Why Your Music Sales and Marketing Are Backwards and Incomplete

by Bob Baker

When you think of well-known twosomes, many names come to mind: Simon and Garfunkel; Jan and Dean; Sonny and Cher. There is also a plethora of other well-worn word parings: Ups and downs. This and that. Yin and yang.

Then there's sales and marketing.

If you're one of the many music people who pays lip service to "sales and marketing," I'll bet your sales figures are far below where you'd like them to be. How do I know? Because you have the whole thing backwards.

Stop talking about sales and marketing and start arranging these two important activities in their proper order: marketing and sales. Marketing comes first. Sales efforts follow to complete the one-two punch. If you attempt to do sales before you've properly done marketing, you'll come up short. If you choose to focus on one activity but not the other, you also lose in the long run.

To succeed financially in the music business, both marketing and sales must take place. And take place in that order.

While flipping through the cable channels last week, I caught one of those watch-TV-at-home college courses. Business was the topic. The announcer made this simple but profound statement: "Marketing is creating interest, sales is closing the deal." Nine simple words that get right to the core of what marketing and sales are all about.

Far too often I see examples of bands and record labels that fail to use both sides of this success equation. For instance, the band that gets lots of coverage in the media, but neglects to adequately make people aware that it has CDs available for sale. Or the lead singer who finally got her band in front of a large crowd at a benefit show, but thought she would appear too "greedy" to really push her band's merchandise sales.

These musicians were creating interest by getting their music into the public eye and ear. But they didn't follow up and pave the way for consumers to turn that interest into money spent.

I also see countless examples of people asking for the sale before they've taken any steps to generate interest. Like the bandleader who demands a paid gig at a club before he's even demonstrated to the bar manager why his band deserves to be paid. Or the acoustic duo that puts together a flier with the name of their act, dates and times of performance, location and admission price, but leaves out the most important detail of all: why music fans should bother attending.

Before you can ask people to fork over their cash (sales), you must create awareness and interest in the creative product or service you supply. If you work hard to generate attention and curiosity (marketing), you're selling yourself short by not then asking for the sale and giving people inspiring offers to spend their money on you.

This same two-part philosophy also applies to getting media attention. But instead of asking for a sale, you're asking for the exposure the media outlet can give you.

For instance, when I used to publish my music magazine, I would at times get promo packages and press releases that caught my eye. Rarely did anyone follow up on these mailings with a phone call. Then there were misguided band members who called my office out of the blue and were perplexed that I didn't agree to do a feature on them right away. Of course, I had not heard of them and they had never sent me anything on their band to help stir up interest.

The lonely minority of bands who did a decent job of generating interest ahead of time, and then followed that effort with a phone call to ask for the sale (the free press), were often rewarded. They were smart enough to understand the power of the one-two punch.

Make sure your marketing and sales are in the proper order. Then spend an equal amount of time and energy on each area. Only then will you receive the rewards you so richly deserve with your music.