Selling the DIY Dream

The larger music business has always contained a smaller industry focused on selling the dream of success to independent musicians. In the Go-Go record label days, this involved access to decision makers and copious amounts of advice on making your music more “commercial”. Musicians hoped that  Mr. Big would hear their amazing song, fall in love with it, and next thing you know, the band is flying around in private jets.

Today’s pitch is that relentless, athletic Internet marketing will eventually build a brand and a full-time career. While many of today’s tools are powerful and can be very effective, the business models of these companies are built on selling services to musicians and are not necessarily dependent on the success of the artist.

Marketing is key to the execution of every business plan, but by no means the whole enchilada. Successful businesses create products and services that meet fundamental human needs. DIY Internet music companies are serving the need of the musician to be acknowledged and feel empowered. Are you  just as clear about your market and the needs you are addressing? People don’t buy what you do but why you do it. Without a clear vision of what makes your music extraordinary, and who you are serving, all the marketing in the world will not create a mega-successful brand.

Most pro musicians have multi-faceted careers (performing, recording, producing, writing, publishing, teaching, orchestrating, etc.) and have spent tens of thousands of hours developing their craft. If you are seriously committed to a long term career in music, I suggest studying these people as well as general business and marketing concepts. Be very realistic about circumstances that have influenced individual successes and may not scale.

Internet music marketing is powerful and exciting but it is also a huge time suck. If your marketing is not carefully aligned with a larger plan, you may simply be feeding another industry: the DIY Dream Machine.

Thoughts on the DIY Utopia…

Reading Paul Resnikoff’s article, The DIY Utopia, struck a chord with me. Jazz musicians and composers have been living under the radar of the pop music biz forever. Typically their ‘art’ is one of multiple music-related income streams.

The quality of the music and the musicianship is key. Good music moves people, brings them together, and naturally creates community. A powerful piece of music can create a relationship with the listener that lasts a lifetime. This shouldn’t be too hard to market, particularly if you have a defined niche. Mediocrity on the other hand, is a hard sell. The question is, “Can this model scale to the mainstream music industry?”