Author – Pankaj Mohanta | Download PDF: RETHINKING THE MUSIC MARKETING – JOURNEY FROM A BEDROOM TO BECOMING A MAINSTREAM FAN MAGNET – Pankaj Mohanta
“My philosophy is: If you can’t have fun, there’s no sense in doing it.”
– Paul Walker
You think you are talented? Well, okay.
Behind every successful man, there is a woman, behind every far home run, there is a baseball batter & behind every accomplished musician, there is a relentless marketing effort. Let’s face it, usually it starts with some curiosity from back in those days, the aspiring artists then have few tryouts, they love it & just keep doing it never looking back expecting that whole time that someday they would be featured in top charts of Billboard with a million copies sold, tours with sold out concerts, music nominations & awards, soundtrack featuring in movies, media, press & paparazzi flocking at them around their Hollywood & Notting Hill villas…uh, I should probably simmer down. It ain’t that easy but doing the right things at the right time does make it relatively less hard.
Often, the musicians start off with an intent to have a specialized expertise in some instrument or vocals which is a good thing but they almost always have a short sight towards the business side of managing their band’s brand or their own artiste that they pull off. Today’s musicians face a very unique challenge of getting themselves heard. While getting a chance to be heard or a limited chance to be viewed, technology & digital driven capabilities have only made it easier in all these recent times. A lot of musicians could easily get blind sighted with the amount of both big & small folks who are already in it but the overall trade-offs in this propaganda mission has been reduced to a lot lesser extent. If we look at it through the nets, it has dramatically low barriers to entry in the music industry for anyone to kick-start with an existing know-how for making an initial mark among the rest of the online crowd with the kind of platforms we already have in place that gives a seriously big chunk of ownership, the only hassle here is to get to the fine prints of potential fans who could be interested in the type of music that is being offered. And as most of you readers might agree with me, the music scene today has radically changed, mostly for things that could be well attributed towards the sweeping changes the promotional methodologies & ways that this industry has undergone over these years.
Regardless, much has been written, read, talked & heard about laying the foundations of musical stones in literally countless websites that are published & are breeding by the numbers everyday as they grow by numerous authors who are the top marketing gurus. But in this blog post, I will be breaking it all down into two happily digestible informational pills over the planning landscape for the musicians, their managers, producers & even their record labels. The two said pills that I am seen quoting are:
- CREATIVE MARKETING
- STRATEGIC MANAGEMENT
In many number of cases, the musicians do exist in this industry just for their passion; while thinking during some of those initial times that they don’t have to hustle much for getting their samples & demos heard. This unpreparedness leads to demoralizing ends, eventually leading to dropping out from what they started doing with so much love. This needs a bit of a planning to mitigate any musical sabbaticals or worse. Speaking of all the necessary preventives, creative marketing is the one which opens up a jackpot to get the musicians on a speed lane of getting themselves known. Herein, I won’t be having a roll out the same slew of doses that each one of those mad men marketers would go onto recommend their musician peeps for pursuing a career in music & making it seem worth the struggle. Instead, I will herein have a much more value-creating dealmaker points that pay off in the longer run & speaking of which, down below are some of them which goes like:
- Compound Channelizing: Nope, not to make it sound like just another buzzword from the industry, but it is something that would involve an intermediary back & forth liaison between your relevant social media stack, integrated with your official artist website which opens out at another end that connects with the search engines, the online traffic & the fans. Consider your artist/band page as the mothership of all the grand information that one could possibly have loaded online with an end goal of directing the movement of the traffic into the official website where the musician is the supreme boss & is in full control of every feature. The objective behind this is to have a qualitative data of the totality of your potential fans that are visiting, checking, playing, downloading, streaming, signing up/registering, tweet mentions & all else at a single stop for assisting the musician or his/her/their team to chart out a tailored DMAIC [Define. Measure. Analyze. Improve. Control] model for further narrowing on marketing & operational task specifics by setting & syncing up marketing intelligence online tools like Google Analytics.
