Industry Perspective: Online Marketing Basics for Musicians

Mary Cummings
Mary Cummings

Part 1 of a Series By Mary Cummings

From Douglas – Every time I see my good friend Mary Cummings, she tells me about some new online marketing tool and I feel like an old person. She has helped me to improve my game on Twitter and other online platforms and so I’m very glad to present some of her ideas here. Mary is the Editorial Director for Diversion Books, an eBook publishing firm in New York, and as an online-only publisher, Mary is always up on the latest industry-wide successes in online marketing. On top of all that, she is married to a musician, the saxophonist in my AnyWhen Ensemble, Hashem Assadullahi, so she understands what musicians deal with on a regular basis. See her bio at for more info. In this post Mary offers an inside look at what her first steps are when considering a new book proposal.

From Mary – I have consulted over 100 authors in their marketing strategies and helped to manage ours as the Editorial Director for Diversion Books. In digital publishing, there is no successful project without smart marketing to boost discoverability of titles, especially since the age of self-publishing has resulted in a saturation of the eBook market with hundreds of thousands of titles, put out into the ethers by authors who now face bigger challenges than ever before in terms of actually selling their work. While the audiences for books and for music are understandably different, there are basic tenets that are the same, insofar as accessing these audiences.

We Need Artists Who Can Present Themselves Online – An album is a musician’s most important “product” available online, even though many musicians, especially jazz and classical musicians, don’t release albums with the expectation of surviving on income from copies sold. That said, I doubt that anyone would claim “I would hate for this to sell” as their release-mantra. Releasing an album is a career-building move for these types of musicians, and I encourage them to get the most out of the release by establishing a presence in avenues of consumer-marketing that typically go unaddressed. You may or may not sell many more CDs, but you will help to establish a more professional and complete image of yourself online. And, at the end of the day, when a record label, reviewer, or potential employer is scouring the web looking for what you have going on, I promise that you will look all the more appealing if you cover these bases.

My First Steps When Considering a New Author – The first thing I look for in a book proposal is the author’s online platform. This is not to say that I turn away projects where the author has not hit the New York Times bestseller list or has a Twitter following over 100k. Rather, I look for the following:

  1. Does the author have a website? (Even if it’s a bare bones landing page.)
  2. Does the author have a Facebook page and/or Twitter handle? (Even if it’s for personal use.)
  3. Is the author involved on Goodreads or similar book community sites?
  4. Does the author seem like a genuinely interesting and nice person to deal with?

Through helping my husband with publicity and marketing efforts online, I approached the whole project in the same way I would for one of our authors. I started with these initial points and then researched other types of outlets are available to artists that are similar to those I’m accustomed to in the book world. I came across a lot of great tools, and realized that many issues faced by authors and by musicians are virtually the same. It pays to spend some of your time making sure that you represent yourself well via outlets like these.  If you don’t use these tools to present your work to your community, then you should think about starting now.

Douglas and I have developed a short series of posts that will share some of the ideas we came up with by looking for ways to apply my experience in publishing to help musicians increase the effectiveness of their marketing in the digital world. In the posts of this series I’ll talk about tools, online platforms and other resources that will be helpful to musicians, as well as ideas about how to organize your time and get the most out of your efforts. The overall takeaway here is that online marketing is very important, and better yet, it can be done in a variety of ways that don’t cost money!

Mary Cummings is the editorial director of Diversion Books, a digital publishing venture that has produced many bestselling ebooks for authors like Mark Cuban, Mike Leach, and Jenny Gardiner. Mary has worked in editorial and marketing capacities, assisting authors in every step of the publishing process. Follow her on Twitter @sum_mary.

7 thoughts on “Industry Perspective: Online Marketing Basics for Musicians

  1. Reece Sullivan says:

    Thanks Douglas and Mary!

    I’m happy I just found your blog . . .

    One of my main problems, by my own assessment, is that my website somehow doesn’t look very well traversed like others seem to look . . . and I don’t really know how to acheive that . . .

    Any advice?

    1. Douglas Detrick says:

      Hello Reece! Thanks for reading. Are you asking how to make your site look like it is visited often? Or are you asking how to bring more visitors to your site?

      1. Reece Sullivan says:

        Well, although bringing more to the site would be great, it just seems to me that my site looks like it’s not very busy . . . not as bad as a ghost-town-site, but not what it oughta be exactly . . . and I’m not really sure whether it’s about the layout or the content or what . . .

    2. Douglas Detrick says:

      Reece, my (very quick) thoughts after looking at your site are that I’m not exactly sure what you do by looking at the home page. Are you a singer/songwriter, a child photographer, or something else? I’m assuming the photo is of you as a child, and that’s definitely cute, but also a bit confusing. The subtitle “wordsmith” makes you sound like a writer, but I’m not sure if that’s true because of the picture.

      If you want your site to feel more fresh and current, then the best way to achieve that is by putting new content on it as regularly as you can manage. Then, if you have the capability, link to the new content off the homepage, like a blog. If you are using wordpress, which I recommend, then is pretty easily done either through the use of plugins or switching the home page to display your most recent posts. That’s all I can tell you through the comments here, but if you’d like to talk more about it we could schedule a consultation to come up with some new ideas. If that sounds good to you, contact me through the contact page of my site and we can set something up. Good luck!

    3. Mary Cummings says:

      Hi Reece,

      Thanks for commenting! I totally agree with what Doug’s articulated. When I go to your site, I’m not sure what’s what. I always think a very simple, straightforward approach is best to sites, and definitely to homepages. Your homepage should very clearly indicate what it is that you do, any recent news, upcoming events, and a call to action, like “Sign up for my newsletter” or “Listen to tracks from my newest release.” I’d also suggest using widgets to use so that every page shows people what they can possibly do to further engage with you.


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