There’s a reason it’s called the Music Business. You may be putting your heart and soul into your music as a form of self-expression, but from the moment you expect anyone to spend cash on your behalf, don’t kid yourself, you’re in business.
It doesn’t have to affect your art, but you do have to give marketing and promotion more than just lip service if you want to build attendance and gain fans. There’s no rocket science to the process, it’s all about concentrated effort, perseverance, and patience.
Make goals for everything. The wheel is already invented for you, so you just need to plug in your particulars.
Goal setting can be applied to just about all aspects of music—from settings music education goals, such as learning a new DAW, to how many tracks you release per month, to the quality of gigs you want to book.
The SMART goal-setting plan sounds square, but it works. Let’s take a look:
Specific: Make specific goals, things like achieving an average of 50 people per gig, or booking five shows next month. When someone asks, “Did you meet your goal?” the answer should be yes or no. Anything else, and it’s probably not a specific goal.
Measurable: That yes or no answer means there’s some way to determine whether your goal is met or not. If there were 49 people at your gig, it’s a “no,” but if you booked five shows, it’s a “yes.” Easy, right? Remember that goals are signposts, not successes and failures.
Actionable: Can you do things to attract those 50 people? If you live in a shack in the country with no electricity, no, perhaps you can’t, so it’s not an actionable goal for you. Otherwise, there are already tons of time-tested things you can do to stir interest in your gig. You don’t need to spell out your action items yet, but you probably have some in mind.
Realistic: This is where you rein in your dreams. Mega-stardom is a great goal, but that’s a pretty big step. Break goals into realistic chunks. If you had two people at your last gig, maybe a goal of 10 is more realistic than 50. Don’t build in disappointment by reaching too far. It’s much more fun to revise your goals upward.
Time-sensitive: Book five shows in August. Average 50 people per gig in September. Attach deadlines or time frames so you know when to assess and revise your goals.
Now, apply this SMART methodology to your quest for fans and come up with some goals. As well as the previous examples of 50 people and five shows, you should consider things such as:
- Book one media interview locally within two days of the show.
- Post 50 handbills and place 20 posters in the neighborhood one week prior to the show.
- Confirm that you’re listed on the venue’s calendar of events one month before the show.
You can see how SMART goals tighten up many of the things you’re already doing. These give you a repeatable framework that goes a long way toward building consistency. If you can quantify what it is you’re doing, it’s easier to change what you’re doing when you aren’t getting results and focus your efforts on things that are working.
Know your audience.
This might seem counterintuitive. How do you know your audience if you’re still trying to build one, right? What it really comes down to is the start of considering demographics. Consider Zelda, your original superfan who glommed onto you since you first opened to the garage door to let the world hear your noise.
Assuming we’re still targeting 50 people at a gig, the question to ask is, how do we attract 49 more Zeldas? What is it about you and your music that rings her bell? Talk to her, ask her about it. Has she got friends? Congratulations, you’re doing market research.
Recommended read: 10 Essential Gig Items for Musicians
Now determine from that what you can promote to attract more Zeldas. Say, for example, Zelda thinks that you have the best light show of any DJ she’s ever seen. Forget about the artistic aspirations that she just crushed for you, and think about how to use that information.
Maybe it’s time to redesign your handbills and posters to show neon lasers in the background or adding the words “AMAZING LIGHTS” to appeal to those like Zelda. Perhaps an avocado giveaway will attract millennials. The possibilities are endless. This is another place for your applied creativity, but you need to know who you’re aiming for first.
Narrowcast your advertising.
Take this newfound knowledge of your audience and apply it. You’ll save yourself time and money on your marketing efforts. Department store magnate John Wanamaker famously stated, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Nor will you, so the idea of narrowcasting might seem ill-advised, but think for a minute who you don’t want at your show. Maybe you’d prefer that your grandmother doesn’t hear your X-rated raps. Okay, cross off seniors’ homes from your poster distribution list.
You see the logic? In the early stages, we’re all excited to post a handbill on any board or post we can find. If a store accepts a poster to place in a window, we’re eternally grateful. However, when we get to the point where we have specific goals to meet, then there should be some narrower targets.
For instance, say you’re an indie band who placed a high priority on releasing your last album on vinyl. Your chances of appealing to clients of a used record store are much greater than a poster placed in an Internet cafe where digital music distribution prevails.
Creativity is all around.
There are thousands of websites out there with tips like, “have a door prize,” or “give away tickets through a Facebook event.” Reaction to gimmicks like these aren’t universal. In some cases, they may appeal to your potential fan base, but in others, not so much. Research them, and draw from them when it fits, but having your goals, knowing your audience and persisting with your plans can set you apart from the rest.
About the author: Doug Beney is an experienced blogger and musician, as well as the creator of MIDI Lifestyle, the best online resource for music production tips, gear recommendations, and simply great content.