- Original Album & Contribution EP: Purpose 101? Simple. To have a tray of goodies of shares in the form of contributions from various smash hit artists from the Billboard ranks in your EP that supplements the growth of the original album & singles of the artist who is releasing such album, apart from cover tracks of the hit singles or remix/refix sessions. While throwing in the best musical creativity is a great bet but exploiting these outside format plays, although slightly unconventional but given its nature of infomercial friendliness, it gets them additionally marketable & is more readily managed to get on the air radio plays [which is what most musicians try to get it on]. Such contributions can be a fantastic way as promotional boost up for spearing ahead the album sales over an extended time.
- Emotion Composition: Eliminating the projects that lack an emotional versatility & stays stagnant with a mood monotony. It is generally seen in acoustic musicians where the state of mind is very consistent with singularities of their emotions who tend to produce similar sounding tunes at more or less the same scales at times, depending on the level of instrument expertise obviously. There is a reason why diversity in workforce is a profound issue in the corporate world because the employers do not want their employees to talk same, think same, do all the same things, groupthink & have similar weaknesses. Quite similarly, there has to be a diverse track listing which spans across emotions that would fit some or the other cause & something that people could easily relate to in their past or present lives. For what it’s worth, it is the true essence of marketing right here, it will be said to have been excellently marketed when you fuse your offerings deep into the needs & turn them into an integral part of the fans’ personal-emotional lives. Yes, this is how they get “addicted” & it starts playing in their heads.
- Continuous Fan Intimacy: Response creates interactions that leads to loyalty. I cannot put a cap over this action & I have also emphasized on this enough in couple of my previous blog posts as well on branding, as to how critically important this could be in the journey towards the big stage. Once responded, the lines of communication opens the floodgates to commitment. It makes the fans feel like their views, opinions & expressions are being taken care of because they actually matter. Therefore, communication is the key. This applies very much the same for other industries too but since the entire branding & relationship management involves the listeners who generate most part of the revenues, this right here definitely underscores the importance of communicative efforts. Plus, this attempt of reaching out & relevant marketing has to be much synchronized with what’s happening in the studio to various events & surprises in stores for the fans at a consistent frequency, starting from way before the album conception to the ending of a tour & beyond. So, fan facing customer frontend isn’t something what the independent artists could afford to ignore or overlook, especially when they are still growing their base. Asking feedback is a great way to start a conversation tinkle in a profile page or someplace that has a collective assemblage of fans.
- Artist Social Responsibility: Doing it like you ain’t doing it for the money. Product wise, in some of the early days, subtly allow the music to have a spill over effect of its own through smart video-audio publishing in dedicated online streaming platforms over YouTube playlists & joining SoundCloud flagship genre channels with a very detailed focus on annotations, site link ups & giving some of it away for free or a fee very less. Service wise, without getting much into micromanagement, a constant focus on delivering outstanding production finishes & a more fan aligned direct marketing with a major emphasis on supporting good causes & raising funds for the same often entails a positive reaction that binds stronger bonds & reinforces artist’s goodwill for all better reasons to be remembered & known. By having done so, the element of empathy drives a good amount of artist positioning not only in the targeted segment but also much beyond them, attracting larger masses & their appreciations for the thoughtful socially responsible work. On top of that, getting into active gigs for the likes of them quickly grabs industry attention too, that might pave way for other opportunities which would have had otherwise taken months or more altogether to accomplish.
It is very hard for a musician to get accepted universally across all ages, locations, tastes etc. unless they get it highly trending & shoot up their material content giving it a surge in numerous online & offline spots to get acknowledged for what they are doing or did. In music industry, it is even harder to get it to that insane level of mass popularity because unlike any stupendously marketed consumer product or service where its often projected as if there is something for everybody whoever’s in it doesn’t happen since the fan segments have intensely defined genres which is demarcated by a clear line of choice that rarely budges to get past their “conventional” tunes in their collections, preferences & playlists. A significant part from the community of musicians usually think of it in terms of campaign management that is somehow aimed towards intermittently spiking an interest among their existing or potential fans which makes them to get rolling with something to promote & manage their releases on a periodical scaling. Almost all of them these days often have their own merchandise & apparels as promotional tools that injects a tangible ingredient to bear that material effect with their message which they try to put it out symbolic of its crude form.
