Have you finished a few tracks and now trying to figure out what comes next? I’ve put together a list of seven questions to help musicians build a marketing plan and to get you moving in the right direction.
The questionnaire I’ve created is a general inventory check of your current music business plan. Answer the questions honestly and they’ll quickly identify the gaps in your marketing strategy.
An additional goal here is learning how to answer these types of questions when other people ask. Knowing how to communicate your marketing strategy properly and with confidence is what sets the hobbyists apart from the pros.
1. What is your immediate music marketing goal?
Are you aiming to sell music, build your audience, to get signed to a label? The answer might be all of the above. Write down exactly what you’re trying to accomplish in one clear and easy to remember sentence.
Your primary goals will no doubt change over time. Until those goals need tweaking, this mission statement is a guide for keeping your eye on the immediate target.
Creating a mission statement may sound cheesy. But, if you don’t take the time to explain the direction you’re headed now, I guarantee – you won’t be arriving at your destination anytime soon.
2. Describe your music in one short sentence most people will understand.
It’s your job to find a balance between a general description of your music and one that’s specific enough to motivate a person to take a listen. Genre descriptions aren’t going to work for everyone because they’re usually too complicated for casual listeners.
It’ll probably help if you have other people describe what they think your music sounds like, and then building a description from there.
Keep an open mind and try to be objective. You’re describing what you actually sound like, not what you’re trying to sound like or the mood you’re trying to create.
Figure out this one sentence description and commit it to memory – practice saying it aloud until it casually rolls off your tongue. Trust me on this “pro tip”.
It’s alright to name-drop a few band names in addition to your core artist’s description if you want to add some musical context, but please avoid the “Sounds like if band A and band B had a love child” comparison – it’s cringe worthy.
3. Describe your most current work – what’s the inspiration and why is it important?
Convincing people to invest their listening time is an integral part of your marketing message. People want to feel like they’ve discovered something fresh and not yesterday’s stale bread. Leverage people’s natural curiosity towards discovery.
There’s an air of romantic mystery surrounding each musician’s process and what motivates them to create. An enticing description of your music helps feed this important part of your artist image.
Wrap up with why someone should listen to your music. End with a compelling explanation of what makes your work stand out – how it’s unique and different.
4. Do you have a significant web presence – what is it?
If I were writing a story for a music blog, could I easily find important details about you on the internet? By important, I specifically mean – a well-written biography, print-ready photos, and contact info – preferably, located in one place?
It’s your responsibility to maintain the quality and accuracy of your professional information. I’ve watched writers pass right over one band and write about someone else because they don’t feel like sourcing someone’s poorly written bio.
Also, creating an official website is a must if you plan on maintaining the timing and flow of your promotions. All marketing roads should lead back to your website.
While it’s important to nurture your social media presence, ideally you’ll want to steer as much traffic as possible back to your website home-ground – the place where you control the marketing message.
5. Do you have an up-to-date Electronic Press Kit (EPK)?
Think of an EPK as your artist’s resume – it’s the document standing between you and the job you’re trying to get. In this case, you’re trying to get reviews for your new album, artist interviews, radio play, and hired for gigs.
My personal EPK needs to be updated about every three months so it remains in-sync with my current work and finished projects – just like a resume.
Your EPK needs to contain – a well-written and quotable biography, print quality photo files, song samples (not clips), a few artist quotes, useful URL links to your social media channels, booking availability, and reliable contact information.
Your EPK also needs to be super-easy to locate and disperse – I keep a copy on my phone and have a download link that’s simple enough to write on the back of a business card.
The full scope of creating an effective artist EPK is pretty in-depth, so I’m going to save that write-up for another time. (smiley)
6. Do you have an active promotion plan and schedule?
Chances are, you haven’t hired a music public relations company. Their primary duty is to inform everyone what you’re up to, where you’ll be, and why people should care.
It’ll be up to you to let your potential audience know about music releases, interviews/reviews, and any upcoming events. Luckily, social media has made this task reasonably easy to manage.
Schedule your promotion announcements to create maximum engagement and to avoid flooding your channels with too much noise.
When you’ve completed a new project, it can be very tempting to immediately release an announcement to all of your social media channels.
Instead, create a promotion schedule to hit your followers with a coordinated lightning strike of information once-per-week. A promotion schedule also creates breathing room for preparation time, so your announcements remain consistent and professional.
7. Do you have a point of purchase for selling music and goods?
Purchasing music is last on the list because everything I’ve mentioned so far should lead up to this point, not begin with it.
Music distribution is not marketing or promotion. Having your music available for purchase online is not a marketing strategy. It doesn’t matter what you’ve got for sale if nobody knows the product exists or where they can find it.
Adding a price tag to your music is certainly an ego-boost, but without a marketing strategy that includes promotional activity you are going to fail. You needed to hear that – or maybe reminded again.
When you’re ready to partner with a digital distributor, they’ll be placing your music in multiple online stores. I suggest choosing the store that gives you the largest retail “slice of the pie” and pointing all of your customers in that direction.
Partner with a print-on-demand service to provide your customers with merchandise like t-shirts, hats, and posters. Avoid buying these things up-front with your own money unless it’s for a specific promotional event – something like a limited t-shirt giveaway with CD purchase campaign.
Bonus Round Promotion Questions:
– Who’s playing your music?
Your live shows, on-air performances, DJs in clubs, radio, podcasts.
– Who’s talking about your music?
Interviews, reviews, Q&A sessions, music magazines, music blogs, local radio.
– What kind of collaborative work have you done?
Remixes, album compilations, guest musicians, opening acts, music festivals.
I encourage you to closely examine the questions I’ve presented. Revisit your marketing plans on a regular basis and get comfortable explaining the details of those plans to others.
Doing these two things will help you avoid many professional stumbling blocks and build solid foundations for your music business success.