Sorry, Your Awesome Songs Have No Value
Your songs have no value.
Not yet anyway.
Do I have your attention?
I think that most artists make the same mistake in believing that their music has value simply because they value it.
The reality is there is exactly ZERO perceived value in the marketplace for art until the value is created.
The marketing signals get crossed when artists inadvertently compare their art, which they think is valuable, to a product that actually has a definite market value.
Marketing requires reach and frequency.
We interrupt new people to make them aware that the product exists and then keep touching and telling them about our brand until we sink into their subconscious mind.
But for some products, the value is already inherently understood in the mind of the consumer.
The market understands the relative value of a hammer. In fact, people from time to time will desperately need a hammer, so they’ll go to the store and purchase one.
In this scenario, the market can absolutely comprehend the value that this tool will bring them.
Because we often have this need for hammers, there is a certain amount of money that will be spent every year on hammers.
If you were to create a new brand of hammer, you begin to make a dent in that product’s universe with decent marketing.
What’s more, having a relationship with a major distributor like Home Depot would mean an astronomical increase in sales simply because the product is there when consumers need it.
How about a street vendor selling cheap umbrellas when a huge storm arrives?
In a city like New York, vendors make tons of money selling last minute, on-the-spot umbrellas because the need is so immediate, the consumer really doesn’t care about the quality as much as will it work right now?
The same could be said about Gas, clothing, food, automobiles, etc. These are items that we need as a society, some more often than others, but the need is real and everyone understands the value of each of these products.
They understand they need these products. Once a consumer knows what they need the next stage of the game is what price will they pay.
Is it a commodity?
Does the product dictate a certain social status where the price could be higher?
But it’s different with music and art, isn’t it?
Ask 1,000 people if they need new music and they’ll tell you they’re all set up.
With music, the art in marketing is creating value in something that nobody needs.
The art of music marketing is creating a buzz.
Think about it, you don’t just upload your song to iTunes and experience a massive increase in sales like if you put your hammer into Home Depot.
Does this make sense? (If you’ve ever uploaded one of your songs to iTunes, I’m quite sure it does!)
As artists, we think that if we make compelling music we’ll get a couple people to listen and they’ll love it. Then they’ll tell 2 friends, and they’ll tell 2 friends, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Yes and No.
This is not the way it happens.
At least not at first.
Not before you reach “critical mass”.
You must continue to build the buzz until you reach a certain “critical mass” and then the brand takes on a life of its own.
Until then, you’re not done working.
You’re not done working after critical mass is reached either it’s just that some of the job descriptions change a bit.
By the time you hopped on board with most music/artist brands, critical mass was already achieved. Therefore, your experience was that once you were turned onto the artist, you became excited and told a friend or two. Then they might have experienced a little excitement from you but they heard about it again and again on the radio, TV, or from other friends.
This is “critical” mass. Everyone is talking about it whether it’s paid advertising or not.
The awareness in the marketplace is rampant because the reach and frequency are sufficient.
Let’s take Def Leppard as an example of how to create critical mass from a buzz.
Their first record was On Through the Night.
It did ok, they got a few radio spins and reached the top 15 in the UK, but this wasn’t enough to blow them up into the stratosphere.
Not even close.
It did create a small group of early adopter fans, a base if you will. (Not for nothing, it also created a legion of haters who shunned the band because they thought they were trying too hard to appeal to America with songs like “Hello America”. TAKEAWAY: Don’t worry about the haters!)
Then they switched producers to the legendary Mutt Lange and recorded their second effort, High n’ Dry. The first single faired about as well as the others, but the second single, “Bringing on the Heartbreak” began to create momentum. Mostly because MTV put the song in regular rotation.
MTV Regular rotation (in 1981) = massive reach + massive frequency.
But you must understand that MTV was constantly putting the band and their work in front of new people as was the tour schedule opening for Ozzy and Blackfoot. Even though the record was distributed everywhere, people weren’t shopping for Def Leppard like they were shopping for hammers until after they were exposed to the band enough times.
Because of MTV, the song received far more terrestrial radio airplay as well, but in the end, that record only sold about 250,000 copies. (It’s obviously sold more now after the huge sales of later releases but these are relatively accurate numbers for 1981/1982 sales)
Def Leppard’s third effort, Pyromania, was released to a much larger waiting audience than High ‘n’ Dry but still, they weren’t at critical mass, yet.
The production on Pyromania was groundbreaking. All the songs were amazing, the band had really gotten the hang of songwriting over the last 2 records and they exploded. Radio and MTV were spinning all the singles non-stop and now they had reached critical mass.
Completely different then hammer sales, huh?
Are you picking up what I’m putting down?
How many NEW PEOPLE are exposed to you as an artist and your music every day?
Most of you emulate your favorite famous artists on social media by creating a cool “backstage pass” into your life. This is all well-and-good but how many new people are discovering you?
You need to continually grow your social media accounts as well as provide the content. This is the difference between using social media as a cool connection tool and a marketing tool for the artist to gain new fans.
Both approaches are important but the latter is almost always ignored by indie artists.
You can easily expand your reach every day.
How about your YouTube strategy? If you’re putting up crusty old covers of your favorite songs, the only people watching are current fans.
How is that strategy getting you into growth?
Cover current hits that are creating massive traffic. Some of these people will stumble across your version and if you’re compelling, you’ll gain new fans here.
Again, growing every day.
When you grow sufficiently that the fan base is large enough to begin to take over you’re reaching critical mass and your music now has value.
But until then, you need to keep creating the value in the marketplace or continue to starve.
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