But despite best practices, following the marketing benchmark & planning some of the most idiot proof scheme doesn’t always guarantee a success because almost everytime there are so many personal & remote factors that holds back the campaign management from blooming & positively exploiting the real & apparent opportunities that are untapped. Well initially, one of the safe ways of doing it when one is unsure of the market & its potential is by kicking off with a small scale pilot. By picking up a tiny area of geography where the musician is based, would mean very specific set of potential fans & a relatively condensed/contained base to see how the launch works out. Then the views & insights gained by this should be utilized for building that muscle to flex harder for the larger scale campaigns after reviewing any scope of improvements or understanding some underlying challenges with which they will be up against.
Thinking about all of this from an entrepreneurial point of view here will help. There lives a good chance about whatever tunes/ideas/ themes of the tracks one chooses or has a build on, it has already been composed to some degree or structured in bizarrely alike types at someplace else by someone else about whom the musicians likely have no idea of their existence in case they haven’t yet made it big in the scene. The only thing that creates a differentiation in the offering is by knowing various unique methods of music production & even more importantly, the strategies for marketing your music in ways that are better than those similar sounding or similar seeming folks. Not just that, it should be religiously followed up & requires a constant workaround whichever action plan is being sought for marketing of this kind. The prime reason for this constant workaround which I am trying to put across is that the way things are planned usually do not go down the same way as expected & as planned. Hence, it needs certain trimming or adding on for adjustments according to the changes & re-prioritizing as they develop at different stages. And this act itself of evolution is very crucial because we all know the fans don’t remain same since THEIR priorities change [relatively] which might call for changes within the artist’s management/band or whatever the case it is. It could be a complex thing to do given the many interests & differing viewpoints of those who are involved; much like the way we have it in software development when the client’s requirements change, the developing teams adopt agile methodologies which lets them formally undertake repeated cycles of persistent iterative testing to eliminate potentially crashing bugs & similarly lethal flaws in the project. With this mentioned, I don’t mean to say, out-planning but definitely out-maneuvering with the number of ways how others are performing & going about their musical strategies which could well include proactive steps in:
- Audio vs. Visual: In a literary context, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then in a musical context, a video is worth a thousand emotions. The element of cinematography in it projects a powerful visual stimuli and a good reason to find more about the artist. Online video platforms like YouTube is a phenomenal tool for the musicians to take advantage of & most artists are in fact found by the fans through this channel over its tab of related & recommended contents in its sidebar. The pre-release videos, especially the teasers that gives a preview to the album could open up to people leaving them thinking what the new album sounds like? It surely creates more excitement ahead of a full scale launch & subsequent tours. Likewise that & combined with album art[s], behind the scenes or” the making of” snippets, lyric videos are just as good for the seekers to dig, both inside & outside the newsletters, subscription email & social media feeds.
- Inorganic Growth | Hybrid Cultural Clusters: This one is all about leveraging the underground prowess that remains immensely underrated. There are literally countless groups, both big & small comprising of artists & musicians with one of a kind specialized musical delivery in a very particular genre supported by people from a specific fraternity. Inspired from the classic business cluster, creating a cross-genre fusion among the various artists in a given locale would attract fans from all the polarized ends. There can’t be anything as challenging or as creative as this from a creator’s outlook. Experiments just like this one, crossing the demographic dividend may however take some time for the listeners to accept it due to the fundamentally new sound that will go onto have produced getting their brains to re-wire & adapt to the unconventional fusion but they will eventually get accepted provided special care has been taken by the musicians & their producers to make it as inclusive turning it into a compelling tune to sell that has been carefully integrated with the elements from all the cultures that is being reflective in their tracks or as featured. As a practical consequence of this move, it serves another in-demand solution towards creating a “highway” that connects the pool of producers & artists given the resultant intensely networked ecosystem of talent embarking on a path of beginning with new collaborations & a raised productivity.
