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.
Social media is hyped as a powerful tool for ‘connecting’ with your audience. While the technology creates this potential, my experience has been that most social media usage is essentially one-way, direct mail.
There are many people I have relationships with in the ‘real’ world whose communications with me via Facebook, email, Twitter, etc. are unsolicited self-promotion, certainly not a ‘conversation’. This can be annoying, and the net effect is to reduce the level of trust and credibility. When I receive unsolicited promotional material from strangers I immediately cross them off the list.
When we opt-in we intentionally agree to accept ongoing promotional blasts but we can always unsubscribe if these communications don’t add value.
An authentic conversation adds value in both directions. The real question to ask yourself is, “How can I help you?”
If a band or artist I follow comments on a post of mine it means something, and of course it works the other way around.
Before you hit the ‘Send’ button think about what you are really giving to your audience.
The Internet has made music creation and distribution available to everyone, processes traditionally handled by record labels. The responsibility for managing marketing and music publishing now fall squarely on the artist. Because of the massive amount of material on the Internet it is very challenging to rise above the noise and distinguish yourself. While running a business is creative in it’s own way, thinking of oneself as a brand is very uncomfortable for many creatives. Jacob Detering has written a good blog post about this subject.
(Re)Defining Music as Business
Another good read on this subject is Fans, Friends and Followers by Scott Kirsner. Scott interviews several artists working in a variety of mediums, who discuss the successes and challenges they have had as they figure out how to promote themselves and choose the right business partners.
Stay tuned to this blog for tools, strategies and success stories…