Previously, I exposed some avenues for getting music into the world and generating income. Those tips focused around major and DIY platforms for distribution and publishing in today's media world. While those channels are great resources to dig into, not all of us may be at that level where those platforms may work to our advantage. Today, the word “Producer” is often flung around haphazardly by self-proclaimed individuals with little to no experience with the business side of the industry that can lead artists and musicians and even other producers down misleading paths. This is where frustration ensues and music projects that might otherwise be poised to receive great success fall short. A producer is someone who should know all facets and stages of not just the creating the content, but business aspects as well. Successful producers have a solid understanding of the business practices, and a strong circle of connections to make things happen. So here's my mantra: Marketing is the key that unlocks the door to the world that doesn’t know it wants you and your content yet.
Many of you reading these articles may be aspiring producers and engineers, or students ready to matriculate into the professional field. Learning, however, is a lifelong process. The world is constantly changing and so too are the industry practices and landscapes. To most, the ideal goal is to be a top level engineer or producer working with major labels and high profile artists. Unfortunately that job market is not only extremely sought after, it’s also limited in space. Pensado’s Place recently had a discussion with three of the world’s top studio managers at world class studios to get an inside scoop on what it takes to get into these places. The discussion might be an eye opener for some, but don’t let this information deter you from your dreams.
The majority of success in today’s marketplace revolves around absorbing entrepreneurial behaviors and perspectives that shift outside of the thought process of a music-creator. Many individuals get turned off when they start to hear talk about marketing because it’s so foreign to them. I admit, it was foreign to me too at first. However, marketing is as much an exercise in creative problem solving as mixing or producing! Whether you’re trying to establish yourself as a freelance producer or engineer, or break into the major label or big studio business, one thing is clear – you have to have a solid head on your shoulders with a healthy, well-rounded working knowledge of all aspects of the music industry, and that includes marketing. You have to be able to connect the dots from point A: creating an idea, to point Z: connecting that idea with an audience and generating income.
What this comes down to is brainstorming ideas. If you’re trying to build your dream career, ask yourself questions. What exactly do you enjoy the most? What’s your biggest dream goal? What will you do once you achieve that goal? What happens when you don’t hit that goal?
You can see how one question can spiral into a series of questions, but the more you’re willing to ask and answer, the better idea you’ll have of what you’re after. Try to find questions that connect with fields of work in the world like booking shows, planning touring, managing others, producing, or being a session musician. Once you have those answers, start asking questions about where those jobs or fields exist and what you’re willing to do to get yourself there.
Research & explore: The next phase that comes from all the questions will naturally be trying to acquaint yourself with options that are available in the world that you may not already be aware of. For example if you answered that you’d like to become a session musician working with famous artists in studios and be a part of potentially amazing hit albums, perhaps you should focus on researching the field and how others have gotten into it.
Be open to ideas that don’t fit the mainstream results, like being a recording engineer’s assistant or interning or doing live sound production. After all, the more aware and experienced you are in other related fields it will only help you gain a better insight into your dream job.
After a while, you’ve taken the time to create your first major plan, and I’ll bet if you’re ambitious that plan might seem like a pipe dream because it just doesn’t seem attainable. Envisioning is just step one in an infinite series of steps. A roadmap breaks down that huge gap between where you are now and the end goals, with any number of small stepping stones that each propel you closer toward your big end goal.
It will help you stay focused and allow you to shift or re-prioritize things as time goes on. Ultimately, the roadmap should have clear goals or milestones that you can use to gauge your success through any measure of time you wish. This can really help you keep from losing sight or morale when going through tough spots. Your roadmap can even have built in exit strategies for what happens if you don’t generate the success you want with one avenue.
Ultimately, your Roadmap can be just as flexible or as rigid as you want it to be. Detailed and precise with metrics that help you stay on task daily, or just gently remind you of which direction you were after if you’ve been out wandering too long and get lost.
I did say these would seem vague, and you may be asking just what does marketing have to do with any of this. Much of the planning has to come from you. Since marketing is as much a creative problem solving process as any other creative job, it – like every other creative process, requires constant exercise. The more you do it, the better your grasp of executing it will get, there is no such thing as instant success (and usually the ones who can cite rare instances are always the exceptions to the rule), don’t be discouraged by lack of immediate results!
Now that the template has been laid out, I’d like to share some of my favorite resources on current marketing tips and places I go to expand my entrepreneurial horizons.
CDBaby.com newsletters & blog articles. A treasure trove of frequently updated marketing tactics and strategies discussed in earnest here is well worth the regular price of admission: email blasts. At first glance, a lot of this will look like hype and marketing centered around getting you interested in services CDBaby and their partners sell to get your content into the masses, but look beyond that and you’ll find solid mechanisms that you can employ yourself with or without the aid of their services to engage, expand, or attract an audience.
HostBaby.com does the same as CDBaby does above but oriented around online marketing of your website. The same caveat applies as above, but it doesn’t matter if you’re using their service or alternative host services like Squarespace or Wix to set up your online home to start inviting people over to. Underneath all the advertisements there is still plenty of valuable information you can act upon.
One of my favorite tips is leveraging the power of your website, after all if you have one you should be getting people to come visit it! Instead of posting your content directly to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, embed your content onto a page or post on your website, and share the link to the content on your social media feeds. Basically, you're inviting people to experience your content on your website which allows them to window shop further if they wish.
Inc.com – completely entrepreneurial, but equally as valuable. Becoming your own boss means getting your head wrapped around facets of the work that have nothing to do with directly creating the content you want to make. Their articles are broken up into categories like Startup, Grow, Lead, Innovate, People, Money, etc. and those are all very powerful categories for gaining new and expanded perspectives of how to navigate the professional world, some articles are even about personal growth, which is never a bad thing!
Your local book store – they usually carry a plethora of trade magazines and some of my favorites are Computer Music, Mix, and Electronic Musician Magazine. However, it doesn’t have to stop there. I frequently pick up magazines that have to do with drawing and art, Photoshop, and even 3d visual effects and filmmaking or videogame development magazines.
A personal favorite of mine I picked up and have learned a great deal from is published by Computer Arts Magazine: The Freelance Handbook (Arts11 2012). The vector of approach to marketing may be from the graphic design industry’s perspective but the information is equally invaluable and easily re-oriented for whatever industry you want to go for. Simply visiting the local shop once a month can be an easy and fun excursion, and you don’t have to purchase a mag to open it and read it!
As with all my articles, I always welcome feedback and criticism. Obviously these resources all have to do with activating online and social media, but you can absolutely create marketing metrics for your goals that are outside of those mediums. The only limit is your imagination.
It's time I resumed the myriad of open projects I have on my plate, but I'll be sure to share what I've found that works for me along the way! Until then, happy hunting, producing, and mixing!