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Friday
Jun182010

Avoid These Mistakes! 15 Critical Marketing Mistakes That All Musicians Need To Avoid

Musicians are entrepreneurs whether they want to believe it or not. By writing music under a band name, pen name or even just their own name, they have effectively created a brand that must be properly marketed if it is to thrive and flourish. But there in-lies a major problem: not all musicians know anything about marketing and they will eventually make some critical mistakes that lead to the demise of their short-lived venture. It is, however, the musicians who take the time to learn from past mistakes made by other musicians, and furthermore learn to correct these mistakes, that are the ones who build up the kind of influential brand that has lasting power.

These are 15 potentially crippling, yet ultimately avoidable marketing mistakes that are all too commonly made by the emerging music community, along with tips to help you as an artist to overcome and succeed in the best way possible:

1. Social Media is not the only way to market your band. This is the number one mistake because it can absolutely cripple a band from ever finding success. Far too many artists forget that social media is a device to be used within a strong, well-rounded marketing campaign. If you, as an artist, expect to just sit in front of your computer, friend thousands of people and wait by the phone for the call from an A&R rep, you will be severely let-down when that call never comes. And please do believe that it will not come.

If you are going to use social media as a part of your overall marketing strategy, and it is strongly advised that you do, use it wisely and properly, and as a part of a bigger strategy. A great example is one of the hottest emerging bands on the jam band scene, The McLovins, who found literal overnight success on Youtube when their cover of Phish’s You Enjoy Myself had close to 100,000 views in the blink of an eye. While it was clear that this video had gone viral, The McLovins didn’t just sit back and wait for people to friend them on Facebook or follow them on twitter- they went out on tour, taking their music to the people who had a newfound interest in the band. Only two years later, they have been covered in both Rolling Stone and Relix magazines and have performed at Gathering Of The Vibes and Mountain Jam.

2. Beginning the marketing process before the creative process. Lets be clear about something - every band needs to be marketing themselves, but in due time. A mistake that almost every over-zealous artist or band makes, is to begin marketing themselves when there is only a few or even one finished song.

Take that deep breath, back away from the paper titled My Band’s Marketing Strategy (which you should eventually have), and go back to creating your music. While it is great that you want to get your music out there for the world to hear, you are simply wasting time if you are marketing yourself with only a handful of tracks to offer fans…. Its the same thing as trying to book a gig with only a few songs under your belt.

3. NOT setting short-term, mid-term and long term goals. Setting goals at all three benchmarks (short, mid, long) is an important part of any proper marketing plan and is crucial for you as an artist to stay on track as you market your music and your brand. It is a common mistake made by musicians to set only long term goals and just leave everything else up in the air. How could you possibly expect to get signed by Sony records, or even an indie label like Sub Pop Records for that matter without setting proper short, mid and long-term goals.

Short-term goals are typically set to be completed within six months to a year and can involve things like:

- hitting a certain number on your mailing list
- selling a certain number of albums
- creating enough material to record that first demo or book that first gig

These are goals that should be analyzed after the set time-frame is up, so that you can learn from past mistakes and successes to help you grow.

Mid-term goals are set from one year to anywhere up to around 5 years, and can involve things like:

- booking the first significant tour (or even just selling out the current venue size and beginning to book venues with a larger max capacity)
- hiring a management company or a publicist
- building up enough demand in your brand to receive recognition from some of the larger music publications
- recording the first official, professional-quality LP

These are goals that should be challenging but realistic, should reflect the overall mission of the brand (you as artist or the group as a band) and finally should make significant steps towards advancing your career. These are the goals that take you from ‘coffee-house artists’ to established brand name.

Long-term goals are set from 6 to 15 years into your career, and can involve things like:

- booking a national amphitheater tour
- receive a major recording contract or distribution deal
- establish an endorsement deal with a major brand (i.e. Nike)

These are goals that you should be working towards throughout your career. By the time these goals are achievable, you will have established yourself as a strong and reputable brand within the music industry. Most importantly, these are goals that should reflect the ultimate success of your short-term and mid-term goals combined.

4. Avoiding analytics. One of the easiest things an artist can do in today’s Web 2.0 world is to set up a Facebook page or a blog. However, an extremely costly mistake that is made all too often is to avoid the analytical side of web 2.0 because it can be time-costly. But the fact is, analytics are powerful (and many times free) tools that will help you study who your loyal fan-base ACTUALLY is, so that you can nurture their interests.

Facebook has a free set of analytics tools built right into the site for you to use called Facebook Insights. So do yourself a favor and actually use it! If you are running a blog, Google has its own analytics system that is also completely free of charge that you should be using. But before you use either set of analytical tools, its important that you understand what all of the graphs and numbers mean, and how you can use them to grow your brand. Here are a few links to help you get started:

Facebook Insights 

Google Analytics

5. Marketing without a properly determined and established audience. When it comes to the world of emerging music, a HUGE mistake that is commonly made is to just market to everyone. This will never be the path towards success. Determine who your most loyal fans will be, learn everything about them, and then begin to market TO them (not AT them - another big no - no).

