Every experienced musician knows that success in this craft requires more than just musical skills — it requires business acumen. Truly succeeding as a musician doesn’t just mean you can put on a good show or record a stellar album. It also requires important skills like being able to set up your own business operations, work with other musicians, and keep enough cash flowing in to pay for all of your expenses. Simply put, business is part and parcel of the music world.
One of the hardest things about the music business is marketing yourself. Bigger artists are able to hire professionals, but what about the myriad other skilled yet overlooked musicians out there? If you’re a budding artist — or even if you’re an established veteran on a budget — here are a few affordable tips to help get your marketing off the ground without breaking the bank.
1. Get Comfortable With Sales
First and foremost, if you’re going to try to succeed in music, you have to get comfortable with the business end of the deal. This comes naturally to some but not so easily to others, especially in a business that revolves so heavily around art. Gaining familiarity with business concepts like branding, promotion, and sales will go a long way in helping you succeed.
In the same way that a larger company needs to choose between sales team structures like “the island,” “pod,” or “assembly line,” you need to go into your marketing with a strategy, a plan of execution, and both eyes wide open. Take the time to analyze your goals, consider how many people you have to help you (are you alone on a solo project, working with a band, etc.), gauge what kind of success you’re aiming for, and then decide on a strategy to get there.
In short, get comfortable with what business skills, concepts, plans, and strategies are needed to achieve your goals.
2. Go Social
Social media is one of the prime ways to reach an audience these days. Businesses from every niche are using various platforms to do things like send their message, engage with customers, find leads, and make sales.
When it comes to using social media for your own musical efforts, it’s once again important to go in with a plan or you’ll end up stretching yourself over too many platforms at once, which is a sure-fire way to get nowhere fast.
Each platform has different strengths. For instance, Twitter is great for making direct connections, Facebook is a good option for interacting in niche-specific groups, and LinkedIn is ideal for professional communications.
Whatever platforms you choose to utilize for your efforts, social media enables you to:
Interact with followers.
Promote tour dates and new music.
Provide customer service.
Promote awareness, in general.
And you can typically do all of these things at no cost. It’s a win-win.
3. Go Mobile
While most social media efforts will already be mobile-friendly, it’s important that you also make sure that your website is optimized for mobile users, as well. Use Google’s mobile-friendly test to see if your site is up to snuff. If it isn’t, make changes, look for a free plug-in to help convert it, or even consider creating a new site that facilitates mobile optimization.
A huge number of visitors are on mobile devices these days — probably including yourself at times! Keeping your site functioning smoothly on the mobile front is critical for both user-experience and how Google ranks you. It’s that important.
4. Look for Affordable Help
You don’t need to land a gig with Sony Music or Universal Music Group in order to get some professional experience in your marketing efforts. If you find yourself in over your head, consider hiring a freelance marketer, social media manager, graphic designer, or whoever else meets your current needs. While it’ll come with some costs, they typically won’t be nearly as high as other options.
Finding other professionals to help with product creation and marketing can be a key part of success. After all, it’s hard to bring things like functionality, user-experience, and actual money-making endeavors all together into one strategy and product without a little collaborative effort.
5. Find Valuable Exposure
The idea of “exposure” having value is a fairly nebulous concept. For instance, opening for a famous band can get you a fabulous level of attention. On the other hand, playing for a small, local coffee house at midnight at the tail end of a multi-band lineup probably won’t get you very far.
It’s hard to predict the kind of marketing opportunities you’ll run into. However, always make sure to consider the value of the quality of the exposure in each situation before you start signing on to any and every marketing opportunity that presents itself. Selling out to the exposure ideal at all costs isn’t very flattering, and it’s likely going to suck the life and soul out of your musical endeavors.
6. Get Offline
Along with all of the obvious online options, it’s still important to push your product in face-to-face settings as well. It’s easy to disappear into online anonymity, but booking gigs, selling merch, and talking to potential venues and radio stations are excellent ways to keep things going at full steam.
There are a couple of specific benefits worth calling out here. For one thing, merch sales can help keep the wheels greased for your other musical endeavors. Additionally, the networking opportunities of playing gigs can be excellent as you demonstrate your skills and rub shoulders with fellow musicians, producers, and studio personnel.
The plain hard truth is, as long as you want to be a successful musician, marketing your art is going to be an ongoing affair. From updating social media to working the merch table at local gigs, optimizing your site for mobile users, hiring a freelance marketer, and everything else that goes into the deal, marketing is a big part of a successful musical career.
However, it’s important not to look at marketing as a drag or a barrier preventing you from playing your music. Instead, try to maintain the attitude that your marketing efforts are part of what enables you to maintain your artistic efforts in the first place. After all, your band is your business. Market it like one — continue to ask yourself questions to develop a robust marketing plan. A healthy long-term perspective like this will do wonders in helping to fuel your musical marketing and help keep you on your A-game as you look for that valuable exposure and promote yourself both online and off.
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