Key Performance Indicators will help you measure your success

Monitoring success and growth as an independent musician can be abstract at best.

You pour your blood, sweat, and tears in an effort to create something meaningful, but tracking progress week to week while maintaining a connection with your audience might make it seem like you're running in place.

This is where you have to remind yourself that success stories don’t happen overnight. Establish multiple ways to gauge your success and develop a long-term path to reaching your goals as a musician. You can call them metrics or benchmarks, but we'll call them key performance indicators, or KPIs. Whatever you call them, they serve the same purpose: to provide you a means to measure your growth and performance.

For every action you take in your music marketing strategy, you should establish a way to measure how effective it is. This helps you identify what is working in your marketing efforts so you can tweak and continue to use them while helping you recognize and avoid wasting time on ineffective initiatives. Take a look at the KPIs listed below and see how you can focus on different areas to grow your fan base and revenue and improve your marketing's effectiveness.


As in any industry, earning revenue is a primary focus for your business of being a musician.

Music sales. The music industry was focused on album sales as the primary – if not only – revenue stream for many years. As such, it was the only real indicator of success and growth. While it would be foolish to consider CD, vinyl, and digital sales to be your sole revenue generator as a musician, it's just as foolish to ignore them as a KPI. Music sales not only represent a substantial percentage of income for most independent musicians, album and single sales are a valuable indicator of how many of your fans are willing to support your career by making a financial investment in you.

Merch sales. Don’t underestimate the importance of an enticing store front. Just like with album sales, on- and offline merch sales are another valuable gauge of how many of your fans are willing to invest in your brand. It’s important to track how much you sell of each item, keep your inventory levels stocked in your key products, and understand the relative importance and profit margin of each item in your merch line.

Attendance numbers. The importance of live music revenue has grown over the years, so ticket sales and attendance numbers may be one of the most relevant KPIs for gauging growth over the months and years.

Licensing. This has developed into an amazing opportunity for discovery and revenue for musicians of all kinds at every level in their music careers. If your focus is to create and pitch existing songs for licensing deals or sync placement, tracking your revenue on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis is a great KPI to gauge your progress over time.

Social media

Whether or not your social media efforts lead to direct sales, there is no arguing that a fan base engaged with your strong online presence will contribute to the growth of your career. You can gauge the effectiveness of your content and community-management strategies by monitoring several KPIs related to social media.

Engagement. If you track engagement solely as your number of YouTube views or Facebook likes, "engagement" might not have a meaningful relationship to your growth. But, if you approach engagement as an opportunity to engage in genuine interaction – as well as the potential to lead to discussion, continued action, and the sharing and dissemination of your content – it is obvious these KPIs can correlate to positive long-term growth in your music career and fan base.

Stories about you. This is public relations in a nutshell. In the past, this would have been about the major influencers: if the biggest and most popular print publications were talking about you, you were breaking through to the public consciousness. That began splintering into niches and subsections long ago, and today’s music industry is so fragmented, your focus should be on targeting outlets within your musical niche that promote and share content through Facebook posts, blog posts, podcasts, interviews, videos, tweets, etc. People increasingly talking about you and your music – anywhere online – is a valuable indication of growth as it shows you are becoming more relevant and identifiable within your niche.

Networks. When analyzing your brand and business, it's worth identifying two kinds of networks: your professional network, and your fan base. Your fan base is of the upmost importance, and growth indicators mentioned here – music sales, ticket sales, subscribers – are how you measure your progress. But your professional network is another essential KPI – it’s not always about "what you know," but “who you know.” Your professional network includes the people in the music industry who can become strategic partners, collaborators, champions, advocates, and more. Establishing, nurturing, and tracking these relationships is an important part of your potential to succeed in the music industry.

Email newsletter

While social media is undeniably effective when used well, email marketing is still the king of direct messaging. It provides a platform where you can open up in a personal way, it's the most effective way to control the delivery of your message directly to your fans, and most important, it gives you the best opportunity to present a clear call to action. Music careers can be advanced through effective newsletters, and these KPIs can ensure you are effectively building yours.

Subscriptions. Email and newsletter subscriptions are a meaningful and easily-tracked metric that indicates the size of your most accessible fan base. Your email subscribers are the most likely to support you and purchase goods from you, so not only should you be monitoring the growth of your subscribers monthly, you should pay close attention to how this number is affected – positively and negatively – by your other marketing actions (album releases, tour announcements, promotional giveaways, etc.).

Open rates. Producing a newsletter isn’t enough to make a career – your emails need to be an effective marketing and sales tool if they are expected to contribute to your success. Open rates are an initial indication of this success. While an open doesn’t indicate the results of your call to action, those numbers will tell you if your newsletter and subject line are compelling to your fans, which is an important step toward building loyalty and eventually making sales. Most email services gives you access to monitor the open rate of your campaign and compare it to your previous emails, your average open rate, and the industry standards.

Conversions (or click throughs). These numbers are a great indication of how effective your newsletter is at driving your fans to purchase your goods or take whatever action you wanted them to: check out a single, watch a video, get a discount code for your album release party, etc. Every newsletter should have one focal call to action, and most email marketing platforms give you analytics regarding click-through rates and exactly which links were clicked and where they appeared in your email. This conversion rate is a critical indicator of how effective your newsletter and offers are and can help you to understand which calls to action resonate with your audience.

Jon Ostrow is Director of Sales at Bandsintown. Follow him on Twitter @jon_ostrow.