By Ed Teja
Many people view the end of one year and the beginning of another as a time to reflect. As an advocate of the here and now, I suggest that a better idea is to take this opportunity to refocus—your attention, your effort and your intention. I’m not talking New Year’s resolutions or anything so trendy. No, it is time to drag out the thoughts you’ve had on your marketing plan and public relations plan, take a hard look at the current realities of the world of music, and get everything up to date.
There is a sense of a fresh start that comes with a new year. That means you could have a little extra energy and enthusiasm to put into it. It also means it can be easier to let go of past mistakes and old habits. Habits might die hard, but it was reputedly Einstein who said: “Repeating an action and expecting a different result is one form of insanity.” If he didn’t say it, he should have. And there was never a better time to change your actions.
Remember that figuring out what doesn’t work is a sign of progress. That is the process of discovery that is essential to scientific discovery. You make some assumptions based on the best information available to you, and try something. If it doesn’t work, the appropriate questions are: “Is my vision inaccurate?” and “Do I understand why it didn’t work?” Looking for blame, or worrying about how that effort looks to other people is wasted effort, and adds stress to your life that is counterproductive (not all stress is bad, but self imposed stress that is strictly negative, is.)
My marketing plan thought for the year
Here is a new thought for a new year. It is reasonable to have a marketing plan that involves not trying to market anything. If that sounds foolish, let me explain. Sometimes the reason marketing efforts don’t work is because the product isn’t ready to market. You might need a fallow period, a time when you develop new skills, learn something, gain some insight, or connect with people who complement your efforts. Any of these, or a combination, might be what it takes to create music that gets noticed.
And it might not just be a creative learning. You might, by biding your time and paying attention, find a new way to package your music or performance. In the heat of battle, when you are performing actively and busting your butt to get noticed, it can be hard to see what others are doing. Taking a breather can let you profit from their brilliance and their mistakes, equally. For instance, if you’ve done all the guerilla marketing stuff (which really is not new, or underground, it is just marketing that was repackaged for a wider audience), and things seem to have peaked, getting out and seeing how things work for other artists might open your eyes to new ideas, or you might figure out why things are going wrong.
Time out to learn
For example, I’ve read that you need to “ask for the sale” at gigs. Common wisdom in certain circles advocates having someone hawking your merchandise. Superficially it makes sense. But if I go to a gig and the emphasis is on the merchandise, if the music isn’t exceptional, I won’t hang around. High pressure sales make a free concert too damn expensive for my tastes. I like the CDs and so on to be available, and often buy one or more at a concert, but I don’t want to feel like I went to the mall (I don’t go to malls willingly). A low pressure approach suits me, and seems to suit the audiences I play for. But for a long time, I had the feeling I was doing something wrong, missing out on something. Taking a break from the hustle and gaining some objectivity, I think I was on the right path. Yes, a hustle might have sold a few more CDs, but simply selling a few more CDs was less important than building a loyal following.
As I took a break, I found many areas in my performance that could be significantly improved. All it took was a clear view of what I wanted to accomplish.
Marketing for the laid back musician
For me, marketing is an interesting and often difficult challenge. I am not a pushy person, in general. Aggressive, but I don’t like to go where I am not welcome. So much of my marketing is trying to find ways to be welcomed to new audiences. Getting gigs in bars and clubs requires a pushy person, which is why everyone wants a booking agent or manager—to do it for them. In my case, I shifted my focus from bars to festivals for a time. I enjoyed playing blues and folk festivals. Good pay, people sell your CDs for you, you play one set, and the evening is free. Not a bad deal. But they are infrequent, making it hard to make a living that way. But it made me happier, and gave me time to create music for music libraries and improve my music skills and understanding, while still gigging.
I don’t want to suggest with this that all of you should take some time out. I just want you to keep it in mind as a possibility. If you can focus your marketing and pr plans toward a clear vision of a successful 2010, and do it with enthusiasm, then you are on a roll. Jumping off now makes no sense. No, this is the fallback plan for those who feel lost in the woods. And, if you need a break, it doesn’t have to be a long one. You just need the time to sort out your thoughts and vision.
Meantime, if you have some insights into things that the rest of us should be factoring into our marketing for the New Year, whether it is a way to deal with music for phone aps or getting tight fisted drunks to buy CDs or download cards, we’d love to hear it and discuss it.