Finding the right answers often comes from asking the right questions. As an artist you must always be aware of yourself and your brand as a whole. The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be to promote and build your brand and gain the exposure needed to have a successful career in music. Artists often overlook these questions and continue to shoot aimlessly in their careers, which leads to failed marketing campaigns, bad reputations and a whole lot of running in place. To help you understand yourself more as an artist, I’ve created the following list:
1. Am I Marketable? This has to be the most important question of all time. There’s a lot that goes into being ‘marketable’ as an artist. Most of it will depend on how you answer the rest of these questions and a major part of it has to do with how well you are branding yourself as an artist. What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for? Appearance, music, promo strategies, etc all go into making you a marketable artist.
2. Do I Make Music That Really Catches The Listener? Your music is your commercial for your brand. Your music – also known as your product – is your marketing tool to gain fans and eventually make money doing what you love, but first you have to be sure to create music that will appeal to the masses and not just relatable to you. By no means am I saying that you must be a ‘commercial’ artist or that you have to make music that really isn’t YOU, however you need to be able to capture an audience with your lyrics, melodies and records as a whole. Actually, until you have this, your focus shouldn’t be on much else.
3. Am I Promoting Myself The Right Way? Am I promoting the right product? This is a question that most artists as well as managers have a hard time with. What is the correct way to promote? Well I know one thing, the INCORRECT way to promote is by sending out unsolicited links to people via Twitter, Facebook, email or any other social media site. The main goal of marketing and promotion is to attract people to your music and brand. You do this by engaging with people, not just sending out music links to random people and hoping/begging for a listen. Truth is, you need much more than just a listen! You need people to share your music. You need to get enough people talking about you that others become curious and check out your music without you having to ask them. You don’t do this by spamming, you do this by talking with people and being yourself. They are called SOCIAL networks for a reason, be social! Also, both word of mouth buzz in the ‘streets’ and online buzz are needed, they go hand in hand. You need to be performing in your area, hitting up different events and networking with your peers, do what it takes to be seen and heard. Make it so that they can’t ignore you! Keep in mind that getting a great response from your marketing also comes from promoting the right product. You must be able to give the fans what they want. I was chatting with an industry peer of mine and he said, ‘If Biggie never released Juicy would we have heard Suicidal Thoughts?” I found this to be a great analogy because it clearly shows you how important promoting the right product can be.
4. Am I Investing In The Right Things For My Career? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, having a career in music really takes a toll on your wallet. Your best bet would be to find an investor, but in the beginning most of your career will be funded by yourself which also means that you want to be sure that you’re spending money on the right things. You should invest in your product, meaning invest in professional mixing and mastering to get your music sounding crisp and radio ready. Invest in design and branding, you want to make sure that when you promote your music it will capture the eye of the listener before they even give it a listen – this means great visuals. Once you have the music and branding down, it’s time to invest in marketing and promotion. This can involve the materials needed to promote (merchandise, physical copies of your CD, banners, business cards, stickers etc) as well as actual promotion campaigns (viral campaigns, advertising, strategic blog placement and Public Relations). Notice, I didn’t mention anything about paying to perform or paying a bunch of money to feature your favorite artist on a track. If you promote yourself the right way, and you pay your dues, eventually you’ll be the one getting paid to perform and for features.
5. What Are My Strengths? Weaknesses? Ask yourself this often and be brutally honest with yourself. Being totally aware of what you’re capable of is important and will help you find your niche’. You should be constantly learning and evolving as an artist. Your goal should be to become the best artist you can be, but you can’t do this without first having a clear understanding of your strong points as well as places where you need some work. You need to build on both your strengths AND weaknesses. You might be amazing at writing hooks but your verses aren’t as strong, understanding this will allow you to focus your efforts on becoming a better songwriter while also allowing you to play on the fact that you write extremely catchy hooks. You might be amazing at recording but your performance needs work, therefore you focus your attention more on perfecting your live show, you should get the point. Understanding all of this will make you more confident, which in return will make a better impact on everything you do.
6. How Do I Compare To Other Artists (Similarities/Differences)? As a new artist you will definitely get asked this question at some point, and yet it is something that many artists resist thinking about. When asked this question, most artists will say things like “We don’t sound like anyone else,” or “We don’t want to be categorized,” however defining your sound is an important step in defining your brand. Understanding who or what you sound like immediately helps you identify your target market and creates a firm foundation for your marketing strategy. It will help you understand which platforms you should be targeting, which fan bases you should reach out to, and which media outlets you should contact during your PR campaign.
7. Who Is My Target Audience? This is basically asking yourself, who do I appeal to? Face it, your music doesn’t appeal to everyone, so therefore you shouldn’t try to promote it to everyone. The more detailed you get into this, the more targeted your promotion will be, which is much more effective than chasing random people for listens and downloads. Finding your target audience comes from learning about yourself and who you relate to through your music as well as your appearance. Does your music appeal more to the male or female audience? What age group would your music be suitable for? Where do these people go to find new music? Those are just a few questions to ask yourself when narrowing down your target audience. Please do not skip this step, this is something that you need to be aware of or else your marketing campaign will not get the response that you’re looking for.
8. Do I Have The Right Team Around Me? I don’t care what anyone says you cannot do this on your own – I repeat YOU CANNOT DO THIS ON YOUR OWN! You need power behind you, you need extra ears, you need hard workers to push you and keep you motivated. Now think about it, who are you surrounded by? Is everyone on the same page and working towards certain goals? Is everyone a good representation of you? Are you surrounded by honest individuals that have your best interest at heart? Is everyone actively making connections to solidify the teams future and help reach goals? The last thing you need is to be surrounded by a bunch of egotistical slackers that are only worried about themselves in the long run, or that just aren’t focused or professional enough to handle the hurdles in the music business. If you feel that there are people around you that just aren’t ‘cutting it’ be sure to make the necessary adjustments before it’s too late.
9. How Many Fans/Sales/Downloads/Views Do I have? In order to reach your goals you first have to know where you currently stand. You need to have a clear understanding at where your stats are currently in order to adjust your marketing plan to reach higher goals. You should also know how many people are subscribed to your official mailing list (please tell me you have a mailing list!) because this will allow you to measure and estimate how many downloads, likes, views etc that you will achieve with your next release. Keep in mind that all numbers must be real in order to make an impact. If a record label sees that you have over a million views on YouTube and 30,000 followers on Twitter, but you still can’t pack a venue or sell records, having those big numbers doesn’t look good. So remember it’s not all about the numbers, it’s about actual fan engagement.
10. What are my goals (Immediate + Long Term)? Artists fail a lot of the time because they are shooting aimlessly, just doing what they think is right and just ‘winging it’ when it comes to their career, instead of making realistic goals and sticking to them. The better understanding you have of your current situation plus your goals, the easier it will be to reach them. You should have a list of immediate goals (whether it be to get a certain number of downloads for your next project release, or you want to bring your views up to a certain level etc) as well as long term goals for the next year or so, and you must stick to them as much as you can.