keywords like “love song”, “music”, “music producers”, “folk”, and “indie”. We targeted age groups similar to us as well knowing that people in our age group are more likely to listen. If you notice that you are paying a lot per listen then your audience should be adjusted as you likely aren’t hitting the right tribe of listeners.
We were lucky that we were able to leverage another event happening for our EP release. We tied in with Incremental who were launching their book Hope from Lockdown. We had written a song for their project called Hope from Lockdown and performed it along with our EP album at the event. Their event sold out in three days and it was great leveraging off the momentum they already had.
Events are an awesome way to share your music and get people to become active listeners. Many cafés and restaurants are always seeking opportunities to bring people in so don’t be shy. It is worthwhile seeking out local spots where you know you can bring people out to create win-win events that raise your profile and help out local businesses too.
Best of luck in your music release adventure! It is awesome being creative and getting your stuff out there so keep the hope and work on new content to get more people listening.