TPM 97 | DIY Music Release Strategies

 

In today’s music industry, independent artists have more power than ever before to take control of their own careers and create successful music releases. For today’s episode, we have Kevin Breuner, the SVP of Marketing at CD Baby, one of the world’s largest independent music distributors. Kevin discusses the strategies artists can use to effectively release and promote their music in the new music industry. He shares his insights on topics like building a fan base, identifying and targeting your audience, and optimizing your release strategy to maximize exposure and revenue. Whether you are a professional musician or just starting out, this episode is full of advice and tips to help you take your music career to the next level. Tune in now.

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From Local Fanbase To Global Reach: DIY Music Release Strategies With Kevin Breuner

I’m excited to be here with Kevin Breuner. Kevin Breuner is a musician. He has worked with his group Small Town Poets and CD Baby for a long time. He’s also a co-anchor of one of my favorite podcasts, which is the DIY Musician Podcast. I’m excited to have a conversation with him. I want to talk about the creator economy and how social media has changed how we release music and stuff like that. Kevin, I would love for you to give them a little bit of background in case people haven’t heard of you, your music journey, and maybe a little bit about your work with CD Baby.

Thanks for having me on the show. You covered the three main pieces. I’m an artist and musician. That’s what started my whole journey. I went to Nashville to pursue a music career. That’s where I ended up in the band, Small Town Poets. We were signed to some major labels. I had a bunch of success there, but it was the mid to late ’90s. It was one of those things where everyone is getting paid except us. We’re the last to benefit from all this work we’re doing, and also a whole bunch of other things that were backward about how that system worked.

I left that thinking, “There’s got to be a better way.” I ended up in the Northwest and started writing and recording independent music. That’s when I found CD Baby and got a job there. I was passionate about helping artists understand how they could own their careers and build direct relationships with fans. A lot of the perceptions of artists, especially at that particular time, was that, “I’m going to sign with a label and all my problems will be solved.” I’m like, “This is your business, your career, and your music. You need to understand what all that means.”

That’s why I started the DIY Musician Podcast because I’d be having conversations with artists all day long. I’m like, “I wish I could record these and make them available for other people to hear.” On the other hand, I would be on a call with an artist who was like, “I’m on this platform called YouTube. I started making videos. I don’t even have to tour anymore.” I’m like, “Tell me everything about that because I want to know every little detail.” Over the years, it has been an interesting ride as the business has changed and evolved.

When I first started working at CD Baby, the band Small Town Poets that I’m in was on a bit of a hiatus. We started making records independently again and have made ten albums now. We’ve had other projects and starting to manage a few artists, and working on a record. I’m working on guitar tracks for this artist that I’m collaborating with and managing. All that to say that I’m in the trenches with everybody else. I’ve seen it from both the industry side and the artist side. I’ve been trying to help artists understand how they can build an audience and a career, and own all that relationship, their music, and everything else.

That’s what’s so great about the DIY Musician Podcast. You guys are in the trenches and seeing both sides at once. Chris Robley is an active artist. You can see the overarching trends, but then you can also be like, “I tried this the other day, and here’s what happened.”

That’s part of what got me fired up to do this stuff in the first place. As the CD Baby started growing, both mine and Chris’s roles grew there and we’re seeing the landscape. There were a lot of people that will tell artists, “Go do this. It’s so easy.” I’m like, “They don’t understand what it’s like to be an artist.” Getting through the creation process can be agonizing, and then you want me to spend a full-time job as a marketer, marketing my music, booking my music, and doing all this stuff. Having that understanding of what it’s like has helped us communicate with artists to know that it’s tough. Things can sound super simple but it takes a lot of time, effort, and emotional investment. That’s on top of making all the music.

What year did you guys start the DIY Musician Podcast?

We started in 2007.

That was early. It wasn’t weekly or anything back then, but it must be interesting to go back and look at some of those episodes and the trends. When I think about how important TikTok is to a lot of musicians now and release, it’s like, “How am I going to think of this in ten years if I go back and look at these episodes?” People are blowing up on some social media you never heard of anymore like Periscope or something. It must be interesting to see those trends.

