Up until recently, I was pursuing the life of a career musician. I spent 12 and a half years writing songs, playing in bands, recording music and teaching guitar.
I did okay for myself, but my expenses were out of proportion with my income. If I had streamlined my lifestyle sooner (I sold my house in 2012), I probably could have made a decent living in music. I simply did not have that perspective when I was still an active musician.
In any case, music has taught me many things, and there are a lot of marketing principles I picked up on too. Here are several things I learned from being a musician.
1. Marketing is about Relationship
Bad marketing feels very impersonal. If it’s aimed at everyone, in essence, it’s tailored to no one.
From banner ads to email messages, people on the receiving end of the communication have to feel as though they are the focus. Everyone is tuned in to WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”), and your marketing messages have to be tuned to the same station to be effective.
If you make serving and value your priority, you will connect with your audience on a more personal level.
2. Marketing is about Other People
You can market to yourself all day long, but the message that you create for yourself is going to be a very different one than the message you put out into the world.
Hopefully, you’re already sold on yourself. After all, you are the most important person in your life. It makes it harder to market your music (or any other service or product) if you have no confidence in it.
With that in mind, you have to get out of your own head if you want to market to the world. You have to think about what others might see in what you do.
3. Marketing is about Image
This may sound slimy, or even dishonest, but musicians have to project the level of success they want to have, not the level of success they currently have. A picture or a video showing a band playing an empty room (an all too common occurrence), doesn’t really help their marketing.
A musician doesn’t have to be a model or dress provocatively to build a fan base. However, they do have to develop self-awareness. Everything from their fashion sense and the instrument they play to their logo and branding should reflect who they are, what they’re about, and ultimately who they want to be.
In the same manner, a blogger doesn’t have to have a beautifully designed website. However, it can help to project a professional image.
4. Marketing is about Consistency
It takes more than a two-or-three sentence exchange to build a relationship. Similarly, if you want to pique people’s interest in what you do, you have to keep the lines of communication open.
Whether you write blog posts or emails, whether you podcast or create videos, you have to keep getting new content in front of your target audience’s eyes. If you’re doing it right, your fans should feel like they know you, even if they haven’t met you.
Consistency requires commitment and organization. It isn’t necessarily easy, but it is worthwhile.
5. Marketing is about finding an Angle
“So you’re playing a show on Friday. Why should I care?”
Though this question may look a little different depending on the industry you are in, unless you can answer it, you’re going to have a hard time getting people to buy in.
Whether you are writing press releases for the media or you’re looking to build your audience, you need to find an angle that makes for a good story. Story is far more compelling than facts. You can find facts in a phonebook, but they don’t make an emotional connection with people. Story does.
6. Marketing is about Constructive Honesty
It seems the world is overrun with the negative, and people don’t generally go to the movies or flip on the TV to get another dose of negativity (although there is some irony there, as the news and commercials tend to propagate a lot of fear).
When it comes to entertainment, people want to have fun. Even if you are experiencing some challenges in your career, there is always a way to spin it in a positive direction, and this is what you need to learn to do to market effectively.
In other words, you can be honest, and you definitely should. However, at times you’re going to have to find a way to turn around a seemingly negative situation.