Where is your traffic coming from?
Have you ever asked yourself that?
My guess is no, because itâ€™s clear to me that most artists and industry execs donâ€™t ask, donâ€™t know, and donâ€™t care. They just want to continue doing what used to work and bitching about why it doesn’t.
Your power, money, influence, and legacy lie in the size of your audience.
Do you want a record deal?
Great, get an audience. One thatâ€™s big enough to make you sexy to the labels.
How about management?
Theyâ€™ll come crawling out of woodwork like a horror movie infestation scene if you have a sizable audience.
Maybe youâ€™re just looking for killer gigs.
Yes, you guessed it, build an audience and youâ€™ll magically have booking agents whoâ€™ll lie down in traffic for you. You’ll also develop great relationships with the club owners. It’s an amazing feeling when the bar owner tells you that the bandâ€™s bar tab was $450 that night and then rips it up in front of your face because you packed the house!
Now youâ€™re probably thinking, â€œBut Johnny, how can I get an audience without management, booking agents, or a label deal?â€
To that I say, â€œPrecisely!â€
Now youâ€™re asking the right questions!!
The answers will be different for each of you.
Whether you know it or not, believe it or not, and accept it or not, the truth is that you will NOT get a label, management, or bookings just because you have talent.
Unless youâ€™re independently wealthy, managers and booking agents get paid on commission. This means that if you arenâ€™t already making money there is nothing for them to make.
You might be thinking, they should just believe in me because Iâ€™m awesome, talented, and full of potential. Well, would you do that? Could you afford to believe In someone for free, for as long as itâ€™s going to take to get you to a point of cash flowing?
What if the artist you believe in wakes up one day and decides to get married, have kids, settle down, and get a 9-5 job? Youâ€™d be screwed. Bottom line they need to get paid and until you find your audience, itâ€™ll be slim pickinâ€™s on viable booking agents and managers.
You’d be amazed a how many investors will be willing to put skin in the game if you have an audience as well.
Labels donâ€™t care about your talent initially. Yes, they want you to be talented but talent and no audience means no label deal. Moderate talent and a sizable audience means youâ€™ll get attention because labels are buying small businesses these days.
So where do you find your audience?
Since the first musical note was every played there has only been one way to build an audience; place talent in front of new sets of eyeballs and let the talent do their thing. To do that you need eyeballs to put the talent in front of which means you need traffic.
In the old days, traffic came from a few different places like MTV, CMT, GAC, BET, Radio, Television, magazines, certain music clubs, and the draw from an already established headlining act. When an artist or label wanted to expand the artistâ€™s audience, they created content to plug into some or all of these outlets and Voila! You immediately create attention which turns into traffic.
The principles of growing an artistâ€™s audience are the same today in that we have to expose the artist to new eyeballs. But the old outlets donâ€™t work anymore because most of them donâ€™t have enough, if any eyeballs.
The problem now is the methods for executing this simple mission critical task have changed and the new paths to create traffic seem to be confusing industry and artists alike.
Hereâ€™s the solution: WHERE IS THE TRAFFIC COMING FROM?
Rule #1: Ask yourself â€œWhere is the traffic coming from?â€
Rule #2: ALWAYS REMEMBER RULE #1.
Hereâ€™s what I mean.
Letâ€™s take any TV talent show like American Idol, Nashville Star, or The Voice. Did they build an audience for their respective TV shows by presenting incredibly talented unknown artists singing their original songs?
No. Trust me there is a reason for that so why would you try to attempt to do it on your little platforms when the TV shows wonâ€™t do it on their big platforms?
They present incredible raw talent singing cover songs.
By the way, shows like these that introduced new and raw talent via cover songs gave us artists like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, Chris Young, Kelly Clarkson, and Melanie Martinez.
Oh, and before TV shows like these, artists like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin cleverly worked their way into the minds of consumers using cover songs as a crow bar.
Once these kinds of TV shows created an audience where did the traffic come from?
Answer: The TV show.
Why is this important?
Because the traffic source affects the kinds of song choices an up and coming artist will need to use to be successful.
The TV show provides the traffic when an artist like Carrie Underwood appears on American Idol. Â So, a certain song choice will make or break the artistâ€™s outcome in the competition (making a good song choice for the artist is important for THAT reason). But the traffic is the same either way because the traffic comes for the show, not the artist or the songs. Thus, old familiar songs that the artist covers in a compelling manner are a solid choice, provided the artist can deliver a great performance.
But this strategy is NOT a good choice on YouTube if the artist is doing covers.
