I’d like to give you something to think about based on my real life results in terms of getting gigs, magazine coverage, and excellent word-of-mouth promo.
There is zero BS here. Enjoy and please comment!
Concept 1: Do musicians have to market themselves?
You and I are running businesses, we are not only artists.
A hard pill for many of us musicians to swallow is that we all need to market ourselves.
If this makes you shiver, feel un-artistic, or think I am a fraud – WAKE UP! Any business, no matter what their product or service is, has to market themselves.
The minute you get a gig, you need an audience. Someone ( either a promoter or you) needs to “market” the event to get people there.
Talk to a concert promoter or club owner…there is hardly ever talk about how “good you played.”
For them (and ultimately you) it is all about ticket (or product) sales. The furthering of your art is linked to your being able to sell it – unless you have other financial means.
Have a website? That means you are marketing yourself already (I caught you red handed, you nasty marketer!)
Have a CD? That means you have created a product to sell. (You’re guilty as charged – you are selling a product!)
Have you ever given a music lesson? Played a wedding or restaurant? (Aha! Those are “services” you sell!)
So now ask yourself….how can you sell more stuff, more often and for higher prices?
Concept 2 – A LESSON FROM “OUTRAGEOUS MARKETING” by John Spolestra.
I once read a great book called “Outrageous Marketing” by John Spolestra, which I highly recommend.
There is a fabulous story in here about how he was hired by the New Jersey Nets to increase attendance at their basketball games.
Ticket sales were slumping, and the team was so desperate, they almost had to cancel their season.
The owner and manager of the team desperately asked the marketing consultant to “raise the peoples spirits regarding the team and the state of New Jersey” to get them to attend games.
The marketer said “Do you want people to attend games? – Then leave it to me!”
ELVIS ENTERS THE BUILDING
The author put an ad out and found one of the best local Elvis impersonators in New Jersey.
Yes, an Elvis impersonator.
He then arranged to have “Elvis” on a local radio station in the mornings, on one of the funny “morning crew” type shows.
And lo… after a few weeks “Elvis” announced his comeback concert on the radio one morning…he told everyone he would appear at the halftime show of the New Jersey Nets next game as his truly final concert. GENIUS!
The teams management was totally up in arms, as they wanted the “spirit of the New Jersey Nets” to fill the hearts of the audience…but when they got the butts in the seats, they were pretty happy!
Take away? To sell your music and your shows – consider that the solution may be in an unexpected place.
Concept 3 – COKE is #1, PEPSI is #2
Even though Pepsi wins taste tests, it somehow is always #2 to Coke.
PEPSI has tried marketing like “for a new generation”, “Pepsi generation”, “taste tests”and so on. It’s been tough for them. COKE always comes up #1.
- We want to be COKE…not Pepsi.
- We want to be Led Zeppelin, not Whitesnake.
- We want to be the Beatles, not Dave Clark 5.
- We want to be Joe Cocker…actually we don’t want to be Joe Cocker.
RULE: Once someone has done something FIRST….everyone else who does the same thing – even if they do it better – comes in second.
Put on your thinking cap. Is there some way you can be first at something? It may take some thinking outside the box, and guts.
Concept 4 – WHAT IS YOUR “USP”?
A “USP” is a unique selling proposition. Once people have your USP in mind…it means, you got there first and everyone else is second.
It makes you easily identifiable because you stand apart from everyone else.
Let’s look at a few examples, across the board of USP’s and uniqueness in general.
One of the most famous USP’s ever is Domino’s Pizza’s tag line “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
If Joe’s Pizza says “Hey, we’re also willing to deliver our pizza in 30 minutes or it’s free too” then Joe is #2.
The Who smashes their instruments on stage. This becomes part of their show, and they are the FIRST to do it. Anyone else is 2nd. (We’re not even talking about their great tunes, albums and years of hard work. Somehow this one “unique” gimmick becomes a definition for them.)
KISS (the band) paints their faces ridiculously in black and white…I don’t even know one KISS song, but they stand out in my mind based on the look. They did it FIRST.
I am not saying that you should make a fool of yourself, paint your face and destroy your instruments or hire an Elvis impersonator…
But I am saying that there is a way to do something first, to find your USP, in the scope of what you do.
It should fit on an intuitive level and not be a “put on.”
HOW I USED THIS CONCEPT MYSELF & THE REAL WORLD RESULTS
I am sharing this not as an ego trip….but to show you that I “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”.
In 2007 I started playing fingerstyle guitar, meaning melody, bass and harmony are performed all on one guitar.
I had to think…how could I stand out “marketing wise”?
- I needed to have a USP.
- I needed to have done something first, so that anyone copying will come in 2nd.
