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Ok, you make great music, but what’s your value proposition?

Listen to your music for the first time again.
Examine your online presence as a first-time visitor would.
Imagine standing in a corner watching one of your shows for the first time.

Ask yourself: As a fan or potential fan, what does your stuff, message and existence do for me?  The answer to this question is your ‘value proposition’. 

For example:
All of this entertains me.
All of this helps me to forget.
All of this helps my social life.
All of this makes me socially aware.
All of this informs me.
All of this energizes me.
All of this calms me.
All of this helps me to feel young again.

Artists and songs don’t necessarily compete, but the value proposition(s) you choose to deliver defines the broad (market and product) segment you are competing within.  For example: are you competing within the ‘all-this-entertains-me’ segment or within the ‘all-of-this-energizes-me’ segment or within an overlapping slice in between?

When considering the delivery of a value proposition, consider the following (random examples):

Example: Many artists attempt to compete (unfortunately) in the crowded ‘all-this-entertains-me’ segment of the marketplace.  At any given moment (day or night), consumers have numerous entertainment options to choose from.  If all you are delivering is ‘entertainment’ consider all of the other entertainment options (movies, theatre, comedy, television, etc) people can choose from during the same time slot.  Sometimes, time slot management is as important as delivery.

Example: Chances are, your online presence is NOT at all capable of competing in the ‘all-this-entertains-me’ segment.  A couple of YouTube videos, a pile of your photos and a music player featuring fourteen of your songs is not competitive entertainment; it’s just informative information (about you) and not much else.  Consider which value propositions your online presence is delivering and do it purposefully.

Example: If you truly desire to compete in the ‘all-this-entertains-me’ segment, as well as within overlapping segments, such as ‘all of-this-helps-my-social-life’, consider working with many other artists to form a single online presence dedicated to truly delivering entertainment (50 to 60 selected songs from various artists is an ‘easier’ way to enable the obtainment of entertainment), and a global network of fans that share overlapping values, interests and desires can deliver the ‘all of-this-helps-my-social-life’ far better than your standalone artist-website.

Example: Work tirelessly to deliver other value propositions.  For example: an artist recently said to me: “My music is pretty good…BUT everyone is hooking up at my shows.”  His shows were packed.  Consider what you can do (online and offline) to facilitate the ‘all-of-this-helps-my-social-life’ proposition.  For artists, the ability to facilitate relationships (think about all the video and images you post) should be an easy proposition to deliver; moreover, for those of you that are contemplating unique revenue sources, the relationship industry is highly profitable.

Example: Don’t wed yourself to a single brand.  Compilations are often popular because they excel at delivering unique value propositions such as: ‘all-of-this-makes-me-socially-aware’ or ‘all-of-this-energizes-me’ or ‘all-this-helps-me-understand-love’.  Extend your songs out to other sites and brands dedicated to delivering and communicating specialized/unique value propositions.

Example: Correctly and strongly communicate your value proposition.  All to often, artists will post bios and press releases where they compare themselves to other artists.  Ok, you’re making ‘me’ connect the dots!  Read what you write and ask yourself: what does this do for me?  Are you entertaining me?  Are you energizing me?  Or, are you just giving me a bunch of adverbs, adjectives and comparative information?  Which value proposition are you attempting to deliver?

Example: Recognize when your value proposition is tiring and/or when it needs to be extended.  For example: occasionally artists will drape themselves in social messages (communicating the ‘all-this-makes-me-aware-of-the-problem’ proposition).  Once the awareness message (any issue) hits the mass-market, the awareness delivery proposition tires quickly.  You can either vacate the proposition (which was drawing attention to the social problem) or extend it (combine lightweight awareness with actionable solutions).  The bottom line: monitor (competing alternatives, consumer reactions, social shifts) the propositions you are attempting to deliver, vacate when necessary and/or extend (the proposition) to remain relevant.  The world changes rapidly.

Example:  Asking the wrong question / solving the wrong problem.  I see rap artists asking the wrong questions all of the time.  Do I (the fan) want ‘all-of-this-to-make-me-angry’? (This in an exhausting proposition that usually has a short shelf life.) Contrast the angry rapper propositions to the overlapping propositions that U2 delivers: the sum of U2 entertains, energizes, informs and makes me (the fan) socially aware.  Consider delivering positive, enduring propositions that matter.

There are countless examples of successful and unsuccessful value proposition selection and communication attempts.  As I have defined ‘value proposition’ within this post, what works / doesn’t work for you or others?  When you ask yourself what does this (all your stuff) do for me (the fan or potential fan)? What’s your value proposition(s)?

Note: Yes, this entire post could have been constructed differently.  It could have been about ‘positioning’, ‘market segmentation’, other business/marketing lingo and etc.  I get that. Thanks.

About Bruce Warila

Reader Comments (16)

Not the point of your post, I know - and I'm reluctant to take issue with a single example lest that be taken as a refutation of your central point - but I have to say, I get far more energised, informed, entertained and made socially aware by angry rap music than I do by U2 these days.

There's some amazing, politically astute, and absolutely biting underground hip hop going on that wipes the floor with posturing stadium rock (and I say that as a long-time U2 fan).

In fact, I recall the Zoo TV series of concerts (I was part of the NZ crew, as it happens), that kicked off with a snippet from 'Television - The Drug of the Nation' by the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy - which even then was more urgent, compelling and liberating than anything the Irish foursome were churning out - and they were arguably at the peak of their cultural and musical powers at the time.

