We all know finding the right artist, getting them with a great producer, and finally getting a product you're happy with is just part of the battle. Now you have to market the record, right? Well, music marketing is complex and mistakes can happen easily, so we've compiled a short list of some of the most egregious music marketing mistakes to help you avoid them.
1. Not realizing how important artist image is
You’ve no doubt heard that that every artist needs an image. Maybe your artist already has one – great! Just make sure it’s the right one. What kind of songs do they sing? Are they dark and somber like maybe Evanescence? If so, they shouldn’t be wearing bright colors and following Hello Kitty on Twitter. Maybe they’re a wacky and colorful band, like Bare Naked Ladies? Well…make sure they show that. Don’t have them standing around in goth makeup and black Metal T-shirts. This goes even further, though, to how they interact with fans. In my years on the road, I encountered an up and coming regional band – they sang hip, trendy songs and they dressed the part. Beyond that, they had hip, trendy attitudes (even toeing the line of coming off slightly like jerks). But it worked for them. Their fans saw this as authentic, and responded in droves.
Consider your artist’s music. Does it have an overall feeling or message (if not, it probably should). Does their wardrobe and stage persona match up with it? Use a Google search to study artists you admire, and see what they do – you may be surprised at how well it all dovetails.
2. Failing to target a specific market
The first step is deciding what genre your artist fits into – and these days, there’s no shortage of genres to pick from. Some genres, like Americana, have a big tent – you may even find they fit into more than one genre, and some overlap is totally okay. The important thing is to find out who listens to the kind of music they’re creating — it’s your job to do your homework on that audience and find out all about them. Where do they go to shows? What websites are popular with them? What bands do they like? Could you possibly get your artist to tour with them, and gain a boost to their fanbase?
The truth is, if your band is playing a venue full of people that don’t like their style of music, you’re all wasting your time and energy. It doesn’t matter how good they are — the crowd likely won’t be motivated to buy any CDs or T-shirts, or even follow your artist on Facebook. It not only looks bad for the band, it reflects poorly on you — you may even start to lose their confidence. When I had a band, we made mistakes like this — we had a harder sound, but we played anywhere that would have us — that included coffee shops, where an acoustic act was likely to go over much better. Suffice to say we didn’t win over many fans this way, and we shifted away from booking shows in those kinds of venues — but not before we got demoralized about it. Learn from our mistakes — don’t let this happen to artists you represent!
"The truth is, if your band is playing a venue full of people that don't like their style of music, you're all wasting your time and energy."
3. Not having the right products to market
All the brilliant marketing in the world can’t help you if you don’t have a product. I know way too many amateur managers who worked tooth and nail to help their artist claw their way into the festival circuit only to not have any CDs. Some even put the cart before the horse and were selling stickers and T-shirts, but no music. Their thinking was, build up a fanbase first and have ready made sales as soon as the album drops. While that may work for some bands, it’s incredibly naïve to think that a fan who can’t hear your music day in and day out won’t forget about your artist in the time it takes for them to record, mix, master, and put out an album. If you’re lucky, you’re talking months — and that’s if you don’t have to worry about saving up cash. The fact is, we live in an instant society — we download albums, games, and movies instantly. We don’t want to wait for anything — heck, I rarely even wait if a YouTube clip takes too long to load. Have your artists album — or at the very least a 2-3 song demo — ready to be mass produced.
And by the way, is it available online? Don’t forget to add it to their website as a download or stream, and get it up on iTunes and CDBaby. Just be sure to take stock and be honest before you put more work in — if they’re not ready for prime time, it’s time take a step back and regroup.
4. Relying too much on Social Media
Facebook and Twitter are amazing tools – but they are just that. You and your artist should absolutely be on social media tweeting and messaging fans. But that doesn’t mean you can slack off on getting them regular gigs, or using other forms of social media like Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever medium fits your target demographic. Why not encourage them to do YouTube covers, or Periscope some shows? I know several artists that do shows just for their online fans and webcast it. Connecting with fans as much as possible is a huge step in being successful – but not the only one. Like getting your image right, targeting your market, and making sure you have a recording, it’s one angle you should be working in an overall plan for success.