Four music industry leaders in their respective fields have distilled this formula into “Four Pillars of a Successful Music Career”. They believe that each of these pillars (in conjunction with one another) is essential to the success of any independent artist.
And it all starts with…
Before you can build a rabid fan base you need to build your brand. Ever sit down to draft a blog or Facebook post to your fans only to wonder just what the heck you should write about? This disconnect is very common and it’s a result of failing to build your brand.
If you walk away with nothing else from this post, remember this one important fact… People don’t want your “download”, they want an experience. YOUare that experience.
People don’t buy music because they need a few more megabytes sitting around on their computers. Nor do they buy music because one song is inherently so much better than the hundreds of thousands of other songs that are out there at any given time. They buy music because of the experience it promises to deliver. Because of the tribe that they become connected to by association.
For example, take a song like “Jolene”, which was originally written and recorded by Dolly Parton and more recently by Jack White of the White Stripes. Those who purchased each respective version of the song did so for very different reasons. They took from it very different meaning, imagery, and feeling. The defining difference was not the song itself, but rather the branding behind the song and each artist’s presentation.
When a fan hears the first few bars of a song, sees a picture of an artist, or sees the cover of an album, that fan immediately has a sense of what “tribe” an artist belongs to, and what passions, attitudes, and beliefs go along with being a member of that tribe. If a potential fan connects with those things then they become infinitely more prone to taking further action and ultimately purchasing your music.
This process – when done correctly – is known as branding.
By knowing who you are as an artist (and yes, as a product), and by knowing how to express those things in words, sounds, images, and thought, all subsequent decisions for your career suddenly fall into place.
Your fans (especially potential fans) don’t need to hear about the fact that you’re “in the studio again”, or that you “just finished up your new album”. What they want you to be is the LEADER of your tribe.No one needs another newsletter. Rather, what your fans want, is for you to report in from the front lines. They want to live vicariously through your experiences.
This can mean an infinite number of things for different artists, and different demographics. For example, if you play country music, you might blog about your near record setting rodeo ride. If you play Punk Rock, send Twitter pics from the Occupy Wall Street protests. If you are in the Hip-Hop world, show us what around you inspires your music. Obviously these are just hypothetical and over simplified examples, but your job as an artist is not just to make music. It’s to deliver the experience that your demographic is ultimately looking to connect with, and to do so in a way that is authentic and a true representation of you as a person and artist.
Develop your brand, be the leader of your tribe, and offer your fans a chance to be part of your journey. That is branding, and once you have that in place, you are ready to BEGIN marketing your music.
The average musician is failing miserably when it comes to marketing their music because they are, understandably, trying to do what the major labels are doing. The major labels spend millions of dollars trying to create so much market awareness that it ultimately creates a “tipping point” and it begins to affect purchasing decisions by the average consumer.
This can work when you have millions of dollars to spend, but when you’re working with the drastically more modest budgets that the average independent artist has at his/her disposal, that’s simply not going to work.
Websites, social media, touring, radio, press, etc, are all well and good. But the problem is that these tactics by themselves make up little more than an “exposure model”. In other words you are putting the entire burden on the consumer to take action. And guess what? They usually don’t.
However, by using more efficient “direct response marketing” strategies, you can build a semi-automated system for driving traffic, building your mailing list, and then using proven psychological triggers to convert subscribers into actual buyers.
The process essentially works like this…
1. Drive traffic.
2. Build a list of subscribers by offering an incentive such as free music.
3. Build a real relationship with your fans using email, blogs, videos and social media.
4. Use proven selling triggers to get people to buy your music.
5. Sell additional albums, merch, tickets and specialty items to your fans over time.
Now, more than ever, the internet has created an opportunity for artists to do this with almost no barrier to entry.
This process as a whole is commonly referred to as a “sales funnel”. The end result is that you get a direct and consistent number of sales for every 100 people you drive into your funnel. This allows you to calculate your “average subscriber value”. Once you have done so you have something very powerful. You have the ability to “scale” up your career.
In other words, let’s say that you know for every 100 subscribers you ultimately make $200 in album, merch, and ticket sales. You now know that you can afford to spend up to $1 to acquire a new subscriber and still turn a 100% profit on your investment. Now you have the ability to go out into the marketplace and pay for advertising that makes sense based on your ROI. Don’t have money for advertising? No problem. There are a nearly unlimited number of ways you can drive traffic for free.
No more sticking your head in the sand and hoping that tour across the country is all going to be worth it in the long run.
Now you can function – and hopefully prosper – like a “real” business. Fine tune your sales funnel to bring down subscriber acquisition costs and increase subscriber value, and there is no limit to what you can accomplish. This is something that even the major labels aren’t doing.
Now that you have established your brand and you’ve got your marketing funnel in place, it’s time to “cultivate your tribe”. This is where we go beyond just making sales and build a lasting base that can eventually take on a life of it’s own.
