Breaking Into the Music Industry 101: Marketing

In order to wrap your head around marketing concepts and how to create something that is genuine, contagious, and inexpensive (buying ads doesn’t mean you will be “buying” fans), I recommend that you pick up a few books:

All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin
The Guerilla Guide to the Music Business by Sarah Davis
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

I also recommend that you subscribe to the following blogs.  Set up an RSS feed like Google Reader so you can easily check out new posts all in one place for:

It’s free advice that will help you take your career another step forward! These series will contain a few different posts because the topic is so vast and changing.

Let’s begin with the foundation: Marketing is not advertising.

Many people (including marketers) have this false notion that marketing is advertising. They believe that buying ads on television or in magazines is a real marketing program but it really isn’t. True, effective marketing is defined by these concepts:

1) It has a specific target audience/market
2) It is authentic
3) It is contagious (spreads on its own)

Notice that none of those things mentions how large of much money you have, how many commercials or ads you can buy, or anything else of that sort. True, a budget will help (more on that later) but you have to begin with the first three points: identifying your target (be as specific as possible), you have to create a genuine message that resounds with that target audience, and then allow your audience to spread your message for you.

Target Audience

I was having lunch with the Director of Marketing for PepsiCo (he used to run marketing for ABC as well) when I was learning these concepts and he asked me what the target audience for my band was. I replied “Mostly younger people, like 15-35 year olds who like music.” I was way off base on what the concept even meant! These days, I can say that my primary target audience for the band is an 18 year old girl who likes to go to anime conventions, buy music, and is into Asian culture.

You cater your “brand” to your specific audience and their enthusiasm spreads into other markets naturally. It doesn’t mean that you say “our music is for 34 1/2 year olds who drive a Prius” but the way you market to their interests is what creates the contagious factor.  So figure out who your most enthusiastic fans are, what they are interested in about your music, and what else excites them. Then find ways to connect with those fans at that level, that world view, and with those interests.

When I say “brand,” I mean the way you market yourself. Be specific. I get calls from bands all the time that when asked to describe their music, they say “Oh, we won’t sound like anyone else” or “We have a little bit of everything.” You know what that means? No fans to appeal to. Be as specific as possible and break it down into two sentences or less like “We are horror pop: a cross between Lady Gaga and The Misfits” or “We sound like The Beatles playing heavy metal.” The more defined you are, the more easily you will be able to connect with your defined target audience.

Be Authentic/Be Contagious

Being authentic means being true to your own brand and having a message that can spread organically. When fans get disappointed over an artist because they’ve “sold out,” it doesn’t matter what the band did or did not do: the fans now feel the authenticity of the artist is in question. If you are authentic and real with your fans, they take it more to heart and are more eager to share your message (your music) with others that they know.

You can know all of the social media marketing tricks in the book, but if fans don’t feel you are genuine, the ideas won’t spread. Facebook, Twitter, Myspace are all just tools but they aren’t the determining factors of your success. This is why advertising doesn’t necessarily mean true marketing. If you pick up your weekly paper to see who is playing in town, you’ll mentally skip over all of the ads splashed on the pages and go directly to the calendar listing to find what you’re looking for. Most people will not stop to look at the ad or pay attention to the radio commercial unless there is something there that strikes them: a band they already care about is releasing a new album, there is a message in the commercial that resounds with their world view.

This is also why I recommend to hire a publicist so much: getting a small, positive review in a magazine that your target audience reads is worth more than paying hundreds of dollars in ads in the same space. The first one adds a touch of authenticity, the second is scanned and forgotten about.

In future articles, we’ll talk about what it means to have a USP (Unique Selling Proposition), basics that will allow your message to spread more, and how to gain new fans. But what specific ideas are you wondering about or areas you’re struggling with? Email me at and I’ll see if I can help you.

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