I remember Vine was one that I had artists reaching out to me. I’m making tons of money on Vine. I’m like, “Nobody knows what Vine is.” Twitter bought it and put it out of business immediately. This was a true napkin story. Chris, myself, and there was another Chris, there were three of us. We went to this pizza place on our lunch break at CD Baby. We were going to plan out the first ten episodes because the big thing back then was the term podfading. People were like, “I’m starting a podcast.” They do 1 or 2 episodes and you never hear from them again. You’re like, “I wish they would make more episodes,” but it’s challenging.

I’m like, “We are not doing that. We’re going to go plan out the first ten episodes.” We got to this pizza place and nobody brought anything to write anything down. We wrote it all on a napkin. We’re like, “There are ten solid episodes. If we can make it this far, I feel good.” Episode two is still one of the most relevant things, and we talk about it all the time. It’s authentic artist branding. The person I interviewed books for one of the big club chains, restaurant bars, or pub chains here in Portland. She also helped in managing other artists. She has since passed, which was very sad. That advice is still incredibly relevant and it’ll never go away.

It’s about developing your artist’s persona and brand. Once you define that, all these other things flow from it and it makes it easier, whether it’s merch, marketing campaigns, or communication with your fans. That’s so relevant because that’s one of the artists’ biggest struggles. They don’t know how to market or communicate what’s going to work because they haven’t figured out that their artist identity is a brand persona. We’ve done variations of that episode multiple times since. It’s always a favorite. Looking back, there is some stuff that is still evergreen. There is some stuff where we were talking about MySpace, which is not relevant anymore.

As a musician, it’s always like, “Do I go all-in on this thing? I don’t know if it’s going to be here in a year. It’s so hard to know.”

I’ve mentioned Vine. When that trend was happening, I was like, “This isn’t going to stick. Six-second videos? This is going to end.” That trend died quickly.

It made no sense to me as a musician. How can you even experience a piece of any kind of art in six seconds? There are artists that became popular out of that. As far as I know, Shawn Mendes came out of that. That’s what my kids told me.

I had talked to an artist that was making serious money off of it, like the brand partnerships that people do on TikTok and stuff right now. I thought, “Why six seconds? I don’t get it.” It’s so challenging on the creator side. As a consumer, you barely get a taste of anything.

I thought the same thing about fifteen-second TikTok because there was that trend, “Keep your TikToks to fifteen seconds.” Even in the beginning, that was the main thing that people were doing. I’m glad that’s not popular now. I do think that TikTok has now been around long enough. There has been enough proof that artists have become super successful, or their releases have blown up because of TikTok.

It’s not going to be a flash-in-the-pan like Vine or stuff like that. I would love to know your opinion and what you’ve seen working with artists at CD Baby and working on a release before it is released, and all that teasing and stuff. How much do you do? Is there too much? I heard on one of your podcasts about a release for a year. People are so over it by the time it gets out.

You’re lucky because the next episode of the DIY Musician Podcast that I’m going to upload is all about building anticipation for your release. When we released our music in the 2023 episode, I liked that episode because I felt like we had some new takes on the idea of releasing music. That got me thinking and getting together the outline for this new episode that we’re going to upload. It’s probably my favorite episode that we’ve recorded in a long time. Mainly because we talk about that.

Chris was on a panel a couple of weeks ago with the social media manager for the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. She stated something that I has already been talking about. He stated it in a way that I was like, “That’s what I mean.” They don’t look at the release day as the day that it comes out on Spotify. They look at the day they first post something on TikTok. They look at the Spotify release almost like a remix. The way I was talking about it was saying that distribution is no longer the starting point for artists. Not only in the digital world, but even before that. A lot of the starting point for artists, especially independent artists, was when the release day happened. That’s when it begins.

Our premise for this new episode was if you’re releasing music and nobody is going to listen or care, then what’s even the point of releasing it? It sounds very dark like, “Just give up,” but that’s not what we mean at all. What we’re trying to point out is that what’s working a lot with platforms like TikTok and such is that artists are using it to create anticipation. When the release comes out, they’re familiar with the song. They go get it, listen to it, share it, add it to their playlist, and are excited about it.

