What is Marketing, Anyway?
Sometimes the best advice is also the hardest to follow. In the music industry, stupidity is one of your biggest adversaries. There’s always gonna be someone smarter than you with better ideas. The big difference is how your great music will get into the hearts and hands of the general public. This is precisely where most musicians give up and lead lives of quiet desperation.
Marketing isn’t about selling music. And marketing isn’t some abstract haziness that you’re not allowed to understand. It’s also not defined by how much money you spend or who you hire. But it’s specifically what got you to buy an iPhone, sign up for a Topspin account, or wait in line at 4 AM for some Black Friday special.
Marketing is the analysis of hype. Think about it…
When I lecture at colleges, I explain marketing like this: Any idiot can throw a party, have lots of people show up, and deem it successful marketing. That’s hype — but that’s not marketing.
The difference between me and the idiot is I know who’s at that party, which paths got them there, how I can re-connect with them after the party, and I can identify which parts of the party were more attractive to people. And finally, I can take all of that info and help you with your next party – which will undoubtedly be better than the one before it. That’s marketing.
See where this is going?
Free music is the same thing. In the music world, everybody’s telling you to give your music away; music should be free. But they’re wrong! Music should never be just “given away.” This is like letting the non-marketing guy throw your party.
Let people pay for your music – with money, with an email address, with a “like” or a “share”, but let them pay with something! If you give something away and get nothing back, you’re not doing it right! Any marketing guy will tell you that collecting information is mission critical. That information is what allows you to tell Johnny how much you appreciate his purchase, and invite him to buy your new album a year from now – when he might’ve forgotten you. Hey, it happens.
Here’s an example that I love – and one that’s easily repeatable for any musician: Give away one track per album/EP/collection.
OK, maybe that’s not the epiphany you were hoping for, but are you doing it? When you have one track per release available, you force the consumer to make a decision about which release looks the most interesting. You also allow them to see the growth/evolution of your career: “On my first album, I was all about guitar. But by album 17, it’s all zither, baby!”
Also – if you give away just one track, or just one from a new project, you run the risk of alienating a potential audience unaware of a particular aspect of your musicianship. You’ll also lose an additional indicator of which tracks are most popular.
Presumably you’re using a system that requires an email address in order to get a free download. This system will track the email addresses, but it will also let you see which tracks are downloaded most often.
You might think your ukelele tribute to Radiohead is what everybody wants to hear, but shockingly they’re mostly interested in your EP from 2 years ago. Who knew? Well, now you do! And your marketing guy is the reason…
Remember, it’s all about being smart. Solid and consistent marketing is the smartest way to ensure future success. It’s not something you do for an hour on Mondays or only when you’re on a summer tour.