Having a good story to tell is a great marketing tool that can catch attention and make a personal connection with potential fans. A backstory, one that shares the background of the brand or product or event being marketed, is a particularly powerful form of storytelling widely used in marketing. However, far too often, musicians and music marketers pitch backstories that have little to do with the news at hand and fail to make an organic connection between one's life and one's music.
Backstories can take many forms. For a musician, a backstory might be the story of:
Why one decided to become a professional musician.
How one came up with the idea for a particular song.
The circumstances that brought collaborators together on a particular project.
Successful backstories catch the attention of those that are not yet fans as well as those that are fans for life. They create a sense of personal connection between the listener and artist and help establish an environment in which what is important to the artist is recognized and felt as being important to the listener.
Most important of all are the origin tales, the tales that will be told over and over by fans and media figures, sometimes for the full career of the musician.
A successful origin tale is easy to tell and retell yet meaningful enough to hold up over time.
Of particular importance to the new and emerging artists, a successful origin tale has a direct relationship to the music.
I've been writing about music for over 10 years and, along the way, have seen a large number of pitches for coverage of new artists. One of the biggest failings I've seen is the lack of connection between the artists primary biographical backstory and their music.
While it is true that coming from difficult circumstances and facing overwhelming challenges can make for a deep and meaningful story, it does not inherently mean that the person that went through those events will create great or meaningful or entertaining music.
When reading a tragic story of a musician's childhood, one with no direct connection to why they got into music or what their music is about, I at first feel a tug of guilt from my seemingly automatic desire to help those in need.
But as I realize there's no real connection between a tragic tale and a batch of songs, I then begin to feel a sense of disconnection from the artist and the music they just happened to make.
Once that sense of disconnection is in place, it's pretty hard to shake, just as a sense of connection can linger and positively affect subsequent responses.
Different writers and other forms of gatekeepers will have different responses but, in all cases, if a backstory is intended to make a connection and that connection is dropped as the narrative turns to the news, then that effort may well be a waste.
However, if a tale of woe or inspiration or happenstance not only catches attention but makes a strong enough connection to keep that attention as it connects to the matter at hand, then that backstory is a powerful tool that one can rely on for years.
[Storytellers Cafe thumbnail courtesy Loren Javier.]
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.