If you are knee deep in the dust of the new music frontier, you have probably heard this statement more than a few times from artists who are essentially running their own record label.
“It is so expensive to be in the music business. It all just costs too much. What other business expects you to pay these kinds of fees up front?”
Well, yes. Yes, it is expensive to be in the music business. It’s always been expensive to be in the music business and essentially why the big labels cannot give a contract to every confident songwriter and performer. It costs a great deal of money to develop name recognition to the point it becomes a household name.
A few years ago, in a Music Row business meeting I learned just one record label was spending a million dollars a year on marketing, and that million didn’t include salaries. A million dollars a year on marketing was the price they were paying to keep household names in front of the public.
Do you have a household name in music? If not, it’s likely because you are spending more money on production, and very little on marketing. Even if you had a million dollars to spend on marketing, do you think you would? Most people haven’t any idea how to spend a million bucks on marketing.
If a record label is spending that much, how much ought you spend to be competitive ? If only five percent of performing and recording artists are represented in mainstream marketing, you’d need to spend a lot of money to be competitive.
But instead of spending money, you might think about doing things differently than everyone else. Here are a few examples:
Many performing artists still spend money on posters even though it’s a very dated notion, and much like advertising, it’s a passive form of marketing. But it’s traditional and I suppose many feel like they need to honor traditions even if they are ineffective.
Maybe try this instead. Most people are performing in clubs rather than traditional venues. What if you found a company to make drink coasters with whatever information you want on the back and front of the coaster? What if you made the coaster content very compelling? And what if you gave the coasters to the club 2 weeks before the date you were appearing there?
If you gave the club 500 coasters, you’d likely have a captive audience of 500 people who knew exactly when you’d be at the very club they were sitting in that very moment. If you put on one side of the coaster there’d be no cover charge by returning with the coaster the night of your performance you’d likely have a much larger turnout than taping up a poster of your band in the club’s front window.
Let’s say you want to learn how to do publicity. Plenty of people tell me that. Maybe I could teach them they say. Here’s a good idea that will cost you time, but nothing else. And like all things you’ll get as much out of it as the energy you expend in the process.
Instead of asking to be taught how to do PR, why not offer to work as an intern with a publicist on someone else’s campaign. You’ll learn the ropes by doing, and the emotional investment isn’t the same as if you were working on your own campaign. It’s easier to absorb the rejection for someone else, and you learn what works and what doesn’t subjectively.
The only things you need to bring to the table are free:
Show up, and show up on time, each and every time for the length of time you committed to be involved.
When you consider the monetary investment the music business requires, there are some tricks of the trade you’ll learn by working with professionals who know their stuff, have learned the ropes and, all the good ones always call a spade a spade.