Marketing Plan Tactics For Independent Musicians – Part 1 of 3: New Album Preparations

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Chris Hacker here, I create Marketing Plans for artists at Cyber PR® and really enjoy working with my many clients. I’ve noticed a huge problem though. Artists call the Cyber PR® offices all the time looking for us to promote their new album, totally fine of course, but the problem lies in that many of these artists call us when their albums are coming out the next week!! It completely baffles me that an artist or band will work so hard on an album, spending hours and hours writing songs and practicing these songs and then spending large sums of money recording, mixing and mastering, to only rush the release with no plan in place! Not planning enough lead time for a press campaign isn’t the only issue, but many people we talk to try to release their album when some of the basic music promotion elements aren’t even in place, for example a website where you can sell the music!

In a three part series I will discuss some basic components of a marketing plan to help properly market you and a new release. This first blog post in the series can eloquently be called the “getting your sh*t together” phase. Here I’ve laid out 5 areas that need to be addressed before any official announcements should be made about a new album coming out.

 

1. Digital Distribution

Figure out how you’re going to digitally distribute the album, and a physical CD only release or selling the CD and mp3’s strictly on your website is not the way to go. You need to make your music available everywhere digital music can be streamed and bought, such as on iTunes and Spotify, and the best way to do that is work with a digital distribution company like CD Baby or Tunecore. With that said, I talk to people all the time who then take this one step too far and sign up with multiple distribution companies because they think they are covering all their bases this way. Which they are not. All that does is put multiple copies of the same album on iTunes and the like, which looks silly and can cause unnecessary confusion. And if you plan on working with a PR company to promote the release don’t set the release date until AFTER you have talked with them first.

 

2. Online presence

Make sure your online presence is complete, effective and contains all the necessary promotional tools. There are lots of places online that artists can have a presence, here I talk about three of the most important sites: Official Website, Facebook and YouTube.

Official Website – Your website should have a place where people can easily listen to and buy your music (but not a player that plays automatically when a person enters the site, can’t stress that enough), a homepage that has a news section where people can read the latest happenings with your career, and a newsletter sign up form, one that offers an incentive for signing up such as free music or discounts on merch. Plus it always surprises when I go to an artist website and can’t find any contact information or links to their social media networks.

Facebook – Just as important as your website is your Facebook Fan Page. On the new timeline there are three tabs that are on display; one tab should be a band profile that at a minimum contains a music player, tour dates and press quotes. Next is a newsletter sign up form, and again, this should offer an incentive for signing up. And the last visible tab should be a Store.

YouTube – Another important piece of your online presence is YouTube. I’m always curious how people listen and discover new music and time and time again the response I hear back is YouTube. It’s critical to have videos up on YouTube for every song of the new release by the release date or soon after. Not saying these have to be well produced music videos, but just the songs themselves. To do this some artists just put up an image of their cover and leave it at that, but people are much more inclined to listen to your music if there are scrolling lyrics they can read as they listen or if there is a slideshow to watch. Taking free archival footage and editing together to make a music video is another relatively easy and inexpensive way to create a video for your songs, and can be a lot of fun too.

 

3. Newsletter

This is real simple. Have one. And contact your mailing list once a month with news. Don’t cut corners on this either, a newsletter is where you’ll see the greatest impact on sales. All the tweets and facebook posts about a new album out for sale won’t equal the results of a well crafted newsletter, so spend money on a mailing list service provider that can help you design a rich looking email and provide analytics and tracking capabilities so you can measure the effectiveness of your newsletters and make adjustments where need be.

 

4. Touring

Ideally you’ll have a tour booked immediately following the release, which greatly helps a PR campaign. A local blog or local newspaper will be much more inclined to cover a new album for an artist if a show is booked in town. And not saying this has to be a month long tour, just a few regional dates will help with your press efforts. Now timing can be tricky here, just like setting a release date too soon, you don’t want to book a tour and then not have the album ready or press plan in place. So wait until you have a better idea of what that will look like and then start booking a tour, and if the tour doesn’t happen until a month or so after the release that is quite alright.

 

5. Merchandise

Pretty much everything in regards to your music career takes longer than expected, from making the album to creating the artwork to booking shows, and this definitely applies to any merchandise you want to have available to sell with the new album. And merch isn’t limited to T-Shirts and tote bags, handmade items can make for great unique offerings. Here’s a tip, at your merch booth bundle your music with these items cheaply and easily through download stickers from MerchMusic.com, where 120 codes will cost you just $10. Even though people aren’t buying CDs much anymore, they are still interested in supporting artists they love so give them lots of different ways to support you and purchase your music instead of just having a CD and leaving it at that.

So remember, plan early so you can have these items when you’re ready to release a new album, which I will be getting in to in more detail in the next blog post where I will discuss some basic principles for an effective pre-sale and album launch.

To find out more about the marketing plans I create for artists please visit our page here.

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How to Write Engaging Newsletters – Ariel’s Greeting, Guts, & Getting!

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Are you still not sending out newsletters to your fans? Studies prove you should be… Boston based research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey has completed a study that all musicians should know about.

