Approach a music marketing strategy with focus
To be a successful band or musician in today’s constantly-connected society, you need a plan. You must have a solid path for communication: marketing & promotion is more than just cool graphics on posters and sweet tunes at a show. You need a solid music marketing strategy that engages your fans on a daily basis. There has to be dialog back and forth that is professional, robust and constantly providing new information about the band, it’s music and news. Promotion efforts have to be engaging, direct and catchy to b effective. Follow along as we discuss the importance of treating your side project more like a business. We will get to music marketing in a second, but first, lets discuss the reality.
A day in the life…
Life for a working musician is getting harder. No, I don’t mean your top 40, chart busting, star. Rather, I am talking about the average working person that moonlights as a singer/songwriter or band member. The day cook that works for 46 hours a week on a kitchen’s line, then practices music with her friends. They all gather together for 6-8 hours weekly, with a full afternoon on Sundays to practice. The group handles their own promotions and marketing, make all of their own booking arrangements and scheduled appearances. They do their own web design an social media posts. If they are lucky, they plan a road trip and handle all of their hotel accommodations and expenses while out “on the road”.
As a team they toil and rehash; reworking, practicing, learning, writing and revisiting different songs, designs and marketing mistakes. All in the hopes of finding their moment in the spotlight. The goal? To perform their tunes in front of a sizeable group of fans on a weekly, or even semi-daily basis. To sell enough of the music to sustain life without the kitchen day jobs. to create a brand and merchandising to support it that will cover costs that a paying gig on the road just cant do. As some would say… to “make it” or “live the dream”. To follow their passion and make music that make others happy. This gift to the universe is what makes them happy.
However, that world is a difficult and problematic world. People just don’t buy albums or CDs the way they used to. How we discover and enjoy music is a whole new ballgame; one that seemingly changes from year to year. First we had Napster, then iTunes, then Pandora and Spotify. LastFM, SoundCloud, our own gorilla marketing techniques, web sites, streaming services, podcasts… There is a whole network of different routes to deliver the created sounds. The one is the best to share all of your music that is made…all of them.
Then you have the problem of live shows. With the economy tighter, venues can be strict on how they pay out for performing acts. Performers find themselves in pay-to-play scenarios: they buy the tickets at one price, then resell to make a profit. Booking contracts are ignored or denied more than they should be. Venue owners often offer flat fee payment after a certain number of guest arrive. Or there is an absurd percentage offered, like 25% after 20 guests, which barely pays for gas. It used to be easy: make great music, get it played on the radio, sell tons of albums and tour the world.
Some music marketing & promotion strategies
In order to stay alive in this changing musical landscape, you need a strategy for reaching your fans. Effective promotion is more than just creating an event on Facebook or sending out a series of tweets. You need to establish a routine of promotional messages in the weeks leading up to the gigs you want to really advertise. Here is one approach you could use to assist with the creation of a solid music marketing campaign. Trust me, there are thousands of things to do… but these are a few to get you started.
Part one – Promotions leading up
One month away – Create the event
Create your Facebook event and link it to the venue, your web site, and any other calendar system you use on the back end. This critical step gives friends and fans time enough to plan for the event, yet not so much time they forget about it. Make sure you have photos or graphics available too because this helps with brand recognition. Blast invites out to your list(s) and followers. Have them make a post to the event page with their favorite song and tell them you are curating a set list just for the town, based on feedback given here on the event page.
Two weeks away – Create a buzz about the promotion posters
Using your social channels ask if people have seen your posters in town yet? Mix it up on each platform though… DO NOT copy paste. It’s a subtle way to point out that posters are up, and verify the street team did their job. AND it is a sideways way of asking for more help if the town seems bleak for advertising. There is still time to get a handful mailed out to dedicated fans willing to hang them for you. Better yet, offer to email them a copy of the poster, and then you can reimburse with a receipt. This is a trust-your-judgement scenario though as not all posters printed will be hung.
One week away – Inquire about their town
Revisit the calendar posting (again) and offer up a “Can’t wait to see you San Antonio” message. Let the fans know you are excited to come to their town. Personalize it though. ask for feed back with a follow up engagement question. “Where should we eat when we roll in to town” or “Whats the best spot to chill out and relax the hour before the show?” Nothing lets a fan know they are valued more than listening to their suggestions.
In addition, reach out to fans listed as “maybe” or “interested” and find out what it would take to get them there. Some may need a ride… you can help make that happen. Some fans simply can’t attend, but others may be on the fence. A gentle nudge or shout out may be all it takes to get them to the venue.