If you’re a famous artist, you have some of that built-in. I still think that that has changed and shifted with music consumption in general. There is so much music. Release day used to be a huge day. I used to remember, “Who came out? What new albums came out today?” Friday is supposed to be International Music Release Day, but people drop music every day. There’s always new music. There’s not this rhythm of anticipation like we used to have.

I’m a big fan of Death Cab for Cutie. They mentioned in April or May 2022, “We have a new album coming out in September.” I don’t care. Tell me in September. That’s way too far in the future. I’m not even thinking about September right now. They dropped the announcement and disappeared until then. That was not the best approach.

A lot of those older major-label artists still have that mindset. I’m a big U2 fan. I always dump on them all the time for how they’ll disappear for years, and then make some big announcement about something that’s going to happen a year from now as if we care. We have too much in our faces all the time to have any mental space for a year from now about an album release.

There’s too much ability for instant gratification now.

I interviewed an artist named Britnee Kellogg. She’s from the Portland area here. I had started following her because I knew her manager at the time. She only had 2,000 TikTok followers, but she started doing this strategy that a lot of artists are doing. She’s like, “Are you this type of person? I wrote a song for you,” and she’d start playing it.

One particular song exploded. She then kept doing variations of it. She hadn’t recorded it yet. She would be sitting in her car singing along to the demo and playing acoustic guitar, and it kept getting bigger and bigger. It went through the process of her recording it, releasing it, and all that. By that time, she had millions and millions of video views around that song. Her TikTok following was exploding over the course of that. When she releases it, there are people that want to go hear this song. It’s the idea that artists have tools to build that anticipation so when the actual release happens, there’s momentum and it propels the song or the release to a new level.

TPM 97 | DIY Music Release Strategies

DIY Music Release Strategies: Artists have tools to build that anticipation so when the actual release happens, there’s momentum. It propels the song or the release to a new level.

 

Another band that I saw is called Walk off the Earth. I’m trying to get them on the show. They do the most amazing videos. I want to know how long and how much time they spend making these videos because they look so effortless. There was one where they had a bunch of fruit with electronic diodes in the fruit. When you touch it, they would make the drum sounds and the synth sounds, and they’d sing their song. They released a new single, and I counted nine different types of videos that they did, promoting that song. One of them went crazy viral with 60 million views or 55 million views. That was all leading up to the release.

That is what artists should be thinking about. It’s not about going pre-save or being prepared to be notified when it drops. It’s how you can tease them with the song. The thing that was interesting about the Walk off the Earth videos is that the only thing they had in it was the chorus. It was this weird realization when they did a verse challenge video at one point. In all the videos that they had done, no one ever heard the verse until it came out.

The whole thing was pretty genius. That’s the idea of engaging your fans, getting them excited, and they feel like there’s a payoff when the release happens too. That’s what I liked about the Walk off the Earth thing because when I realized I hadn’t heard any of the verses yet, of course, I wanted to hear the full song.

You have to have that payoff. I was thinking about Charlie Puth’s Light Switch thing. When the song finally came out, I’m like, “I’ve heard this whole song.” I went over there on Spotify and I added it to my playlist because I’m like, “I don’t want to forget about this song.” I like it overall, but I feel like I’ve heard it all. It’s not like a revelation or anything. How do you come up with what is going to be the payoff for them that they’re getting new versus what they’ve already seen a million times on TikTok?

What I’ve been telling artists for a long time, especially as it relates to running Facebook ads and creating video ads, starts with the hook of the song. Nobody needs the boring intro. It may sound amazing in a listening experience, but social media is not a listening experience by nature. People are flipping through stuff. If you can’t hook them right away, they’re probably going to move on.

TPM 97 | DIY Music Release Strategies

DIY Music Release Strategies: Social media is not a listening experience by nature. People are flipping through stuff. If you can’t hook them right away, they’re probably going to move on.

