I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “marketing” I’m instantly flooded with scenes from Mad Men, visions of charts and numbers, and a lot of floating question marks that leave me asking “wait, what exactly is marketing?!”
Or at least, that’s how I used to be. These days Don Draper style deals still pop up in my mind when I put my marketing hat on, (because come on, that was a great show), but the mystery around marketing doesn’t leave me in such a panicked fog. In fact, once you get to know how it works, it’s kind of fascinating!
Today, we wanted to help you to better understand what marketing means, how it can work for you and why it’s so crucial to your career, and what you can do to put your own effective marketing plan together and make sure your next album, live show, or IG post is getting the attention you want.
What is marketing and why is it different from PR?
Being a publicist, a lot of people tend to think what I do is actually marketing, or in some ways involves marketing. The truth is, it really doesn’t. While PR (which involves getting you press coverage like interviews and reviews) is a great sidekick to marketing and vice versa—the two work incredibly well together—they are also incredibly different. That’s because PR is about building on name and brand recognition and marketing is about numbers and driving sales.
Both feed into one another and together, they make for a powerful strategy, but they are incredibly different.
Why market my music?
Simply put, because whether you’re the type of person who is doing this as a hobby and simply wants to get your music out there and maybe earn back some of the money you’ve invested or you’re hoping to do this as a full-time career one day, you need marketing.
While we’re on it, there’s nothing shameful or wrong about making money off your art. I know there’s this stigma in the industry that you’re selling out if you actually you know, find success, but it’s not true, and it’s not a productive belief. Not if you’re in this for the long haul.
As for why to market your music, it’s simple:
1) You want people to hear it and
2) you want to make some kind of income from this project you’ve poured your heart and soul into.
Understanding your budget
One of the things you want to ask yourself is “what’s my budget?” If the answer is “zero”, think again. While there’s a lot you can do on your own, it’s incredibly time intensive, requires an initial investment in learning certain skills, and even if you can maintain that for a while, at some point if you really want to succeed, you’re going to have to free up your time and double down on the strategies that are working, and that’ll require a monetary investment.
For instance, you might be getting really good at social media and want to put $10 behind an ad for your next show. Or you might need to hire a graphic designer to make your album art. Remember, this is an investment in you, in your career, and in your future. Make the commitment to yourself and your career, and set aside a budget so you have it when the time comes to invest.
Questions to ask yourself
Now we’re getting to the meat of the marketing plan. The first thing I want to say about this is that your marketing plan can be as comprehensive as you want it to be. Ideally you’re going to want to have some substance in there, but it does not need to be a dense 50 page document that you trudge through. As a guideline, you’ll want to include:
Who is my audience? Get really specific about this one. What age are they, what are their hobbies, what do they like, where do they hang out online and off? If you feel stuck, check out your analytics on FB, IG, and Twitter. You can also simply ask these things about yourself—odds are your fans are going to be very similar to you
What are your goals? Don’t go crazy here, 2-3 major goals for the year is plenty. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself or make goals that aren’t realistic.
Brand summary: What’s your brand? What are you all about? Why do you wake up every morning and do what you do?
Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats: This is a common exercise in the marketing world.
Ask yourself what you’re good at? IE: If you’re great at social media, maybe you focus in there. Same thing for weaknesses. If you’re awful at analytics or can’t write a bio, then you know those are areas to delegate.
Next you look at your opportunities. What’s out there for you? What are the specific blog or playlist placements you’d like to secure? Is there a specific venue you want to play?
Threats is anything that makes you feel a bit wobbly about your music career. For instance, maybe you’ve known for a while that one of your band members isn’t pulling their weight and you need to address it. Maybe you’ve been selling the same boring Tshirt that no one is buying and you want to switch it up. Or maybe your website is always broken.
Try not to feel like these are areas to panic over—they’re simply opportunities for improvement.
Putting together a timeline
Within your marketing plan you’ll want to include your timeline of releases, shows, and other major events, as well as the marketing strategy behind each.
So, if you’re planning to release a new EP in August you’d want to make a list of blogs, playlists, and other media you want to reach out to and how you’ll do that. You’d also want to include any special events like contests you’ll run with your fans (and all the details behind that), shows you’ll put on and how you’ll get the word out. (Ads, etc) Merch you’ll make exclusively for the occasion and sell only at the show. You get the idea.
This part is a lot of fun because it not only gives you an outline of where you’re headed so that you can better stay on track, but it allows you to flex those creativity muscles and brainstorm fun new ways to get the word out.
Find fresh inspiration
Don’t be afraid to look to other successful artists in your genre and life stage and see what they’re doing, and how you might be able to learn from their techniques. See what content they’re putting on social media that’s working. What kind of merch is selling out. Where are they successfully touring. Doing this kind of market research and finding inspiration and mentors within your world, is an important step throughout your career, but especially when putting together a marketing plan.
The little things count
One thing to remember throughout all of this is that the little things really do add up. It might not seem like you’re doing much when you put $10 behind an ad or ask your fans to participate in a tshirt design contest, or you post a few extra times a week, but all these little things are what add up. Especially in the early days as you’re growing your career, so much of this is about experimenting, seeing what works, and moving forward. Try not to get discouraged if things take time, or if one tactic doesn’t work. This is all part of the process, and the more flexible and open to quickly testing and pivoting you can be, the better your chances at lasting success, as well as just having more fun while you get there.