By Ed Teja
When you begin to look for a home for your music, whether your market is the listener, a music supervisor, or an A&R person, you need a marketing plan (not the same as your business plan). There is a fair amount of information about marketing on the web, but much of it doesn’t apply to music, but one place that you can learn a lot that is directly useful to you, is from looking at how book authors market their unpublished manuscripts and books.
This is effective because song marketing is moving in ways that book authors have had to function for some time. The marketing baton is passing from the label to the singer and songwriter (and pure songwriters have always had to do it). But book authors do the normal marketing and then some, making them about the best example of individual marketing ideas that I know. One author I know well is such an excellent promoter that she promotes all of her publisher’s books.
And author Linnea Sinclair , a science fiction writer with Bantam books, has a forum that she runs dedicated to her books. It gets a fair amount of traffic. (A note of special interest here. Linnea and I co-wrote a song for her book THE DOWNHOME ZOMBIE BLUES and I did music for a promotional video for her book FINDER’S KEEPERS.) Check out the sites of your favorite authors for ideas on things you can do. You can learn a lot about how to hustle (in the positive sense) there.
Most authors have at least some of their marketing strategy defined for them by publishers. According to experts (like my own agent), to get the attention of a publisher, even a small one, you must identify some core marketing items in your book pitch. These include: 1) the audience (both kind and size); 2) the competition; and 3) your action items. Let’s take a look at these in a little detail, because making this sort of proposal is a good exercise.
The first is the audience. Who are you writing the song for? Is it the college crowd? Baby boomers? Easy listening listeners? The answer to this question goes a long way in helping you target the right record label, movie opportunity, or artist. Although they have a more open door to submissions than many, sending love ballads to Rough Trade is a waste of time, energy, postage, and good will. If you are writing the song for yourself, well good for you, but that isn’t typically going to get you a hit (unless you are a recording artist making a personal statement).
What and who are your competition? To a degree this item is just to ensure you are aware of who is resonating with your market niche. You need to be paying attention. If you are asked for a song that sounds like a current hit in your genre, you need to understand the elements that make your tune competitive, a viable replacement, without being a copy. This requires an awareness of artists, content, arrangements, and production.
Action items are things you will do to get your work seen and heard. A book author might arrange their own book signings and get booked on talk shows. If you write a song for an artist, how will you get it to them? Do you know who is producing their next CD? Can you find out who manages them and make some initial contacts? Do you know one of their roadies or tour bus driver? If you want to get your music in movies, do you know anyone in that business? So much that you can do here is going to be through networking. And networking has interesting side issues.
Ride serendipity for all it is worth—someone you meet in one context might be of help in a completely different one. If a group demos your song, then gets a recording contract, they might want to perform your song. Promoting other songwriters and musicians can’t hurt and might produce some unexpected benefit. It’s good karma, if nothing else.
But keep action items active—each should require a positive effort on your part. And remember that what you can’t control is none of your business. If people don’t like your music, you won’t change their minds. Put your attention on the things you can control, like finding the people who share your musical sensibilities. So check out the ideas, make your written marketing plan, and get moving on your action items.