- Channels & Technological Wavelength: Before diving deep down into the crux, I want you to think of it as a journey. Musicians having an artistic journey & their fans having an entertainment journey. If musicians put themselves into one of their fan’s gloves & see the revenue that trickles down, actually has numerous start points. Today it is most sophisticated than it ever was anytime back recently with the hands-on consumer technology & the way it is getting intimate to us in our lives. We live on a sheet of criss cross pattern of devices that enables that cross channel journey of the fans for reaching out to their music. They have a myriad of choices to get to the musicians although multi-functional mobile, desktop, tablet, monocular gadgets, wearable devices, gaming consoles & even set-top boxes with streaming media players that are just a few to name apart from the physical channels like hitting the stores & grabbing the CDs. Thus, the digital-physical presence has to be there so that the business models which leverages these multi channels that generates revenue [royalties for their intellectual property by digital publishing, cash from retail products, touring, sponsorships etc.] could flow in from all these channels where the musicians’ are in. Since the channels generate turnovers in dissimilar ways because they have differing roles that are independent of each other, it gives the musicians that omnipresence making their tracks available on the go seamlessly to everyone which is one of those what it takes to have spectacular business volumes.
- Getting Serious About LinkedIn: Okay, this might sound like a tad bit crazy idea to a lot of readers for a very straight fact that users in LinkedIn are all for professional orientation & without a doubt an online networking place for non-entertainment. And most of us are aware about its’ broad usage for hiring purposes due to a diligently designed resume-like user facing front end on the interface that has been exploited by scores of companies & employees et al. Well, I cannot agree more but I believe the musicians should start try to see it from another perspective instead of spending all of their time & efforts over their traditional social media & setting it all up in Pandora & Spotify. It is unlike any other traditional social media websites like Facebook, which is all for people & brands, Twitter that focuses on events & occurrences, Instagram for photo sharing; while on the other hand, LinkedIn is more of a business tool mostly due to its’ peculiar features. One of the features is the categorical optics of connections & their degrees [1st, 2nd & 3rd] & an online place where members have the options of activities ranging from posting updates to liking & sharing which can be seen by their connections. Joining relevant LinkedIn groups could also help growing the network with the right mix of people having relevant expertise & not to mention, the alumni groups. Getting a foot into this door might open up to various new opportunities & exposures to A&R reps or possibly people from the labels & recording industry. So, apart from the traditional social media websites, musicians might as well start visualizing their personas as a brand & leverage the most out of this business tool too because modestly speaking, at the end of the day, it is all about network, connections & visibility for stretching the reach of the content. However, not to be aggressively pursued for the ends of music promotion & eventually end up looking too distracting to spamming extents to have you around.
- Content Lifecycle Management: The question, what next? for the musicians might be somewhat slippery if we get out of the confines of touring & promoting the music, post release of the hit single/album. The core essence of who they are is represented by their music & every offering that involves people has four major stages & which are – introduction, growth, maturity & decline. This is however more relevant to products but in fact to an intangible product like music, it experiences these standardized legs to greatly uncanny degrees. There are some initial fans who would reach out to YouTube or iTunes or SoundCloud to have a look what they have got all fresh in the channels everytime a song is released & introduced in the market. Then the growth stage follows with an additional rise in the chunk of fans & with their ever increasing number of likes, shares, comments, tweets & alike activities at a scale across the platforms. Then that growth stage is followed by a very similar set of activities in the maturity phase where typically the number of downloads, plays/hits/streaming, purchases & sales would be at its pinnacle only later to enter into the decline phase over time where all the initial excitement & buzz settles down with an evident drop in sales, profits, views & revenues. Hence, the artists need to have a pipeline that is always ready for high octane releases that generates enough involvement & curiosity to have their fans hooked to avoid hitting the decline phase, much like the brand Apple that keeps releasing next generation iPhones [includes its other iDevices too] & iOS software updates so as to have that appeal in a continuum throughout its segment of buyers without allowing its sales engine to cool down. Hence, sequential product extension strategy is a must have as a part of content lifecycle management for facing the what next? scenarios in ways that are nothing but successive. Period – end of the sentence!
