How To Market Music: An Effective No-Fail 3 Step Music Marketing Formula That Works

Knowing how to market your music is without a doubt THE most important thing you can do for your music business and your music career as a whole. You know it’s something that must be handled and if you’re not making efforts to learn how to market your music more effectively then you should know that, at the very least, nothing serious will ever happen in your music business career.

The first thing to ask yourself is whether or not you’re currently managing the most basic elements of an effective music marketing campaign.

What do I mean by this?

To begin it’s important to assess where you’re at right now and determine whether or not you know and understand exactly what the basic components of an effective music marketing campaign are? Let’s face it, if you plan on making a name for yourself in the music industry it’s important to realize you’ll be investing a lot of your personal time and money into your music career. If you’re certain your absolute goal is to mold your music talents into a true “music business” and you have no doubts about the career path you’ve chosen… then you’ll want to be as efficient and productive as you can possibly be.

Most indie bands and musicians whether from the Rock, Hip Hop, Folk or any genre for that matter, tend to work on only one or two of the three essential requirements of effective music marketing. For instance most musicians are great at connecting with audiences. What with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube in the mix, communications have become stupid simple for today’s musician.

On the other hand, asking for the sale is occasionally handled effectively but tends to be approached hap-hazardly and without a formula or the necessary accompanying awareness campaigns. This lack-luster approach tends to dampen the efforts of even the hardest working bands and musicians in the industry. Unfortunately, applying only one or even two of these key components without the essential third element in a music marketing campaign won’t bring in maximum returns for the time invested. This just isn’t how to market music effectively.

Don’t get me wrong, getting your name out there and partaking in conversations with fans can be cool, even self gratifying and it’s definitely better than not doing anything at all, but imagine how much more effective you’d be if you went to work on all of these essential marketing aspects of your music business armed with a formula and a pin-point focused purpose.

The Solution To Ineffective Music Marketing

The bottom line is that when you break down the ins and outs on how to market your music effectively, it becomes apparent that as a musician, it’s important to discipline yourself to focus on the elements that are most productive for your music business growth. Broken down in an easy to follow process these elements of music marketing and music promotion essentially consist of a 3 step formula:

Step #1 – Create Awareness: Find an audience who appreciates your music style, your sound and your identity. Take the steps necessary to communicate your musical message to them. Everything you do should create an awareness for you and your music at all times. Approach this with precision and a firm direction and your music business foundation will be solidified for years to come.

Step #2 – Connect with Your Audience: I mentioned earlier how stupid simple it is to connect with fans today. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the many other online “hangouts” make this process a breeze. Once you’ve laid the initial groundwork and you’ve made your audience aware of exactly what you have to offer, work on maintaining those important on-going relationships with your fans, the media and the all important music business contacts you collect along the way. Your fans and contacts want to know that you’re for real. That you care about them. That you’re here for the long-haul. Making connections with them and keeping them involved in your growth process will ensure this happens for you.

Step #3 – Sell Your Stuff (Ask for the sale): This one is essential. If you don’t have products to sell… you DON’T have a music business. Working to create a steady, consistent cash flow for your music business is paramount to your long-term success. Entice fans to spend their money and buy your stuff and the rest of your music marketing processes will flow and flourish so much easier.

Yes! It’s Easier Said Than Done

I recognize that it’s easier to talk about these things than it is to make them happen in your career but this is what the music business is all about so incorporating these processes into your music business campaign is a must, or you simply won’t last long enough to make dent in the music world.

And that’s not what we want for your music career… is it?

Again, it might seem easy enough to map these things out on paper but the truth is that most bands and musicians will find a hundred and one ways to screw this up.

You’ll either spend too much time on creating awareness and connecting with your audience but then fail to ask for the sale. Or you’ll ask for the sale way to often and forget about connecting with your people. I mentioned earlier that it’s cool to get all gung-ho, get busy, and head on out there and do a bunch of music marketing, but if you’re not touching all three elements of this process on how to market music, then you’re missing the boat and more importantly… you’re fans won’t be “feeling” your vibe. They just won’t connect with you on a deeper level. Without connection, there’s no sales and without sales, you don’t have a music business.

Don’t Fall Into the Marketing Music Business Trap

You’ve seen them. They’re all over the place. Lame press releases that musicians love to send out nowadays. These press releases are posted and delivered to my inbox on a daily basis with headlines like: “Johnny Come Lately, the Latest Album Release from the 123 How To Rock & Roll Band”. Go ahead… admit it. You’ve probably sent out something like this yourself at one time or another.

