Put in the simplest terms, music marketing is the process and set of techniques for making potential fans aware of your music. Even if you’ve recorded an album of the greatest songs ever written, you won’t have much music career success if nobody knows about you.
Marketing your music means creating branding materials that will resonate with those music fans who will most likely be interested in your music, and then using those materials to reach them through a variety of channels.
Most people don’t really understand what marketing is, and how it differs from sales. I’ll break this down for you, and share some of the tried-and-true marketing techniques used by successful artists. We’ll also take a look at some trends in music marketing and consider what goes into creating your own marketing proposal.
Marketing is a psychological endeavor, and there are many wonderful books written about the psychology involved. In the marketing classic Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout (Warner Books, 1981), the authors write about “ladders in the mind” where the goal is for your name to be on the top rung, or first in mind, when a potential customer considers their own needs or wants for a product or service you are selling.
People are subjected to a constant daily bombardment of advertising messages, so we need a memorable name to cut through the noise. Additionally, we will need an innovative approach to getting our message to stick, if we want people to remember us when they are ready to buy.
In another book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Random House, 2007), brothers Chip and Dan Heath use the term “stickiness” to explain what makes a brand or idea interesting and memorable. Malcolm Gladwell previously discussed stickiness in marketing in his bestseller The Tipping Point (Little, Brown, 2000), which explains how trends and fads develop in society. The upshot: your name must “stick” in the mind of your prospective audience if they are to remember you and your music.
There has been much study in the cognitive sciences about marketing, focused on our cognitive biases, and how marketers work hard to exploit those biases. It might sound a bit nefarious, but you will need a few tricks up your sleeve to become a great marketer.
It’s also smart to educate yourself about marketing concepts, so you will recognize when they are being used on you. As you learn more, you’ll start to look at advertising differently.