In recent months I have increasingly been scratching my ahead about a lot of what I see in the music business. As someone who in another life works as a consultant for business, a great deal of what I see and hear to me makes no sense at all!
The fundamental elements that determine business success are the same regardless of the market or product in question. Its doesn’t matter if you are promoting a festival, product or band, if you ignore key sound business considerations then there is great potential for financial disaster! Often enthusiasm overtakes sound business sense and business owners realize too late the error of their ways. Some of the thinking in these situational is at best naïve and at worst totally delusional. If you are faint of heart stop reading now! Otherwise read on and see if you agree or disagree…
Marketing 101 – Get attention, create the “WIIFM” factor
All marketers appreciate the importance of getting customer attention and addressing the “What’s in it for me factor” for customers. If you don’t get attention and capture the imagination of customers then there’s very little chance for success. In this internet era, online communications and social media are essential in generating client interest. This means creating really good visual impact, so yes invest in great photos, video, websites and illustrations. All successful businesses appreciate this and realize that such an endeavor is an ongoing process. There’s an old showbiz saying
“It takes ten years to become an overnight success!”
With the advent of TV shows this consideration is often of course forgotten and many like myself groan at the formulaic X Factor type production line for artists. There’s very little original new material and we are left we endless (mostly bad) recycled cover versions! Some artists overuse FB and a few simply blast out the same post to endless groups. This is true in the ukulele world where I groan in seeing the same endless promotion blasted to every group and little wonder there’s very little engagement with such posts. Sometimes “less is more!” (:
Online presentation and confusions?
Although social media like FB have become crucial in marketing, its important to remember such concerns are businesses in their own rights and any artist or business owner would be advised to remember this. Years ago Myspace was a vibrant forum for artists and yet now its hardly mentioned as trends change. One thing is certain, a good online presence is essential. This means having a site that communicates to the wider public in an effective manner. Lets remember, the internet is primarily a visual medium, so how a site looks is as important as the actual content. A must read book on this is Steve Krug’s “Don’t make me think”
Recently I spent 30 minutes on a music festival site trying to determine the running order for who was playing at the festival. It was like being in Hampton Court maze and eventually I gave up looking and I suspect I was not the only one reaching this conclusion. Other festivals are trying to sell tickets without even detailing what’s happening at the event, so the ad copy is littered with “TBC” Yes, sometimes it’s wise to gradually drip feed information on an event, BUT who is going to book time to attend an event when there’s a lack of basic information? A friend of mine an fellow musician mentioned that one festival didn’t even list a location…
Fair exchanges for artists?
Another anomaly in “the music business” is that many “promoters” expect artists to perform (aka work) for free or even to pay for the privilege so they “get exposure” Imagine asking a Michelin star chef or master craftsman to work for free to “get exposure” Sometimes the tack is “We are a charity, so can’t afford to pay artists” yet many charities have highly paid staff…That said, “fair exchanges” for artists are not all about financial considerations. Sometimes it is worth reflecting on other benefits that could ensue. That said it’s easy to become the person who works for free and then the expectation is that you will always do so!
Do what you love, love what you do
I have found some terrific kindred spirits in the world of music. Two notables are Martin Simpson world class musician and Tim Booth lead singer of the band James. I recently saw James sell out a 135000 venue in Leeds as part of a national tour. The band have been together for over three decades and it’s clear to me that there’s an immense amount of work involved in maintaining this level of success and the record company want to recoup their substantial investment in the band. Martin has produced an extraordinary catalogue of work and is constantly gigging and crucially developing his work. Like all great artists he never stands still. Both artists have a genuine love for what they do, but also have good business sense as well in how they present themselves to the wider world.
Original Ukulele Songs, music and business
I set up The Original Ukulele Songs Project to foster and encourage new music. So far this project has good momentum with almost 2000 FB members in the first 6 months and now the official website www.ukulelesongs.com which showcases many of the best original artists across the globe. This has been a lot of work, but I am greatly encouraged by the quality of contributions. It occurs to me that there’s “music” and there’s “business” as well as “music business” Anyone wanting to financially support themselves solely through writing and performing music is going to have their work cut out!
Like any business there’s a lot of work involved and the most successful with not only have the creative skills and musical skills, they will also have the much needed business skills as well.