Music Marketing 101


Authored by Mike King


Course Code: OMBUS-125

Next Semester
Starts April 6

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


The music industry has undergone extreme changes over the past few years, many of which have opened the doors for developing bands and artists. Gone are the days where the only option for getting fans to hear your music relied upon support from a limited number of "gatekeepers." Music Marketing 101 provides artists, managers, and business entrepreneurs with the foundational music marketing base they'll need to succeed and thrive in this new music business.

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This course starts with the basics - an overview of key music marketing principles, terms, and practices which together form the foundation for all music marketing plans. From there, students will dig into the key areas of opportunities for musicians, including merchandising, publicity, radio promotion (online and traditional), retail & distribution (online and traditional), advertising, and touring. Students will learn what companies and partners to work with to reach their core fans, how to communicate with them, and the ways to leverage the changes and new opportunities that the internet offers to marketers. The information in this course can form the basis for a full marketing campaign, or be immediately implemented into a new marketing and promotion campaign. This course looks at the opportunities available at both traditional terrestrial marketing opportunities, as well as online opportunities. By the end of the course you will have an active marketing plan and timeline tailored to your own unique strengths and budget.

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Gain a firm understanding of the foundational best practices involved with all successful music marketing campaigns
  • Develop an integrated approach to music marketing in the focus areas of Press, Retail, Distribution (online and traditional), Radio, Advertising, Merchandising, and Touring
  • Understand online music distribution and retail: the terms, deals, formats, options, and key companies to work with
  • Know the PR outlets that matter - national, regional, local, specialized and trade press - how and when to communicate to them, and when to hire outside help
  • Learn how to get your music into brick and mortar independent retailers, what kind of materials you should make to support your release, and the inner workings of the online retail and distribution outlets
  • Understand how radio promotion works, and learn when you should consider an independent promotion company
  • Know what to make for merchandise, when to make it, and how much to spend
  • Create a timeline and a working marketing plan tailored to your individual strengths
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Lesson 1: Getting Started with Music Marketing

  • An Integrated Approach to Marketing
  • How Press, Radio, Retail, Internet and Touring Work Together
  • Core Marketing Elements
  • Awareness, Demand, and Sales Vehicles
  • Important Music Marketing Terms You Should Know
  • Discussion: The Record Release Process
  • Touring, Merch, and the Importance of Building a Community
  • Touring and Merchandise as a Revenue Stream
  • Artist Case Study: Phish and Building a Community/Exploding their Fan Base
  • Ten Keys to the Band's Community Building Success
  • The Future of Music Coalition's Kristin Thomson on Merch and Touring
  • Maximizing Your E-Mail List
  • E-mail Best Practices
  • Process
  • Organizing Your Street Team
  • Quiz: Getting Started with Music Marketing
  • Assignment 1: The Guster Rep Program

Lesson 2: Making Money through Merchandise Sales

  • The Artist as a Brand
  • Taking Advantage of Revenue Streams
  • Discussion: Artists & Licensing
  • How Merchandising Works, Who's Involved, and Where the Money Comes From
  • Having your Label Handle Your Merchandise
  • Working with a Merchandiser
  • Merchandise on Your Own
  • Putting Together Your Plan: What to Make, What Not to Make, How Much to Make, How to Make It
  • Essential Items
  • Nonessential Items
  • The Importance of Merch
  • Merchandising Sales and Distribution Strategies
  • Selling Your Merch at Shows
  • Selling Your Merch Online from Your Own Site
  • Basic Online Store/Fulfillment/Merch Companies
  • Online Fulfillment Companies for Musicians
  • Manufacturing Merch and the Merch Table
  • Quiz: Making Money Through Merchandise Sales
  • Assignment 2: Your Band's Info