 

Start with the hook and create a bunch of different videos or experiences around the hook of the song so it gets in people’s heads, especially if it’s a good song. The thing with Walk off the Earth, their song is good and it’s very catchy. They have some advantages. They’re very dynamic people. They’re a joy to watch. There’s this energy that comes off of them in their videos, but they’re good on camera. That’s helpful.

Are they indie or do they have a label?

They are indie. We’ve done some of their releases. They bounced from label to indie to label, and back to indie. They’re indie again.

I remembered them at least having a label at one point. They did feel very indie.

They were with us when they did that 5 people 1 guitar video. That’s the one that exploded them to popularity. They left us to go to a label, but then they came back later. They then left again and then came back, which is good for them. If that’s what you want to do, use these experiences to get leverage and get people to come in that can help push things to the next level.

Do you think that having a label nowadays still gives you some leverage? I was always curious about your Small Town Poets experience. There are all the annoying things about being on a label and feeling like you’re not getting paid and all that. Do you think when you later entered the market, you were able to springboard off of the publicity that you got from being on a label before instead of starting at zero?

Yes. We sold about 300,000 copies. We were nominated for Grammy. We had lots of songs on the radio. We had quite a bit of popularity that we wouldn’t have had without the label. Coming out of that experience, most artists would probably think, “Kevin is very anti-label.” That’s not necessarily the case. What I want is for artists to understand that it’s their career and everything is a trade-off.

If you’re going to sign with a label, I want you to understand the trade-offs and there are going to be downsides to it, especially if they own your master recordings. That doesn’t seem like a big deal at the moment until ten years down the road. We have one of our releases that are owned by Capital Records. They don’t have any desire to do anything with it. It’s sitting there collecting dust. In fact, two of the track titles are wrong. They’re swapped on Spotify. That’s something that if I had control of it like in CD Baby, I could fix in two minutes.

TPM 97 | DIY Music Release Strategies

DIY Music Release Strategies: If you’re going to sign with a label, understand the trade-offs and that there are going to be downsides to it. Especially if they own your master recordings.

 

It’s one of those things where you have to understand the trade-offs and understand what they’re bringing to the table. If all they are is providing distribution, you can get that on your own. I’ve talked to a lot of artists that have signed label deals, I’m like, “What it sounds like is you are getting access to Spotify and they’re taking 30%. That’s not a good deal.” If you go into it thinking, “This is going to be temporary,” because except for a very select few elites, everybody is going to get dropped from their label at some point.

You better understand how is this building your business and building your career. What is it going to look like when they’re no longer in the picture? How are you setting yourself up for that future reality when you’re using what they can provide to grow your audience and reach? They can be very useful for things like tourist support and stuff like that. It’s knowing what you’re getting out of it and that there are trade-offs.

The thing is a lot of the label deals are far better for artists than they used to be. They’re still not the best. You still need to know what you’re getting yourself into, but the terms are much better these days than they used to be. I was talking to someone from Universal who runs their marketing. She said a lot of their deals now are just one-song deals. That’s weird.

That means they’re not invested in you as an artist at all. They’re interested in that one asset that might be performing well on TikTok. They just want to sign that one song, capitalize off the wave that it has, and then move on. They’re not interested in developing you as an artist. They’re not interested in any long-term career trajectory. You could earn and maybe work into that type of spot but still, most artists have the tools to develop themselves so much on their own that the labels aren’t interested in doing that work anymore.

Most artists have the tools to develop themselves so much on their own that labels aren't interested in doing that work anymore. Click To Tweet

I have a hard time seeing how a one-song deal would help an artist. If you pushed yourself up there enough to get that attention and be offered that, then why do you need them if there’s nothing beyond the one song?

I would be interested to know what they do in those situations. They probably put them in some of their big playlists. For Universal, it’s another track that’s out there that they’re getting a slice of the pie from. It could be a little bit more exposure for your song. It just depends. I was very intrigued by it. I want to know what that deal looks like.

That’s what I’d be thinking. What do you think about indie labels? Everybody is popping up with an indie label nowadays. A lot of times, it doesn’t mean a lot for the artists other than maybe access to a collective of services to help them when you are putting your music out there, but they don’t give big advances or anything like that. I’ve always been trying to figure out, does an indie label help an artist at all or you could do that on your own?