6. Not investing enough time into marketing. If you are an artist, and you are trying to build your brand, you actually have to put in the time and the effort to make sure people are aware of your music. Artists seem to have the ‘If you build it, they will come’ mindset. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is this will never work for musicians (with very rare exceptions). Posting the occasional track to myspace, or just using Facebook to tell people about upcoming events isn’t even close to enough. As much as you want to think that Word-Of-Mouth marketing will launch you to stardom, just like OK-GO or Dispatch, it simply won’t happen.



These bands spent hundreds of hours building up contacts and a loyal fan-base and used the internet to help their loyal fans spread the word. Not the other way around. In fact, the video from OK-GO for Here It Goes Again that became the viral sensation and reason why everyone now knows the band OK-GO, came 9 years after the band first formed.

7. Not aligning your image with your music. Consistency with everything you do is key to your overall success, and that includes both online and off. A part of being consistent is making sure that the way people observe you aligns with your music. It is the reason why so many rappers, many of whom may or many not actually be a real-life gangster unnecessarily purchase automatic weapons.



Image is something that is part of your overall brand as an artist or band, and whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, it will be inevitably discussed by fans and treated as an important part of why they like who you are. It would be negligent to overlook your image as something that holds little or no value to fans. Just look at how the party-girl image disrupted the career of pop icon Brittany Spears. It was more than damaging… it could have ended her career.

8. You Are Not Easily Reachable. Plain and simple, with today’s accessibility to the internet through mobile web-browsing and apps, there is absolutely no excuse for not being easily accessibly to anyone who reaches out to you about your music. It is understandable for certain situations to arise, i.e. if you have a day job and you are in an important meeting, but if you want to quit that day-job and make music your career, you must make your fans (and more importantly industry members such as booking agents/ concert promoters) your number one priority.

9. Not setting up a professional email. This is advice that is usually given to college students about to enter the real world, but it is no less relevant here, and is a costly mistake that can mean the difference between gig and no gig. Get rid of that stupid and childish email address! No one will take you seriously if you are trying to book a gig, and the response email address is CutiePie-45@geocities.com, BallinBro@email.com or any other name that you came up with in high-school. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to hold yourself to the utmost accountability. Go over to gmail, and sign up for a proper email at my.band@gmail.com

10. Focusing on quantity over quality of fans. This is the mark of the amateur, and is a trap that many will fall into. Do yourself a favor and read this one twice if you need to. DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that the more friend you have, and the more people you follow, the closer you are to success. Anyone can spend day after day in front of a computer clicking the ‘add friend’ or ‘follow’ button. This does not make you a professional musician!

While a large fan-base is obviously the endgame, it is also a long-term goal to shoot for, not a short-term goal (see #3 - setting goals). There is a crucial piece of the puzzle that is missing from the term ‘large fan-base’- loyalty and dedication. This is truly what you are striving for, and it is this reason why a band like Further, a new reincarnation of The Grateful Dead consisting of members of The Dead with some friends, have been selling out show after show and even had to extend their summer tour last year due to the high demand. Dedication and loyalty to a band or even just the music (as is the case with Further) will be a stronger component in the overall success in your band than a bigger, looser following will be.

When you are marketing yourself, your band, your music, and ultimately your brand, focus on creating a smaller group of loyal followers who will be willing to spread the word because they are dedicated to you and what you are doing. Instead of just shooting out updates to these people, work to create create real, lasting relationships and give them a legitimate reason to want to promote you. By building this kind of a following, it wont matter that you don’t have 2 million fans, because the 100,000 fans that you do have will be willing to buy everything you release, follow you on tour from city to city, and allow your career to last longer than those whose fans are just listening to you cause its something to do.

11. Avoiding comparisons to other bands within a pitch. It is a known fact that an ‘artist’ will do everything in their power to avoid comparing their unique and original art to someone else. But if someone, more specifically a potential fan or an industry member, asks you what your music sounds like, DO NOT just list a bunch of genres and technical terms. People need a frame of reference. How is anyone supposed to know that what you really mean by saying your music sounds like ‘progressive fusion mixed with heavy layered dissonance based on a slight rhythmic syncopation’ is that you sound like a mix between Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Here is an excellent video from Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity (featuring Derek Sivers of CD Baby) that wonderfully explores this topic:



As mentioned by Ms. Hyatt in the video above, you NEED to have a pitch for the off chance that you find yourself in an elevator with a major record exec (or anyone else for that matter). This is why every artist who is serious about developing and advancing their brand should create and rehearse an elevator pitch.

An elevator Pitch should contain the following:

- SHOULD start with a memorable hook.
- SHOULD NOT be any longer than 60 seconds though if you can bring it down to a few, powerful statements.
- SHOULD be rehearsed and sound passionate. Make sure you don’t sound like your reading from a mental cue-card.

