Think Backwards

Making music is an art—but selling music is a science. And all too many times, when I’ve asked someone how they plan to market their music, the answer is “Well, I’m going to get 1,000 CDs made, store them in my garage, and . . . uh . . . um . . . you know, like, sell them.”
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Cue the buzzer sound effect, because that’s the wrong answer. It’s not enough to just create music; you also have to figure out how to market it. But how do you create a marketing plan?

Simple: Think backwards.

By that, I mean think first about the goal you want to attain, then consider how you’re going to attain it. Picture your potential customer walking into a store: What artwork will grab their attention? Are they even walking into a record store? If you’re making “meditation music,” maybe your customer is walking into a health food store, and you want your CD sold at the checkout stand.

What if your demographic is in the late teens/early 20s? Plan to make up a flyer promoting your CD (or downloads) like the “room for rent” flyers with the little tear-off tags on the bottom, and post them on bulletin boards at every college within driving distance. Enlist your fan base (because you have a website and have been collecting names, right? Right?) to cover the colleges you can’t drive to. And why the tear-off tag? Because it has the URL where people can download one or more of your songs for free (there’s nothing like the word “free” to get people’s attention).

Keep working backward. Will you be selling music at gigs? Then think about how to present your music. In fact, do your customers actually want CDs? Maybe they’d prefer to have their music on a USB stick, so why not duplicate some of those as well?

Before you even place a call to a CD duplicator, draw up a marketing plan. Define which people are most likely to enjoy your music, figure out where to find them, and decide what marketing “hook” will speak to them. Explore various avenues of distribution. Find out who covers music for your local paper. Talk to musicians who have been successful at getting their music out into the world.

Then—and only then—think about getting your music mastered and duplicated.