Musicians can hustle to promote themselves like nobody’s business. As a musician myself, I can definitely relate to the creativity and passion we often put in getting our name, our band and our music out to those that we want to impact. From selling our CDs out of our trunk, to passing out homemade business cards and flyers at someone else’s concerts, to giving away free music in exchange for [insert favor here]. You name it, I’ve probably seen it, and may be guilty of doing myself.
Hustling for exposure is somewhat of a good thing, provided that your hustle is purely legit. But think about music hustling in today’s business culture: how do musicians get their name known? I read a lot of blogs that provide insight on what musicians should do, but not all of these authors have been in the trenches to back up their claims. In my research, most of the writers just know about the marketing side or the PR side, but they don’t really have a clue on what it takes to be THAT hustling musician. It’s like a sports or a music critic without the experience of playing sports or even picking up an instrument.
I’ve asked my closest musician friends – both veterans and newbies alike – about their marketing strategies and tactics in promoting and showcasing their music/band. To my surprise, only 1/5 of those I interviewed and researched have a solid marketing strategy up their sleeves; their ages stem from early twenties to mid-thirties. I would say about 3/5 have some sort of marketing “strategy” and the rest are purely “hustling” in its ghetto sense of the word.
From one musician to another, here are a few marketing 101 tips that are philosophies that can be applied to all sorts of marketing (SEO, email, social media, word of mouth and event marketing) and can be used strategically or through tactical approach.
Develop a Marketing Strategy, Then Use It As A Marketing Plan.
A. What is a Marketing Strategy?
So what do I mean when I say “marketing strategy?” Here’s a definition by Business Dictionary:
An organization’s strategy that combines all of its marketing goals into one comprehensive plan. A good marketing strategy should be drawn from market researchand focus on the right product mix in order to achieve the maximum profit potential and sustain the business. The marketing strategy is the foundation of a marketing plan.
A strategy is the foundation of a plan, and a plan – your roadmap – includes goals to execute.
Think about it this way: some musicians write beats first, while others write lyrics first. In this case, writing your strategy first is better than writing out your plan, because your plan has to be inline with your strategy. Writing down your strategy has a tremendous upside to your business: it gets you to think more of what you REALLY NEED versus REALLY WANT, and your plan puts your strategy into ACTION. Your plan sets the guidelines for your action, sets the tone for your tactics, lays out the goals you need for your target audience, and provides a framework for your thoughts and business ideas.
If you’re an R&B singer or an Emcee, you’re not going to be targeting bluegrass or country listeners. You and your music won’t be everything to everyone, but creating a marketing strategy and plan will guide your actions in your own niche. Your strategy and plan helps you to be in tune with your goals and keeps you in check with what you set out to do.
B. What are Your Goals and Visions?
While your goals and visions are part of your strategy, they are also to be implemented in your plan. If your strategy has goals that you want to achieve in XX years, then you need to account for how you want to achieve that goal. What would be the long-term execution that can help you achieve that goal? What are short-term ideas and steps that can help your long-term execution become a reality? These steps are part of your marketing plan that, when executed correctly, can help you gain success. Write these down, then plan how you are going to achieve these goals step by step.
And please, don’t tell me that your goal is to be the next Led Zeppelin or Eminem. You can be more original than that.
C. Integrate Your Marketing With Various Channels
We live in a business culture that recognizes a lot of opportunities (channels, platforms) as marketing opportunities, so make use of these in your plan.
- Use social media to develop a following, build virtual relationships develop and enhance your brand, curate your content, and drive sales and revenue.
- Get found using search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) so that you can be in front of potential listeners, producers, record labels and distributors in search results.
- Get your email marketing straightened out so that you can continue to build a strong stream of revenue, develop lead generation using your email lists and keep getting your products within listening ears of your users.
- Create lots of quality content (blog posts, instagram pics, tweets, facebook posts, pinterest pins) to diversify your styles and get your music in front of different people.
- Write press releases that are optimized for search engines, spread them out through channels like PRWeb, put them on your blog posts, then reach out to the media personally (or virtually) to get your name in front of their accounts.
- Create contests and promotions that offer savings to the customer while providing quality stuff to them, and spread them on your social channels, blogs, print marketing and word of mouth. Promos and contest also help you get more reach and relevance to potential listeners.
- Keep a conversational tone on all of your marketing efforts. Users don’t want you to be shoving your music down their throat, but if you ask genuinely and nicely, maybe they may let you spoon feed it to them.
Don’t forget that not everyone will be using the the same platforms the way that others would. Diversifying your network can get you more viable leads more than you could imagine.
Substance Says Don’t Believe The Hype.
