By Johnny Dwinell of Daredevil Production
We often hear from artists inquiring about marketing and promotion services for their music project. They want some guidance on the best way to spend their money, so I thought I would share some of the most common mistakes indie artists make for their marketing and promotion budgets.
First, I want to point out that these mistakes are shared equally among indie artists with small budgets and indie artists who have investors with big budgets. It’s mind-blowing.
You must be careful to separate the emotion from the event. You must separate what you think is “cool” (i.e. a promotional tactics that serve your ego from strategies that will be far more effective in exposing your artistic effort).
Marketing and promotion is the act of influencing buying decisions. This is where you expose your masterpiece to consumers with the intention of creating a deep enough relationship to inspire them to buy your music. Promotion should be the largest part of the indie artist’s budget, and yet it is the most overlooked. The same promotion techniques that made you aware of your No. 1 favorite album of all time were equally effective in making you aware of your most hated piece of crap from the artist that you can’t believe got a record deal. Both of those records created cash flow; think about it.
So, here are the two biggest mistakes an artist can make with their promotion budget.
1. Nonexistent promotion
If you’re doing a crowdfunding project, you must add funds into the budget for promotion! Back in the day, labels would spend $250,000 on the recording of an artist’s debut record and $750,000-$2 million in promotion. That’s a promotion budget between 75% and 87.5% of the overall funds. How does your recording vs. promotion ratio look in your business plan? Do you even have a business plan?
2. Spending money on ineffective strategies
Listen, there is nothing cooler that turning on your radio and hearing your song coming through your car speakers. It’s better than sex. While it’s quickly dissipating, terrestrial radio is still, far and away, the most effective way to promote music to a mass audience. But how much money is required to make it effective? Radio only works when you have a BIG budget, and the reasoning is the magic number seven.
There is a psychological tipping point where a consumer internalizes a song and their buying decision is influenced. That number is seven. It takes an average consumer seven listens to your song to be compelled to purchase it. But here’s the thing, it takes a TON of spins to ensure seven listens. You need enough money to ensure that each individual hears your song seven times which means you need to afford medium to heavy rotation or you have wasted your money.
Let’s not forget that radio promotion is all about relationships as well. You will need money for a radio tour so you can visit every station.
Market size matters
Sometimes we see artists try to work the whole country at one time. If you have a decent budget but not a MASSIVE budget, then why not focus on a local market? If the song is good and you can afford solid, steady spins in one or two markets, your marketing budget is going to be far more effective in a smaller region than the whole country. More people will be influenced to purchase your music in one or two markets with heavy spins than in every market with light spins.
And we’re trying to sell our music, right? If you don’t have a radio budget, your money is far more effective with online marketing and social. Spending money to appear in an online magazine next to a famous artist makes you look famous and important. Perception is reality.
Now, if you add a free download attached to a squeeze page, you are growing your customer list. Spend money building a customer list and monetizing it. If you don’t know how, then spend money learning how or paying someone to do it for you. If you’re spending $20 per month and you don’t know what you’re doing, you are wasting that money.
Every artist is unique, so what is the best way to focus on your strengths and minimize the weaknesses? If you don’t know this about yourself then you need to pay someone who does…think of it as an education.
Touring and tour promotion
One of the most valuable products you are promoting is your live show, so spend money wisely on tour promotion. Spend the budget on infrastructure that will allow you to capture the contact information from everyone that sees you play live. Always be building your fanbase FIRST and THEN spend money on getting into new markets.
Trust me, getting your first big tour and going everywhere across the country once is not cost-effective. That still stings just thinking about it. Ugh. Start at home. If you can’t pack your local theater or least a decent sized club, then your live show probably sucks. Spend money trying to figure out what needs to change.
If consumers perceive your show as an event they will come to see it. Once you are packing a venue you are making money. Once you have cash flow, you can dominate a new market and so on.
Tour Busses Don’t Sell Records
Country artist Sam Hunt released “Leave the Night On.” This major label artist with major label money toured in a van with a trailer from June through mid-October of 2014 before they could financially justify the cost of leasing a tour bus. Atco Records recording artist Dream Theater released “Images and Words” in 1992. They had enough tour support for six weeks in a tour bus or 12-14 weeks in a van. They begrudgingly chose the van at the behest of their tour manager. The single broke in 10 weeks. If they chose the bus, they wouldn’t have had the budget to support the single when it broke.
How are you spending your promotion budget? Spend wisely and stay in tune!