It’s probably on a case-by-case basis. The indie side of things and some of the brands and sister companies that we have are more focused on the label services type stuff. One of our brands, Downtown Music Services, will do an advance. They tend to work with high-performing catalogs and high-performing independent artists. Those advances can be pretty sizable.

The artist keeps all their rights. It’s usually a one-year term where we get X percent for that year in distribution, but then that brand will create a release plan, do all the stuff to set up to pitch it with the DSPs, and then look for all those opportunities. They’ll make sure the release goes out without any problems and then they’ll help maintain any follow-up and stuff like that. Once the term is up, you can make a choice to leave or not. There are a lot of them that are starting to do things like that. If they’re not providing any value than being able to say in your bio that you’re signing to a label, I don’t know what.

Back in my day, when I was pursuing my own music career and I was super naïve, I thought having a label behind me or being on a label would somehow give me more credibility. I don’t think that’s true anymore.

That has shifted a lot from where it used to be. There was this filter, “Good artists are on a label.” One thing that artists struggle with and why oftentimes they sign these deals that don’t offer them much value is that most artists, myself included, have had people in their life saying, “What are you doing? You’re wasting your time. When are you going to get a real job? This is cute. When are you going to stop messing around?” That label provides some validation to those people to say, “See, this is real.”

“Someone hired me. I have a real job right now.”

“This is the real deal. I’m signed to a label. This isn’t just me messing around.” That is a big driving force for artists because most people don’t understand creative pursuits and that type of lifestyle and business. It all works differently. Most people understand I go to a building five days a week, sit at a desk, and push papers. I’m miserable and complain about it, but it makes sense. I get paid. They don’t understand the creative arts and how those businesses work, especially for artists. Oftentimes, the label is some sort of, “See, this is real,” so it’s not that awkward conversation at Thanksgiving again.

The big driving force for artists is when they’re finally doing the “real deal”, signing a label, and swear that this time, they’re not just messing around. Most people don't understand creative pursuits and that type of lifestyle and business. It all… Click To Tweet

That makes sense. I did a whole series once about what you say to your annoying cousin, aunt, or whatever on Thanksgiving like, “What’s going on with your music?”

I posted a video about that. It was right before Christmas 2022 on my own Instagram and TikTok. I’m making fun of that. There were all these different personas. I was thinking about this when I was in college. Both sides of my grandparents lived not far from where I went to school. I would go up to visit them at Thanksgiving. It’s me with a bunch of senior citizens and nobody else. They were like, “I hear that whole industry is going to Branson, Missouri. You need to go there.” My uncle was like, “You’ll never going to make any money.” This is the worst.

“Let me tell you how the world works, Kevin.”

Somebody chimed in the comments talking about the family member or the family friend that’s a lawyer, but they have no concept of entertainment law. They’ve got the ego of a lawyer so they’re going to tell you what’s what, even though they have no concept of how the music business works.

That’s funny. We were saying at the beginning that I had you at my Profitable Musician Summit back in 2019 and we talked about releasing music. Back then, you were talking about less seasons of releases and I agree with this too, releasing singles leading up to an EP or an album. Do you think that the way things are working with TikTok, short-form video, and what we talked about is changing that?

Not really. What’s happening on TikTok is I mentioned that the distribution isn’t necessarily the starting point. The way I’d look at it in the greater album cycle is that those things took the place of what radio used to be. If you think back to when radio was the main driving force for music discovery way before streaming services and all that. A single for an album would be out several months playing on the radio before the album came out. That’s how they would be setting up anticipation so that on release day, everybody is running to the record store to buy stuff.

What we see in social is the modern version of that. People are trying to get people to care. You don’t care about a song on the first listen. Some of my favorite artists and favorite songs, the first time I heard it, I probably was like, “All right.” You then hear it a few times and start to understand it. You dig into it and it makes sense.

