What is internet music marketing for indie bands and why should you do it? The answer to this question and how you choose to use the knowledge may ultimately decide whether you will succeed or fail in the music business.
Now would be a good time to mention what marketing is; most of us musicians cringe at the thought of terms like these, but much of the time we don't even understand them. Marketing is basically everything that happens in a business to inform and lead to the sale - without sales, any business will fail - so it's important to learn how to market your band if you ever want a decent shot at making music your career.
Unfortunately, this is also the thing that most bands do poorly, which also explains why most crash and burn within a few short months or years of forming. If you want to learn how to avoid it - you'd better start understanding what it is and how it can help you move forward.
Okay, so if a band is a business, there are three main ways to break it down:
Most musicians fail to build a stable career because they focus too much on the products and not enough on the marketing, this can often be called the "Build it and they will come" fallacy. It doesn't matter how good your performance or CD is if nobody even knows that you (or your CD) even exists. Without marketing - your career will never cross the starting line much less the finish line.
Trying to make your recordings perfect, or practicing forever but never getting around to actually looking a show are symptoms of a band that's more worried about procrastinating instead of making their work accessible.
If a band plays in a bar - does anybody care?
This is the music industry version of the question "If a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear?"
The answer is that nobody will care if they don't know who you are, the type of music that you play, when and where you'll be playing and if they don't know what's 'in it for them' should they decide to grace your next show with their presence. This last point is VERY important. Many bands do a great job of asking you to come out and support them, to vote for them to make it into the Vans Warped Tour or to win their local battle of the bands, but few bands ever give the fans a reason to come out to a show for the fans benefit. If you can see a gig from the perspective of your audience and get out of your own head space you'll be able to more effectively market to them and get more people out to your shows!
Marketing is getting this information out to the people that are most likely to be interested in the music you make - it's your job (or at the very least in your best interest to figure out who these people are and where to find them) so that you can make your marketing more effective.
Marketing is a lot like planting seeds; even your music can be a seed.
In his book The Indie Band Bible, Mark Makoway describes a band's songs as 'currency'. I prefer to take it a step further and describe songs as 'seeds' to success.
Marketing seems to get overlooked by bands because in the very beginning, marketing is of little value; you can't market your band when you don't have a solid line up, set list and (ideally) something to sell. However - once you have these things in place - marketing will be more and more important. Not only does marketing help you to find your audience - it also helps to keep the members of your tribe that have already discovered you informed on the latest news.
At first - spending hours and hours writing and rehearsing your music is most important, but as you grow marketing will become more important (at times) than any other activity that you do. You'll experience diminishing returns otherwise if you don't make marketing a high priority.
Some Examples of Indie Band Marketing
A few examples of marketing your band include putting up posters in your town before each gig, publishing your gig details across the internet, advertising in local magazines and newspapers. You can also use contests and giving your music away for free to market your band. You can use live performances of your band and create video marketing campaigns online with sites like Youtube, Viddler and Myspace to promote your band.
Internet Marketing for Music adds Meaning
Marketing is work - make no mistake about it. However, it is work that makes everything that you do as a band more meaningful! It connects you with the people who are most interested in the music that you create. Marketing separates the successful from the wannabees; you can easily assess whether working with a band (either as a member or a manager) is worth it by asking about their marketing practices. If they have no plan in place you'll know that they have a very steep hill to climb to reach anything resembling a viable career.
Marketing is the action you can take that is most likely to increase your odds of success. Marketing will directly affect your earning potential and the reach and longevity of your band. Believe it or not, marketing can solve a lot of problems in your life as well. Chances are that anyone who doesn't earn enough money, doesn't know how to market themselves to their current or potential employer either. If you can show how your services (as a musician or as a band) can be beneficial to the employer - you can justify being paid more than a lot of other bands.
How fast is your Car?
A great visual that I like to use to demonstrate the benefits of marketing for your band is thinking of it like the gas in your car. It doesn't matter what car your drive or how fast it goes - if there's no gas in the tank - it ain't going anywhere! Marketing is like gassing up your band, taking control of your destiny and driving towards your goals.
I don't pretend to think that marketing alone will save your band; success does require that you have the necessary amounts of talent as well, but without being able to accurately locate and engage your audience - your band will never quite leave the proverbial driveway. Reaching those fans in a meaningful way (not just another 'please come to my show' email or comment) and letting them know that you have stuff to sell (first answer why they would want what you have to sell in the first place if you want to have better luck moving merch) will help to determine whether you can carve out a future for yourself in the music business.
Forget about relying on luck, who you know or sheer talent - put in some hard work marketing and your efforts will eventually be rewarded! Hang in there! In the meantime keep watching this space for more internet marketing for music tidbits and some advice I have to share about internet music marketing video internet marketing - quite the mouthful but it can help your band to be exposed to thousands of new fans.
Thanks for reading Internet Music Marketing - Market or die!