There’s a lot more to it than this, but here is our list of eight critical marketing tools that every aspiring musician should have in the bag and ready to go. If you don’t have most of these and aren’t working towards creating them right now, it’s safe to say you may not be taking your music career as serious as you could.
1. A Website
The internet is the number one place to gain fans and build your reputation as an artist. It’s also an opportunity to generate revenue in the form of music downloads, merchandise sales and ticket sales. These days, everyone and their grandmother has a Soundcloud / Bandcamp / Reverbnation account and profile. These are good ways to share and distribute songs, but in order to build your brand and take full control of your online presence, the best route is to create a website with your own domain. This should be based on a CMS such as WordPress and have a customized layout and the ability to support eCommerce. Using a CMS platform like WordPress allows you to constantly add new content and to edit, share and update your website. By generating consistent posts, you can reinforce your relevance as an artist and keep your followers up to date.
2. Professional Portrait Photography
Image is everything, and if you have less than professional marketing photography it will reflect on your image and how people see you. By completing even one professional photo shoot, you can create dozens of images that will last you for months and possibly a year or more. Having this solid foundation of photography will allow you to pull images for album artwork, flyers, your website, etc. You won’t have to scramble when asked for photography as you’ll have high resolution photography on hand whenever needed. Make sure you hire a professional who shoots with a digital SLR and owns lighting equipment and know what they are doing. Serious amateurs are good, but if you want drop dead stunning photography you need to work with someone with a track record of creating awesome portrait photography.
3. An Electronic Press Kit (EPK)
An EPK is an essential component of any musician’s marketing toolkit. It will contain a bio, audio clips, videos, photos, press, set list, your unique selling proposition and contact information. It is a complete package that you can send out as needed on demand to potential venues, promoters, etc. This is a standard marketing piece, and is expected of any serious musician to have one. Luckily, this incorporates most of the other components listed here, and shouldn’t be hard to put together once you cross off the other items on the list. Typically EPKs are distributed by PDF, as a webpage, by CD/DVDs or on USB Thumbdrives.
4. A Professionally Shot Music or Promo Video
A picture is worth 1,000 words… and video is at least 24 pictures per second. Motion video tells a story like no other medium can, and when done right can be one of the strongest tools in your marketing arsenal. The importance of choosing a visual artist who is a CAPABLE video creator is extremely important. There are many people who will offer to create a video, but it’s important to work with one who has the creative and technical expertise to make it happen right. A poorly shot video will actually hurt you a lot more than you’d think. Promo and music song videos should be dynamic, engaging and offer several scenes, shots and lighting situations. Don’t be too repetitive or show too many static shots…. motion, action and excitement will engage your viewers, as long as that style fits your genre and image. Videos also offer one of the best chances to go viral and also compel the viewer to pay more attention than sharing a audio only track alone.
5. A Unique Illustrated Logo
A unique logo is the cornerstone of your brand image…. it helps to define your brand and sets the tone for your other marketing material. It should also include a color palette and font usage guidelines as well. Ideally, your logo should feature a 100% custom, original illustration / trademark as well.
6. A Variety of Real Merchandise
You need to be able to offer multiple merchandise options to your potential fans. With good quality merchandise, you can do two very important things: 1) make a profit and 2) market yourself through the merch that you sell. Every sale brings you not only a little bit of income, but also someone who is now repping your brand. Think: TShirts, stickers, posters, download cards, bumperstickers, hoodies, belt buckles, keychains, etc. The more the better, and every dollar you invest is an investment in yourself.
7. A Professionally Pressed CD or Mixtape
Every aspiring musician should have at least one fully completed, professionally duplicated audio CD with professionally printed packaging. Laser printed CD inserts with burnt CDR’s in slimline jewel cases DO NOT CUT IT and scream amateur. I can’t count how many shoddy looking, unprofessional CDs and mixtapes I’ve been handed. This is one area where you CAN’T SKIMP…. your music IS your product, so when you hand someone a CD it has to look, feel and sound 100% legit. Pay for proper recording, mixing and mastering. Pay for proper photography and album artwork. Pay to have your CD professionally duplicated and the packaging professionally printed. I can’t stress this enough: do not cut corners on the album artwork, print production and quality of the music products you distribute.
8. A Well Managed Social Media Presence
Online social media is the easiest way to reach a lot of people for little to no money. While things are changing, Facebook is still the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get your brand image, music and merchandise out to the people. Invest time everyday in trying to gain new likes and updating your status and adding media content. Don’t be afraid to advertise and pay for new likes on Facebook… this can get you hundreds of likes per month or more. There are pros out there who offer specialized social media management, and you may consider looking into one if you have problems getting your message out. Do your research and see what the current trends are when it comes to online social media, but don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a professional who will have solid goals and ways to measure your social media success.