On the TikTok side, the creation process is where artists will write a chorus to a song that doesn’t have any verses yet, post it on TikTok, and use it to see if people care. If people like it, they’ll write a verse for it. If they continue to like it, they’ll finish out the song and record the whole thing. Once you get to the recording process and releasing, I still think that releasing a couple of singles and setting up an album or EP is still the most beneficial release pattern that I’ve seen. Following it up with more material like remixes, live versions, acoustic versions, or maybe a collaboration with an artist that does a remix or things like that.

In that way, you have a time period where there are a lot of reasons for people to be pushing the play button because that’s the other thing, you got to get people listening to your music. It’s not just about making a sale, it’s about real listeners. That’s why the whole season of release thing makes sense. Having something that has more than one track come out like an album or EP because people can only listen to one song for so long.

As an artist, you have to get people listening to your music. It's not about making a sale, it's about real listeners. Click To Tweet

There is some music that you make that doesn’t make sense without the context of a broader album. There are some artists that don’t make albums anymore, but I don’t think the album or EP is dead. It’s just a matter of understanding who your audience is, but also understanding strategically how people function. If you keep dropping a new track every day, I’m not going to pay attention after a while. I just can’t do it.

Let’s say I’ve got an album of ten songs. Some people are like, “Shouldn’t I just release them all as singles and then at the end release it as an album? I see where they’re coming from because you get a chance to get in front of the editorial. You can have your promotion cycle for each song. Also, I was talking with my daughter. If I love an artist and they come up with an album, I want to have some things I never heard that she’ll dig into and get excited about, and listen to this album. If I already heard them all as singles, it’s not going to be interesting to me.

I agree with that. I get asked that question all the time. “I’ve got twelve songs. Shouldn’t I do one a month and at the end of the year release a whole album?” I’m like, “I won’t care by the time that album comes out, trust me.” I don’t think there has ever been an album where all twelve songs could stand as singles on their own, and people care.

We want to think that every song is so precious, but you got to be honest.

We need to start thinking that way. Even songs that my band has done that I love and that our fans love, if they were released individually, they would land in a very weird way because they don’t have the context of the broader creation. A band like Radiohead has had very different sounds on different albums. If you go from kid A to whatever came next, which was very different, I always forget the name of the album, and I didn’t like it. If you dropped one of those tracks and be like, “What is this?” The last thing I heard was this band with guitar players, bass drums, and a singer. This is some weird ambient thing. I don’t understand what you put out here.

When you put it in a broader context of an album, even though I didn’t care for it, it makes more artistic sense. Also, for artists that are out touring, having that album gives a whole new chunk of material that fans expect they’re going to see in the set and you can make a show around and all that. If you keep dribbling out songs, there’s never that reset. The album is also a great time for the band to upgrade its branding, image, and all that. People expect a new experience from that artist, whether it’s the tour, their website, or merch. A new album signifies a whole new product line.

That’s an interesting idea. I would think about Taylor Swift when she came out with her albums during the pandemic. I was like, “These are very different from what she was doing before,” but it hit me. I’m like, “I love this. It’s so different from our other stuff,” but I wanted to listen to it as an entire album. Maybe a few of those were good for singles, but that was a whole immersive experience of this is who she is pivoting into.

I don’t think I would’ve gotten it if I would’ve just listened to some singles. With TikTok stuff, putting your stuff out there, maybe you’re putting out a chorus and seeing if it’ll land, you’re also dependent on, “Is TikTok going to show this to the right people?” What if you’ve got this great chorus and then you get 50 views or whatever. It’s like, “I can’t get a read on this.”

I’ve been making a lot of informational videos for artists on Instagram Reels and TikTok. It is blowing my mind how different the algorithms work and platforms work. I have a video that performs incredibly well on Instagram and I can’t even get TikTok to show it to anybody.

My educational videos are like that. One will blow up on Instagram, and the numbers on TikTok are terrible, and then vice versa.

I’ve had an Instagram count for ages, but I started using my TikTok right before Christmas and starting to build a following. It’s all information for artists. When I post something, TikTok’s main concern isn’t showing it to the people that follow you because sometimes it’ll go hours without even getting a view.

