Before I start I just would like to say that this article is not about a few tips or magic formulas (that never really work) about solving one of the biggest mysteries of mankind (lol) – How do musicians can sell their music?!?!
Being said, this is not about giving you the fish but instead it’s about realising how we CAN fish.
As a musician as well as an account manager, I have learned through the years that in order to sell / promote my music I firstly have to sell myself. As funny and as old as it sounds, not only people but also big companies fall for the same seller’s pitch into spending money on something they DO NOT NEED! (by the way, it can be even easier to convince big companies to spend 50k than convincing someone to simply accept a free flyer in the street).
By the way, going back to the subject, by selling “yourself” I neither mean your body nor your music integrity in order to increase sales!
However the truth is that, although there are a lot of people that got famous for being exceptionally talented most of us “mere mortals” just become heard if we can convince someone to land us 3 minutes of their time to listen to our work.
Besides, as you already know, things got even harder since MP3s were invented as well as music composition tools were created to pretty much anyone that owns a PC. Although that’s an amazing breakthrough it also has its disadvantages and succeeding in the industry it’s certainly one of them.
Once you will start selling your product (music) you will understand that companies NEVER buy things from other companies, instead its people that buy things from other people.
The best way to put it is by thinking about a shop:
Nowadays everybody loves Apple but if you go to an Apple store and one of the sales assistants is rude to you, you will most likely think one of 2 things: either the employee is unfit to work with public or that Apple store is unprofessional and obnoxious.
There you go, in the end of the day, it’s a person buying from another person.
This is why I emphasise that when you sell your music before you get heard you have to sell yourself. Like a good business lunch, before you get the deal you will have to bond with the person, talk about the trivialities of the day and life and just then, when the atmosphere is pleasant you start talking about business. The reason is simple: no one will be interested to work and invest their money on someone they don’t like. As much as we follow objective social rules, we will always remain a little bit subjective.
Therefore forget that thought of being stuck in your house making music hoping that one day you will be discovered and you know why? Because WE ALL think that! And as you know, there are a limited number of vacancies to fill. Although someone might knock on your door, what if it doesn’t? In that case you will have to get out there, get your confidence up and make sure you won’t give up with the rejections.
By being stuck between the artistic and the corporate business world, the most interesting aspect I have noticed about our music industry is that musicians worry 100% about how good their music sound and 0% about how they will get to make unknown people hear their product.
As most of us cannot hire expensive promoters or find well known agents, major labels, etc we unfortunately have to become both in order to succeed.
As you probably already noticed, I haven’t been saying your music but “your product” because this is who you are – a brand! You are a small company that is trying to sell or be hired for your “services” and as such, you have to act like one!
When you look at the market, when companies come up with something “revolutionary” usually they aren’t the first ones inventing it. This means that getting your music sold has very little to do with how good you are either.
Charles Goodyear was the inventor of the modern rubber. His work was so significant that even the brand Goodyear Tyres were named like that in honour to the rubber inventor. Despite of how important his work was to modern society he died nearly of starvation because he could never take a decent amount of profit out of his invention. He is known as a brilliant inventor and one of the worse business men in history.
Can you see a resemblance between him and all of us musicians?
As musicians it is important to understand that making music is our job however making someone buying our music or hiring us is a completely business approach.
If not let’s think:
Do you really believe that Rihanna, Katy Perry, Chris Brown etc are the best artists in the world or that their fame is proportional to their talent (“gift”)?
(Remember we are more than 7 billion people!)
Have you ever seen on Youtube people singing, playing or acting better than the “stars” out there? If they are so good why aren’t they famous?
The answer is simple – Marketing!
People behind famous musicians usually don’t understand anything about music making but they understand EVERYTHING about music selling!
The music itself is the least important part of the “package”. For any marketing campaign the “product” has to be constantly in your face, everywhere and offer “various solutions for various customers”.
Music of this type usually offers:
- Good physical attributes
- Good style
- Some controversial aspect about the artist (whether is provoked by the marketing team or a personality trade)
- Merchandising (clothes, perfumes, hats etc…)
- Fancy video clips showing a life / a style / an attitude you wish you could have
- Easy going and easily self identifying lyrics
- Oh and music (by the way)!
What I am trying to say here is that they offer a package for different consumers which have different tastes and things they look for in a role model / artist. And this will be what you have to offer – a package!
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you have to offer the same assets as pop music does. However you have to, somehow, have to understand the business language of your musical genre and offer something fresh.
For example if you are a composer your package could offer services as a composer, sound designer, sound engineer, etc. The reason being is that you would be able to make the film company save money in hiring other people to do something you could do yourself for a one fee only.
The difference is: What do think you have that the competition doesn’t? If being inventive and creative is part of your artistic nature, put it to practice and apply it with a business mind! J