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My $500 Song Promotion

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.

Strangers routinely hit me up in my DMs with overly broad questions like, “I’ve got a new song coming out. How should I promote it?”

I’d generally just refer them to my blog, where they wouldn’t find a dedicated answer to that question. UNTIL NOW.

It obviously depends on the budget. And to be honest, I don’t typically set one. If something works, I keep doing it. If it doesn’t, I stop.

Sometimes I test out crazy ideas under the guise of researching a blog post. I feel justified in wasting a little money if it prevents you from doing the same.

This month was a different story. I released a song with two collaborators, and we split the $500 promotion budget.

Our goal is to reach new listeners and hopefully trigger some Spotify algorithmic streams in the process.

It’s crucially important to note that we fully intend to lose money. ROI will be zero. Any royalties we make from streams will go right back into the campaign.

We are prioritizing long-term growth over short-term gain. Even for long-term growth, this isn’t the best possible use of the money.

Just so we’re clear.

Song Promotion Expense #1: Spotify Canvas

I hired Walker Dunn to create a Spotify Canvas for the song, which is a short looping visual that plays onscreen during mobile playback.

Normally he charges $150, but I had him do a batch of eight, so he discounted it to $100. Here’s the full set with no sound:

Keep in mind that the Spotify playback controls cover up a significant portion of the lower half. You can witness my canvases in action on my Spotify profile (mobile only). Currently my top six songs have them.

He even created wide versions of a couple of them to use as visualizers on YouTube:

Definitely money well spent.

As an aside, you gotta love that YouTube comment section:

Song Promotion Expense #2: SubmitHub

I’ve written about SubmitHub extensively, most recently here. In a nutshell, it’s a platform where you submit tracks to curators (bloggers, playlisters, influencers, YouTube channels) for a buck or two a pop and get a guaranteed response.

As a curator myself, I get a discount on credits, so as usual, I went a teensy bit overboard.

I submitted to 89 curators and got responses from 83 of them for about $80.

In the process I discovered a cool new-to-me feature: if a curator has approved any of your collaborators in the past, SubmitHub lets you know. As a result, I submitted to a half dozen curators I would’ve otherwise never considered.

We got 9 approvals, which is decidedly “not bad.” I was particularly excited about POPMUZIK, who hadn’t approved one of my tracks since 2018.

Song Promotion Expense #3: YouTube Ads

I’ve never written about advertising on YouTube, which is done through Google Ads, and I don’t plan to. It’s messy, confusing, and I haven’t done enough testing to confidently say what works best.

That said, I’ve had a “good enough” campaign in place for as long as I can remember, and every day it brings me views, comments, and subscribers.

The video for Neon Lights, after a short intro, is static cover art. Despite the lack of visual excitement, it’s doing quite well: 2.3K views, 179 likes (2 dislikes), and 41 comments.

My ads are responsible for 60% of those views:

All for the low, low price of $33.

If you’re just looking for cheap views, you can get them for half of what I’m paying through Drooble YouTube Promotion. I’m targeting specific keywords and countries, and retargeting past engagers, to connect with people most likely to become genuine fans.

Song Promotion Expense #4: Facebook Ads

It won’t come as a surprise that most of our budget has been devoted to Facebook and Instagram ads directing people to a Smart Link. I devoted a whole post to Smart Links here.

I was hoping to have a few tidy screenshots to show off how amazing my campaign was. In fact, I planned to write an entire post on Facebook Ads best practices up until a few days ago, when my campaign results took a nosedive for no apparent reason (newsletter subscribers got all the gory details).

For now, you’ll have to settle for a quick description, and my promise to write that post at some future date when hindsight is 20/20.

I started off by creating ten videos in ScreenFlow using the cover art plus four free-to-use images from Unsplash, at 1080 x 1350 for news feeds and 1080 x 1920 for stories.

Here’s the top performer:

I’ll explain why I think it works so well in that future post, but here’s a quick tip: make sure your landing page matches your ad. My cost per conversion dropped 35% with that single tweak.

The ads are part of a conversion campaign, optimizing for clicks to Spotify. While clicks to other services like Apple Music, YouTube, and SoundCloud are more than welcome, they don’t count as a conversion in Ads Manager.

Post-nosedive, I’m opting for narrow, safe, yet relatively inexpensive targeting to Argentina and a few smaller South and Central American countries. Brazil has always been a top performer, but I’m advertising my playlist there and I don’t want to compete against myself in the ads auction.

Once things stabilize, I’ll slowly expand and test until I’m confident that you can replicate my results.

So far we’ve spent $150 and at two weeks, we’re at 9K Spotify streams.

There’s likely not much correlation between our ad spend and stream count. Only 22% of those streams were from my (I assume “our”) profile and catalog.

I wish there were a better way to measure our success on the platform, but Spotify is where data goes to die. Unless you’re an unknown artist starting fresh, it’s difficult if not impossible to tie your promotional efforts to your Spotify for Artists numbers.

The exception to that rule is playlist promotion. Playlist follower counts update immediately (if you navigate away from the playlist and then back). When I turn off my playlist ads, I stop getting new followers, despite at least a half dozen artists sharing the playlist on their socials every week.