Unfortunately there are some problems with this spray and pray technique that will be blatantly obvious when you stack up a headline like this against my 3 step process. See the press release handles the “Creating Awareness” aspect and even touches lightly on the “Selling Your Stuff” step but it fails to connect and that my friend is a no no. It’s 100% self interested and sadly, it will fail every time it’s used.

Fans and media see right through this. All the band wants is the money. For some unknown reason the band is expecting us to head on over to the link included in their press release and click on the buy button. But where’s the connection? What about the awareness we need BEFORE they ask for the sale?

Think about it. Have you ever bought an album, or anything for that matter, without some type of emotional connection? Chances are you haven’t. If you think you have… think about it again. I’m certain you’ll reflect and realize that a connection of some sort was definitely involved in your purchase. Musicians who make this unforgivable marketing mistake should be ashamed of themselves. If this is the only way you’re promoting and marketing your music take an hour or so to track your results.

I’m willing to bet what you find isn’t very encouraging.

Are You Leaving Money On The Table?

Now let’s look at the flip side. What about musicians who connect with us masterfully but never ask for the sale? You’ve experienced it and honestly, you probably love them. You dig their music, love their stage presence and you love to hear from them. But when you want to support them and demonstrate your love… you just don’t know where to go. They never tell you where you can buy their stuff.

Not a great formula for success right?

If you’re not asking for the sale then you’re failing your fans. Fans who love bands love to buy “stuff” from bands. You can’t drop the ball on this. Without generating cash flow, you simply won’t succeed in the music business. It’s too expensive to work a music business without cash flow. The fun dries up real quick when the money keeps pouring out, but never flows back in. Don’t be that band, don’t be that musician.

How To Make The 3 Step Music Marketing Formula Work For You

I realize that you may not have a lot of time in your life. You might be working a 9-5 at this point or maybe your touring schedule is insane. Regardless of your current situation, it’s important to take some time out to implement these 3 activities into your music business promotions. Start by cutting back on an hour of television every day and put that time into creating awareness of your music.

Find out where your fans hangout and get active with them. Let them know what you’re up to. Create some behind the scenes videos on your studio recording sessions and your touring trips in the van on the way to your next gig. Let fans get to know who you are. Let them see you in real life situations. This creates rapport and connection all while you build awareness… double whammy.

What do you do when you hit the bathroom? Personal question I know but stick with me for a bit. Why not take your smart phone in with you next time and instead of reading the latest updates on Facebook, post something relevant on your fanpage. Answer one or two of your fan questions on your timeline or tweet them out for everyone to see. Why not share or re-tweet a fan post? In other words, connect with your audience everyday for at least 15-20 minutes. Find the time one way or another.

We can all find 20 minutes in a day if we REALLY want to.

Without Products You Don’t Have a Music Business

Finally, asking for the sale happens as a result of having products to market. Don’t have any products yet? What are you waiting for? Record your live performances, hit the studio, create a DVD documentary. Remember if you don’t have any products, you don’t have a music business. Get busy.

Once you’ve handled the awareness and connection aspect of the 3 step music marketing formula, asking for the sale is a breeze. True fans really DO want to buy your stuff. If you ask without appearing pushy or greedy, they WILL buy. It’s important to offer more awareness content and to connect with fans more than you ask for the sale, but for goodness sake… DO NOT forget to ask.

Working these three how to market your music elements effectively in your career will not only help to grow your music business, but will get you headed on the right path to creating a long-term, long lived music career. Getting the word out (Create Awareness), building a fan base (Connect with Your Audience) and making money (Ask for the Sale) will ultimately place you on the road to music industry success.

It’s not easy to manage all aspects of music marketing but I’m here to help in any way I can. For more music career advise and marketing information visit and subscribe to our free newsletter at Catsask Magazine.

Music, Economics, and Beyond

“The whole point of digital music is the risk-free grazing”

–Cory Doctorow

Cory Doctorow, Canadian journalist and co-editor and of the off-beat blog Boing Boing, is an activist in favor of liberalizing copyright laws and a proponent of the Creative Commons non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. Doctorow and others continue to write prolifically about the apocalyptic changes facing Intellectual Property in general and the music industry in specific.

In this article, we will explore the cataclysm facing U.S. industry through the portal example of the music industry, a simple industry in comparison to those of automotive or energy. However, in the simplicity of this example we may uncover some lessons that apply to all industries.