Here is a fantastic online slide show from Business Week called Crafting An Effective ‘Elevator Pitch’

12. Forcing people to purchase your music. Yes we acknowledge it only costs 4.99 to buy your album on iTunes, yes we understand that you have bills to pay and yes, we know that you poured your heart into your music, but forcing people to purchase your album is a huge mistake. You don’t necessarily need to give your music away, but think about all of the ways to package your music into an EP or a mixtape, something that may have 2 or 3 tracks to generate interest with a new fan so that they can make the decision to purchase your album on their own. You can even use a free download as great incentive for simply signing up for your mailing list!

Being quite honest, most people hate when emerging artists force people to purchase their music. Your album may only be $4.99, but if that person only has $20 to spend on purchasing music for the week, why would they spend it on something they have yet to hear (because the artist is forcing them to buy before listening), when they could spend it on the new Tom Petty album they have been waiting for for weeks? They won’t….

And please, do yourself a favor, if you reach out to someone to review your album, do not under any circumstance tell them that you would really appreciate it, then follow up with a link, telling them they can purchase it from iTunes. If you are looking for a review, you give the reviewer your music!

13. Not Creating A Mailing List. This could be the worst move that any musician could make. Ever. A mailing list is not a new idea created by reverbnation as another widget for you to use (though they do have a widget for it). Mailing lists have been around forever, and are still one of the best ways to ensure that your loyal fans receive any and every important update about yourself or your band.

Social media is a great ways to update your fans, but with Facebook’s current news feed algorithm and Twitter being updated nearly every .0000001 seconds, your updates are likely to go unnoticed if your fans are not online at the exact moment that you publish the update. And even then they are not guaranteed to see it. A blog will do a much better job of this, as it is your domain for fans to access, but a mailing list is a way to directly contact each and every fan in one click of a button.

14. Comment/ Update Spam. For many, this is considered to be the lowest form of self-promotion, yet musicians continue to hit Facebook pages and groups, blogs, and Twitter accounts with the same generic message:


If you are going to get involved with a community within a Facebook group, or a well run blog, do not make the mistake that so many before you have and will continue to make by leaving a comment that is for the sole purpose of ‘shameless self-promotion’…. its called shameless for a reason. Leave a comment that either contributes to the existing conversation, or has a relevant follow up to a question or even voice your own opinion about an issue tackled within the article. While leaving a legitimate comment may not directly promote your music, but it will allow others to accept you into the community as a real person with a real thought. Not just a bot spamming a message around. After time, you will make stronger, more valuable connections than ever possible from spamming a large group of people.

However, there is also the idea of spamming your own accounts by leaving update after update of self-promotional glory on your own Twitter accounts and/ or any other place that allows you to update a status. For this, there is one simple golden rule called the one-quarter rule, as presented by Twist Image founder Mitch Joel. The one-quarter rule states you may post one self-promotional update out of every 4 posts- the others must be legitimate posts about something other than how great you are. This rule is something to live by and translates well to updating/ posting on all forms of social media.

15. Spreading Yourself Too Thin. This is one of the biggest killers of productivity and can ruin any marketing strategy. While it is great to get yourself out there and join as many social networks as possible, you only have so much time to keep all of these things up-to-date. One important aspect of social media is the ‘real-time’ factor, which allows you to update your fans, but also respond back to people on a real-time basis. If you try to maintain a presence throughout all of these different forms of social media, you will inevitably fail. There are, however a few great ways to battle this issue:

Artist Data- Artist Data (which was just aquired by Sonic Bids) actually allows you to update everything from your profile info and status to things like music and events on all of your existing social networks like Facebook, Last.fm, Reverbnation and a whole list of others.



Ping.fm- Similarly to Artist Data, Ping.fm allows you to update information on many different social networks.(http://ping.fm/networks/) The difference here is that Ping.fm is for general use, and not specifically for artists, so while it has a much larger reach to more social networks and blogging platforms, it has less capabilities to meet the specific needs of an artist.

Hootsuite- While Hootsuite is fairly limited in that it can only really update the status of a few social networks, it does have an impressive suite of analytical and tracking tools for you to use. Though a word to the wise: unless you have a significant amount of traffic to any of your pages, Hoot Suite will not be able to analyze the data.

Ideally, you want to create a home base for your following so they know where to actually be able to reach you, but you still want to make sure you are properly represented across all of the various social networks.


Are there any critical marketing mistakes that you have seen artists make that are not on this list? Have you made any of these mistakes and found a great way to correct the issue? Please contribute below.


Jon is the co-founder of MicControl, a music blogging network based on a music social networking platform. This post originally appeared on the MicControl blog on June 15, 2010. Jon can be found on twitter and facebook.

Reader Comments (56)

Great article. I've been learning more from this blog about business than I have my entire career. Thanks!

