Music business and lockdown—has the industry gone digital?
Any musician who is well-known throughout Germany has already achieved a lot, yet has so much still ahead of them. An international career is not only the dream of many musicians, but also a stepping stone to new contacts in the industry and a broader fan base. Thanks to digital networks and resources, it is easier than ever for musicians today to become better known internationally. Until a few years ago, this kind of reach was only possible with an international label, but now you can take worldwide success into your own hands. In this post we will show you what international marketing looks like and how you can make the most of it for yourself.
There are more than 7.5 billion people on our planet. Only about 80 million of them come from Germany. This corresponds to just over one percent of the entire population that you can address as a local musician from Germany. In an international context, on the other hand, you can reach a lot more people, build your fan base and probably also become well-known faster. As is so often the case, the Internet is a good basis for taking the step towards an international music career.
Before you can think about live concerts, big performances, and sales, the number of streams of your songs play an important role. In the best case, these will secure you a small income that you can use to regularly cover costs and the necessary push to draw people's attention to your social media presence and websites. If you only address German-speaking listeners, you are missing out on a potentially enormous audience. In times of seemingly unlimited online reach across national borders, you have significantly more options.
It’s obvious: It’s easier for English-language music to become internationally known and successful. This does not mean that you shouldn't write in German. Many musicians only develop their full creative potential in their own language. However, this fact should make you aware that you are focusing on one market. You can also be successful in this market, as numerous German artists like Schmyt or LEA prove.
For international marketing—which is what this article is about—German-language music incurs one or two stumbling blocks. This is simply due to the fact that the German language does not provide the necessary range in an international comparison. Very few choose German as a foreign language and can identify with the lyrics. Of course it could be that your music is so good that fans don't care about the language or they translate the lyrics, just be aware of this specialty. Recently, after winning the Eurovision Song Contest, the band Måneskin proved that you can also celebrate international success with lyrics in Italian. With German lyrics you also have a great chance in Switzerland or Austria.
Even if your creative freedom is always in the foreground, songs can in a certain way be written and designed for international success. It is important that your music addresses a topic that is as relatable as possible and that it focuses on this in a musical way. Internationally popular topics or all-time favorites such as love and friendship work extremely well here. You can also use a certain international mainstream as far as the genre and the musical design of the songs are concerned. Take a look at the charts, see what is currently working and use it as a guide when writing your songs.
Of course, we cannot offer you a recipe for how your songs will land in the international charts. There is no such thing as “that one chord” or “that one theme.” However, there is a certain direction in which your music can go that increases your chances of international success. The combination of high quality, a good image and successful international marketing is the holy trinity here.
In our posts self-marketing in the music industry, we have already dealt with many aspects that can also be of help to you when applied internationally. However, we have summarized the most important tips for independent and strong marketing for you:
Only a few musicians have managed to develop into a real size on the international market in such a short time as Modern Talking. Even if the musical quality of the works by Thomas Anders and Dieter Bohlen is debatable, they are a good example of international success.
Above all, the catchy melodies and their simple lyrics, which are understandable in every culture, became the basis of their success. To this day, the successful songs are streamed thousands of times - even from a time without social media and other modern conveniences.
In less than ten years, Modern Talking has managed to break the 120 million record mark. After they quickly gained cult status in the German music charts the South American, Russian and huge Asian music markets followed. And the simple songs are still played in Russia to this day. Even if such a success could not be easily replicated in this way, the band's success stands for excellent marketing and international music design, from which you can still learn a lot today.
Should you want to listen to the songs of Modern Talking again, then we have picked out two of the duo’s most famous classics here:
Another example of international success is the South Korean boy band BTS. Unlike Modern Talking, BTS is a very classic example of how social media can trigger a real hype around musicians. BTS became known, among other things, through the social networks in which the band is more than broadly represented. The popular songs can be viewed/heard on Facebook as well as on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Combined with unique music videos and a very special way of making K-Pop mainstream, the guys have managed to gather an international community, sell-out large venues around the world, and even work with big brands like Louis Vuitton.
The staggering success of BTS (especially on YouTube) can hardly be put into words. The music video for their song “Idol,” for example, garnered more than 85 million views in just 24 hours. As of now, the video has surpassed one billion (!) views on the platform. Even if the wave of success has flattened slightly during the coronavirus pandemic, BTS is still the best example of international success at the highest level. The band is now even working with international greats like Coldplay:
CD sales (which were perhaps the one true metric of success in the days of Modern Talking) hardly contribute to musical success today. Music portals and streams are today’s equivalent to CD sales. YouTube can become a stepping stone, as evidenced by the artist LEA, and Spotify can make your music accessible all over the world.
SoundCloud is also very important. This music portal is designed to distribute music internationally and uses social media as a basis for this. At the same time, SoundCloud offers the ability to follow musicians directly, just like Spotify and other streaming services. Other alternatives with the same basis are ReverbNation or Jamendo. The best thing to do is to take a look at the various portals for yourself.
When it comes to economic success, there is no getting around Spotify. Many musicians live, among other things, from the streams on Spotify. Spotify streams, however, only really become noticeable in when a certain threshold is reached. With a profile on Spotify you can land on the home pages of users in a wide variety of countries and quickly gain international recognition. This is an article that is explicitly dedicated to Spotify Marketing.
At the beginning of the article we already mentioned the labels that can be important for aspiring musicians in the international arena. One advantage at this point is that you can benefit from your label's many (often international) contacts. However, marketing in the label is not the right thing for every musician. This is mainly due to the fact that the rights to your music and the associated design with the label are no longer entirely yours. So you lose a piece of independence. You can find more on this topic in this post.
To learn more about the international marketing of your music, it is also worth taking a look at our personal ads. There you can find musicians who will either tell you about their experience or who are in the process of making their music known better internationally. Exchange ideas or maybe even meet to tackle the international marketing of your music together.
Originally published on December 19, 2021, updated on December 19, 2021