Modern Music Marketing Basics

image from www.musicpowernetwork.com This guest post by Dave Kusek is an excerpt from the online lessons developed for The Music Power Network. MPN is an online resource and self-directed learning opportunity for d.i.y. musicians and music industry entrepreneurs. 

Music is entertainment, and people want to be entertained. The great artists know this and create persona and brands that transcend everyday life. To a large degree, it is all make believe. If you want to be successful as a artist, you have to entertain people and make them feel you and want to associate with your brand. The trick is to create art (music) and a persona that reflects you and what you are all about.

Why Should Anyone Care about You?


Ask yourself the following questions until you find the answers. To create your brand, take a hard look at what you are good at and what you stand for. What is the overall mission behind your music? What are you trying to say? What is your message? Why should anyone care?  What do you want them to remember?

All the best bands, all the best music, are manufactured, thought up, packaged, and brought to market.  What is your vision? How do you see yourself, how do you want to project yourself onto your audience, and what are your ultimate goals?

You want to create a musical “character” that people can relate to. They don’t have to like you or want to be like you, they just need to be able to understand what you are about. Think of your favorite artists and what their character is like. Prince, Kid Rock, Jay-Z, Sting, Usher, Marilyn Manson, Norah Jones – all have personas that they bring to market in different ways. It is pretty easy to see what they are all about and this is achieved by careful packaging.

Present a Genuine and Unique Story

It is very important that your character and your story be genuine. That does not mean that you shouldn’t make something up, or project an image that is much bigger than life, but there has to be some substance behind it and something that is a reflection of you and what you are all about. You will have to live with the brand that you create, so make it something that you are comfortable with. What do you believe in, what is important to you, where is the well from which you are going to pull your material?

It is also important to be unique. If you are “just like” another band then it is going to be hard to differentiate yourself and stick in people’s minds. How can you be different? This is especially important when entering the marketplace. There is so much music out there, and so much noise to cut through, that you have to give people something to grab onto and really notice if you are going to have any chance of breaking through.  Something different is the key.

Find a Need and Align Yourself

Many artists/writers sing and write about issues that they believe in and create songs that can create a difference in someone’s life. This does not have to be your entire career or the focus of your brand, but creating music that reflects societal issues and challenges can help you find and build an audience. Music has a long history of driving social change. What do you care about?

By thinking through these issues and trying to wrestle a brand definition in your mind, it will help you with all the rest of the marketing and promotion that you have to do. You will know where you are coming from, what your message is, and how to present yourself. It will guide the creative work of designing your packaging, web site, videos, messaging, and publicity campaigns, and give you direction and substance.

Develop Direct Relationships With Your Fans

One of the greatest advances in music marketing and promotion is your ability to go directly to your fans and engage with them in information exchange and commerce. For the most part, the major record labels of the past thought that their customers were WalMart and Tower Records. Even the big direct music operations like Columbia House and BMG Direct did nothing to connect artists and fans. Now, all that has changed, and you, as an artist/writer or business person, can go directly to your fans and engage them primarily through the Internet, PCs, and mobile devices.

By developing direct online relationships with your fans, you can make and keep more money, and begin to amass a wealth of data on their buying habits, preferences, shared interests, and behavior. This data can be extremely valuable to you as you expand your fan base and grow your musician business.

There are many ways to leverage direct-to-fan marketing, and the advantages are powerful:

  • Use widgets and social media to market your music all over and leverage your fans as distributors 
  • Use email, twitter and text messaging to directly market your music to fans. 
  • Leverage the power of the web to create links to your music everywhere. 
  • Have ownership of the fan relationship and develop it over time.  Drive people to your web site. 
  • Gather and build the data required to build lifetime fan value and drive your musician business. 
  • Integrate your marketing across social media with widgets, email, and SMS. 
  • Provide instant gratification to your fans and a connection between you and them. 
  • There are many companies available to help you address the direct-to-fan opportunities, and you can choose among them to meet your needs including Topspin, Nimbit, Bandzoogle, Artistdata, Mozes and lots of others. You may find that one company has everything that you are looking for, or that you are better off picking and choosing certain features and capabilities from different vendors to build your own direct marketing machine.  There has never been a better time to take control of your career and drive it forward.

image from profile.ak.fbcdn.net This is an excerpt from the online lessons developed at MPN. Learn more at Music Power Network.

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  1. Great points! Differentiation and branding is sooooo crucial : ) I call my music psych alternative rock and use my handprint logo and color scheme everywhere : )

  2. Personally, I find it kind of ironic that a guy who has little discernible experience marketing major music artists, and no label experience, now disparaging labels, rewriting history and teaching a course for thousands of dollars about music marketing. It would be interesting to see a list some of the multi-platinum and or/indie artists whose careers Dave helped build. If he could walk us through some of the successful marketing plans, online or traditional, that he’s executed for signed recording artists, it would really go a long way in substantiating his credibility on the subject.
    I’ve read his “Future Of Music” book, as well as these essays, and have yet to see what practical experience in the subject matter he possesses that justifies being viewed as an authority. All props to him for multimedia development and being involved with the creation of midi, but that’s got nothing to do with music marketing, as much as the generally accepted thoughts printed above might be pleasant to read.

  3. Dave,
    Excellent article! These are some of the new facets of current day marketing campaigns that are at the fingertips of everyone of us.
    The tools are all around us for our choosing depending upon the needs of the artist. No longer do we have to necessarily spend “big” dollars on a marketing or publicity team. With a little planning, we can implement a marketing campaign for almost nothing with the use of web tools, social media, and our communities/fans.

  4. This Dave guy sounds like a hack selling a magic marketing potion. He’s said nothing in the above essay that we didn’t already know. USELESS!

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