Old School Marketing

My experience of marketing my music was started back in the late 80s I guess when my idea of ‘marketing’ was spending time stuffing envelopes full of cassette demos and posting them off to indie radio shows in the UK, major record labels, venues and indie fanzines.

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Out of a mail out of around fifty tapes (yes tapes!) we got three positive responses. One was a phone call from Steve Lamacq (now at BBC Radio 1) who was helping out at Radio London at the time on the Gary Crowley Demo Clash show. We were being played on air in London as part of the demo clash show, which we were winning too. The DJs would play four new bands, the listeners would phone in and vote for their favorite.

As a result of that airplay we had some major label interest and a London showcase gig. Nothing came of that band (the archive is on MySpace though) though it was fuel enough for me to pursue other musical ventures with some commercial success in the UK some time later.

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I’d managed to blag my way into some free studio time at a small studio in London by doing some work as a label runner and promoter and as a result we’d secured a P&D deal with a distributor. An unknown artist presenting a new track on a pristine piece of 12 inch vinyl drew more attention than the old method of the cassette tape and it eventually lead to a deal with a Warner’s sub-label.

Welcome To The New School

Killer marketing tactics will only get you so far but if the music isn’t up to scratch all the effort and money in the world is ultimately going to lead to failure. Get the song right and the breakthrough will eventually take care of itself.

Having said that you can help yourself make some noise using the tools available online today. And being a bit clever about it to set yourself apart from the herd.

One of the things I did that helped re-launched my music was to offer up various parts (vocals, hook, Midi file) of two of my tracks for remix. Its nothing new nowadays, in fact its positively de-rigueur. You can offer parts of your tracks up for download on your own site and MySpace or even newer web communities like MixMatchMusic.

With DIY remix culture exploding and related software becoming more powerful and affordable, sonic manipulators are growing hungry for disassembled pop music, and the music industry is beginning to see the benefit of increased exposure through releasing remix stems directly to the public.

Release a limited edition vinyl single. Its going to cost you around $900 for 500 7 inch singles but the prestige that would add to your release would be invaluable. Since the rise of Napster and, later, iTunes, a market for single songs has been reborn, and one of the unintended benefactors has been the seven-inch. Even Sub Pop Records’ famous singles club has been reactivated.

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Singles are also highly collectible. “The punk and indie-rock undergrounds have always been particularly fond of the seven-inch as a badge of fanhood, something doled out in limited quantities and often specific circumstances – on certain tour dates or on labels available only in a certain region.” (from the Toronto Star)

A DJing contact of mine came up with an excellent idea for sending out DJ mixes of his in an effort to get club bookings (if you haven’t released a 12 inch single that’s kicked up some dust!). Rather than do the usual task of sending out CDs he spent something like $200 on iPod Shuffle’s, put his mix on there and sent them out to promoters. It got an immediate reaction just for the original way he presented himself. He also happened to be a great DJ which helped too of course but the bookings he got back as a result paid for the outlay.

Makeamixa do some great looking cassette USB drives which would be great as limited edition albums or to do a cheaper version of the above DJ tactic.

Other Music Marketing Tipsters

Digital distributor Tunecore have these tips to help you promote your release once you get it placed on iTunes and other major distributors. They’re also doing video distribution nowadays too. They also have a bunch of free PDF marketing guides.

Andrew Dubber’s New Music Strategies give some useful insight with How Can I Sell My Music Online? “There are variations on this theme, but essentially it boils down to this very simple question: now that there’s this internet thing, where’s the money and how do I get at it? What’s the best way to sell music online?”

Tom Robinson explains the answer to the questions, Should I Put My Future Hit On MySpace? and Does Your Music Have Value? on his excellent blog.”The more seriously artists treats their own work the more seriously other people will take it. A series of full commercial releases gives you a better chance of airplay at radio. It also gives you a discography.”

Max Lowe writes, 7 Tips To Writing A Crowd Drawing MySpace Blog, “You must write frequently and often for more than one reason. First, the search engines will pick up your blog quicker and more often if you post every day or two. Second, your readers will return more often if they know there is going to be new content every day.

And I couldn’t write this without mentioning something from CDBaby founder Derek Sivers, in particular his much quoted (worth another mention here), Derek Sivers 7 Rules Of Marketing. “Stop thinking of it as Marketing and start thinking of it as creative ways to be considerate. Think of things from the other person’s point of view”.

We’ll have part two later this week. Ideas and suggestions please leave comments!

Related Links

Steve Lamacq (Lamacq Central) MySpace
Tunecore Music Survival Guides (Tunecore.com)
Tips For Playing SXSW (Tom Robinson, MySpace blog)
How To Send CDs To Radio (TomRobinson.com)
BBC-One Music How To..Fat Guides (BBC Radio 1)
30+ Essential Music Industry Resources And Links (Buzzsonic.com)
Should I Put My Future Hit On MySpace? (TomRobinson.com)
XFM Uploaded (XFM Radio)
Radiohead Remix (RadioheadRemix.com)
Remix Culture Is Exploding (Evolving Music)
The Mash Up Revolution (Salon.com)
Record Label Resource (RecordLabelResource.com)
How To Get Your Music Distributed On iTunes (And Keep Most Of The Money) (Buzzsonic.com)
Vinyl 45s Make A Come Back (TheStar.com)
Facebook Music Marketing Tactics (NotEvilMusic.com)