I’d like to say success in music is all about talent and drive, but that would be false. These things factor in for sure, but at the end of the day, it isn’t this that truly “makes” all the superstars that get to grace the Opry stage and win Grammys.
Music industry success is all about well-placed marketing. How do I get my music to the largest amount of fans using the most cost-effective means? And while I’d much rather sit in my room creating music instead of contemplating ways to be relevant over the competition, the reality is, the modern day artist’s role means wearing all hats (no matter how unstylish). Brand is important in this. People connect with an artist because of their brand– this isn’t always physical. Sure, you want your look to reflect your sound. But a brand can be things like “honesty”, “wit”, “romantic”, etc. Therefore, effective marketing is targeted towards an audience that is going to be receptive to these things. If you write angsty love songs, your target audience is likely going to be an angsty teenage fanbase. If you’re Kelsea Ballerini, your targeted audience is going to be hopeful young adolescents and lower 20-somethings. That’s not to say that people in all walks of life won’t be receptive to your music, but your targeted audience has the highest number of potential fans.
I think the hardest part of developing brand is knowing who you are and what you offer as an artist. When I first moved to Nashville, I was still figuring out who I was. My sound was a borrowed, developing mashup of things I liked. It took a while for me to realize that not every song I wrote was meant to be sung by me, and not every cool hook was necessarily consistent with how I wanted to present myself. Outside of friends and family, it was hard to gain a fanbase when my sound was inconsistently erratic. One song would be super country, one would be super pop; another would be about a personal experience, while another would be about something I had no experience with at all. While I feel like I’m the most nailed down I’ve ever been, brand is a constantly shifting beast. We as people don’t stay stagnant our whole lives. We are constantly changing and adapting. Our brand should reflect this.
Marketing to the right people is only half the battle though. The “how” remains one of the hardest elements. For my first album, I started a Kickstarter crowdfunding page. I was able to raise enough money to record and as a by-product, gained a lot of new fans who were excited to be a part of the project as well as received donation “perks”. It’s always going to be about the relationship between the artist and the listeners. The stronger the bond that can be made between the two, the more reliable your career will be. Fans that have been with you from the beginning, who have watched you form as an artist, are usually the most loyal.
With streaming services now like Spotify and Apple Music, accessing your fanbase becomes simultaneously easier and harder than ever. On one hand, people now have access and exposure to more music than they’ve ever had before. On the other, because pretty much anybody can put a song on these services, it’s easy to get lost in the endless crowd of artists. While radio still controls many listening trends as well as chart positioning, it is no longer the primary way that the world gets its music. While in the past all energy went towards sweet-talking radio DJs and program directors, now it is divided to include playlist curators who have become the new “gatekeepers” of the market trends. Figuring out ways to get your name on the short list of artists on these lists has become a daily hurdle.
While to get on these lists is an obvious goal, I often find myself wondering about more unconventional ways of marketing. I think the more creative, the better. Viral videos always spike an artist’s exposure to people. Many artists have benefitted from a well-timed tweet from a celebrity with a similar targeted audience. Partnerships with charitable organizations and political causes have always drawn interest and passion from a potential fanbase. There are a bunch of friends of mine who have gone the reality tv route to get exposure. It’s about finding something unique and effective that doesn’t make you broke(r than you already are). The possibilities are endless which should either excite or terrify you. One thing is certain, however: creativity isn’t just for the songs anymore.
As always, I would love to hear your suggestions about topics you’d like to read about or questions you want to have answered! Submit a contact form via my website: www.melaniemeriney.com