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Lawrence

All are excellent notes as to what to avoid or do when marketing your music

A couple items I would add are:

1.) Review Your Goals
- stick them on you mirror, or on your phone, so you are apt to see them each week. Keeping them at the forefront of your mind will help you focus and execute.
- make a staff meeting appointment with yourself each week where you focus on your marketing actions.

2.) Talk to your fans before or after your shows.
- To often I see bands go talk to their friends, parents, girlfriends, boyfriends, etc. but don't reach out to people in the audience, venue staff, etc.
- Spot some folks in the crowd that are enjoying your music and let them know afterwards you appreciate them being there. One "Thank You" could make a life long fan out of a lot of folks.

Thanks again,
Greg

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterGreg Brent

Very well written and a great summary.
One thing that comes to mind is that bands need to write a proper bio. A bio that, beside the music pitch you described above, focus on the story of the band. The story, not necessarily the great accomplishments. The about page are may times the second most viewed page (after the main page) on a band site. Also, writers, need something to write about.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterPär Berglund

I disagree on #2. In 2010, new artists should fail early and often. We're in an environment now that really rewards face-first learning curves. Get your material out there ASAP, and integrate the feedback into your creative process. The sooner artists can get "out there" and start fucking up, the better prepared they will be when it really matters and their material is polished.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Great article, but I think you might want to rewrite the titles of these points a bit. The article is called 15 mistakes, yet #3 & #4 are things you SHOULD do. I found those points confusing and had to reread those sections very carefully to really understand what you were trying to say (wait, you DON'T think we should use analytics? Weird...). Just a thought.

Otherwise a great article. I know I'm guilty of starting to market before the material's ready.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterCJ

As a label owner, the biggest mistake I see is that the bands focus only in the music with the idea that someone magically will pour millions on them and that will take you to stardom. #1 RULE OF THE MUSIC BUSINESS: PEOPLE DON'T REALLY CARE ABOUT YOUR MUSIC. They are after your fans, as soon as you're making some money they want a part of it. BUILD A FANBASE and you will be signed, played on the radio, etc

Thank you all for taking the time to read the article and comment! Glad you found it helpful.

@Justin - I can definitely see your point about getting yourself out there. This industry is very much so a process of trial and error.

@CJ - good call. I should have noted that when writing it. Ill see what I can do about making that more clear.

Please do continue to contribute feedback and additional mistakes!

Jon

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

Love the article, would really like it if you had it available as a PDF so I could save it.
Thank you.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterChris

@ Chris - if you would like a PDF version of the article, contact me on Facebook via the link above and I will gladly make that happen!

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

I've done marketing/PR for musicians and I've found I've had to go to a number of shows by the artist/band before writing a bio or developing a strategy.

I need to see what the fans respond to in order to get an idea of what is important to them. Generally it's different for each artist/band.

And in some cases what the fans are getting from the artist/band, the music, and the experience are very evident. And in other cases, I've gone to many, many shows and still don't really know what the appeal is for the fans. I don't mean I don't see the talent. That is always there with anyone I have worked with.

But sometimes there doesn't appear to be a unifying factor that summarizes that the overall appeal. So then I have trouble coming up with a clear-cut plan.

This is especially the case when the artist has a bubbly personality but writes depressing music. Or when the music videos uploaded on YouTube don't match the music.

Then I find myself letting the artist/band do whatever they want and see what settles in.

I don't believe in telling artists/bands to fit themselves into a box. Rather I am looking for what they already do that appeals to fans and potential fans and then try to highlight that.

Thanks for the article this was extremely well written and very comprehensive, I look forward to reading more or your stuff. I just created a music forum- social networking site if you would like to check it out Music Forums I still have some work to do on it but its a good start.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterMusic Forums

Lots of good points, Jonathan, thanks.

Couple quibbles:
#2. I have to agree with Justin on this - but perhaps with a twist - get your material out there but one POLISHED song at a time (of course, atfer feedback you may discover your idea of polished isn't quite enough, supporting Justin's rationale of trial and error).

I have a good friend who truly is a talented singer/songwriter...but he is constantly working on new material so he has a "decent catalogue" before promoting much...now is at two cd's worth - lots of great songs BUT none really polished. I think he would be far better off with less Quantity and more Quality. So be careful not to go the other extreme, perhaps due to some unseen insecurity.

#8. Being contrarian here, but by becoming completely accessible to fans bothers me for two reasons; if you successfully grow a large fan base there will be no way to continue the close "relationship" (meaning responding to individual fans, vs tweeting, etc. the group), thus upsetting your biggest asset, and second, THERE IS NO MYSTIQUE ANYMORE!

Just because technology exists doesn't mean it must be used to maximum capacity at all times. I could be wrong but think it's possible that somewhere down the road people may tire of the constant (superficial?), interaction with artists, after the novelty has worn off.

Also, brings to mind the saying about it not always being good to meet your heroes - they may not be quite who you want them to be....or at be least too human, thus losing their "star power of attraction" kinda thing...