I’m like, “Is something broken?” I’ll keep checking the number.

Sometimes, randomly, 100 people will instantly see. It’s weird. I don’t get it.

I woke up in the morning and saw these views. I’m like, “Are all these people watching across the world? Why all of a sudden did I get views in the nighttime?”

It’s weird. I’ve been trying to figure it out. It makes no sense. I watch all these videos by social media gurus who are like, “This is how it works.” I’m like, “You say that and I tried that.” Sometimes it does work. They’re all inconsistent. I did do some training courses around building up the TikTok profile and following. Even in a video from TikTok, we’re talking about how the platform is evolving very rapidly. Things that worked last year on TikTok at this time probably won’t work now or won’t work as well and are going to be shifting drastically.

Social media platforms are evolving very rapidly. Things that worked last year on TikTok at this time probably won't work now or won't work as well and are going to be shifting drastically. Click To Tweet

The one piece of advice that I thought was the best that I heard is they said, “We’ve been changing the algorithm. What’s most important is that people follow you because of you, not because of a trend. If you want to build an audience around your content, then make it about you, not about these trends.” I thought that was fascinating for somebody from TikTok to be saying that the trends have been stuff that is very sticky.

You’re some random person that’s not trying to build a following and you post the video jumping on the trend, and you’re getting 100,000 views, “This is amazing. This is so much fun.” If you’re trying to build an audience and those people follow you, they’re probably following you because of that trend. Not because you’re a musician or they like what you do.”

An artist I’m working with randomly posted a video about pickles and got a million views. She got a lot of followers and all these people messaging her about pickles. She’s not interested in building an account around pickles. That’s what a lot of these trends can do. Ultimately, TikTok is confused about who likes your content. It’s about being consistent and finding the people that like what you do. I’ve boosted some posts on TikTok. It’s affordable and works pretty well. It looked like 95% of the followers I got were legit. Of that, almost all of them were musicians. That’s the audience I was going after. It was very affordable.

If you’re trying to get your account off the ground or you’re an artist that’s confused about who your audience is, take a piece of content that you want people to know you for and boost it. TikTok will find the right audience and help you start building that up a bit. I’ve done that with Instagram and TikTok. For $5, you can do some good stuff with it.

If you're an artist that's confused about who your audience is, take a piece of content that's exactly what you want people to know you for. Boost it, and TikTok will find the right audience and help you start building that up a bit. Click To Tweet

That’s interesting to know. I’ll have to try that out. I’m curious though. They always tell us, “You want to be authentic on social media. Be who you are,” and all that stuff. “All parts of you are part of the brand,” and everything. What you said about pickles is like my friend who posted something about doing this cool thing with her hair or a job interview that she went on that had nothing to do with music. People started following them for that. I’m wondering, with TikTok, should we keep things to the people that we want to follow us like the subject matter music, in general, and then maybe Instagram or stories or whatever place to share those kinds of things or is it basically your followers?

On TikTok, especially based on the training that I’ve gone through and the people I’m following, you have to keep it around your content. You can use trends and things, but you need to use them sparingly and also ensure that it’s still around the content that you create. If your goal is to build an audience around your music or a subject matter that you are an expert in, then that’s why people need to be there. They emphasized that.

To me, the one thing that TikTok is going through where other major social networks are not is TikTok went from the user acquisition phase. Now, they’re moving into the monetization phase. We’ve all seen what happened with Facebook. Suddenly, you have to pay to reach your fans. Facebook will show your content to about 1% of your followers to see how they react. If they react positively and quickly, they’ll open it up a little bit more, but you’ll still never reach all your followers by a long shot without paying for it.

Instagram is constantly like, “It’s Stories now. It’s Reels.” If you’re not doing those things, no one is seeing your stuff. With TikTok, those things are starting to come into play. They’re trying to go more mainstream. It’s not just about younger audiences who want to get on there and lip-sync or do these trends. They’re trying to be a mainstream social network. By mainstream, I mean all generations use it.

