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Are You A Brand Or A Mouse?

Music has always been a business. At least since the advent of the recording “industry” in the last century. There’s little doubt about that: it’s a big money-making machine and little more for a good portion of the music world.

The marketing takeover

In the context of this business, it seems normal that the usual marketing jargon is widely used and abused, permeating every column about music. Especially when it comes to advice for aspiring musicians and unsigned artists.

Indeed there isn’t a day that fails to bring new articles on how best to “target” your “demographics”, using “geographic segmentation”, what “referral tools” to use, how to “engage” your fans, what “strategy” works best, how to create “awareness and buzz”, what “trend” to follow, how to “market” yourself, the importance of “analytics”, the efficiency of “funnels”, how to “measure the CTR of your B2C”, the “conversion rate” of “re-marketing”, what “engagement rate” to expect from “direct marketing”, what “keywords” have a better “KPI” and what “ROI” comes from “qualified leads”, have you done your “market research”? How to further analyze you “market penetration” and is there a “niche market” you could take advantage of? Know about better “branding” your “Unique Selling point” while ensuring a better “User Experience”, that and many more well-intentioned communication and marketing advice from more or less credible promoters and self-proclaimed experts. If you are an aspiring musician, there’s a good chance you get dozens of these articles in your mailbox every day.

No doubt there is a time and a place for marketing techniques, there’s no question that in our time of high media awareness and worldwide communication, it is important for artists to find ways to spread their message in a saturated environment, where simply releasing their music is definitely not enough and when it becomes primordial to differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd. When the whole world is blasé and the attention span is less than that of a cat on a catnip trip, it’s clear that the challenge can be daunting. And as most artist advisers will tell you: make your songs shorter, your intro should be no more than a couple of seconds, get straight to the chorus! Also: people don’t read anymore, even pictures are no longer effective these days, you must do videos - preferably with cats and boobs, of course, because these are the most attention grabbing!

The importance of being honest

In my time of navigating the indie world and being advised this, that and everything in between, I came to question the validity of marketing applied to culture and the value of strategic experts’ tips and tricks where it pertains to my own journey in the music world.

I especially resent the people who keep asking me about my “brand” and how I market it to the world… I believe that any artist of value must cultivate his/her own uniqueness and that it is this uniqueness and not an acute evaluation of his or her position in the “market” that ultimately counts. I want to hear the genuine expression of a different individual who has something to say, and say it in a compelling way, rather than being trapped by yet another marketing recipe plot that substitutes for genuine artistry.

So, I’m asking: 

How about being yourself?
How about being unique?
How about having an artistic vision and sticking to it? 
How about honing your craft and developing your voice?

Once and for all, let me make it clear: I AM NOT A BRAND. I’d rather die unique and unknown but comforted in my artistic beliefs and true to my vision than to bow to the general consensus and actively try to become a mainstream non-entity. My image comes from a deeply conscious crafting of my identity, rejecting the cult of the self that fuels our modern world, my music comes from years of influences and practice, from developing my own taste, growing my own musical voice. You will like it, you will hate it, it’s not my problem. That I am too old fashioned to be relevant anyway is the likely objection I will hear about it. I can’t say that I care.

The fans takeover

I believe I’m not alone, as nowadays more and more music lovers are fed up of the manufactured music that major labels and TV reality shows serve direct from their marketing labs and AI analytics, and present to the general public as the best you can hear, the “caviar” of your headphones (I’m looking at you Spotify playlists!), which turns out to taste like the blandest turnip soup from the worst music recipe rehashed ad nauseam.

Fans everywhere are starting to cry out for more substance and spice in their music menu.

The unsigned world provides a unique opportunity to develop your own artistry, your own way, in your own terms, not driven by any market research, contract or vain branding pursuit. I believe that the public is ripe and ready to hear genuine artists, love them, hate them, listen to them, follow them, read them, believe in them, acclaim them, condemn them, anything but the general indifference!

In the end, if I had one piece of advice to give to aspiring artists, it would be to forget about marketing and focus on finding their own voice.
It’s all fair game, so why don’t you play?


Ghostly Beard is a multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer from Montreal, Canada, part of the unsigned community, who is often writing about issues in the music industry and denouncing various pitfalls that indie artists encounter in their music journey on his blog.

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