Let's face it, NONE of the A-listers past or present got there by providing the kind of public access virtually everyone is promoting as an artist "necessity", and that mystery creates INTRIGUE - which is magnetic.

Technology has changed, but human nature? I think not so much.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

@Dg.

I appreciate the twist! Great comment, good food for thunkage.

June 18 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

@dg I agree with your opinion on being accessible to your fans in the "mystique" regard. However I believe this is for bands that are starting out and are building a fan base. The trick is to be close to them without letting them get close.

To elaborate further on this point - If you friend fans and supporters on personal Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.. it is important that you "don't post anything you wouldn't put on a billboard for your band". It is a sacrifice but that helps keep it clean.

@DG thanks for your input, really appreciate the spin you put on #2 - as I mentioned before, I still stand by my statement that artists need to be prepared with their product before they begin to market it, but I can absolutely see where you (and Justin) are coming from.

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

This is just wordy and riddled with lots of errors.

Let me take you to task on one very important point. You say

"Take that deep breath, back away from the paper titled My Band’s Marketing Strategy (which you should eventually have), and go back to creating your music. While it is great that you want to get your music out there for the world to hear, you are simply wasting time if you are marketing yourself with only a handful of tracks to offer fans…. Its the same thing as trying to book a gig with only a few songs under your belt. "

What a load of nonsense. I don't know which country you're from but your article sounds very American "indie". You only need ONE song to begin marketing yourself. it is called a SINGLE.
This is what you should focus on. A great hit single.

Artists should think like labels and act like labels. I can assure you this short, mid and long term goals is nonsensical to say the least. You're in the business of releasing singles and your goal and plan should revolve around this.

My rules are simple.

Record a single
Promote the single
Release the single.

When you have enough tracks for an album, then release an album. This is old school and this is what is working on Youtube now.

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterKehinde

@Kehinde

Im sorry you disagree about creating your product before marketing it. As I said though in a previous comments, I do think for SOME it could work to their benefit to create a single and being to market that.

As for setting goals, this is good business practice for any company in any industry.

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

Hey Kehinde,

I did not write the post, but I have to say there is a gem to be found in almost every post (including this one). Leave the insults at home next time. We are all here to help each other. Since you don't have any real proof that your methods are truly the best way to proceed, then may I suggest that you offer your opinions with a bit more tact next time.

Also - what everyone should perhaps focus on is: trying different methods to find the method that best fits their style, energy, commitment, talent and resources. There is no one right way.

-Bruce

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

I tend to work more with singer/songwriters than conceptual bands. Generally they just start out hitting open mics. They first learn to play other people's songs. Then they start writing their own. When they have enough material to do a 1/2 to hour set, they try to get those.

If they have the inclination, they keep writing.

If they play out a lot and also keep writing, sometimes they are able to put together enough material to play 2-3 hours.

They may experiment with different types of songs, different types of music, etc.

After several years of playing music, then maybe they have grown distinctive enough that you have something to market.

So in some cases, there is no marketing strategy to think through at first.

@Kehinde

Do you play shows, though? Sounds like being on Youtube is the extent of your strategy. (Not that I'm mocking you, it is at least a strategy, which puts you in the top 10% of the music biz by default.)

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Jonathan

A FANTASTIC post that cover so many important bases! Thanks for your insight and for including me and Derek in it.

Word.

Ariel

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

@Ariel - Thanks so much! Im glad you got a chance to read the article. And thank YOU for the excellent video - it really helped make my case :-)

We are actually connected on FB already, so feel free to reach out to me at any time.

Jon

June 19 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

The point I am trying to say is that this is not the way the industry works and is not the way artists should either. If you want any proof look at almost every top 40 chart in the world and in particular the UK and Australia.

For further proof read the story about the band 5 Star. Also Spice Girls and virtually every other pop band or solo artist. I am also not against goals but you're advising artists to get bogged down in so much admin.

Not every artist performs live nor should they have to. At the end of the day, it is all about the song. This is my opinion and that's what we should be focusing on. Sorry did not mean to cause any offence.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterKehinde

No problem Kehinde - glad to have your input in the conversation. Feel free to reach out to me through Facebook or Twitter (through the links above) if you would like to continue this discussion.

Thanks
Jon

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

In the past, signed artists/bands were launched by their labels with the promotion of a single.

Now the tactic seems to be, if you are unsigned but want to get noticed in a hurry, is to cover someone else's song and post it on YouTube and get attention that way.

@Kehinde

Here's why I'd advice independent artists, of any genre, to ignore your advice: first and foremost, you actually mentioned the Spice Girls as an example of what to model.

Second and more importantly, you advise us to "look at the UK and Australian charts" -- here's some quickie basic math. UK = 61 million people, Australia = 22 million people, that adds up to approximately way, way less than the United States with over 300 million people. In 2010, those two countries are niche markets.

