Why I Consciously Misuse Professional Terminology When Writing About Music Marketing

Propaganda-poster-by-stephanSome people might be surprised that I basically ditch complex and detailed language developed by researchers and practitioners that appears designed to clarify communication about communication. Cause when I start ranting about people taking a useful word like "crowdfunding" and trying to attach divergent meanings that muddy the water, I'm arguing for maintaining clarity in communication. But the language of communication professionals is compartmentalized and does not support the people for whom I write, DIY/indie musicians and their teams.

Why Would I Take My Lead From Propagandists?

Let's turn to an industry marketing dictionary and see how it defines "marketing":

"Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."

Fascinating. But almost totally useless if you don't already know what it means aka if you're not part of the industry.

Casey Winters, who is a marketing pro, discusses this definition and then unpacks all the things to which it refers using the concept of "unbundling" to discuss its fragmentation.

Check it out. It's totally mind numbing though she's a good writer.

I could also discuss "public relations" in this manner. Here's an industry definition:

"Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics."

Like when oil companies explain that their oil spills aren't really spills. Then we can go back to watching tv while they stack those dollars. That's mutual benefit.

Let's turn to Wikipedia for a bit on the history of Propaganda which quotes the late Harold Dwight Lasswell writing in 1928:

"Propaganda has become an epithet of contempt and hate, and the propagandists have sought protective coloration in such names as 'public relations council,' 'specialist in public education,' 'public relations adviser.'"

I could go on in this manner but I think I've given you a basic sense of why I don't use institutional communication terminology when writing for DIY/indie musicians and their teams.

It's poor communication by people who are members of professions that are inherently untrustworthy.

One Answer To Fragmentation Is Holistic Thinking

"Holistic" is one of those words that moves in and out of favor. In this case I'm deploying it pragmatically to describe my use of the term "marketing" which I use to encompass all the aspects of communication that are relevant to DIY and emerging artists in building a career.

At this point I would consider shifting to some use of the term "communication" since that might be most accurate but it would not reflect common usage.

In 10 years of writing about music marketing I've had only two challenges to my use of terminology and both have been mean-spirited. There are two reasons I've hardly been challenged:

1) Professionals in marketing/pr/etc. are socialized in such a way that most instinctively avoid any exchange that seems likely to lead to an interaction with negative aspects. I bet many pros have cringed at my terminology and then just moved along because that's how they operate.

2) A major shift has been happening in these associated fields as communication professionals who are actually good at communicating recognize that their institutional traditions are failing. This has led to an emphasis on holistic concepts such as relationships and communication in an effort to break down the silos and actually achieve something useful. I'm part of that effort in my own small way.

Steve Radick points out:

"Too many public relations practitioners have become so focused on the message that they have totally forgotten the relations part of public relations."

"As The Cluetrain Manifesto taught us way back in 1999 (also before social media), 'public relations does not relate to the public; companies are deeply afraid of their markets'…public relations practitioners have gotten lazy, hiding behind words and messages instead of building an actual relationship."

By returning to concepts like relationships and communication some professionals have established a holistic perspective in which to critique both their industry and to find more productive ways of meeting their goals that don't necessarily fit into the world of corporate job titles and departmental competition. Seth Godin would be an excellent example of someone who tries to bring holistic thinking to the corporate world.

I Use The Word Marketing To Tie Things Together

For my part, I've used marketing as the holistic term to gather things together as I try to do something of use for DIY/indie musicians and their teams.

I see now that it's not the best term but it's worked well enough to communicate to people who really don't care about industry job titles because they have a specific job to do that cuts across such divisions.

If I was going to take this discussion further, I would go through what a typical small unsigned act in their early days do in that journey from writing songs to putting on shows with merch sales. If you break down all the tasks required to accomplish those things, you'll see that a wide range of job titles are being combined in the activities of one or two people.

And those people, the people for whom I write, mostly don't have a need for the distinctions that seem oh so important to those whose careers require them.

[Thumbnail image: "Propaganda Poster" courtesy (stephan).]


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch) recently launched DanceLand and is relaunching Crowdfunding For Musicians. Contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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