“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
― Hunter S. Thompson
(there is some debate about the full accuracy of the quote, but it suits the purpose of the post here and to paraphrase Groucho ‘This is a quote, if you don’t like it I have others”

Discussion and debate are healthy

I blogged recently about different trends in music festivals and some of the factors that ensured success for some festivals, while others disappeared without trace. The ones that folded did so often because the promoters lacked basic business common sense and/or ignored professional advice. That particular article was not aimed specifically at the ukulele festival scene and was actually quite mild compared to what I could have said! Some folks described writing such an article as “brave!” My own view is that it’s healthy to discuss such matters if we are to truly collectively learn from the past.
I originally come from a marketing and sales background long before I formed a band and wrote about the music scene. With “my business brain” much of what I see in the world of music is (and I’m being polite here) somewhat “surprising” and often totally bonkers.  Often basic marketing and business principals are ignored as individuals hurtle headlong into disaster. We are all at various stages of learning, (god knows I’ve made some cracking mistakes in judgement over the decades) but often ‘common sense is not a common as you would think when it comes to “the music business”

The dangers of working solely for “exposure?”

nick codyThere’s in my opinion an unfortunate trend on the music scene where performers are expected to work for “exposure” also known as working for no financial remuneration. I hear now that some music festivals even expect performers to pay for the privilege of attending for the benefit of “exposure!” Yes, in some situations an artist or band may benefit from agreeing to waive a fee for an appearance, but if this becomes a common trend then often the only exposure you’ll get is exposure to potential financial ruin, unless you have a rich benefactor or a secondary income. I can’t imagine many areas of life where skilled professionals would be asked to work in this way!
Every business relationship is a trade of sorts. The financial aspect is one element of this. It’s all too easy to be “busy” but nonproductive as an artist or promoter. It worries me when promoters make the comment “We just want to break even” as often they have not fully factored in a financial safety net for projects and this can lead to all manner of problems.

Get mobile friendly or lose 40% of potential customers

In this internet age a good online presence and social media presence is a must. Many artists and promoters have not paid attention to this aspect and amazingly many sites are not even mobile friendly. One of the major ukulele festivals in the UK, still have not adjusted their site so it is optimized for Google on mobile devices. Another festival in 2016 also missed the opportunity to ensure their website is mobile friendly. This means losing up to 40% of potential traffic from Google searches.
Research suggests that 74% of consumers will 5 seconds for a web page to load on their mobile device before abandoning the site! If you are serious about having a good online presence, you need to be Google mobile friendly. Check here to see if your site fits the criterial – https://www.google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/  The internet is primarily a visual medium and smart individuals also invest in professional photos and video when marketing services.  A website is like store front into the universe, so it’s a good idea to make it a memorable and attractive one. Creating great music is not enough. You need many entry points where people can discover who you are if you want to capture customer attention.

Work ethic and other considerations

guitar gearIn these tougher economic times both performers and promoters need to work harder to maintain a viable presence. I am fortunate to know some international artists and know just how hard they have to work. There is often a constant demand from the record companies for them to create new material of a high standard.  The most successful artists have great stamina and immerse themselves in their work, while at the same time paying attention to the details of how they conduct their business. This means balancing time and money. Its wonderfully naïve to suggest that money doesn’t matter, but without a predicable income stream life becomes pretty problematic on many fronts.  A good friend of mine who fronts a major international and currently on tour has a grueling schedule for media appearances and gigs. It’s certainly not an easy life and not for the faint hearted! He’s been doing this for three decades and I have seen go though some really tough times. He stuck with it and new is selling out stadiums as well as having top 3 album positioning.

Less is more, the dangers of overloading customers

Good marketing is all about GETTING ATTENTION. This means working in a manner that creates interest and of course as I have said many times “difference dictates” Social media can be great for reach out to a wider audience, but there needs to be some strategic thinking behind what is posted online. When people flood forums and FB pages with the exact same post, it creates too much noise and that kind of overload will drive often away customers. Post 5 great photos and you’ll get interest, post 500 and you’ll lose people’s attention. Post one great thoughtful video and you’ll most likely get shares. Post endless shaky camera phone clips and it’s probably going to drive customers away. As the old saying goes “You never get a second chance to create a first impression”

Timing is everything (well almost everything)

Smart marketers appreciate the value of timing in marketing and the need to create and crucially maintain momentum. If you are promoting an event or a product, if you advertise too far in advance you may get initial sales, but longer term you’ll lose momentum. If you leave it too late you’ll miss the boat! Of course smart folks will look at how other successful artists and promoters already do this rather than “having a go” themselves! A common mistake in business is to avoid doing proper research. I applaud the enthusiasm of many folks, but do sound a note of caution that enthusiasm alone without some sound business thought is not a great recipe for success.
Once again look at what works and how successful businesses operate. Learning from other’s existing successful strategies is smart. Ignoring what works is just plain daft. In this internet age we are literally bombarded with sensory information on every front. Most marketing professionals believe that unless you are Peter Jackson announcing a Lord of the Rings sequel, nine months is a maximum lead period to announce any major activity.

Final Thoughts

A great deal of “business sense” is common sense, but often as artists and promoters we can become too engaged or too enthused in our own activities to miss the elusive obvious. Smart folks look at what already works and seek to improve on those existing models. There’s a wealth of examples for us to learn from and the key is to always pay attention to feedback from customers and fellow artists. In my view it’s also important to have a point of view. We may not always agree, but that’s a good thing as discussion and debate allow us to review and refine how we work for greater success.
(Thanks to Ian Emmerson for the Hunter quote)
Nick Cody
Business sense in the “music business?”

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