Here are the important highlights:

Three-quarters of web users are likely to share content with friends and family, and nearly half do so at least once a week. But while much social networking content is built around such shared items, most people still prefer to use email to pass along items of interest.

The study goes on to say:

Overall, 86% of survey respondents said they used email to share content, while just 49% said they used Facebook. Broken down by age, the preference for email is more pronounced, as users get older. And only the youngest group polled, those ages 18 to 24, reverses the trend, with 76% sharing via Facebook, compared with 70% via email.

So, if your audience is older than 24 you better be thinking about your newsletter strategy now!

In conclusion the study says:

“Rather than focusing on sharing content they thought the recipients would find helpful or relevant (58%), most respondents cared more about what they thought was interesting or amusing (72%).

Here’s the entire study if you want to read it (with lots of pretty graphs too): http://bit.ly/b4dfcI

So, ask yourself:

Are you including content in your newsletters that is interesting and amusing.

If you are just talking about your next show and or your next release then you may be missing the mark.

Long story short, in the online world, email is still king when it comes to generating revenue. You make relationships with fans on your social networks, and turn them into customers with your newsletter.

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5 Critical Things To Add To Your Monthly Newsletter

Newsletter text on typewriterSo – as you know I am a newsletter evangelist!

I believe it is the NUMBER ONE thing that will help you create a career in the music industry; communicating with your fan base regularly and consistently.

If you do not already have a schedule mapped out for sending your newsletters – get your calendar out NOW and pencil in 12 dates – 1X per month (I suggest you send your newsletter 2X per month but start with once a month and grow from there).
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Your Three Communities, Part 2: Connecting More Deeply To Your Engaged Fans

Part 2: Your Three Communities – Community 2 – Engaged Fansbigstock-People-try-to-connect-37039297

Last week I started my 3-part series called Your Three Communities and we started diving into how to connect with your superfans by making your live show as good as it can be. This week I will focus on how to energize and connect with Community 2 – Engaged Fans. These fans are your Active Online Audience. They are newsletter subscribers, blog readers, video watchers, RSS subscribers, active Social Media engagers who frequently comment & engage with you on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites you may be using. They’re engaged with you in what the New York Times brilliantly referred to as “ambient awareness.”  They know who you are but they may not know you very well (yet).  With this community, as with all three, engagement is critical, but here it will be different. In Community 2 contribution is critical but engagement is even more vital.

Brian Solis, the author of “Engage” and the co-author of “Putting the Public Back in Public Relations” has recently written a brilliant blog post on the reasons why creating content is a necessity in today’s social media landscape and it speaks DIRECTLY to your already engaged fans.

The Future of Marketing Starts with Publishing

http://www.briansolis.com/2010/04/the-future-of-marketing-starts-with-publishing-part-1/

This article is written for businesses and I have said this many times before: Your music is your business so it wont take much reading between the lines to decipher a plan for yourself in this domain.

Here are the two most amazing morsels:

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Your Three Communities, Part 1: Your Super Fans

bigstock-Microphone-in-live-concert-34351733I’m just back from an amazing trip to Los Angeles where I attended and spoke at the ASCAP Expo. I also hosted a networking mixer at the house for 50 musicians from my community in Brooklyn and so I have been thinking a lot about community lately, and I have some thoughts:

Every artist has three separate communities.

Community #1: Your Super Fans

These are fans who are primarily Your Live Audience. You know them by name. If you play out live, they attend your shows regularly, and buy many things you offer (not just music). If you have a street team they are on it and they evangelize strongly on your behalf.

Community #2: Engaged Fans

These fans are your Active Online Audience. They are newsletter subscribers, blog readers, video watchers, RSS subscribers, active Social Media engagers who frequently comment & engage with you on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Community #3: Ambient Fans

These fans are your Passive Online Audience and they are your social media friends who are aware of you via Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Last.fm, etc. but don’t actively communicate with you and may not have ever even heard your music (yet).

There are many different communities to tack on to this list but these are the primary three.

The problem is most artists have only one strategy for marketing and promoting to three totally separate groups.

The way you maintain your relationship with each of these communities requires a different strategy because you have varying degrees of engagement with each of them.

The way you create and develop your relationship with them should also take some careful consideration.

Yes, there will be overlap between them but not as much as you may think.

This article is broken up into three parts, one for each community. (more…)

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Effective Newsletters: The #1 Technique to Swiftly Increase Your Fanbase

The #1 Technique to Swiftly Increase Your Fanbase

The number one problem I encounter time and time again with musicians is: Creating music comes naturally. Marketing, self-promotion and business do not. Bands want to focus solely on creating music and I speak to many artists who flat out refuse to do more than the bare minimum amount of marketing. The problem is they are not having the same amount of success as my artists who spend time focusing on growing their fanbase and communicating with them regularly.

Content may be King. But, Marketing is Queen

There is no one coming to rescue you from the downward spiral that the industry is facing at this very moment.  It is up to you to empower yourself to succeed. In this issue of Sound Advice I will give away the #1 secret I have seen that really works for meaningfully building a fanbase.

This issue is a long one because I wanted to tell the story that prompted it – to skip to the meat of this article and learn my #1 technique for building your fanbase, scroll down to the section that says: 1% OF EVERY LIST BUYS (more…)

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