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Marketing Your Music - 10 Helpful Tips
 


1. A GOOD RECORDING

Let's face it - if you're going to do more than play gigs at the local hot spot - if you're passionate about your music and you want to make great money from it - you need to have a product to sell. Making a good quality recording seems like a simple idea, but how important is it when it comes to achieving bigger dreams? What can you do to reach the powerhouse people who have the resources to make your music known in a big way? Taking the road from demos to masters can be exciting, and rewarding especially if it's done well.

Each time you record, think of who the listener is going to be, and what their level of "listening" is.
Are they a record company with golden ears, a publishing house selling songs (not production), a management company who wants the story (not just the tape), the public consumer? What level of quality are they used to hearing every day? Do they hear lots of good demo's every day, masters, commercial recordings? Considering what the listening level is, how do you think you sound next to the competition?

Who is your competition? If you're an up-and-coming artist, it's logical to think that other like-artists in your area are your competitors. But this isn't the case. If your cd gets in the door of a record company, you are primarily competing with people who are already signed, or who have at one time worked with a signed artist.

For instance, Stevie Wonder's band is on tour with Vanessa Williams, and Stevie's bass player starts talking to her drummer: "I've written a couple songs, would you like to hear them?" "Sure." Next thing you know, they decide to start a project when they get home and submit it to Vanessa's management company (who they already know on a first name basis).

They go into the studio (where they recorded tracks for In Sync and Gloria Estefan a month ago), and since they know the engineer they get an "off-hours" deal (because the engineer knows who's hands the tape will end up in)... they call in the keyboardist from Sting's band (who they met in the studio) and cut some amazing tracks. The contacts they have are gold, and they treat their music that way. They call up Vanessa's manager the next week and make an appointment for lunch and it goes from there...

So now, how important is it to make a quality recording? With today's digital technology you can make a good recording in your own bedroom, and this is more appropriate if you are looking for a publishing deal (yet even publishers hear a lot of quality stuff these days). But as a artist or band your commitment to making a great production should be very high on your list. Check my site map for more helpful articles, or contact the studios here at the Headway Music Complex.

2. GOOD MASTERING

Mastering is a powerful process for your music. It's where the final product gets refined - levels and eq matched and consistent - song order and creative editing - even adding effects and crossfades for that professional polish. Mastering can make the difference between a potential record company liking your CD, or wanting it. There's plenty of mastering info on this site, so let's move on...

3. LOOKING GOOD or HAVING A GREAT IMAGE

It's pretty well understood that record labels look for (1) the songs (2) the singer (3) the performances (4) the star quality (5) the production (mix, arrangements, hooks, cool sounds...) and (6) a solid businesslike attitude (includes knowing the value of creating a "buzz"). They want to know if you have what it takes to make them money. Very little label money goes into developing artists any more, so spend time being unique and interesting to look at in some way. Make your product unique, too.

When your CD arrives on a record companies desk (along with another 50 that day) you need it to stand out. The music may be the best produced and mastered in the world but remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So don't spend thousands of dollars on production and $50 on the CD booklet! Budget your money to include a good professional design for your CD cover. Here at the Headway Music Complex, Chris Barber (PawsHere Productions) has years of dedicated graphic arts experience, and is highly regarded within the business for her CD duplication services. She alone could make a record company want to play your CD first just for the way it looks.

4. PLAYING GIGS (And lots of them)

Be prepared to play and play and play. If you don't have a gig, MAKE one. Set up benefit parties or concerts and donate the proceeds to different charities. Be sure to contact local newspapers and have them come see you. Be sure you get copies of the articles written about you. (Giving to a good cause is an amazing way to open doors. One of our client's donates 1/3 or their profits to CARE, and they have sold over 21,000 copies practically single-handedly because of the enthusiasm people feel about this kind of compassion and generosity.) The more free press you get the better (put copies of articles in your promo packs).

Self promotion at your gigs is very important. Don't be afraid to ask people if they would like to buy your cd! Sometimes people are waiting to be asked. Playing at your local coffee shop, or opening for a big name artist - it's all the same - you want people to listen to your music. If you are determined to make it, be prepared to play sometimes for nothing. These gigs could benefit you in other ways (like selling your CD) so pick up the phone (Self Promotion again) and make yourself available. Playing a "Live" venue is very important and so are the rules of playing "Live" (tons of tips on touring, management, and more here).

5. UNDERSTANDING FAMILY & FRIENDS

A lot of artists and bands can never understand why family and friends never understand the late nights, the playing for free, the obsession with gear... The nonmusical family and friends think that you can wake up one morning and make music and money like the Beatles... but we know this is not the case. Take charge, and in an easygoing way, educate those around you about your plans. Warning! Be prepared for some resistance and skepticism! (Just tell them that Walt Disney declared bankruptcy 7 times in his career!)