4 days left – Remind them of the previous show
This is when the chatter should ramp up. Release a song or two, or a video of a past performance from the venue to help gain interest. Fans who were at the event may enjoy reminiscing about the tune. Others that missed it will see how much fun others had. It is a perfect chance to ask fans if they remember this song form the past show. Literally… ask them. Post a poll “Shall we play this song again this time?” or perhaps” Who wants to hear this song as an acoustic version this time?” Remember… your goal is to generate BUZZ! This is also a perfect time to ask a fan to make a few videos for you at this event. Get a few volunteers then trade them admission for the rights to use the video for future promotional efforts.
1 days left – Convert your stragglers
One last final push to try and convert the unconfirmed to attend. Send out a message targeting all the maybes on your event… “3 random people not confirmed who respond with their favorite song will get free admission.” It’s a simple tactic to get them to engage with the post, but also a way to possibly convert a few fans. Yes, this may cost you a door charge… but who REALLY goes to shows solo? Most likely they will drag a friend with them. And if not, think of it as an investment to future shows.
Part two – Music marketing that day.
Day of show – Announce your winners
Follow up with your previous posts and announce the winners to any contests you held. Congratulate them all for participating and sweeten the deal (as needed) to try and convert the final few. Perhaps tweet out a special phrase or song lyric to get a certain % off at the merchandise table. Tread carefully here though as it could backfire an spread like wild fire. Perhaps rather send out a bit.ly link to an image for them to save to their phone and take it down before the show to prevent mass distribution.
3 hours before – Guerilla promotion 101, use what existings
Follow the advice shared earlier in the month and hit up one of the tasty spots in town for some food. Send out an Instagram pic or tweet of you at that location and THANK THE FAN THAT SUGGESTED IT. here is the critical point though: Remember to tag the venue your eating at, the venue you are performing at, your band name and the time of the show. When that tasty burger joint retweets your mention, you now have access to their whole list of followers who may NOT be your followers… but are possibly fans of the other venue and maybe live music. It is free promotion for your music marketing efforts!
Hour before – Final call
Remind everyone through your social channels that you are in town, and the show is about to start. If you are able to, blast out that promotional image again to entice those fans to show up for a percentage off of goods at your merchandise booth. Maybe tweet a photo of the stage with your gear all lit up under some cool lights just waiting to be played. Its a cool promotional photo that you could use later too. Anything you can do as a band to get folks out to your venue is critical in these final hours.
Go time – Do your job
It all leads to this moment. If you have done your work well, the efforts will show up here. Relax and do what you are really here to do – play music. Marketing can now take a back seat as you play your set list to your packed house of fans. Play your music and open the show with a powerful entrance. Then, remember the polls you ran… use them. Slide into a fan favorite from one of your polls and let the venue know this was a winner form your poll on twitter. Then stop promoting and just be a musician for a while.
During/after performance – never rest
But don’t stop for too long… Remember to selectively revisit your social media adventures from the stage later in the set too. “Hey thanks again to Shaunna for the great suggestion to eat at Wild Willy’s burgers. It was delish… this next song is for you!” …Now play Shaunna’s favorite song that you gathered from your social media connection with her through the weeks leading up to this event. Or if you don’t have it… play one of your popular tunes. Either way, Shaunna is now a fan for life thanks to your music marketing efforts.
All of your efforts will always make an impact. Some will be more successful than others, but all of them will keep you engaged with your fans. Also remember, what worked in Philly may not work in Pittsburgh. You have to try everything and make note of the successful campaigns. I don’t think a regiment like this should be done for every show though. Rather, reserve it for a select few every other month or so. But you definitely need to make the effort to interact with your fan base if you want them to appreciate you. In addition to the step above, you may want to consider developing a report with your fans by offering them free stuff. Especially stuff that doesn’t cost anything to you.
Here are some great examples:
- Design Contests – Free access to a show for finalists, and a free shirt for the winner. Sure it costs you a shirt, but you get free fan art to use for future shows! Plus, you can paper the house with new guests…not the same old tired guest list filled with cousins and roommates.
- Free Videos – Sure, we could film your performance, but all you need for show promotion is a few clips of past shows up on Vimeo or your web site. We recommend Vimeo over YouTube because of the professional tone it represents.
- Free Music – Just like we mentioned above, remind fans of what it is like to hear you live. Why not start a catalog of 3 – 4 songs from each performance and then share them via social posts? “Are you going to be at Steve’s BBQ Hut next Friday? We are! Here is ‘Crazy Awesome’ from this past spring.” Not only will you advertise the venue (venues love that) but you share unreleased music form the same venue, as opposed to always available on your web site.
- Free Stickers – Alright, I confess, this will have a production cost. However, it is minimal opposed to the free promotion you gain. Your band’s sticker on walls, cars, and signs is covert music marketing at it’s finest. Check out JakPrints or The Sticker Guy for some really cool options and killer prices.