Online music promotion, and how musicians can run their own record labels

May 12, 2010

Online music promotion & why musicians should make their own record deals…
[This is a section of a talk I gave at the Royal Academy of Music]

[If you like this… then read the supporting article CLICK HERE]

Wilhelm couldn't help feeling the Wigmore makeover was a little too contemporary

During my lecture a student asked if they should send a huge dossier of references, biographies, programmes and recordings to prospective venues/employers.

Err.. nope!

A CD with a handwritten note – all nicely designed & personally directed is much better, especially if solicited via an initial email.

(The former package would in all likelihood end up in a recycling bin)

Harsh maybe.. but true!

Humphrey thanks Mrs Watson for the Gutbuster tailcoat

Here are some simple steps to:

  • Promoting tracks online
  • Releasing tracks online
  • Getting income through sales (though this may not be the primary aim at this stage).

You want people to hear you, join you, and get excited about what you produce next (and hopefully turn up in droves to your next recital).

The Burberry string trio's Morton Feldman season wasn't going well

Getting it out there…

Let’s assume you’ve already recorded a really well thought-through programme of pieces/ songs… (This is a whole other massive subject, and something that classical musicians can often get very wrong…)

The obvious place to start a web presence is myspace, but it seems (at best) an inelegant way to present yourself as an artist, especially when there are so many other free hosted sites with beautiful templates out there.

I have a myspace page, (it’s so very ugly.. I won’t even link to it here) but its primary purpose is to redirect traffic to my own sites!

The traffic on my MySpace page at the moment


wI love WordPress (where you’re reading this).

It’s free – it has excellent templates, so even a klutz like me can make something look half – decent…

I can place a track like this
by entering a piece of simple code, and it looks professional.

It’s designed as a piece of blogging software, but rather than using it purely as an online diary, I find it is a great place to host your biography and showreel.

More importantly, it’s a great place to engage in regular chats with people who might like what you do.

The more people that comment and link to you, the higher you page goes in Google’s rankings, so make sure it’s appealing!!

Also, when people leave comments, good or bad, try to respond as soon as you can! This can be difficult if you’re busy, but shows that what you’re doing is artist led, not just a facade by a record company to ‘get down with the kids’…

You can get a WordPress blog here – highly recommended.

The chaps in Led Zep felt Jimmy had gone too far...

Mailing list

If you want to link with people who like what you do, then maybe use a company to administer a mailing list for you. I use Constant Contact and find them very effective. They have a good policy against spam and there are lots of safeguards in place to ensure you communicate properly in your (hopefully) mass emails.

I link my site to my signup page which is here.

Obviously Twitter links into this whole pattern very neatly too!

Getting a great look for your album

Sometimes technology creates more niggling work for us and leaves a big creative void in the heart of your soul… and then sometimes, it proves itself to be a thing of simple beauty.

I love Flikr.

I am a massive fan of specific photographers like Lucy Martin, Trey Radcliffe, TonTon Copte and many others. Something in their imagery and artistic sensitivities links with my music.

I found all of them through the site, and in fact recently licenced an image from Lucy Martin which was a perfect fit for my Henry VIII album. Have a look here and you can see why!

Mailbox was in a right grump

A different way of grouping/ hosting your music for free is presented by SoundCloud.

What is neat about this is the way people can place comments along the timeline, and even better, anyone (if you like) can stream it to their own blog/site.

Here’s a recent piece of mine which is being streamed from the SoundCloud website.

Listeners can add comments at specific points in the track – you can see them by hovering over the pictures.

I use SoundCloud to determine whether a track has ‘legs’ or not.

It’s very meritocratic – if something’s good – it’ll get lots of plays!

Now, if you’re feeling generous, you can make the tracks downloadable (although you should tag them in iTunes first so the mp3 has your web address in its code – google ‘iTunes metadata’ if you want to know more).
This track is a download track – again, it’s being streamed via a simple bit of code from SoundCloud:

The downwards arrow on the right is a download link.

Here’s a site where someone’s placed a block of my tracks leading to free downloads.

Here’s my site hosted by SoundCloud.

Later in casualty, Fritz regretted selling the viola



A well-established streaming music service is This is a curious amalgam of fansite and radio station. Personally I find it a bit disjointed, and also it concerns me that unreleased tracks often appear there from dubious sources. There are tracks of mine on there that I’ve never released!

601The Sixty one

A completely different approach to new music streaming and downloads can be found at

This is a really hard site to describe as it is as much about gameplay as it is about streaming music. There are two types of (free) account. Artists or Listeners. The Listeners get a higher ranking depending upon how they scout for new songs that the Artists place on there. They give ‘hearts’ to tracks they like, a little like buying shares in a stock that looks like it’s going to perform well.

Frankly, no-one really knows how it works.
Also, as with SoundCloud, you can tell pretty quickly if a track has merit as it will get voted onto the front page!
Players also give ‘tips’ which I hadn’t realized translate into Paypal dollars.

From my page here, I have enough for two cappuccinos already… hurrah!

However – it was a superb place to place your music, but following a recent makeover, users have expressed dismay at the frankly confusing navigation…

The Albert Hall's sitemap left a little to be desired

Setting up a label and generating paid downloads

Setting up a label appears at first to be an onerous and difficult task. This certainly used to be the case, when there was a baffling array of requirements; barcodes, encoding, registration and so forth.

This is no longer the case thanks to intermediary companies that have sprung up to help us confused and frustrated independent players and composers.


CDBaby was established by the very brilliant Derek Sivers (whose blog is essential reading). They distribute to a huge number of digital outlets, and have excellent accounting procedures for small labels. They started as a physical distributor of CDs but seem to have made a smooth transition to digital marketing. You can read about joining here.

Ditto Musicdit
One of the most impressive of these new services is Ditto Music.

They have created a brilliant service where the tasks of creating a label for your releases is streamlined and organized for a one-off fee.

They also take 0% of your royalties when tracks are sold online, and they can distribute to 700 digital outlets.

The real icing on the cake is that they have created a means by which independent musicians can get their tracks loaded onto Spotify, and iTunes.

Whenever I have a soundtrack album for a film or concert project, they are my first port of call.

Here’s an album of mine they managed to get onto iTunes within a day and a half…

Xavier didn't feel the sponsorship deal with Dunkin' Donuts had compromised him at all


There’s a widely held belief that as an independent artist, getting your tracks onto Spotify and iTunes is nigh on impossible unless you’re with a major label. This is happily untrue as discussed above. Spotify is an exciting way of streaming (and now temporarily downloading) tracks which has begun a seamless integration with phones and mp3 players.

Spotify are themselves trying to approach smaller, independent labels, and you can register interest as a future partner here.

What’s next..?

I’m going to write about physical CD production, as well as other merchandise… But I need a big mug of coffee first! Let me know if this is useful…

In the meantime, here’s an article I wrote about being a composer whilst keeping your head!

0 comments on “Online music promotion, and how musicians can run their own record labels

  1. Peter on

    The great thing with is its machine tagging stuff: you set up an event, get the machine tag, and it will trawl flickr etc for audience generated content. This is just too cool for words if you want people to share stuff *and* be able to find it!

  2. NRichards on

    Thanks Phillip for the info. I like the way you use flickr to find artists. That’s a great way to combine interests of 2 different kinds of artists to make a better product for each. Awesome!

  3. Renagade on

    Excellent article for the DIY artists! Their are also many goot social media site to use to direct traffic to your tunes and I reccommend using them. Twitter is probably the best


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