With the coming of every new year we generally will see two usual
and traditional events. First, a slew of articles from
so-called music industry experts, who will try to convince you, now is
the time to sit down and write out a year long plan for your CD and your
music career. Second, panicked artists, who will desperately rush to try
to do this with all their hopes, dreams and promises of a new year.
Unfortunately, bad advice leads to bad results.
While most of the articles will be trying to convince you to do things
that you can't possibly succeed at (national radio promotion, extensive
touring, industry wide press coverage, etc.), they also lack the real
advice of what the true first step is to becoming successful.
Understanding your music.
While it is well known that I am a strong believer in focusing on your
home market and home state first (at least until you sell 10,000+ CDs),
it is important to understand that to succeed in your home market, you
can not continue to promote yourself and your music the way you have in
the past. To be successful in promoting and selling your music, you must
understand it and use it. What does that mean?
You have to look at yourself, the artist, to realize where your music
comes from and how it can help you. For example, most independent
artists who send me their new CDs, focus a large percentage of their
songs on personal relationships. Instead of rushing out to figure what
radio stations you can send it to based upon format, or which
publications you want to buy print ads in or try to get a review from,
take a step back and understand how your songs can help market
If personal relationships is a common theme through out your CD, how can
it be used in your home market? While radio and television can get you
some exposure, it also limits your ability to personally bond with
your new and existing fans. Obviously radio stations and television
advertisements don't allow you to explain what your music is about and
how it directly relates to your fans. (Unless of course, you can get on
talk shows). So you need to think of creative new ways to promote your
music using the content of what your songs are about and how that
relates to your fans. All in the hope of generating the all important
word of mouth.
So lets use relationships as our common theme in our new CD. How can
we use it in creative ways to generate more attention and sales in our
Off the top of my head, I would look for discussion groups in your area
or organizations that present meetings or seminars on the topics that
are in your songs. Attend some of the meetings. Get to know the people
who attend. Talk to them about your music and how you talk about your
own experiences regarding past relationships in the songs on your CD.
Talk to the person running the meeting. Can you play for the group? How
about setting up a cocktail mixer to draw more attention to the group
and introducing it to new people? Can you play at that? Can the
organization buy your CDs and give them out as a premium, to the members
of the group?
Then take the idea to the Web. Where can you post messages or talk about
your songs online? Newsgroups? Chat rooms? Web sites that focus on the
topics you sing about?
What if your common theme or even a key song or two, was about politics
or an environmental issue? What organizations in your city can you play
fund-raisers for? They can invite thousands of people who donated money.
Can they buy your CDs and give them away as a premium?
The ideas are endless, let your mind go!
What about non-music related stores to sell your CD in? Romantic music
can be sold in candle stores, to gift basket companies to be included in
their packages, flower vendors, Victoria Secret stores, etc.
I once convinced a hotel chain to buy copies of a romantic CD to be
given away to people staying at the hotel over the Valentine's weekend.
Little did I ever imagine they would order 5,000 copies!
The point I'm trying to make is, before you follow the advice of one of
these "so called" experts and waste your valuable time writing out an
over extended marketing plan which features things you can't possibly
hope to accomplish at this stage of your career, start by aiming for
reachable goals in your home market. Use your own music as a creative
factor in generating new ideas, instead of just another mail out to
radio or the media.
Author Tim Sweeney is head of Tim Sweeney & Associates, who are entering their 18th year of being, "the only true artist development company in the world."
Tim is one of the music industry's most sought after experts and consultants, and has written several influential books including "Tim Sweeney's Guide To Releasing Independent Records".
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