- Strategic Inflection Points: Historically, in the timeline of world events, we have had “genesis” of various revolutions that paved a separate way for numerous popular cultures to rise & continue its legacies in many usage forms which has greatly pushed mass consumerism that are often seen overhyped by the media. Just for an instance, powerful figures throughout the mankind’s past like Che Guevara or Marilyn Monroe have had their footprints left behind among ridiculously excessive swarm of buff that has a sophisticated social integration into our lives ranging from art, businesses, television, literature, music etc. These socio-political megatrends have offshoots of smaller trends that has a drag effect pulling in flocks of conformists. Loads of artists work real hard for making good use of these never-getting-old & never-getting-out-of-style trends which attracts a lot of fans who are mutual supportive of such trends. These carry a psychological theme blurring generation gaps vertically among themselves which includes a significant number of supporters across the globe as a part of the mass movement & musicians reflecting the same sentiment might very well have it reciprocated in handsome economic terms prospectively.
*COROLLARY OF #6: Content Release Timing: On the contrary, this is all about when not to release the content. Releasing songs or launching albums in the internet digitally or otherwise during similarly trending events like FIFA football world cup or NFL Super Bowl Sunday is surely a bad idea.
- Redefining The Roles: Today, every member in the band or management of the artist is a chief digital officer. Analog days are almost gone or are going fast & given this obvious fact, digital capacity constraints could undermine a lot of promotional & developmental efforts in general. Thus, every member in it has to have the flexibility for working towards a common goal & track various progresses as they advance because understand something, that digital is a body that is getting more functional centric which in reality is not just about another capability like an arm. The dynamic role of a CDO [Chief Digital Officer] which blends in dealing with data & marketing simultaneously gives the much needed edge at driving listener or fan experience across the plane of pre & post connectivity with the fans. This fuels a superior fan acquisition & an eventual intimacy when efforts are streamlined among the ones those that are public facing & also including the ones who manage processes behind the stage managing tasks for the artist & various programs. This role connects the gap in the internal operations & fan experiences which drives bigger values that aren’t just concerned with album sales or revenues. This capability enhances the competencies that are required to ramp up the intangible aspect of the music production to a positive perceptual recognition that pushes better initiatives after having received actionable insights & subsequently aggregating an improved growth & value from the business perspective, post execution of such initiatives.
- Music – Life Balance: The musicians have a tough life including the ones who are closely associated in this entertainment industry. They spend hours at a single go when its’ recording time in those soundproof zones at the studio destinations. Behind those several or few minutes of back to back music which the fans dance to the beats or sing along to those lyrics & tunes lies a painstakingly long duration of writing, practising, composing, all the dos & re-dos, mixing-mastering, art work, motion pictures, social & digital media management that takes the shape of what they get to hear after all these months [or more] of preparation & hard work. Artistically, it can only be accomplished when one has a complete state of physical & mental wellbeing which entirely boils down to the individual itself. Amidst their excruciating schedule, they MUST take time off for working out, do some meditation or yoga, play some sport, get down with some of their non-musical hobbies & just have a good time with their fam & hommies. Although, this isn’t any strategy over the crust but I personally believe that everybody deserves a personal me or our time that is the core of all the motivation one needs to get going & which is why it is one of the biggest strategies even though it might not seem like one on the face of it.
The musicians never know which move is going to be career defining that would turn it all around for them. However, planning, managing & coordinating their actions could get them surprisingly ahead in their game as it lets them prepare for the things they know that will hit them & the ones that they don’t. But regardless, the journey from a bedroom to becoming a mainstream fan magnet quite nakedly has a one way up & those that persevere without giving up are the only ones who get to make it to the top. Lastly, as Kaly puts it, “there is no dream, there is only how far you are willing to go, how much you are willing to give up, how badly you want it.”
Better luck this time!
Thank you for visiting my blog & checking this out. Drop comments & let me have the chance to know what you think.
Cover Picture Credit – Sean McKenna