For many, the term ‘marketing’ can have an unsavory connotation – especially when applied to their own work. If this describes you, it’s time to reevaluate. While there are plenty of entities that use marketing as a means to questionable ends, we have to remember that marketing is merely a tool. Rather than look at marketing as a way to ‘control and manipulate people,’ think of it as a way to optimize the presentation of your work and ensure that it gets put in front of latent superfans. Previously, we looked at how to establish a series of themes and aesthetics that make up your ‘brand.’ Truthfully, that only covers half of the equation. The other half deals less with the nuance of identity and more with logistics. Now that you have a good idea of what to put into the world, we’re going to postulate how you plan to put it out there.
Grab a figurative pencil (or a literal one if that’s your shtick) and select three similar artists. It’s time to hash out some bullet points. While there’s certainly more you can learn from studying others, the following prompts should give you a basic understanding of what those people are doing from a marketing perspective:
1. Where are they based out of (ex. Prague, Sydney, Detroit, etc.)?
2. What can you discern about the local music scene in that area?
3. How often do they release new music?
4. Where is their music available to stream, purchase, and/or download?
5. How much do they charge for merchandise?
6. How often are they playing live shows?
7. What cities and venues are they performing in?
8. Which social media platforms are they active on?
9. How often do they post on social media (ex. every two days while on tour, twice per week during a major release, etc.)?
10. If they are active on multiple social platforms, how does their content differ from platform to platform?
11. How is their artistic identity unique?
12. Who is their target audience?
13. What do their fans like?
14. How do they engage with fans (ex. ask open-ended questions, conduct polls, take photos with fans, etc.)?
Now, turn to a new, blank page. It’s time to do something similar for your own music. Knowing what we know about their music, what can we infer about your own music? Answer the following prompts, then afterwards, we’ll compare and contrast:
1. Who is your target audience?
• What is their average age?
• What is their average income?
• Where do they live?
• What are their interests?
• What sorts of activities do they engage in?
• What opinions do they have?
2. How will you handle music distribution?
• What streaming platforms will your music be available on?
Will you distribute the music yourself or use a 3rd party option?
• How much will it cost you to distribute music?
• How much will you charge for digital music?
(ex. $5 for current single, $12 for new album, etc.)
3. How will you handle merchandise?
• What sorts of merchandise is appropriate for your music
(ex. clothing, CDs, accessories)?
• How much will it cost to manufacture and fulfill merchandise orders?
• How much will you charge for merchandise
(ex. $20 for t-shirts at concerts, $15 for CDs online, etc.)?
• If you plan on selling physical media, which formats do you intend to use
(ex. CD, flash drive, cassette, etc.)?
4. How will you handle live performances?
• Will you be performing your music live?
If so, when would be an appropriate time to start doing so?
(ex. after releasing first album, during the winter of 20XX, etc.)?
• Where will you perform
(ex. locally, nationally, internationally)?
• If you do not choose to perform live, how will you continue to engage your audience and ensure your music remains relevant?
Whew! That’s a lot. You’ve gotten this far, though, so give yourself a pat on the back. While this blog post is probably starting to look more like a laundry list, rest assured that all of these things will help you immensely. It’s very possible that you may not know how to answer some of the above questions (and that’s okay). What we examine next may shed light on a new perspective.
So we know what they do and also what you hope to do. Take a moment to consider how they are different from one another. Are you offering merchandise at a more affordable price? Do you intend to be more active on social media? Have you developed a more thorough identity? Maybe your music is more unique in some way. There should be something special about your project (which, of course, there is)! It’s just a matter of identifying what that something is.
Next, let’s think about some of the possible weaknesses of your project. It’s not as exciting as jotting down your aspirations, but this sort of honesty can help you just as much (if not more). Even if your music is artistically interesting, getting it to stand out in a saturated (or niche) market will be challenging. Rather than run the risk of your project falling flat on its face, spend some time considering the potential pitfalls you might encounter. One of the worst things you can do is pretend that your project has no weaknesses.
To wrap up this series of workshops, create a rough timeline for yourself. This can be as narrow of a band as several months or as broad as several years. The important thing is that you create data-driven, achievable milestones for yourself. In other words, don’t write down: ‘I want to be famous in less than three years.’ Take a look at the following examples to get some ideas flowing:
• Sell x copies of first album by 20XX
• Grow audience to x followers by 20XX
• Release new material every x months
• Complete studio-length album by 20XX
• Launch a crowdfunding campaign in 20XX
• Go on national tour after x years
While there’s certainly room in this lifetime for an article about how to stay accountable, that’s a bit outside the scope of this series. For now, do your best to stick to your plan and continue refining the marketing strategy you created during this episode. It can only get better!
That’s all for this episode of Leveling Up Your Artistic Identity. In the future, we’ll analyze ways to keep the creative spark alive while propping your work up to succeed. As always, if you have any questions about this article and want to discuss things in greater detail, leave a comment below or join the conversation on Discord!