I understand why it seems important to help bands learn about business and marketing.  More and more artists have to (or choose to) maintain more control over their affairs for a longer period of their career.  The landscape of the industry is shifting and changing at a really rapid pace.  The tools that independent musicians have access to today cause there to be more new music than ever before.  Making your band stand out among the throngs of other bands all fighting for a share of the public’s attention seems like a major challenge.  I get it.

But in reality, things are not as they seem.  Yes, bands do need to learn about the music industry and the way it works, who to trust, the way deals are structured, how agents get paid, how to know who not to trust, publishing issues, etc.  Those are all really important.  But when it comes to applying brand-marketing tactics to independent musicians, ignoring product development is a huge, yet often-made mistake.  Any marketer will tell you that in 2012, marketing begins at the product level.  Creating a product that’s remarkable is the biggest challenge for a company and a great amount of resources are spent on it.  Yes, there’s some Seth-isms in there, and if you’re a musician who wants to learn more about cutting edge business marketing, he’s a solid go-to.  But if you’re in an unknown band and you’re scouring the internet for tips on how to make your music stand out in today’s crowded marketplace, consider this:

Cutting through the clutter is easy when you’re music is incredible.

Twitter recently published it’s own blog article directed at musicians, offering advice on how better to use their service to connect with your fans.

Put this link in your ‘read later’ list, follow all the artists referenced in the article – because they’re all great examples of artists connecting with their fans really well – then get back to writing music or rehearsing. Because all the tweets in the world aren’t going to make you write better music!  Don’t ever lose sight of what is most important.

A Shift In Focus

March 17, 2012 — Leave a comment

When I started writing this blog it’s goal was to hopefully inspire unknown bands down a path of more effective self promotion via the incredible game-changing opportunities available online. Technology and music intersected to provide true independence. Not independent in attitude or in genre, but by its true defection of ‘not being dependent on anyone else.’

Now, there are a million and one blogs telling new bands how to tweet, what to post, what new idea will help you use a web app to make someone like you on Facebook etc. many of them give good advice, and I’d like to think my blog has some good stuff as well, buried in the archives. But many of those sites are giving bad advice, offering bands all sorts of tips, tricks, and “get fans quick” schemes. There is now so much focus spent on promoting and marketing your band, and how to run your band like a business, and growing your “b(r)and” (a term I’ve come to hate) there’s enough things a musician could do they’re now able to distract themselves with make-work long enough they’ll never write another song again. And that’s a problem.

Cutting though the clutter is not a marketing problem. It’s a musical one. And the #1 reason a band isn’t being talked about is not because they’re failing as marketers. It’s the songs, or the live show, and the lack of quality therein.

The technology is now a given. Bands know how to get the message out. Not to say I won’t ever talk about technology again, but for now at least, it seems the more pressing issue is about needing to be a real band, with great songs and a great live show. Three things many online resources for musicians simply assume you’ve taken care of already. Don’t assume that.

Be a real band, write great songs and play the hell out of them live. Because even though the tools change, and the landscape shifts, the desire for quality music has not gone anywhere.

It’s all about the music. Focus on that. I am.

It’s 2012. Technology has completely revolutionized what it means to be an independent musician. It’s liberating, for those that are capable. It’s terrifying and frustrating for those that aren’t. No longer are there any restrictions from you being able to get your music to a potential worldwide audience. The hard part is to make sure what you’re putting out there is ready for that worldwide audience.

If you’re not as big as Drake, not blowing up like The Weeknd, not selling as much as Adele… it’s not because people don’t know about you, and it’s not because you’re not shouting loud enough.

It’s because people aren’t telling others about you.

So why is that?

So I finally got around to watching The Social Network last night. It was enjoyable, but it also got my brain working and picking up on a few things that bands (or anyone with an idea, really) could benefit from bearing in mind.

- Facebook wasn’t started with the idea they wanted to build a billion dollar corporation. They wanted to help students get laid. Your band shouldn’t be about “getting big.” Make sure you’re doing something that’s meaningful to you now.

- the first version of Facebook wasn’t the last version. And these songs you have now won’t be your last. Keep writing! Keep putting music out there!

- The Facebook guys launched their idea into reality, then continued to build it, expand its reach organically, and improve it before eventually securing investment funding. The same is true for pretty much every successful band.

- finally, most importantly, they didn’t allow themselves any excuses to NOT make Facebook, and no one said anything like “if only we had…” They just did it. Your band should do the same.

Ian Rogers (who I’ve met once, and is a really smart nice guy) recently posted his presentation on creating a digital marketing plan on the TopSpinMedia website. You can link to it here, and I definitely recommend you read every word. If for no other reason, it will inspire you with a ton of different ideas as to how you can better serve and grow your audience as a band in the year 2011.

Don’t misunderstand what he’s saying though, and simply run off to create a ton of different offerings, and throw all his suggestions into action at once.  The part about there being a process and a strategic order to things is crucial.  Always plan things with timing in mind.

And, as a very important aside… Ian Rogers can safely assume that you already make music that people love.  That’s because it’s his job to market what you already make.  As a musician, you can’t afford to make that same assumption.  It sounds simple, but it’s really not.  Make sure your music is incredible because if it isn’t, marketing it to the world is only going to make matters worse for you.