I get it: music has hype, needs hype, and loves hype. But with all that jazz on the surface, the real deal is in the substance – who you are (for real) and what you’re really saying. If you say your lyrics are all about relevant substance to the audience, and your inserts tell the readers that you’re legit, then your promotional and marketing collateral should set that same tone. Lots of users – and we all know that a lot of those users can be ugly critics – can smell BS a mile away, and they’re going to critique not just your music, but all of your promos, handouts, flyers and marketing collateral as well. Most importantly, they’re going to critique your ACTIONS. If they don’t find substance in your actions or in your marketing, they’re probably not going to believe what you say in your music, and vice versa.
And what is substance? Substance can be on the eye of the beholder, so things can be subjective at best. But the key thing is to have substance that your target audience can relate to, be attracted to, and stand out to. In social media, anyone can be someone they’re not in real life, and anyone can hype up their persona to the max. So when people see you in concerts or at the local pub, be that substance that users will most likely engage with as a person and not just as a performer.
Plan Your Marketing for Action.
If you’re going to do the marketing yourself, you need more than creating good looking marketing materials to get results. You need a plan of action, and you need to plan for action.
The difference-maker between good marketing collateral and great marketing collateral is that the great ones involve both great design AND the ability to get that user to do what was told of them to do. Whether it is to show up at a concert, to sign up for a newsletter, to purchase a CD, or to visit your website, great marketing involves high quality, professional and great looking designs that provokes your audience to take action.
Let’s say that you have a concert coming up and you want to get as many people there as possible. You have flyers being posted up by your street team. Which flyer would you think would work best to get people in the door:
Flyer A has:
- Great design and look
- Show info and times
- Roster of musicians/bands
- Promos for tickets
- Promos for drinks/eats
- Discount coupon for the venue
Flyer B has:
- Great design and look
- Show info and times
- Roster of musicians/bands
- Promos for tickets
- Promos for drinks/eats
- Discount coupon to bring a friend (e.g. BOGO promo)
- Discount coupon for latest CD, purchased either at show or on website (e.g. 10% off if purchased on website, 15% off if purchased at show)
- Discount coupon for tees and other products, or mix (e.g. buy 2 tees get a CD free)
- Possible QR code that directs users to a landing page that includes those discounted coupons
Good design is different from great design, but not all designs will keep users engaged, for example, to your site, nor will these designs affect them the same way. Great content, however, will help keep users from dumping your site for another, causing them to stick around your site longer and visit more frequently.
A strong attention-grabbing headline with a strong, relevant image and supported with thought-provoking ideas and thought will help engage your users mentally and intellectually, regardless on whether they agree or disagree with your content. The idea isn’t really to agree or disagree; rather, you want to create discussion with the hopes of winning them through your content as a whole, including other posts or other elements (downloadable songs, merchandise, etc.).
Cult of Personality. Or Is It?
Personality and character are not just essential to your music persona, they are reflected in your marketing campaigns. Your true individual personality and character can be a great thing to use to get your users to listen to your music AND get your music in front of their friends. I’m not saying you have to be nice all the time, when being “nice” isn’t in your vocabulary (although it should). However, being a jerk doesn’t necessarily help get customers wanting your CDs, so being honest, forthright, personable and fun loving can increase your chances of being heard.
Marketing and Business Is About Attachment
The success of your marketing to a specific audience (or niche within your audience) will depend on how well your audience is attached to you and/or your music. Emotional, mental, intellectual, and even psychological connection with your user does make a difference in how you get yourself in front of your audience. Check out this example from the TV show, The IT Crowd (be sure to pay attention to the clip starting at :55 seconds).
In this clip, Roy (the brown-haired Irishman) finds out that some of the girls he likes are on Friendface (Facebook parody), so he immediately signs up after making fun of Jen for doing so. As he signs up, he discovers a game involving throwing soda to an open mouth, which he proceeds to play and becomes thirsty.
- The short-term interactions/connections that create an attachment – in this case, playing the game – causes Roy to be thirsty.
- The long-term interaction/connection that creates an attachment is Jen telling Roy that the girls that he likes are on Friendface.
Why do these work? Both short-term and long-term connections makes for better engagement opportunities with your audience than just telling them to go buy your CD or like your look. An example of short-term interactions can be a promotional offer (BOGO) or a limited time referral program (e.g. refer to a friend, get a free song). Long-term interaction can be found in things like content story-telling, which includes personal blog posts, videos, fan interviews and more.
Be Concise and Brief. Done.
Sometimes, it pays to be just like the title: be brief and concise, especially in social media. You don’t have to say too much to get your voice heard, as too much can drown out your message and won’t communicate anything to your users. Quality always trump quantity, and can get you better retweets and favorites in the long haul.
Hope this helps some of you who are looking to find better ways to get more out of your marketing. While these philosophies are adaptable to any marketing campaign, I’ll show you in future posts how to transform them into step-by-step guides for your marketing efforts.
Oh, and please feel free to comment and let me know if I left out anything!