Releasing a new album is one of the
most exciting things in the career
of an artist, especially an independent one, where you're doing
everything on your own.
After all the time, money, and energy you've put into learning how to play, you've taken things to the next level by writing quality songs, getting a perfect performance of them on tape, and replicating several hundred (or thousand) copies for people to buy.
Then there is the business aspect of everything... People can't buy your stuff if it's not available where they shop for music, right?
And that's just the beginning, since the biggest issue an independent artist has is not getting things into stores, but getting them out of stores. And unfortunately, this has little to do with how good the music is. "Good music" is subjective. The number one album ever, Thriller by Michael Jackson, has sold hundreds of millions of copies and there are plenty of people who think it sucks.
So now that? Gotta get to marketing and letting people know what you've got is available, it's good, and you want them to buy it...
There are a million ways to do this. Today, I'm going to talk about two, then dissect each, so you have a good understanding of what works about them and what doesn't.
First of all, let's take a look at the "bus ad." If you don't know what I'm talking about, take a look to the left. It could be a simple sign hanging off a bus, which used to be fairly common, but the example here, and what you're more likely to see these days, is more of a "wrap" that covers the entire bus (or possibly one side of it).
The good thing about a bus ad is that it can reach a lot of people and it does so by actually going to them. Have fans who never leave the house? Not a problem. Just put something on a bus and have the bus do a drive by.
This is great if you're somebody whom a lot of people care about, like Mariah Carey. People will say, "Ohhhh!!! Mariah Carey has a new album out!!" and if they're fans, likely buy it.
You'd think that Mariah Carey fans would already know if she had a new album, but the horrifying reality is that 84% of music fans have no idea when their favorite artists release something new.
Let me break that down for you. In other words, this means one of two things...
1. Music isn't that important to people.
2. The music industry is doing a crappy job of letting people know about new releases.
Something like a bus sign is a great example of #2.
Look, Mariah Carey is a big artist. In fact, she's one of the top artists of all time. She's sold tens of millions of records and a lot of people know who she is.
A bus sign might work for her, since so many people know who she is, but it's not going to be that effective. It's likely part of a bigger promotion which includes music videos, radio promotion, performances and interviews on television shows such as David Letterman, print media coverage, and more.
And keep in mind that if people know who she is already, it's likely because she's done something on the list of above promotions before...not from putting her face on a bus and driving around town.
Here's the good news about a promotion like this...
You have a bus with your face on it!! Hell yes!!
Seriously, this may very well impress some people and allow you to do something that will actually translate into album sales. It's evidence that you're putting some money into your own promotion, no matter how ineffective, and that counts for something. At the very least, it's probably a foot in the door at some local club.
Do I recommend it? No way. It's not all bad though.
A better option for those who need the ego stroke is wrapping your car. It's called this because the companies which do it literally wrap your car, like a holiday present. And in a bit of hilarious irony, it's also a promotion done by a lot of rappers.
Everything I said above applies. The big difference is you don't see Mariah Carey driving around in a car that lets you know about her new album. Why? Even though she's been dropped by her label, gets bad film reviews, has gained a ton of weight, and isn't selling like she used to, Mariah Carey still has some dignity.
In all seriousness, if you can stand everybody knowing who you are and what you do at all times, this can be a good ice breaker to talk more about your career. When you park your car somewhere, homeless guys asking for beer money will ask, "Are you a musician?"
Unfortunately, beyond that, it's really not that compelling. It certainly won't get people to order your album by itself.
Let's look at why this one doesn't work...
1. Most people have no idea who this guy is.
2. What kind of music does he play? Hell if I know. The only thing I know about him is that he plays an acoustic guitar. That narrows it down a little, but not much. Lots of styles of music use an acoustic guitar.
3. He's asking for the sale right away. If I don't know who you are or anything about you, that's the equivalent of you walking up to me into a bar and asking, "Hi. My name is Tim. Will you marry me?"
Tim!! You don't even know me! How about letting me know a little about yourself first! I don't even know if I like you in that way yet!
Like the SOS Band sings, "Take your time, do it right!" A buying relationship doesn't just happen and pushing it too fast will kill it. If somebody doesn't know a thing about you, you can't expect them to spend money with you.
Let's look at what he did right on this one...
What I do like about this particular car wrap is that he's asking for what he wants. That's an improvement on the bus wrap, where I guess the guy just expects you to find his album and buy it...assuming that is what he wants. We have no way of knowing since he doesn't say.
That's a big lesson for you... Don't expect people to read your mind and know what you want. You've got to tell them.
Again though, asking for a sale when nobody has heard your music is like walking into a bar and asking random people to get married. Not going to happen...
How would you approach getting married?
1. Say hello and introduce yourself.
2. Ask questions. Listen.
3. Get a name. Get a phone number.
4. Go for coffee...maybe lunch if it's going well.
5. Go to dinner.
6. Introduce this person to your friends.
7. Introduce this person to your parents.
Ok...you get the idea. My point is that there are a few steps you have to go through to get to the point of marriage. And "marriage" with a music fan is the same way.
You could pretty much go through this process with the car wrap example above.
1. Say hello... "Artist Name - (adjective) (style) from (city)" as a headline. Not just your name at the top.
2. Ask questions... "(Would you like to) Download the New Single FREE at www.artistname.com!"
3. Get a name and phone number... Set up a "squeeze page" where users give you a name/email (basically signing up for your mailing list) in exchange for the free download.
4. Proceed from there... Once you've established rapport, then ask for the sale. This could be getting them to come to your show, buying the full album, or whatever.
Bottom like with any music promotion is that you think of it from a fan perspective. People don't care about your music as much as you do...and in the beginning, they more than likely don't care about your music at all.
Like dating, the music business is all about developing a relationship. That starts by opening yourself up to people, perhaps by giving away free downloads. Let them get to know who you are. Once they see and hear that, they'll be more likely to buy.
Thoughts? Please add them below. Also, if you've got examples for good (or bad) music promotions, feel free to send them my way via Twitter.
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