Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Artist Promotion 101

1. Is there a mindset for self-promotion that you think leads musicians to more viable careers?
Self promotion in general is hard for people. We were told from a young age, “Don’t brag,” so we’ve been programmed to avoid it.
I think you hit the nail on the head with the word “mindset”. Here are some mental shifts I think can help shed a different light on the process of self-promotion:
• Think opportunity, not obligation. Your work is more than a good idea or a way to make some money; it’s a benefit to those you serve. Instead of thinking about how difficult, unpleasant, time-consuming, and costly it is to market yourself, shift your attention instead to how eager you are to let others know about what you offer.
• Think connection, not activity. Self-marketing is about making connections with people who may need what you offer. It’s not about just keeping busy racking up sales. Put the focus on connecting – building a bridge – not just the end result.
• Think communication, not manipulation. Often people think self-promotion is about being cute and clever, creating a lot of hype or sizzle, especially in the entertainment business.  Worse, they fear it’s about being manipulative. Sizzling, cute and clever hype may attract attention, but it doesn’t build trust, respect, or value.
Instead of worrying about being cute and clever or manipulative, think about getting your message across.  Shift your attention to what it is about that you do that’s important to those you’re communicating with. Think about how you can communicate your message to them in terms they’ll understand. Think about how you can help them see the benefits of what you offer.
In a counter-intuitive way, self promotion (and a viable career, in general) begins with others-promotion. It begins with generosity.

2. What mistakes do musicians make, regarding promoting their work? Are there common ways that they waste money?
Some common ways musicians waste money in promoting their work are:
• Making it all about the music and not minding the business end of their career. We all know of the stories of artists who were exploited by industry players. What’s not often said is that it was the inattention and ignorance of the artist regarding how industry dynamics work, that often led to the exploitation. The solution is educating yourself about how business works, tapping into the awesome free business resources on the web, and doing your own business with an artist’s hand – in other words, arrange and conduct your business activities with the same attention you give to your music. I wrote The Self-Promoting Musician to address this very thing.
• Exhausting all funds on recording, packaging and manufacturing, and leaving none for promotion and marketing. The solution is smarter budgeting and, perhaps, delaying a recording project until you are financially ready to deal with the whole enchilada.
• Taking a “spray & pray” approach to marketing. Similar to trying to hit the bulls eye on a target with a shotgun rather than arrow. This wastes gobs of time, money and energy. The solution is researching and thinking about where the best touch-points are in the marketplace for your music projects.
3. When should an artist hire a manager?
Depending on the kind of project the artist is working on, a manager can enter the picture fairly early in an artist’s career. We see a lot of early artist/manager match ups at Berklee. For example, earlier this year freshman student Shun Ng (an amazing thumb-slapping guitarist) teamed up with local manager Ralph Jaccodine which led to an audience (and development deal) with Quincy Jones’ company; the duo Karmin found their manager in fellow-student Nils Gums and together they built a powerful visibility strategy. These relationships came together while these artists were students.
In general, though, artists must take the reigns of their own career and build enough visibility and success first on their own before they can attract the appropriate management. It’s also important for artists to understand that managers (as well as booking agents) tend to work on commission. So, until an artist is generating enough commissionable income, it will be hard to attract their interest.
I think the smartest approach today is to find someone who has complementary skills to yours and who believes in your music and your artistry. Rather than base the reward on commission percentages, create a profit-sharing partnership where both have ownership in the project for a set term, say three years. Work it like a business partnership.

4. Have you seen any particularly creative approaches to marketing or PR that paid off? If so, what is the replicable lesson to be learned from it?
Sure, I can give both an online and offline example. For online, Berklee alumnus, Greg Arney, wanted to start a private guitar instruction service while still a student. How does one get a guitar instruction service off the ground in an over-crowded market like Boston where everyone and his brother offer lessons? Greg saw an opportunity in Google. While most people were hanging fliers in supermarkets, Arney decided to learn how SEO (search engine optimization) works. He created aweb page and used his SEO chops to ensure that when someone searched on the keywords “guitar lessons Boston,” his page would appear first in the results. Soon he had more students than he could handle and he began referring some to other instructors. A rising tide lifts all boats. The lesson?: As far as the web goes, you are what Google says you are, so learn how to design your web presence so you show up in results the way you want to.
As an offline example of creative marketing and publicity, Zoe Keating provides some cool inspiration. Do people expect to see a cellist at a nuclear commemoration event thrown by pyromaniacs in the middle of the desert? Or at a Ruby on Rails (information architect) conference? Keating’s unusual alliances and bold moves led to massive publicity via a National Public Radio (NPR) interview, resulting in about $10,000 in download income. The lesson?: seek out creative alliances which intersect with some of your other interests or skills. Being unusual, they tend to attract media attention, giving your music project more visibility, greater demand and, hopefully, more reward.

5. How do you think artists should monitor/measure their success?
I was discussing this very topic with a class yesterday. “Success” is one of those putty words. Its meaning seems to bend with the unfolding phases of one’s life.
I see “success” as the gradual realization of a worthwhile goal. If you set a long-range goal and reflect that goal in your activities each day, then I think you are “successful”.
In other words, success isn’t someday, it’s everyday.

6. What easy, cheap thing an artist should do right now that is likely to have a significant impact?
One thing is clear about all career paths today: the demands on our time, energy and resources are at an all-time high. Technology and globalism have lowered the barriers for market entry, creating more competition on every front and a 24/7, always on, style of work that is stretching people to their limits.
So, in light of this, I’m going to recommend three easy and cheap ways artists can have more career success each day of their lives. Ready?  Drink a gallon of water every day, take ten minutes out to stretch your body, and deep breathe while you’re stretching. Do these three things for yourself every day and I guarantee you will have more strength, be more creative, and have a powerful new focus in your work.
Water is a true miracle. It is 60% of our bodies and 70% of our brains. If our thoughts are electric pulses, if atoms have positive and negative charges, then we want to ensure there’s enough conduction to enable these processes, right? That’s where water comes in. Add extension (stretching) and oxygenation (deep breathing) and you open further channels in your body and mind to these conduction powers.
These three things are so basic. Yet, in our rush to get through our days, they can easily be forgotten. I put the challenge out to all music careerists – give yourself these three gifts every day and watch what happens. I dare you.

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