Marketing Your Music Tips

By Bob Baker

Your #1 Music Marketing Priority

As you create your music marketing communications (whether they be press releases, post cards, cover letters, fliers, etc) you must keep one thing foremost in your mind: the needs of the people receiving them!

In other words, stop talking so much about yourself, your needs and your qualifications. Don't start off every cover letter with "I want this... We've done that... I... Me... Mine..." Start talking about what matters most: The benefits your industry contacts get when they do business with you. Or the benefits a media person gets when he or she gives you exposure. Or the benefits your fans get when they support your music.

"The objective here is plain," says marketing guru Jeffrey Lant. "It is not merely to tell what you've got... it's to motivate a human being to take immediate action so you can move to the next stage of the marketing process."

Lant has self-published over ten business books (including Cash Copy and Money-Making Marketing) and has sold a ton of them using the same tactics he preaches about in them. In his excellent tome No More Cold Calls, Lant advises, "The trick is that you must list every feature of your service, transform every one into a benefit, then make sure the benefit is as specific and enticing as possible."

Are you truly taking this approach with all of your promotional materials right now? Is your focus on the needs of the person receiving your written marketing materials, or is it on you and your own selfish wants?

You'll get a lot further in life by being perceived as someone who has something of value to offer, as opposed to someone who's just looking for a hand out.

#2 The Long-Term Payoff of Networking

Take a tip from music business attorney Donald Passman, author of the book "Everything You Need to Know About the Music Business." Making powerful connections is a long-term project, says Passman, who early in his career "made it a point to go out and meet people my age who were doing what I was doing. My theory was - as it has happened - that in 20 years they'd be in very important positions."

Advice: "I think you should seek people doing what you want to be doing. You need to get around them and see how they do what they do," he explains. "If you can't get to them, you can get to the people who work for them. And remember, everybody was nobody at some point.

"Read interviews, see how people got started... Look for names of people in the business and don't be shy about mailing things to them. It just takes time, so don't get frustrated."

(As quoted in "Networking In the Music Business," Writer's Digest Books, available at bookstores or by calling 800-289-0963.)

#3 Use $1 sampler tapes to promote your full-length CD

I'll be the first to admit that this tip isn't new or novel. But it works extremely well to promote both new and old bands and record labels. That's why it's hard to figure out why more people aren't using it to generate interest in their recordings.

Here's how it works: You either already have or are working on a full-length CD. You pick two to four songs from the CD and put them on inexpensive, 20-minute (10 minutes per side) sampler cassettes. If you have access to the right equipment, dup them yourself. If not, it would run about $500 for 500 tapes in soft poly boxes (or about $1 per tape).

Sell them at your shows and through mail order for a buck apiece. That covers your costs. If just 5% of the 500 people who get the sampler tape (25) end up buying your CD for $12, that'll generate $300 in extra gross revenue for your band. As for the other 95% who don't buy it, you'll now have 475 more people (and lots more when they play your tape for friends) who have been exposed to your music and may buy from you or come to a show in the future.

It's a simple way to get your music into more ears. What's stopping your from doing it now?

#4 Put the Emphasis On Your Band or New Release... Not On How Hip and Clever You Are

Last year, the Tone Casualties label ran an ad in Option magazine that had me scratching my head. A collage of bizarre artwork took up half of the ad, while small, "stylish" type that was hard to read was scattered about the other half. I think this ad was promoting several of the label's releases, but I'm not sure. I know that Tone Casualties specializes in unconventional, experimental sounds, but this experimental marketing ploy didn't help get the message across.

What kind of message does your marketing send out? If you're being clever and creative for the sake of being clever and creative, you may very well be wasting your money.

People will remember the most fascinating part of your marketing, but not necessarily your band or new release. If you display an eye-catching photo or piece of artwork on your ads or fliers, people may remember the visual image and not your band. If you use a witty headline, they may remember the humor and not your musical message.

Music consumers are first and foremost interested in the benefit they get from the music they buy. So if you want to interest them, relate your marketing pitch directly to their needs. And do it in such a way that your band or new release is the most fascinating part of your message.

A half-page ad from Hannibal Records, in that same issue of Option, did a nice job of using humor to get its point made. The headline read, "Did you hear the one about the Cuban piano player, the Tibetan nun and the Finnish accordionist?" A smaller subhead explained, "It's no joke: They've made three must-have new world music albums for Hannibal." Under that, small pictures of the CD covers ran accompanied by a one-sentence description of each album. And that's it - short, sweet, interesting and effective.

Just like all good music marketing should be!

Bob Baker is the author of the new "Guerrilla Music Marketing Power Course" - packed with hundreds of indie music marketing ideas for your band or record label. For complete details and a special 40% discount offer, send the message "Power Course Info" to