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What’s The Story? The Value Of Storytelling In Music Promotion

Mark Knight is the founder of Right Chord Music, a management and consultancy business. The company was created with the aim of helping independent artists like The Daydream Club promote their music using insights gained from the wider marketing world.  In this article Mark introduces the concept of story telling in brand advertising and shows how creating a story can help independent artists promote their music more effectively.

The advertising industry began by creating advertisements that communicated simple product features and benefits.  This worked well, but as the number of products increased, it became increasingly difficult to tell them apart. 

At this point advertising’s focus shifted, and the concept of a brand was developed. Brands provided a point of differentiation by developing a personality and attaching values to a product.  The brands were bought to life through story telling in advertising.  This change helped products become memorable must have aspirational lifestyle brands.

So how is this relevant to independent artists? Well, right now you are operating in a highly saturated market, it’s never been easier to access a seemingly unlimited supply of music, so what chance do you have of standing out and being remembered if you are seen as just another band?  Just as brands evolved their marketing, independent artists need to do the same to create compelling brand stories around themselves and their music.

Here are five benefits of adding a story to your music promotion 

1.  Stories are memorable

I was recently sent some information about an artist.  The music was great and I planned to feature him on the Right Chord Music blog. Then I ran into a problem, I couldn’t find the email and I couldn’t remember his name.  What saved me was his story. Not content with writing amazing music, he had also written a film which at premiered at the Raindance Festival. I searched Raindance and found the email. The artist was Johnny Daukes.

Implications for artists. Include memorable stories in your biographies and press releases. Beyond track names, ensure you tag blog posts and videos with words that describe what you do, and how you are doing it. EG ‘the video that goes backwards’ this will help fans find you more easily on Google, YouTube or even within their email inbox. 

2.  Stories are newsworthy

Getting press coverage is tough especially if you are an independent artist. So if you want people to listen and write about your music, it’s worth remembering that ‘new band releases new music’ is unlikely to motivate or inspire anyone to listen or write about your music. It’s just not newsworthy.

Implications for artists.  Before you contact music blogs or journalists, read your release and ask yourself “So what” and “Why should I care?” If you can’t find a reason don’t expect them to.  Look to build a story around the release that makes you truly newsworthy. The story could come from a lyric, video or artwork, or it could derive from how, why, or where you release your music. It could also be totally made up (as long as it’s not libelous of course!) Check out Dramatic Records and the story of the ‘Endless House Foundation’ to see great story telling in action. Who wouldn’t want to write about that! 

3.  Stories humanise and build deeper connections

Every artist in the world wants and needs engaged fans. Stories can help create that connection. Irritating as it may be, the X-Factor does this every Saturday night. Throughout the show stories are provided about each artist to help us relate and feel a connection to each of them. With this connection comes support and loyalty.

Implications for artists. The good news is that you can achieve this without all that X-Factor crying! Start by ensuring your biography, press release, website, or Facebook page provides your fans with information about you. Specifically include information about the things that shape you as a musician, how you write, why you write and why you do what you do. You should aim to bring your personality to life and provide fans with a reason to care, by enabling them to relate to you as an artist.

If you are struggling for an emotional connection, explore opportunities to borrow one by partnering with a charity or pick and support a local community project that you care about.

4.  Stories create evangelists

Getting people to care is the first challenge, but the real power lies in getting people to ‘share.’ Just imagine if all of your Facebook fans suddenly decided to tell all of their friends about your music.  How exciting and powerful would that be! 

Implications for artists.

Look at your online fans. Who are your biggest supporters or evangelists? What can you do to further engage them? A great story can provide a reason to mobilize fans. This story could simply be a great video, which is easy and socially rewarding for them to share. IE Create content makes them look cool and popular with their friends.  Another way is to create a story by doing something unexpected. The notoriously grumpy Van Morrison once surprised everyone by arriving unannounced to perform at a fan’s wedding. How can you surprise and delight your fans and leave them with a great story?

5.  Stories leave us wanting more

The best books and films always leave you wanting more, this need for more has spawned successful series and movie franchises. It has also created a need for additional TV content with the emergence of the extra, behind the scenes spin off shows that dominate the ITV2 schedule.

Implications for artists.

Use stories to create and extend the dialogue with your fans.  This could be through podcasts, playlists or blog /video blog posts.  Consider offering fans additional content like remixes or behind the scenes footage. Create teaser campaigns to slowly release new material in return for fan engagement. EG We’ll release a new song when we’ve had 50 Retweets.  

6.  Caution. Stories can’t be untold

Digital communication is powerful, once something is online it can spread like wildfire and once it’s out there it’s hard to stop it. Most independent artists dream of something going viral, but coverage isn’t always positive.  Just ask Gerald Ratner.

Implications for artists.

Think like a brand and ensure all communication and promotional materials support you and the image you want to convey about yourself.  Sometimes it’s great to let your guard down and show a more human side but don’t compromise your artistic integrity with a low-grade video or badly produced track. When it comes to Twitter think about the consequences of every Tweet. Just because you think it, doesn’t mean you should say it. 


Twitter: @RightChordMusic 

Reader Comments (3)

Story telling can be best done through videos. People can easily understand videos than plain text. Videos are also more entertaining.

October 26 | Unregistered CommenterDale Lorence

Great post! Here's a free ebook on how to FIND your story as a musician:

October 27 | Unregistered CommenterDmitri Vietze

I think you hit the nail on the head here, Mark. There's really nothing to add.

Storytelling is a powerful medium for a bio or a press kit, and is far more effective than just a list of accomplishments and credentials

October 29 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Wiebe

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