You probably do have a valid "map" for achieving pop stardom from 1980-2005, but I really don't think anyone reading MTT level material is interested in that. Then again, Lady Gaga is having an outstanding year, so it's not that I think you're "wrong" -- just that your advice is way less applicable than you think.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I'm not sure focusing on a single without serious label promotion can accomplish much. Sure, I remember reading how Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" became very popular on MySpace and then she got signed.

But as far as I can tell, it was all made up. Her father is an experienced record producer. I suspect the deal was already in the works and MySpace was persuaded to feature her from the beginning.

Every other "discovered on MySpace" or "discovered on the Internet" story that I have been able to follow the dots for seems to lead to people behind the scenes setting things up in advance.

Similarly, when singles get featured on iTunes, I don't think it just happens randomly because it's a great tune. By the time you're getting exposure on iTunes, you've already got a manager, a publicist, and/or a label doing some promotion on your behalf.

Well I am in Australia and was born in the UK and these are the territories I know well. Advice that works in America will NOT work anywhere else.

I have spent many years making music and dance music is the one genre that is almost 100% indie led. You made your record, you gave it to DJs and you got it into shops. The system works and it works for new labels all the time. The actual tools may change but my 3 step rule works all the time over here and in the UK. This is a global business and to think one model is the only way is really incorrect.

The Spice Girls model is a realistic one for pop artists whose goal is to team up with a major or with a larger indie. You can then put all your energies into areas that WILL work for you and put you on the radar when it does, not to mention make you a tidy sum as well.

Many people are ignorant to how to use Youtube and online video to make money and at the same time make you an attractive prospect to sign with a major if you so wish to. Why spend ages and money on a frustrating journey that will NOT give you success but bog you down in paperwork. Business plans and all the like are not that important for artists. Sure do one, I have done in the past but at the end of the day if you break down the year into quarters and

record
promote
release

singles you will get further than if you spend ages recording endless material that doesn't go anywhere. Nothing focuses the mind better than trying to make a hit single with every release.

You can then do a cover as a B-side for the Youtube generation or even make a how to video or something that WILL attract Youtubers to you.

The yoke doesn't have to be heavy guys.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterKehinde

Suzanne you're right about one thing. Success on Youtube, Myspace etc doesn't just happen.
But you can't completely fake it either because if you have a turkey, no amount of promotion is going to make it sell or gain lots of comments.

You either need something really bad or something really brilliant. Also let's dispel the myth that only those on major labels can get front page on Myspace or Youtube.

There are 2 ways to get high profile on these sites.

One is if their editors feature it and yes if you have clout you can persuade tham a bit better than if you don't. You can also do an online campaign to kick things off. Advertising on Youtube is not that expensive and can even cost less than putting on a gig will cost you.

But don't forget, you need a great single to gain momentum and if you're not gaining momentum, scrap the single and move on the the next release.

Singles singles singles. Focus on singles.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterKehinde

The Spice Girls model is a realistic one for pop artists whose goal is to team up with a major or with a larger indie.

True, but most artists/bands don't aspire to this. And the number of deals being offered will go down as the labels continue to belt-tighten.

I don't think the discussion has been about "how to get signed." It's been more about, "how to take charge of your own career."

I have worked with and are friends with bands that have gotten major label deals. Things have changed even over the last five years. It's a different world now. Then, the plan was: find a marketable band. Record the album. Heavily promote the single to radio. Get the song on Grey's Anatomy. Repeat with the next single.

But radio, as important as it still is, doesn't reach as many people as it did then. And there don't seem to be as many TV shows or movies to break new stars as there were a few years ago.

So having a catchy single doesn't deliver nearly as much as it did then. It's much harder to go platinum now. So unless the label sees multiple revenue streams, it may not want to make the investment.

@Kehinde

I REALLY appreciate the expansion/clarification. I definitely respect where you're coming from. I still disagree, but I really dig your reasoning, I think you have a solid case.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Kehinde,

I don't see how the follow up points you've made support your original contention that an artist doesn't need more than one or two songs before they start promoting, your `record promote release' model doesn't leave any room for more writing and is very cost inefficient (recording one song at a time is far more costly than recording say, 6 songs and then promoting/releasing them one at a time) particularly given that singles by themselves don't have a fantastic profit margin, even within the indie dance scene, so that a first `hit' needs to be followed up with a second `hit' as quickly as possible to increase the milage of your initial promotional outlay.

(Yes, I'm an accountant)

Indeed within that scene (or any scene really, but Im making a point) isn't it the producers, releasing multiple singles from multiple artists constantly, that make more money than the artists, particularly if that artists is incapable of playing live (again DJs tend to make more money than singers within the dance scene up until someone becomes huge, and that can take a while, and a lot more than 1 single).

One factor that is different, of course, is that within that and related scenes there is a lower expectation on performers playing their own material. But again, this is part of the reason why the producers (who normally double as writers) have more sustainable careers.

