Musician promotion used to mean simply going out on the road to play music and promote a record. Those techniques still exist today, though many other methods have also arisen to give a musician the ability to promote his or her work to a broad audience. Internet websites are geared toward giving musicians a free spotlight for their music, and professional marketers are available for promotion if the musician is willing to pay for such services. Getting signed to a record deal with a record company is still a viable way to promote one's music as well.
Independent musicians should generally start small and take advantage of whatever budget they may have. Musician promotion can be done on a local level with flyers, radio advertisements, local shows, open mics, and other free or inexpensive venues at which a musician can play music or otherwise advertise. This is a good way to start building a local following and gain the notice of larger venues or advertising opportunities. Playing music as often as possible is perhaps the best musician promotion available; it may be free, and the musician may end up getting paid.
The Internet has opened up many opportunities for musician promotion. Some websites are specifically designed with musicians in mind. The musician can upload recordings of his or her music for people to hear throughout the world, and websites can be built to promote that musician's work specifically. A musician may choose to hire a web designer who can design a dedicated website with audio and video capabilities, or he or she might take advantage of the free social networking sites to promote the music. Social networking sites allow a musician to reach a wide audience and mount viral campaigns to spread the music.
Sending a recording to a record company is certainly still a viable option, though this is perhaps one of the most difficult routes to take. A record company may recognize the musician's talent and choose to sign that musician to a deal, but the musician should not simply wait around for that to happen. Record companies prefer safe investments, so if the musician has already built a small to medium following and has been playing shows to good-sized crowds, the record company is more likely to notice the musician and consider investing in him or her. The musician should take every free or inexpensive opportunity available to promote the music and gain the notice of a larger audience.