Anger against injustice and corruption is, I would argue, positive and enduring - and popular music has the opportunity not merely to uplift and entertain, but also to challenge, and act as the critic and conscience of society.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say most of the best popular music in the world does just that and has done for some time. As Woodie Guthrie made quite clear about his guitar: this machine kills fascists.

November 9 | Registered CommenterAndrew Dubber

I was counting the minutes until someone challenged me on the U2 example.

November 9 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

I'm glad it was me. :)

November 9 | Registered CommenterAndrew Dubber

Great post.

I've written artist bios and I come from a marketing background, so I'm always thinking about stuff like this.

But I'll add that not every value proposition is equally salable. One songwriter I worked with did uplifting music. She played as many as 200 shows a year and some fans came to nearly every one of those shows. Her songs made people feel good, so they never tired of her.

Another songwriter, also talented, did some gut-wrenching stuff. Her fans would have burned out listening to it on a daily or weekly basis.

Similarly, bands that play fun, danceable music that engages the crowd are likely to have more fans turn out on a weekly basis than bands who play concert-like shows.

November 9 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

But really, the people who over think this are doomed anyway for lacking honesty. It's a roll of the dice every time but you have to come with what you know and ARE ! Otherwise you'll be found out. A good melody doesn't hurt either.

But really, the people who over think this are doomed anyway for lacking honesty.

I don't believe you should change who you are, but for promotional reasons it's helpful to concisely describe who you are.

And sometimes you don't know yourself. It is often on how the fans respond to your music that determines how you describe your music: What are they taking away from your shows? Which songs are they responding to? What are they saying to you in their comments to you?

For example, the singer/songwriter who makes people feel good. One of her fans came to every show. He said that listening to her music got him through his bout with cancer.

November 9 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Well put Dubber! I would also add to the article that it doesn't have to only be about something one feels, but it can be equally about how interesting the content of the music is, regardless of entertainment value. For example, there thousands of hardcore, blues, noise rock bands out there. why do fans keep returning?

Shit, i only need one black flag and one sonic youth, but what I really want to hear is innovation- something that describes emotions differently, changes context, etc. I guess I could put this better: I can read douglas adams and get a good laugh, i could also read kurt vonnegut and laugh and enjoy it for entirely different reasons.

so wouldnt asking yourself as a fan as to why you would like your own music act as a sort of shit test? I mean, if you can only come up with one value wouldn't it be time to start over with the music making process? The only time i can think that its ok to pursue one sort of value is if I'm already making millions off my music. Even then, I would risk making unbalanced, terrible music.

November 10 | Unregistered CommenterAustin


"The only time i can think that its ok to pursue one sort of value is if I'm already making millions off my music. Even then, I would risk making unbalanced, terrible music."

That's unfortunate. Every time you sit down to do something / create something that's related to your music-related business, you are creating value or not. You have two choices, you can do it aimlessly or you can do it purposefully. Understanding who/what you want to become or be, and directly going there - can be called multiple things in marketing; in this post, I called it delivering your value proposition. Shit, if only I had thought this through, I would be as clever as you.

November 11 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Thanks for the post - it is always a good idea to reevaluate what we do and make sure we have a shot at getting to the point we want to be at. But - 99% of the bands and artists I have worked with do not want to go to those, maybe too impersonal and potentially industry-related (meaning negative), places.

November 12 | Unregistered CommenterDicki Fliszar

Thanks Dicki.. I decided a while back that if I could impact 1/10 of 1% of the artists and managers out there, that I would be doing pretty well.

November 12 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

Interesting post, but I don't concur with the "to compete" concept. Music is an art form, not a sport nor a product.

Nevertheless, I love the auto evaluate part. It definitely helps the artists improve their own style, regardless of how marketable the material is.

Fans will always pick the artist. There is no such thing as artists picking their own fans. if so, that's a fake.

November 13 | Unregistered CommenterEB

As a musician, I guess I want to know what to do with my 'value proposition'. So I take a look in the mirror and decide what that is, right? Then what? How does that translate into my marketing materials? Web site? What do I do to my web site or poster or press release to help people -get- that? Maybe I'm asking for a complete marketing program in one post, but I would like some direction on what to do with this great knowledge once I get enlightened.

Thanks ---JC

November 15 | Unregistered CommenterJC Harris

I'm kinda with JC but probably even dumber, what's the best way(s) to accurately evaluate your value proposition?

I was thinking perhaps a newsletter to your fans with a survey. But what would the best questions be to ask?

Great article too, one of the rare few that I as a musician feel I can take something practical from, kudos.

February 18 | Unregistered CommenterStanmore Phoenix

I don't think it's something you ask your fans, it's something you intentionally deliver. I will try to go back to your question over the weekend.

February 18 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

I think I understand better with that short answer, but I would be curious to hear more.

What Im gettting is that it's the clarity of knowing what you're about, what you're delivering as an artist/band that is empowering. As opposed to either being inconsistent with your "product" or even being consistent but not being consciously aware of what you're about.

I have to say, I've been turning this concept around in my head both consciously & subconsciously since I read it. It's deceptively simple but I find that is the case with much true wisdom. Great post.

Thanks for your reply

February 19 | Unregistered CommenterStanmorePhoenix


I'm and unsigned rapper that's trying to build a brand for myself and I was just wondering if anyone of you guys could help me come up with a value proposition for myself and for my up-coming album. thank you

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