Rule #1: Whereâ€™s the traffic coming from?
Carrie Underwood performed Martina McBrideâ€™s â€œIndependence Dayâ€after she made it to the Top 10 on A.I.
Killer song. I love that song. It TOTALLY worked for her on TV because the audience was there for the show but it wouldnâ€™t work on YouTube because nobody is searching for it.
Thereâ€™s no traffic for â€œIndependence Dayâ€ so nobody will see the cover version.
Therefore, when it comes to YouTube covers, the traffic comes from new releases that JUST DROPPED. The sooner you cover the song, i.e., the closer your cover is posted to YouTube with relation to the release date of the original, the more traffic youâ€™ll get for two reasons:
1. The original artistâ€™s audience will be feverishly searching for that new song.
2. There will be less competition because most wannabe artists are lazy and will take a few days to post their cover.
A good success example is a guy named Jonathan Cochran. Jonathan is a regular listener to my podcast called The C.L.I.M.B. and decided to test out this strategy (my co-host, hit songwriter Brent Baxter and I have discussed it multiple times). Jonathan posted his interpretation of a new song from Miley Cyrus called â€œMalibuâ€ either the day of, or the day after it originally dropped.Â The results were astounding, but somewhat predictable. In 24 hours, he tripled his subscribers and garnered 6,500 views.
Thatâ€™s 6,500 people who just discovered Jonathan Cochran. Now heâ€™s up to over 10,000 views.
The traffic came because people were searching for Mileyâ€™s new song. Do you see how the song choice determines traffic on YouTube?
How about live shows?
If youâ€™re asking where is the traffic coming from, the answer will influence your approach to marketing every show. But be aware each show might require a different approach.
The club scene was pretty happening back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I toured. A certain amount of traffic was coming to club every weekend regardless of the talent and it was our job to SLAY it and keep the crowd. We would deliver and the audience would grow because enough of them would spread the word.
Conversely, when I moved to L.A., the clubs operated on a â€œPay-To-Playâ€ basis. Once you secured a gig, it was up to you to sell tickets (to earn your investment back because you had to pay for Effing tickets to your own show) to bring people in.
An artist must adapt in this environment.
Itâ€™s weird but each artistâ€™s audiences would show up for a 30-minute set and then leave. I hated that. You could be hanging in the Viper Room on Sunset and one minute it would be wall to wall people, then the next, desolation boulevard.
My solution was to get together with a promoter friend of mine and package up deals with artists that had audiences and encourage those artists to urge their fans to hang out. We fostered this approach with timed drink deals to keep people incentivized to hang.
In this scenario, the traffic was coming from each of the artistâ€™s draws so THAT was what we had to work with.
This resulted in a string of killer shows where all the artists were exposed to new eyeballs over the course of the evening AND it deepened the relationships between the bandsâ€¦as long as they werenâ€™t douchebags. But I digress because, of course, we had our share of those.
When youâ€™re deciding on a digital distributor like CD Baby, Tunecore, or Distrokid, most of yâ€™all are misguided in thinking that one choice over the other will affect traffic.
Where does the traffic come from in digital distribution?
Once you understand that, youâ€™ll focus on the distribution and make choices that are based on business. But the traffic comes as a result of your marketing, not people â€œstumblingâ€ across you on a digital distributor like Spotify or something similar.
When you consider spending money on a music video for an original release, ask yourself, â€œWhere will the traffic come from?â€
If you have a massive audience the traffic will come from there. If you donâ€™t, youâ€™re making a video that nobody will see. This is sad but true. Itâ€™s also vastly different from the 80â€™s and 90â€™s when you made a video to put it up on MTV, CMT, BET, or GAC. Back then, these channels had massive audiences watching music videos so it made sense. Make a video and that video would get the artist in front of millions of new eyeballs.
But whoâ€™s watching now? Most of these channels focus way more on scripted and reality programming than music video programming. See why itâ€™s different?
If you make a music video and you KNOW youâ€™re not going to get it on MTV, CMT, GAC, BET, etc, then youâ€™re just putting it up on YouTube.
Whereâ€™s the traffic coming from on YouTube?
Is there another way you could spend your precious time and money in this market to ensure that your work is being exposed to new people every day?
Itâ€™s all about traffic.
Before you spend a dime or a minute of your time on a marketing plan, ask yourself, â€œWhere is the traffic coming from?â€
When you honestly research and answer that question, your marketing decisions will become exponentially more effective and it will be immediate.
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