Marketing Basics For Musicians

This week I have been revising some of my study notes from my time at KEA in Copenhagen. The best thing to come from this is to remind myself of some marketing models we were taught and to see how I applied them to what I was doing in my spare time, which was helping to run events at Bolsjefabrikken and Rumkraft.

I’ve also been able to use my marketing tool kit to develop strategies, campaigns and generally improve my marketing efforts and save some valuable time. Not everything we learned during my diploma is going to be useful in terms small business and some of it is way too heavy for a micro-business, especially someone who really just wants to be creative. However, there are most certainly a few models and concepts that might assist a musician to set goals, develop a strategy and build a strong ‘brand’.

I’ve wanted to share a few tid-bits for a while now but I’d like to make it super simple and low-fuss (for myself – and for you too) as there’s no point to me re-writing articles that already exist and we both really would rather be making stuff instead.

The best I feel that can offer at this stage is a list of topics which might be of use to you as a musician – models and exercises you can teach yourself from the many articles you will find on the internet. Maybe one day it would be great to work on a team to make a proper website – so if you are someone who can make that happen, please get in touch…

But for now, let’s get started:

    I’ll add to this post over time, but the first and possibly one of the most valuable things I keep going back to is a SWOT analysis, which you can then use to form some TOWS strategies. This is a really good way to take a look at where you are at and indentify your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Once you’ve established this you can then use your lists to develop strategies that take advantage of the pros and combat the cons.
    This is the who, what, when, where and how of you and your ‘brand’/project. Taking some time to consider what your core values are will help you to draft a mission and vision statement that will better communicate your ideas and your ethics to others. This allows your audience to better understand what you want to do and how you intend to do it.
    This is an evolution of the 4P, marketing mix model of McCarthy which substitutes ‘Product, Price, Place and Promotion’ for: Customer, Cost (to satisfy), Convenience and Communication. What do your fans want? What does it cost them to satisfy their needs? How can you make the enjoyment of what you do most convenient for your target group? How will you communicate your values, ideas and activities?
    There’s no point trying to sell your style/sound to everybody, so this is where you can employ the ‘S.T.P.’ process to narrow your sights to potential customers who might be interested in what you do. Fortunately these days we have Social Media ‘insights’ to help us get a clearer picture of who our consumers are, and taking the time to consider who is listening and who cares can be powerful when it comes to the language, imagery and channels you choose to communicate your ideas. ‘Positioning’ can set you aside from the multitude of others out there and allow you to create a unique space for you (and your ‘brand’) to inhabit.
  5. S.M.A.R.T. GOALS
    At some stage you’ll have some objectives that are important to your growth as a business or artist. It makes the best sense to set goals that are realistic, relevant and measurable. We can apply this acronym in the following example: Specific – “I want to add 100 organic followers AKA ‘real fans’ on my Instagram account in the next month.”, Measurable – You can use data provided by Instagram to assess your following. Achievable – 100 followers seems like a reasonable target to aim for. Realistic – You probably have the time and resources available to make this happen. It’s also relevant to your growth. Timely – You have set a time period of one month to achieve your goal.
    Most musicians starting out would unknowingly adopt a ‘cost leadership strategy’ by playing free gigs, giving away free downloads and trying to cut costs to make this all possible. But it’s not the only way to position yourself and ‘compete’ with others out there. Of course you may argue that music is not a competition (and indeed it need not be), but as an artist you are in fact competing for the attention of potential audiences and a finite number of listeners. Porter’s generic strategies may offer you a means of positioning yourself in a way best suits your objectives and gives you advantage over the many alternatives which from a music industry perspective also includes other forms of entertainment.
    One of the main, possibly boring activities that a ‘marketer’ will be called on to do is researching the market. This helps to understand who the consumer is and what they want. Taking the time to do this preparation also minimises financial risk and increases your chances of success in marketing a new product or service. Now whilst this seems a little over the top for an independent musician, you can still apply elements of this process to what you do. Whilst youou probably won’t go as far as creating surveys or setting up focus-groups, there is some stuff that you can do to improve your chances of successfully marketing yourself and your products (music, merch, shows, etc). You already have powerful tools available to you via Instagram, Facebook, WordPress, etc. which you can analyse. This information might assist you in designing your content; understanding what parts of your story are most compelling; and having some knowledge of who your followers are, where they live and when they are online most often. Doing ‘pre-orders’ on your Bandcamp site might give you some indication of how much interest there is in a potential product. You can also use your social media profiles to ask questions and uncover some valuable insights into what your following are thinking and feeling. These are just a few examples of how you might collect some data to help you make decisions and save yourself some time and money. Something you probably have limited supply of!
    This concept is essentially creating a harmony between your communications efforts which include: Advertising, Sales Promotions, Direct Marketing, Public Relations and Personal Selling. Modern marketing also involves the use of Social Media and you may find yourself incorporating some or all of these things in your social campaigns. It is said that complete integration of these things is not achievable yet it does make sense to at least attempt to create campaigns and undertake activities which support each other. As a musician you may not be engaging in all of these aspects of marketing but if you give some thought to your activities, you may draw some associations with some of these things. Most artists will advertise themselves in some form, they may offer special discounts on merchandise, they could have a mailing list, they probably are involved in some kind of events, may do interviews with the media and have direct contact with their fans via online messaging and platforms like Bandcamp. Integrated marketing means using all of these things in a synergistic way so that they support and compliment each other.
    This is a marketing model by Phillip Kotler which outlines three levels to a product or service in the consumer’s mind: core product, actual product and augmented product. I’ve also seen models that include a fourth layer: potential. The Total Product Concept model can be helpful for positioning yourself away from your competition, communicating the emotional and rational benefits to the customer; and considering what potential there is for you and your brand’s products and services. If you have done the SWOT/TOWS analysis at the beginning, you may already have thought about the potential of your offering/s.
    In the future I will write some posts that offer examples of how you might use these models in the context of the music industry but for now I hope that this is enough to motivate you to zoom out and get a bird’s eye view of what you are making, sharing and selling.

Come back next week for another topic to learn. – Brendan