June 20 | Unregistered CommenterCensus

2. Beginning the marketing process before the creative process

generally speaking, I don't disagree with what's said in this point. But, if you want to go way back to when material songs was everything... Elvis first toured the south with a set list that was about 20 minutes long

June 21 | Unregistered Commentervisitour

This is CrowfeatheR,

That's a pretty good article, however IGNORE #12. Or at least the 1st 1/2. You should give music to professionals who can help you only, like DJ's, Radio Programmers, Bloggers and music critics. Your fans are only your fans if they buy from you, otherwise they are leeches bleeding you and setting your perceived market value at 0.

Marketing in show business 101, perception is reality. If your music is FREE it is perceived as worthless and having no value and eventually that will be your reality. I however, am fucking expensive and worth the price.

http://www.myspace.com/crowfeatherproject

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterCrowfeatheR

@ Kehinde:

I also don't see the value in just recording and promoting a single before having at least an EP worth of material.

Why spend the energy and resources on promoting a single if that's all your fans have the option of buying? It would be like a label spending a boatload of money on a radio campaign for the first single before there is even a release date for the album set with the distributor. The idea is to build a buzz just prior to the release of the album, so that when it does come out, there is a demand for it. Although most "indie" artists are not going to be dealing with expensive radio/video promotion/PR campaigns & big distributors for the release of their album on iTunes or CD Baby, the logic is that it is better to have multiple ways to make a buck off the (hopeful) success of the first single.

Just my 2 cents...

June 21 | Unregistered Commenterctmartin

Great article and great comments. I think you guys have touch on some
valid points but II don't think there is a one way to handle your business.

Promotion seems to be the key but different genres seem to dictate how
to interact with your fans.

For instance popularity plays a big role in the physic of hip hop
fans. If you're an unsigned or indie rap artist fans don't react to you the same as indie rock fans do to indie rock groups. But if you're co-signed by a major artist then you are considered a
"REAL RAPPER!" Which I may add major rappers will do for a fee of
course.

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterTye Banks

@Crowfeather - thanks for your input.

Im not saying by any means that artists should entirely give their music away. But in certain situations as outlined in the article, such as requesting a review from a music blogger then forcing them to purchase your album in order to listen to it, is simply a poor decision and is a quick way to get overlooked.

June 21 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

I agree with Suzanne Lainson above. It is all about WHO KNOWS YOU in the world of Hollywood entertainment. You cannot believe the stories.... most are made up for the sake of marketing.... people want to hear these stories of struggling nobodies who made it.... well, it is RARE because it takes a lot of money to market yourself/clients effectively.... and to get distribution....?!! People who have alreaady success keep the money amongst their family and friends. It's not so different than trying to get a good job at corporate America - it's about who KNOWS YOU.

Anyone can get huge views on YouTube.... if you pay for it.... and the comments & ratings, too. Sure, it gets you some attention.... I had to listen to the band that supposedly got a great deal of success from YouTube, mentioned in this article, the McLovin's. I cannot believe it! Playing a cover?! And sorry, not that great and the song is not that good... sure, maybe some attention they would get from friends but NO WAY did that song just suddenly get that many hits on it's own. I suspect they had industry people behind them or they paid a service to hit and comment... and then got noticed so got some other success... well.. that is my take. There is some good info in this blog but it's still about WHO KNOWS YOU and HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE.... most of the time.... with some very rare exceptions. If people todl you the truth, you'd find out they got some introduction by a lawyer cousin or stock broker uncle or industry lover..... no way around it.

I just want to add this..... the fact that our entertainment industry is primarily built on nepotism and connections and the fact that lawyers, bankers, accounts (oh and let's not forget Gangsters & criminals) have pushed the creative people out of controlling positions in Hollywood/LA/NYC.... these are the primary reasons that widely distributed music stinks today as do our movies... the going thought is that "stars are made" and they can make one from anything... well, keep doing it that way and you end up with nothing but junk food.... that is what we are being served by the entertainment world.... no more art, just corporate BS to make a buck.... it is a very sad state of affairs.... well, at least their impact is not quite so severe as to destroy the planet like their similar personality types running other corporations, such as BP, are able to do.... however one might argue that the sounds and imagery they are projecting are a great pollutant without us yet being able to fully understand the damage of how such garbage impacts us, our planet and even the universe..... sound waves have power.... as do thoughts which can be colored, formed and created from sounds around us, images, etc.... enough said.

The last 2 comments are the best and the less delusional of the bunch.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterFebreze

@Just a Giggle-o

Yes the McLovins chose a cover, but they chose a cover by a band (phish) who has legions of dedicated and loyal followers looking for scoop up and digest anything even remotely related to their music. I have personally interviewed The McLovins, and I can assure you that they have not used industry people or hit/ comment machines to gain that sort of popularity. While is extremely rare for this to happen, theirs is truly a case of overnight success on Youtube.

Other than that though, I do completely agree with you that it is all about who you know. But that is no different from any industry.