Most of us can remember an earlier time when fans of a particular genre of music were lumped together in a large group that emerged and declined over years, often decades. You were part of the “grunge movement” or perhaps a member of the “Kiss Army”. That was largely a result of the slow speed of communication and the cultural changes that were required to create emerging artists, ideas and sounds.
But now social media has changed all of that. Instead of “armies” we now have “tribes” – tightly bound groups formed around specific ideas and/or individuals. These tribes are typically engaged in intense communication, which itself creates and defines the structure of the group.
With the emergence of the many social media platforms like MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, we have seen a new type of artist and even a new type of music economy develop.
Nearly all of the social media success stories in the music industry had one thing in common. The artist at the center of the success had effectively created their own tribe. Social media was simply the medium with which this was done. And it’s that medium that has single-handedly CHANGED the music industry more than any other thing.
In this new economy, success is not simply a byproduct of the money you spend. Instead it boils down to authenticity, accountability, and the strength of your music, products, and ideas. Social media has leveled that playing field and given all of us a chance to be heard and sink or swim on our own merit.
But sadly many musicians are still failing to see the value in social media and instead strive for quantity rather than quality. They forget that a social media “fan” has no value if there is no authentic relationship.
It’s important to remember that social media does not replace the sales funnel. It is merely a tool for supporting it, and building the relationships, which justify it in the first place.
But building your fan base and selling music, merchandise and tickets is only part of the equation…
It wasn’t long ago that music licensing was an income stream that only the musical elite, and major label artists had the ability to tap into. However new platforms, new media, and the ease of networking in the information age have changed that and many artists are now making even more money from licensing than they are from touring and album sales combined.
The music licensing market is bigger then ever before and there is no end in sight to this growth. From global ad campaigns and network TV shows to blanket licensing deals with networks, there is room for everyone from the veteran musician to the ingénue. You have to understand the opportunities that exist and where your music fits into the puzzle. After all a square peg will never fit into a round hole.
But with new opportunities also comes new competition.
Do you have music that you’re sure would be perfect in a TV show, film, or Ad but you’re not sure where to start? Ever wonder why they pick the tracks they pick for shows, films and ads? It’s not just luck; there are some hard fast rules to follow if you want to ensure that your tracks are highly licensable. If you want to succeed in licensing, you need to know what attributes your song contains that make it perfect for a trailer and not a commercial.
In short, when you learn the formula that all Music Supervisors know, you will be able to assess your own music, and laser beam your efforts by finding the warmest market for your particular style of music. You will be able to read a one-line description for a licensing opportunity and understand what they really mean.
Without branding, you have no ability to align your music with the passions of a market.
Without marketing, you have no mechanism in place to grow your fan base and get your music in the hands of BUYERS.
Without cultivating your tribe, you have no ability to compound the benefit of your effort over the years and become a career artist.
And without a strategy for getting your music licensed in television, film, and advertising you are missing out on a potentially enormous revenue stream.
HOWEVER, with these four pillars in place you ARE ready to begin building your music career in a lasting and profitable way.
Success as a musician does not have to be a matter of writing a few good songs, “getting your stuff out there”, and waiting for lightning to strike.
And when you become a student of the four pillars outlined above, and begin taking action, success can be turned into a step-by-step process which ANY artist can follow and which WILL get results.
On Wednesday, June 27th at 5:00 PST we will be holding a special live webinar in which you will hear from experts in each of the fields outlined above. They’ll discuss the 4 career killing mistakes most artists are making and tell you exactly how you can get your music career on the right track.
This event will only be held once and seats will only be offered on a first-come first-serve basis. To reserve your spot simply click the button below and you’ll be taken to the registration page.
Regardless of whether you join us next Wednesday, June 27th at 5:00 pm PST, we hope you see the value in the career path outlined above.
It is the same path we recommend to our clients. It is a path that nearly all successful artists have taken.
We wish you all the best with your music career…
Dear COSMO readers – I met John Oszajca at a conference years ago and subscribe to his newsletter to this day. This post was from his newsletter (below) and I felt the need to share because of the credible music industry business people working on this as well. This is not a referral but merely my way of helping to get the word out – to build a better foundation for all of us in the new music industry. – Toni K. (COSMO)
John Oszajca co-authored a kinda ginormous blog post
about why so many independent musicians are
struggling to see any real success in the music
Read it here:
The blog post is the culmination of a recent
discussion I had with a few colleagues you may be
*Ariel Hyatt: Indie Music publicist
*Sarah Gavigan: Music Supervisor and founder of
*Cari Cole: Vocal Coach to the stars and artist
…and of course yours truly
The focus of our little indie music pow-wow was
to see if we couldn’t get to the bottom of why so
many musicians were just plain struggling to
The result was this blog post:
We distill all of our experiences working
with various artists into a few basic problem
areas, and then outline a formula for success.
It’s rare that you see so many big names
collaborating like this. Check it out and see what