Lesson 3: Digital Retailers and Distributors

  • Digital Distribution Basics
  • Compression
  • DRM
  • Metadata
  • UPC
  • Online Music Retail Models
  • Permanent Downloads
  • Temporary Usage
  • Ad-Supported
  • Discussion: Streaming Services (Part 1)
  • Working with Online Music Retail Outlets
  • iTunes
  • Amazon MP3
  • Google Music
  • eMusic
  • Rhapsody
  • Spotify
  • From the Field Series
  • Online Music Aggregators/Distributors
  • CD Baby
  • TuneCore
  • Other Distributors
  • Discussion: Zoe Keating's Online Income
  • Larger Online Distributors with Benefits
  • Assignment 3: Downloading Music vs. Streaming Music

Lesson 4: Traditional Brick-and-Mortar Distributors

  • Physical Music Distributors: The Process and the Players
  • Major Distributors
  • Independent Distributors
  • True Independent Distributors
  • When Do You Need Physical Distribution?
  • Independent Artists and Distribution
  • Dalton Sim on the Difficulties and Opportunities with Physical Distribution
  • The Details
  • Distribution Fee and How It Is Calculated
  • Returns Reserves
  • Discounts, Manufacturing, Payment
  • Co-Op
  • Co-Op Opportunities at Retail
  • Free Goods
  • Marketing Tools: Helping Your Distributor Help You
  • Marketing Tools for Your Distributor
  • Promo Copies and P.O.P
  • Communicating with Your Distributor
  • Assignment 4: Physical Distribution

 Lesson 5: Marketing to Traditional Retail

  • Setting the Stage: The Problems with Retail, and How Smart Stores Are Overcoming Them
  • Low Margin / High CD Prices
  • Big Box Competition
  • The Importance of the Independent Retailer and Retail Coalitions
  • Benefits of Independent Retailers
  • How Smart Independents are Competing in This Environment
  • Specialization
  • From the Field Series
  • Consignment and Pricing Considerations
  • Retail Marketing Opportunities and Resources
  • In-Store Performances
  • Price and Positioning, Co-Op, and P.O.P. Items
  • Cover Art and Effective Packaging
  • Other Helpful Packaging Elements
  • SoundScan
  • Why SoundScan
  • Dalton Sim on Opportunities with Physical Retail
  • Assignment 5: Retail Field Report

 Lesson 6: Publicity 

  • Press Kit Essential
  • What Makes a Good Promo Kit?
  • Optional Materials
  • Digital Servicing vs. Physical Servicing
  • Common Problems with Promo Kits
  • The Importance of a Press Story
  • A Press Story in Action with a Major Artist
  • A Press Story in Action with a Developing Artist
  • Discussion: Nelson Wells on Telling Your Story to the Press
  • Determining Your Press Outlets: Print, Radio, TV, and Online
  • Print
  • How to Pitch Print Media
  • Television/Radio
  • Blogs/Online Music Sites
  • Independent Publicists
  • When Do You Need an Independent Publicist
  • What a Publicist Can and Can't Do
  • Dalton Sim on Independent Publicists
  • Assignment 6: Drafting Your Press Story

 Lesson 7: Radio 

  • When Should You Consider Radio Promotion?
  • When Should You Consider Radio Support?
  • What Else Should Be in Place Prior to Considering Your Radio Campaign?
  • When Should You Consider an online Radio Campaign?
  • How Noncommercial Radio Works
  • How College Radio Works
  • Current College Radio Challenges
  • What Is CMJ and Why Does It Matter?
  • How Noncommercial Community/Public Radio Works
  • Marketing to Noncommercial Radio
  • How Commercial Radio Works
  • Commercial Radio Formats
  • Charts and Reporting Commercial Radio Airplay
  • Independent Radio Promoters
  • What You Need to Look for in an Independent Radio Promoter
  • What an Indie Promoter Can (and Should) Do for You
  • How Long You Should Hire an Indie Promoter For
  • The Future of Radio: Internet Radio
  • Internet Radio and Social Networking
  • Marketing to Internet Radio
  • Internet Radio Royalties
  • Satellite Radio
  • Dalton Sim and Opportunities with Radio
  • Assignment 7: Researching Radio Options