Being “a good guitarist” is BLAH, boring and….”who cares?”
ENTER “HUMAN BEATBOX”…
I grew up with Hip Hop in the 80’s and 90’s. The feeling of that music is a big part of my life.
RUN DMC and Biz-Markie did “human beatbox” – drum sounds with the mouth – and I did too as a kid.
But…one normally thinks of fingerstyle guitar as country and Chet Atkins (and Tommy Emmanuel, Buster B Jones…and others.)
The AHA moment! If I combine the two it’s unique, I am the first – and IT’S MUSICALLY INSPIRING TO ME.
And…anyone else who does it (even if they do it way better than I do) is #2!
I knew I needed to be COKE and not PEPSI, so I figured I’d try. It’s become part of my show now.
THE REAL WORLD RESULTS – Success and Failure Examples
Suddenly, the USP thing worked. This gave writers “something to talk about.”
Here’s the proof…a German Guitar Magazine with none other than the Eagles on the cover has a featured article…see GREEN oval…look at the text – “beatbox und fingerstyle”…
I play 25 tunes per gig and 2 of them have the “HUMAN BEATBOX” – but that’s what people remember.
It’s my little version of the KISS makeup and the WHO stage destruction.
It’s less than 10% of what I do, but people remember it as 90% of my unique offering, and probably gets me 80-90% of my bookings.
PERSONAL FAILURE EXAMPLE:
It’s only fair and transparent to show you where I have missed the mark.
I was a passionate young jazz guitar player in my 20’s. At the time I thought building a career was all about guitar ability, and musical chops.
To me & my fellow jazz musicians excellence was and is the ultimate goal. However I failed to realize that from an outsider’s point of view there was nothing “special” about what I was doing.
To an audience it was “yeah, he plays jazz standards – nothing weird, crazy or special” even though it was special to me as an artist.
I learned firsthand that being “good”, playing by the rules and not standing out meant no gigs. (Except for the day gigs.)
Musically it was a wonderful time, but marketing wise, I wasn’t even PEPSI.
ACTION STEPS YOU CAN TAKE….
Digest the ideas here. Look around at ads and approaches in all industries.
Use intuition, and take a chance with something unique that is EASY for people to notice.
Something like “playing a Beatles song in a weird time signature” will not be enough of a heads up to people other than musicians.
Maybe something unrelated to the music can be a hook….like
- Look at the Sgt Peppers record cover from the Beatles…they exploded the proper english boy thing into the psychadelic hippie movement.
- Lady Gaga’s meat dress.
A sing along or something the audience can do to get in on the act?
- Bruce Horbsby has people toss requests on paper onto the stage.
Selection of repertoire?
- Sting did a bunch of John Dowland lute music songs…
- Ricky Scaggs did a bluegrass version of “Superfreak” by Rick james
Something on stage never seen dance wise.
- Michael Jackson Moonwalk…everyone else was #2 after that!
What’s your USP…Unique Selling Proposition?
What makes you different…in terms of ideas that people can talk about?
Think outside the box…and the answer may be right under your nose, in the place you least expect to find it.
I hope these ideas stimulate thought for you and give you confidence, so that you can GET YOUR MUSIC OUT THERE and play.
This is all part of “the game” and believe me – it is a game!
Please comment below…
Single Malt Monkey says
Excellent post, Adam. My son is a sax player, a great one if I say so myself, but a crap salesman – thus, though it was his dream, music doesn’t feed him. 9 to 5 does.
Well man, somehow I got interested in how marketing works. It’s my 2nd hobby. I saw I had to make it a hobby if I wanted to play for a living…crazy but true!
Well written and very informative article.. thanks so much for the eye-opener. As a young musician, sometimes I get too caught up in the technicality of mastering my craft to the exclusion of everything else. This serves as a strong reminder to me to not neglect reality just chasin’ ideals
I do too! Sooner or later though you gotta put the marketer thinking cap on!
David Trevors says
Great article! Thank you Adam! It’s very relevant in musicians’ careers including my own and I am beginning to see this more and more. The first thing you said sums it up nicely, music is a business and we need to market ourselves! It is a hard pill for artists sometimes because they don’t understand this concept and I am guilty of it too. But you have to kind of wear two hats and be a little shameless because like you say it’s part of the game!
we don’t want to be Joe Cocker..we wan’t to be Adam Rafferty! 😉
This why I haven’t played much outside of my Living Room for the last 5 years.
Chris Shahin says
Great Blog ! Thanks for taking the time to share this excellent info. and shake some us hermit musicians up!
Best in your career and life this year. Chris
That s sooo deep it goes totally beyound music …i feel like i could aply this to every aspect of my life.
thnk you very much for sharing and congrats on the new website!