Thursday, June 5, 2014

10 Marketing Basics for Musicians

With the barrage of new websites and blogs targeting independent artists, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to marketing your music. Information and ideas are everywhere and unless you’ve got a strong marketing foundation it can feel like trying to put together a giant puzzle without being able to look at the box. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of 10 marketing basics to help expose the underlying structure that makes a music marketing campaign successful.
1. The music has to be great. If your music isn’t cutting it, your time will be better spent working on that rather than coming up with clever marketing ideas. Trying to market bad music is like trying to conduct electricity through plastic. You can ramp up the voltage, but the charge isn’t going to go very far.
2. Get in front of people. Good internet marketing should be used in combination with live performances, not as a substitute. You have to create a live show that’s remarkable. Get in front of real people and show them why you or your band deserve their attention and their money. You’re going to have an uphill battle trying to market a band that plays mediocre shows or that doesn’t play shows at all.
3. Tell people who you are. If I happen to walk in half-way through your set, don’t make me work to find out who you are. Make sure I know your name and that I’ll remember it. Put it on your kick drum. Have a banner. Mention your name a few times.
If I meet you somewhere, be able to tell me who you are as an artist-clearly and concisely. If you can’t condense the essence of your music into a short and interesting sentence then you will have problems marketing yourself.
4. Get email addresses. Have a friend or two go around and collect emails while you play. You need a means to market to the people who want to stay in touch with you. Don’t just count on people finding out how and when to buy your CD or go to your show. Be proactive. Make your mailing list a priority and don’t miss opportunities to expand it. I went to a panel discussion over the weekend that included Ariel Hyatt. She passed around a clipboard where people could write in their email address and in return they got some cool tips on web marketing. It’s not random luck that she is a very successful publicist.
5. Connect. Derek Sivers tells the story of how Terry McBride of the Network Music Group came up with the idea to have one of the bands he managed take a different approach to selling CDs at their shows. Typically they would mention that they had CDs for sale for $15. What they decided to try instead was telling the audience that they wanted everyone to leave with a CD and that they could pay whatever they could – even if that meant it was free. They appealed to a sense of emotional connectedness with their fans and changed the dynamic of the sale. They ended up bringing in about 4x as much money per night with this approach! And because they had more music in circulation in the towns where they did this, they ended up dramatically increasing their turnout for future gigs.
6. Simplicity is key. There’s a saying in marketing: “The confused mind always says no.” If you’re not clear on who you are and what you want people to do then your fans won’t be either. Don’t ask people to do too many things. If you’re at a show, don’t tell people to see Joe to buy a CD, then go to Cindy to buy a T-Shirt and then be sure to find Jamal to sign up for the mailing list. You can have someone collecting email addresses, but also have a signup form at your merch booth, where you sell your merch and CDs. Send everyone there. “Don’t forget to stop by and see Janet for CDs and T-shirts.” Mention this more than once.
The same thinking applies for your website. Don’t tell people to follow you on Twitter, vote for you in a contest, buy a t-shirt and listen to the new song all at the same time. Have those options available, but be clear about what is the top priority. If you decide that the priority is for people to purchase your music, make sure that when people visit your site they can clearly see how to purchase your music.
7. Repetition, repetition, repetition. Marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson suggests that people need to be exposed to a product an average of nine times before they will take action and buy it. Don’t expect people to come to a show because they saw a flyer. Think long term. Stay on track and keep hammering your message home.
8. Create a funnel. One strategy that affiliate marketers use is creating a number of sites that support what they call their “money site.” They’ll create sites designed to pull in and engage new people, with the ultimate goal of sending them to the money site, which is optimized to convert these visitors into customers. I recommend thinking about your social networking profiles as your supporting sites that funnel traffic to your website, which is your “money site.” Test different ideas on your main site to see what works. Tweak and optimize it so that you convert more and more of your visitors into fans and customers.
9. Ask for the sale. Don’t be shy when it comes to promoting your product and asking people to buy it. If you don’t ask people to buy what you’re selling then you probably won’t make much money. If this feels weird or uncomfortable to you, I highly recommend checking out the work of T.Harv Eker. He’s got a great book called “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” and does seminars all over the world, many of which are free.
10. Keep score. One thing that successful artists have in common with business people is that they know the score. They keep track of the results they get and use this feedback to help guide them.
Know what you sold on any given night. Know what your net profit was on a given night. Know how many people signed up for your mailing list. Compare those numbers to the last time you played at the same venue or in the same town. Establish goals and compare your numbers to your goals. Keep track of the traffic to your website and your conversions statistics. You can set up free traffic analysis for your site at
If you sell 10 CDs on your site one day and then you decide to put a “buy now” button on your home page and you only sell 8 CDs the next day, then you might start to think it wasn’t such a good idea. If you’re keeping track of your traffic stats though, then you might see that there were 312 visitors the first day, but only 150 the second day. This means that you actually converted a much higher percentage of visitors on the second day. If that trend keeps up then you know you’ve made the right move. If you don’t know how much traffic you’re getting then you’re working in the dark.
Another benefit is being able to see where traffic to your site is coming from. If you notice a spike in traffic and you see that it’s coming from a blog that posted about you, then you can capitalize by visiting the blog and initiating a relationship, or at least leaving a comment and reinforcing your presence.
If you understand the fundamentals of marketing you’ll have a solid frame of reference to help you make sense of all the new sites and services that are constantly popping up. It’s important to know not just how or what to do, but also why. I strongly recommend reading business and marketing books to help you with your music career. You might be surprised by the insights you get by reading authors like Seth Godin, Al Reiss, Jay Conrad Levinson, and Claude Hopkins.

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