 Lesson 8: Making the Most of a National Tour 

  • Key Players in the Touring Business
  • Club Owners, Promoters, Event Organizers
  • Booking Your Gig
  • Discussion: Harpers Ferry Booking
  • Promoting the Show: Working with the Venue
  • What you should be doing to promote yourself
  • Promoting the Show: Press
  • Tour Press Release
  • Promoting the Show: Retail
  • Benji Rogers on Touring
  • Tour Support from a Label
  • How Tour Support Works
  • Kristin Thomson on the Financials of Touring
  • Making the Band: Dalton Sim on Touring
  • Discussion: Dalton Sim on Touring
  • Expanding your Touring Base with Mike King
  • Assignment 8: Planning Your Tour

 Lesson 9: Advertising 

  • Print Advertising Options: Consumer, Trade, and Co-Op Print Ads
  • Discussion: Zine Focused Ad Plan (Part 1)
  • Researching Your Print Advertising Outlets
  • Media Advertising: Radio and Television
  • Online Radio
  • Discussion: NPR Ad Plan (Part 2)
  • Online Advertising: The Basics
  • Online Advertising: Researching Your Advertising Outlets
  • Online Advertising: Other Terms You Should Know
  • Online Advertising: Facebook Overview
  • Online Advertising: Facebook Process
  • Components of an Effective Ad
  • Headline
  • Description/Press Quotes
  • Call to Action
  • Timing Your Ad Campaign
  • Assignment 9: Create an Advertising Plan

 Lesson 10: Sync and Licensing 

  • Music Publishing & Licensing
  • Publishing: Ray Lamontagne
  • Publishing: Jim Lauderdale
  • From The Field: John Allen on Publishing
  • Music Uses & Sync Licensing
  • From The Field: John Allen on Sync Uses
  • Music Supervisors
  • Music Supervisor Chat with Toddrick Spalding
  • The Figgs: Music Supervision In Action
  • Discussion: Dalton Sim on Publishing Collaboration with Marketing
  • Behind The Band with Sloan: Mike Nelson, Manager
  • Music Houses
  • From The Field: Steve Krecklo
  • Assignment 10: Music and Sync Uses

 Lesson 11: Creating a Marketing Plan That Works

  • The Big Picture
  • Defining Your Goals
  • How Do I Pull All of This Off?
  • Finding Your Audience and Defining Your Market
  • Exercise: Set Goals and Define Audience (Part 1)
  • Components of an Effective Marketing Plan
  • Budgeting! The Components of a New Release Budget
  • Exercise: Setting Budget (Part 2)
  • Tailoring Your Plan to Your Strengths
  • Costs vs. Expense of your Marketing Initiatives
  • Assignment 11: Creating Your Final Marketing Plan

 Lesson 12: Timing Your Marketing Campaign: Putting It All Together 

  • Timing the Pre-Release Marketing of Your Record
  • Long Lead Pre-Release Marketing (15-20 weeks out from street date)
  • Moderate Lead Pre-Release Marketing (7-14 weeks our from street date)
  • Short Lead Pre-Release Marketing
  • How to Service Key Marketing Outlets Pre-Release
  • Pre-Release Marketing to Print Press
  • Pre-Release Marketing to Radio
  • Pre-Release Marketing to Retail
  • Pre-Release Marketing to Blogs
  • Post-Release Marketing Recap
  • Dalton Sim on Putting your Marketing Plan Together
  • Phase II Marketing: Capitalizing on Your Success
  • Exercise: Phase II Marketing
  • Assignment 12: Your Final Plan


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

This course does not have any prerequisites.

Recommended Textbook(s)

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in live chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of  Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software (available in the course when joining your first chat)
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal Microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection




Mike King is a course author, instructor, and the Vice President of Enrollment at Berklee College of Music and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Berklee Online. Prior to working at Berklee, Mike was the Marketing/Product Manager at Rykodisc, where he oversaw marketing efforts for label artists including Mickey Hart, Jeb Loy Nichols, Morphine, Jess Klein, Voices On The Verge, Bill Hicks, The Slip, Pork Tornado (Phish), Kelly Joe Phelps, and Frank Zappa's estate. Mike was the Director of Marketing and Managing Editor of Herb Alpert's online musician's resource, ArtistsHouseMusic, for three years.