In his web-article, “The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free,” Michael Arrington tells us that music CD sales continue to plummet alarmingly. “Artists like Prince and Nine Inch Nails are flouting their labels and either giving music away or telling their fans to steal it… Radiohead, which is no longer controlled by their label, Capitol Records, put their new digital album on sale on the Internet for whatever price people want to pay for it.” As many others have iterated in recent years, Arrington reminds us that unless effective legal, technical, or other artificial impediments to production can be created, “simple economic theory dictates that the price of music [must] fall to zero as more ‘competitors’ (in this case, listeners who copy) enter the market.”

Unless sovereign governments that subscribe to the Universal Copyright Convention take drastic measures, such as the proposed mandatory music tax to prop up the industry, there virtually exist no economic or legal barriers to keep the price of recorded music from falling toward zero. In response, artists and labels will probably return to focusing on other revenue streams that can, and will, be exploited. Specifically, these include live music, merchandise, and limited edition physical copies of their music.

According to author Stephen J. Dubner, “The smartest thing about the Rolling Stones under Jagger’s leadership is the band’s workmanlike, corporate approach to touring. The economics of pop music include two main revenue streams: record sales and touring profits. Record sales are a) unpredictable; and b) divided up among many parties. If you learn how to tour efficiently, meanwhile, the profits–including not only ticket sales but also corporate sponsorship, t-shirt sales, etc.,–can be staggering. You can essentially control how much you earn by adding more dates, whereas it’s hard to control how many records you sell.” (“Mick Jagger, Profit Maximizer,” Freakonomics Blog, 26 July 2007).

In order to get a handle on the problems brought about by digital media in the music industry, we turn to the data most relied upon by the industry. This data comes through Neilsen SoundScan which operates a system for collecting information and tracking sales. Most relevant to the topic of this column, SoundScan provides the official method for tracking sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada. The company collects data on a weekly basis and makes it available every Wednesday to subscribers from all facets of the music industry. These include executives of record companies, publishing firms, music retailers, independent promoters, film entertainment producers and distributors, and artist management companies. Because SoundScan provides the sales data used by Billboard, the leading trade magazine, for the creation of its music charts, this role effectively makes SoundScan the official source of sales records in the music industry.

Quo vadis? According to Neilsen Soundscan, “In a fragmented media world where technology is reshaping consumer habits, music continues to be the soundtrack of our daily lives. According to Music 360 2014, Nielsen’s third annual in-depth study of the tastes, habits and preferences of U.S. music listeners, 93% of the country’s population listens to music, spending more than 25 hours each week tuning into their favorite tunes.”

For most Americans, music is the top form of entertainment. In a 2014 survey, 75% of respondents stated that they actively chose to listen to music over other media entertainment. Music is part of our lives throughout all times of the day. One fourth of music listening takes place while driving or riding in vehicles. Another 15% of our weekly music time takes place at work or while doing household chores.

It has become no surprise over the past five years that CD sales have diminished while download listening and sales have increased. Bob Runett of Poynter Online comments, “Start waving the cigarette lighters and swaying side to side–the love affair between music fans and their cell phones is getting more intense. Phones with music capabilities will account for 54 percent of handset sales globally in five years, according to a report consulting firm Strategy Analytics Inc. The report suggests that we keep watching the growth of cellular music decks (CMDs), devices that deliver excellent sound quality and focus on music more than images.” (“A Few Notes About Music and Convergence,” 25 November 2014)

Stephen J. Dubner summed up the mess quite well almost a decade ago. “It strikes me as ironic that a new technology (digital music) may have accidentally forced record labels to abandon the status quo (releasing albums) and return to the past (selling singles). I sometimes think that the biggest mistake the record industry ever made was abandoning the pop single in the first place. Customers were forced to buy albums to get the one or two songs they loved; how many albums can you say that you truly love, or love even 50% of the songs–10? 20? But now the people have spoken: they want one song at a time, digitally please, maybe even free.” (“What’s the Future of the Music Industry? A Freakonomics Quorum,” 20 September 2007).

Like many of us, I (Dr. Sase) also have worked as a musician/producer/engineer/indie label owner releasing esoterica since the 1960s. While occasionally made an adequate living off my music, I also developed my talents as an economist, earning a doctorate in that field. Therefore, I comment from this dual perspective of an economist/musician.

The post-future, as many music pundits call it, does not really differ that much from the past. How and why folks obtain their music continues to reflect at least three related decision drivers. We can summarize the three most relevant as 1) Content, 2) Durability, and 3) Time-Cost. Let us explain further.