June 22 | Unregistered CommenterJon Ostrow

mm

im very confused now so i need to do a cover song put it on you tube and piggyback another artists succes as i was a visual artist this makes sense greta artists steal is this for the u.s. ?am i wrong in thinking that most people have a family member etc already in the industry but the old story of up by the boot straps is cooler ?there are so many conflicting ideas on here

Hi everyone, from a costs point of view let me break down WHY I think going down the singles route is THE only viable option for indie artists today.

But before I go into the financial side of things let me explain the biggest reason why.

THE PUBLIC

Here in Australia and in the UK and I am sure in USA as well people are interested in the song. They don't care about you they care about your song. They want to hum the song, hear it on the radio, watch it on Youtube etc.

The second big reason is repetition. Once you start promoting an album or EP you have nowhere else to go. Not so with a single. Once your 3 months with your single lapses it is time to move on to the next.

Far from marketing without material, you are marketing with the RIGHT material. If the public or your fans think your song sucks you haven't wasted thousands in an album and can modify easily. Also nothing sharpens the mind more than when you have a record to release.

I am talking out of experience and I can show you that far from being an expensive venture, recording a single is very cost effective.

For me, I have a studio. It is a home studio with gear that all you can afford and trust me when I say that.

I started recording with just ONE keyboard. A Yamaha V50 workstation. I would sequence all the parts and then go into a studio with a 2 track version and record my vocals. I would record the metronome on record and start the song and was able to sync it manually at home using a dat machine. Now with cheap home recording software I don't have to do that. You don't have to waste money in a studio.

For arguments sake even if you had to do everything in a studio I would advise you do all your preproduction first, rehearse and go in the studio using the barest minimum they would book you for. Just DO IT. Many of us waste time in a studio admiring the pine floors etc. lol.

It will take you the same time to record one song at a time so basically an album is 10 x X amount of hours so there is no wastage there. Maybe record a cover (up to you) put it up on Youtube and then do some low level promotion. If this is to DJs fine or just send a press release to radio.

In my opinion you are better off advertising to 100,000 on Youtube followed by a press release to the media about all the success you had on youtube. Sandi Thom ? Sons Of Admiral they are doing this. With a hit song you will go ballistic.

By the way Sons of Admiral did 800,000 views on youtube in a week and sold approx 800 singles (I am guessing this based on trends of the top 100 in the UK). it is a good system to start with and then you have the best of album and the making of album and the b sides all to come and best part of all, you don't look like an amateur. :-)

Keep the debate rolling guys I love to hear how you are doing it and of course love to joust with my fellow DIYers out there.

June 24 | Unregistered Commenterkehinde

Well done article. I was especially hit by the
mention of a mailing list -- something I had originally sidetracked. I've just added this to my to do list. Thanks!

I feel an ep is the way to go with 5 good songs that reflect your best. I disagree with not asking someone to support you. It will take direct contact with the public. targeting your market some songs appeal to women others men! I've tested them first using my cell with all five ringtones and the responce has been awesome.Good lyrics a powerful hook and story will take you where you want to go. Provided you get off your butt and promote.

June 25 | Unregistered Commentercathy kennedy

This article and all its comments bellow are inspiring to me. I strongly believe that an artist should never give away his or her songs for free unless it is worth it, or else it may end up in the wrong hands.

Also it depends on the genre and style of music that an artist make. It is easier for a rock band and hip-hop artist to build a quick fan then lets say an artist who sing in a different language doing world music. I really hope that someone will eventually think about supporting or investing in a commercial radio for African Music or World Music. There is a big market for it in the US that is untouched yet...

For me, it is better to record few songs then pouring all your inspirations onto on CD. One should not ignore the fact that pirates are just waiting for that chance to kill you. I rather die without any success then give away my hard-work to someone who doesn't really care.

It is like telling to some one who just finished a master's degree from the university after being loaded with student loans, to go ahead and work in a firm for free for several years. How would that sound?

But love the article and thanks to the author!

Fely

June 25 | Unregistered CommenterFely

After reading the 3,377 word post, I did not see any advice that elaborated on perhaps the #1 most important point this article had to offer, which was, "These bands spent hundreds of hours building up contacts and a loyal fan-base." How did they do that? What was the nature of these interactions. There are a lot of hints: they need a reason to want to promote your music for more than just the music. Why? Like what? Are there any "case studies" to back up the notion of increased fan accessibility and how that helped them get this done? If you play music like Genesis, Rush, Yes or even Dream Theater, and your music doesn't have a look/image associated with it, then what?

I also disagree with #2. I think you can do much by giving out one track for free, getting your fans to help spread it and with this get more fans for whenever you have more material.

I was just reading this for curiosity sake and I really enjoyed it. definitely think you make good points from a fan's perspective :)


(but fyi you spelled Britney Spears wrong hehe)

August 31 | Unregistered Commenterjustafan

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