So that’s where I test out theories.

Song Promotion Wrap-Up: By the Numbers

So, how would I spend that $500? Here’s my recommendation, which roughly approximates our current campaign:

$150 Spotify canvas
$100 SubmitHub
$50 YouTube ads
$200 Facebook/Instagram ads

Do you need a Spotify canvas? Your guess is as good as mine. I’m sure you can get it done for less, or do it yourself, but the same can be said for cover art.

If you just wanted to reach as many people as possible for the lowest cost, you could devote $500 to YouTube ads, but I doubt you’d see much of a ripple effect outside the platform.

Obviously this isn’t a complete checklist — just one admittedly uncreative approach. You could just as easily devote your entire budget to influencer marketing, or if you’ve got more time than money, go all-in on an organic social media and email campaign.

How would you spend a $500 song promotion budget? Let me know in the comments!


  1. ‘Sometimes I test out crazy ideas under the guise of researching a blog post. I feel justified in wasting a little money if it prevents you from doing the same.’

    And that’s why we love you so much!

    So pleased to see all your successes in the past year. Thanks again for all the great articles.

  2. Nice. Do you think it’s worthy to submit to Youtube promo channels in 2021? Some channels do mixes with multiple tracks, in a dj style.
    Personally I love Youtube because that’s where I discover most of the new music. It’s prolly the best place for when you invest in visuals.

    Keep up the great work.

  3. Thanks for the detailed breakdown of spending and results, Brian. Your blog has quickly become my go-to for music promotion advice… when I discover a new music promotion / playlist / sync license agent / whatever website or service, I always come here to check and see if you’ve covered them and what your experience was.

    It isn’t apples to oranges, as you’ve got a built-in fanbase due to releasing music for years (and that lucky mislabeling that happened early on – =-)), and we only started releasing music in the last 12 months (despite having been a musician my whole life). Still, your chronicling of experiences with each service definitely helps me not make some mistakes that appeared promising at first!

    So I want to ask if you’ve had any experience with They seem to have been around awhile. They certainly market themselves as an all-in-one solution; distribution, AI mastering, playlist promotion, television (appearances!), sync licensing agent. I don’t need a distributor, I’m happy with mine, I don’t need mastering, but I’m wondering if their other services are legit or not. They are not transparent about their pricing (but claim to distribute for free). Do you have any experience, or even hearsay?

    1. Thanks for the kind words Michael!

      I’ve been out of the sync game for a while now, and I really need to remedy that. I had never heard of Music Gateway before your comment, but I’m skeptical. For one, the site features a bunch of stock images, when you’d think they would highlight some of the more prominent artists they serve.

      I’d just as soon seek out the best services a la carte.

  4. Thanks for a great article! I didn’t know you had such a wealth of information on song marketing, I’m looking forward to diving more.
    I tried TikTok influencer marketing through playlist push. I had 6 influencers make videos (really random and not targeted to watch I thought they would be sadly) for $300. A couple of other people picked up on the song and about 20 other people made videos inspired from the song. Here’s where it is on TikTok now:
    If I were to try this again I would create a dance/move and ask only TikTokers who dance to create a video mimicking the move.
    I did have one person who’s been in marketing for a while sale influencer marketing doesn’t work…but who knows. I’ve done influencer marketing in other areas and a couple companies keep rehiring me so apparently there is something there.

    1. Great to hear from you Jenna!

      I didn’t realize Playlist Push offered those sorts of campaigns! I wonder if my 7.5% discount code (KNNX437) applies. Unfortunately it’s only good for a first campaign.

      I also didn’t know you could link to your sound. I can see 11 videos with my latest single from a similar campaign that I’ll write about soon, but I can’t figure out how to link to it (search for “color theory mages”).

      I haven’t drawn any hard conclusions yet, but it’s certainly hard to track the effects of an influencer marketing campaign!

  5. Hey Brian,

    Here’s maybe a bit of a request for you to write down next time:

    1) doing promotion on a budget or squeezing the most juice from the cash
    * what would be the minimum budget required to do any promotion from your perspective
    based on what I’ve seen I would say Facebook Ads + your own playlist, but willing to hear about more

    2) doing promotion from a new artist perspective
    * imagine this is your first Color Theory release and that you have nothing except for the knowledge you acquired – what would be your route to go?
    I know that new artists have to invest in order to get money in the long run, but, what would be the sustainable route for new artist to go without wasting thousands even for the sake of the slower headstart

    Thanks for all the tips anyway, you made a difference to my mindset definitely.

    1. I appreciate the suggestions Vlad!

      For both articles, I’d need to know what the artist’s goal is. Do they want to sell CDs? Get booked at a local venue? Become a full-time producer? Land a sync licensing deal? My advice would vary considerably.

      If as you mention, the goal is simply to become sustainable, I don’t have an answer for you. It may be impossible for all but the supremely talented and incredibly lucky.

      I’m not your typical promotion guru selling courses, coaching, membership, or books. I mostly just test out promising new sites and services and write about my results.

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