Let’s have a little fun with metaphors!
Speaking with artists about marketing is a lot like asking someone how to cross a body of water.
You’re likely to hear a variety of answers.
You can take a boat across. You can take a plane and go over it. You can try going around the body of water. You can use a submarine…
But most would say, “just jump in and swim it.”
Or for artists, specifically, musicians looking for success, the equivalent go-to answer is “play lots of live shows and get a record deal.”
Today’s musicians are trying to swim across a body of water to reach success, but this old tried and true method just doesn’t work anymore.
The water is thickening. The waves are getting bigger. And there are more people than ever still trying to swim across.
In other words, there are too many other people trying to do the same thing, and believe it or not, many of them are extremely talented and are making some awesome music.
Your advantage is that the majority of them have no idea how to build an audience in today’s music industry.
In one of my favorite movies, Back to the Future, Doc Brown says,” No wonder your president has to be an actor, he’s gotta look good on television!”
In the same vein, musicians today are not just musicians. They have to be their own PR agencies. We live in a world dominated by social media. Fans not only expect to be entertained, but they also want to engage. They want to have conversations and be included, and they expect it outside of (or in addition to) traditional live shows!
The Internet is here and it’s not going anywhere. It will certainly continue to evolve but anybody trying to stand out in today’s climate should be embracing and making sacrifices to our Internet overlords or sink to the bottom of the sea.
This will be much easier for generations that have grown up with the Internet and have no memory of a time without it.
But then there are people like me. I am 32. I remember having a cell phone without the Internet. I remember MySpace and the void before it. I also remember playing in bands in high school and not making a social media post, Facebook event, or tweet announcing our next show.
There was no Bandcamp or Soundcloud account where people could check us out beforehand. “What’s the URL to your website?” U-R-What?
Today, the music industry is fraught with problems but it’s also overflowing with talent, creativity, and passion. Probably more so than in any other time in history.
Maybe one day we won’t have record labels. Maybe one day streaming services will pay higher royalties.
I don’t have the solution or the one magic marketing strategy that works for everyone. But, there are certainly ways to leverage the power of the Internet to get your music in front of a lot of people.
Then, it’s a matter of getting in front of the right people with the right message.
I believe the goal for most musicians can be simplified to this:
Make Good Music. Deliver it to an audience that wants to hear it.
But finding and acquiring the audience is different than it used to be. The Internet brings us countless new ways to get across the water without sinking.
And on the other side of the water, artists can find their audience, a community.
Today’s artists must cultivate an engaged group of eager individuals that connect with you not only through the music that you make but also through the personal stories that you tell, the videos that you make, the photos that you share, the updates you provide, and ultimately through the conversations you have.
This is what the Internet is after all: a system of communities.
Brands create social groups.
Websites recruit users, followers, and subscribers.
Blogs find readers.
And social networks connect groups of friends.
Today’s musicians must communicate who they are on an intimate level so that any person that, by chance, good planning, or fate, sees their post, hears their music, or watches their video says to their self, “I relate to that.” and “This is a community for me.”
Then you have a new fan.