Let them know that you will be going out to play (possibly) with no immediate return. Ask for their assistance if you need a ride to a venue at one time or another. How about the 'big one" when you need time alone to write that Number 1 hit! Take every opportunity to communicate with them, tell them your goals and dreams and tell them it's going to be challenging for you as well as them from time to time. But with their support it could make all the difference. (Those fund raisers for charity is a great way to get family support, too.) If you don't get the support from family, find it in other people who you are close to. The support is out there - create it - never be victim to not having it.

6. FREE CD'S

Sending your CD to record companies or managers is part of the process toward getting signed. But like most things in life, it's not what you know, but "Who you know." Well, you say, that's a Catch-22 situation. How do I get to know people if I don't know people, or live next door to them? It's easy. USE EVERY OPPORTUNITY RELENTLESSLY. Stop believing you know no one. Your state of belief is like a guidance system. Every person knows at least 20 people on a first name basis. Talk. Ask. Inquire. Research. Drop IN! Our client (who's sold 21K copies so far) would make it a point to walk in to at least three industry companies every time he went out of town. In 2 years he had introduced himself to 15 companies, and signed a foreign distribution deal.

If you find yourself in a bar or local store talking to somebody about your music,be prepared to give them a Free CD to pass on to someone they know. Relentless Self-Promotion again. Always carry some with you, you never know who you will talk to next. Remember one of our golden rules,
be prepared to spend as much on self promotion as you did recording your CD so when you set your business plan (remember this is a business), give yourself a budget for marketing.

7. THANKS, BUT NO THANKS

I worked with many artists in England who have told me "I can't believe we didn't get a phone call." Remember, record companies can get 100's of promo's each week, so make sure you are targeting the right company. If you play country, save the postage on cds to send to a hip-hop manager. Be be prepared...

If a record company says "Thanks but no thanks" don't get upset, think positive. There is nothing more attractive than confidence, poise, and businessmanship (that's like showmanship). Send them a letter thanking them for taking time out to review your CD, and tell them your you'll be happy to send them your next project. A record producer friend of mine in England was so shocked to receive such a letter he took time out to visit the band at there next gig - just to see for him self if he had missed anything. This led to a three-album deal and a close friendship with the record company. So don't be afraid to let them know where you are playing. (Relentless Self Promotion AGAIN)

8. RESPECT ALL COMMENTS (Good or Bad)

Blunt fact: To a professional record company, your enthusiasm starts the engine - but THEIR enthusiasm is what puts it all in gear and keeps it running. So... what you think is the best song in the world - I will guarantee - someone else will think is NOT the best at all. So what! We all have different tastes when it comes to music, and we all hear things in a different way. That is just part of the what makes the world varied and interesting.

If somebody tells you that your songs just don't do it for them, then respect there opinion (there's that confidence again). Listen to what people say - it could just change the way you write your next song for the better.

Here is a example of a true situation: If you listen to Billy Joel's song, "Only the Good Die Young" that song rocks, but when Billy Joel wrote the song, he wrote it with a reggae feel to it. When he ran the idea of the song to his long time friend and drummer Libitey De-Vito, he told Billy that he hated it with that feel! Billy Joel listened to him, and went back to his piano and rewrote the tune, and the rest is history. Billy knows that the opinions of others count, and he was prepared to listen to them.

9. GOOD SELF-MANAGEMENT

A lot of artists today think if you have a manager that it's time to sit back and let them do all the work for their 10-20%, and this is why lots of bands fail. If you have a management deal, enjoy it... but you and the rest of your band should also manage yourself. Don't sit around waiting for the phone to ring, without stepping on anybody's toes, PROMOTE YOURSELF RELENTLESSLY!!! Your manager may have another 10 bands on his (or her) books, so his priorities may shift from time to time. SELL YOURSELF with confidence and enthusiasm. That kind of commitment will be noticed, and it will generate more enthusiasm at many levels. (Sometimes managers and producers purposely WATCH to see who's really committed to the whole team.

10. NEVER GIVE UP

Let go of all your excuses. A choral music teacher I had in school put it this way: "Can't never did anything." Keeping a can-do attitude will get you that record deal faster than buying into your obstacles. Many artists and bands have had to work long and hard and get plenty of knock backs before somebody signs them. (It took Great White ten years) Be prepared to work long and effectively at your project, take the knock backs, listen to any feedback that comes your way, take everything that may be thrown your way good or bad, and "Never give up."

It may take years before it works. It took Colonel Sanders (Kentucky Friend Chicken) till he was 80 years old before he made millions from his recipe. Walt Disney declared backruptcy 7 times. Be ready to take whatever time it takes. Remember, a building is built one brick at a time. Don't "beat yourself up" if it doesn't happen over-night.

Our way of giving back to our clients is to share some of the important points we feel may help you in the music business. You can look at greater depths of how to make it by visiting the Industry Links page or going right to GetSigned.com.

Now... time to GO for it!

© Copyright 2001 Dean Henderson
Created 01/18/01 • Modified 01/23/01
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