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Mike has written and teaches three courses for Berklee Online: Music Marketing 101; Online Music Marketing: Campaign Strategies, Social Media, and Digital Distribution; and Music Business Trends and Strategies. His book, Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail was published by Berklee Press in 2009. Mike was recognized as the Best Music Business Teacher by the National Association of Record Industry Professionals (NARIP) in 2011.

Mike has written for Making Music magazine, International Musician, Hypebot, and American Songwriter, and has been quoted in NPR Morning Edition, the Huffington Post, Billboard, The Boston Globe, Wired, CNN, the Boston Phoenix, The Chicago Tribune, Music Connection, and Muso. He's also presented at MIDEM, CMJ, SXSW, NAMM, NARM, SF Music Tech, Futures of Entertainment @ MIT, and Music 2.0. Read Less



Jay Coyle is the founder and "Music Geek" at the digital marketing firm, Music Geek Services. His company provides artist services for the music industry and has been a Topspin-certified marketer since 2009. Built upon a life-long omnivorous obsession with marketing bands and mixing in equal parts of knowledge gained from an advertising-focused Journalism degree at the University of Georgia along with his skills running a Marketing consultancy for 5 years in Atlanta, Music Geek Services was finally created in 2008 immediately after Jay left a marketing position at the EMI CMG label in Nashville.

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Jay's first project under the Music Geek moniker was doing work as band archivist and label product manager for Canadian music veterans, Barenaked Ladies. Since then, Jay has worn a lot of hats including sales, marketing, artist development, business development, tour management, and product management. Jay is currently working with Sloan, the Presidents of the United States of America, Jars of Clay, and Carbon Leaf. Jay's core focus is to help further the careers of artists while partnering with them in a "D.I.Y. +" sort of way to have long-lasting and fan-focused careers. Read Less



John Lenac has helped to drive the evolution of the technology and music landscape since his days as a musician, band manager, and local concert promoter in the late '80s. He helped launch one of the first Alternative Rock FM stations (KTOZ, circa 1991), and grew it to become one of the highest-rated stations in the US. After programming and managing rock stations in Nashville and Kansas City, he was a Promotion Manager at TVT Records and then Rock Editor at HITS Magazine.

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In 2004, he joined LAUNCH/Yahoo! Music. As Head of Music Programming and Artist/Label Relations, he managed a team of radio and video music programmers and interfaced with record labels, artist managers, artists, and business leaders for Yahoo’s branded original content music programs. He then joined PledgeMusic as the Global Head of Business Development, negotiating and closing deals with record labels and various manufacturing, marketing, and ticketing companies. John has been developing and managing artists his whole career, served as the president of a music festival/concert series, and founded and ran his own FM talent management company.

John's work has contributed to millions of albums sold and put dozens of gold and platinum plaques on his wall. He has been a guest lecturer at several schools, including UCLA. He's been a panel moderator and panelist at music industry conventions all over the world, including: SXSW, CMJ, MUSEXPO, Worldwide Radio Summit, One Movement Festival, Music Export Finland, MUSEXPO EUROPE, and The Global Rock Summit. He has also been interviewed by various media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Variety, Records & Radio, Billboard, FMQB, and MTV.

John is currently the Founder/CEO of TechIT Media Group (consultancy for tech & media startups) and also Founder/CEO of WITHYN (record label, artist management and live events). Read Less



Bruce Houghton is founder and president of Skyline Artists Agency, representing a diverse roster of national and international touring talent including Zoe Keating, Darlingside, Poco, Freddie McGregor, Roger McGuinn, and many others. A sought-after industry expert and speaker, he has served on the Advisory Boards of Midem and SXSW Accelerator, is a graduate of the prestigious Leadership Music program, and serves as a senior advisor to Bandsintown. His top-ranked sites Hypebot and MusicThinkTank cover the new music industry and the way that technology is changing how music is created, marketed, consumed, and monetized.


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