That to me was very apparent. I don’t know if you watch sports, but TikTok was a major sponsor of all the college football games. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a social network spend that kind of money. That was an insane amount of money to be the halftime show sponsor of all these games that rank up there in some of the top sporting events as far as TV viewing in the United States. That’s some real cash. They’re not trying to reach teenagers with those ads.

They’re trying to reach our generation with that one.

That to me signals that there are big changes on the horizon to the algorithm of the platform and how it works. People in their 40s are not going to sit on TikTok. By and large, people that they want aren’t already using the platform and doing trends, and things like that. That’s not what most of those folks are going to do.

This has been a super interesting conversation across the board. Is there anything else that we didn’t talk about or related to stuff that we talked about that you think needs to be said while we’re here? We want you guys to listen to the episode that we were referring to. I’m sure that will be out by the time this comes out on the DIY Musician Podcast, but is there anything else you want people to know?

It’s a great time to be writing, recording, and releasing music. I was telling this to one of the artists I’m managing. At the end of the day, you got to know that writing and recording music is awesome. The fact that you get to do that is amazing. Most people will never experience that joy in their lifetime of having a song idea in their head and making it a reality that other people can go and listen to. To me, that’s incredible.

At CD Baby, we’d love for you to use us to distribute your music. It’s $9.99 for a release and that covers everything, all your monetization, and all the options that other people nickel and dime you for. There are no annual fees. Whether it’s an album or a single, it’s $9.99 and that includes everything, barcode and all. I’ve been a part of projects that have been selling well and doing incredible. I’ve been on big tours and I’ve also been on projects that don’t do anything, and playing shows that nobody comes to. I’ve seen it all and I keep making music because it’s awesome. At the end of the day, as an artist and musician, you got to enjoy the process because most people will never get to experience that.

TPM 97 | DIY Music Release Strategies

DIY Music Release Strategies: At the end of the day, as an artist and musician, you have to enjoy the process because most people will never get to experience that.

 

That’s so important because so many times, it’s so easy to focus on the negative, “I don’t have time for social media and I have to do that. It’s so expensive to create an album. I have to do marketing and I still have to work my other two jobs to be able to pay off my last album.” This is what we hear all the time. Let’s focus on the fact that 99% of people cannot do what you did, making that album.

If artists wired their brains to think more that way, it’ll help their marketing efforts as well because so many of their fans are fascinated by the creation process. To us, this is what we do just like you go to your job. Most people don’t understand. It’s fascinating and interesting to them. I started in a generation where if you weren’t selected by a label, you wouldn’t get to do it. The fact that anyone can make a record that has the passion and abilities is a great place to be.

I always recommend CD Baby. People always ask me, “There are so many places to distribute. Should I do this? Should I do that?” I’m like, “I have always had my stuff at CD Baby because it’s easy. It’s a one-stop shop. You know that when you pay, your thing is released. You never have to worry about it disappearing. That’s why I recommend it and that’s why I use it for my own CDs that I’ve released. I highly recommend CD Baby to all of you guys if you haven’t checked it out. They have a great conference every year, which I’ve never made it to because you never put it close enough to California. I don’t want to travel that far.

We’re making an announcement about what we’re doing in 2023. It won’t be in California though.

It is always somewhere in the middle, but I get why you do it in the middle.

There is a good conference that I’m a part of, but it’s not my thing. I do not have the liberty to announce it yet, but it’s coming to LA in June. It’s going to be good.

I will look out for that. I always do the TAXI Conference because it’s always in LA and it’s very easy for me.

Be on the lookout for something in late June 2023 in LA.

I will. Thank you for that tip. Thank you so much, Kevin. This has been great. I encourage you all to check out their podcast. It’s always very entertaining and informative. Check out CD Baby to release your music.

 

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About Kevin Breuner

TPM 97 | DIY Music Release StrategiesGrammy nominated artist, Kevin Breuner (w/ Smalltown Poets), has sold over 300,000 albums, toured the world, and had songs used by the NFL, Peacock, ABC, Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, and countless indie film productions. Founder/host of the popular DIY Musician Podcast, Kevin has lead the content marketing efforts at CD Baby for over 15 years, and currently serves as the SVP of Engagement & Education.

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