Manage for Success: Marketing -- Another Look, Newsletter #101, September 2009

"Manage for Success" is a free monthly newsletter for record label executives who want to operate their companies efficiently and successfully. It's published by Keith Holzman of Solutions Unlimited, a management consultant, troubleshooter, and trusted advisor, and is based on his many years as a senior executive in the music industry.

Copyright 2009 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.


Marketing music effectively has become more complicated than I’ve ever known it to be. Traditional "old" media methods for exposing artists’ new releases -- such as via extensive radio play and publicity has become more expensive than ever, and for a great deal of music, either not even possible, or not very effective.

Certain genres of music -- that is almost all types that are not rock or country -- get airplay only on specialized stations or on specific radio programs. For example, jazz music will get airplay only on the few stations that specialize in the form, and airplay will result almost only when the music is pitched by a promotion person who specializes in jazz. Singer-songwriters will get airplay only on those stations that specialize in Triple-A, Americana, etc.

If the music you release is in the broad category of "rock," you can expect to spend lots of money hiring radio promoters to pitch your music to the music and program directors at those stations. And you'd better have a substantial budget for this -- and for any advertising that might be required to support airplay.

Publicity for new music remains very important, but it's become hard for new artists or their music to get much in the way of print exposure. The limited available space in traditional magazines and newspapers tends to go only to the most well-known and established acts. The exception is when a new artist comes on the scene with a big splash, but that happens almost always when a lot of money is behind such a campaign.

So what can a label and artist do to gain exposure to their music?

First, it's absolutely essential that your artists perform frequently and regularly in whatever venues are appropriate to their music. This helps establish an audience, and is a way to generate legitimate press interest by inviting local writers, critics, and radio station personnel to shows. Get email addresses from people who attend these performance, and make good use of them.

Make heavy use of "new media" and the Internet. Build a user-friendly website with lengthy music samples, lots of information about the artists, including live performance and tour information. Post a "media" page with access to photos and other material useful to editors and reviewers.

Establish a significant presence on all available social media such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. Post regularly and keep these things up to date.

Make extensive use of street teams, when appropriate.

Consider giving away some of your music, as counter-intuitive as that appears to be.

In an August 25th article in the Telegraph (U.K.,) Andrew Keen, cites experiments by Radiohead, Trent Reznor of Nine inch Nails, and Prince, all of whom are "experimenting by giving away their product online as a means of promoting their brands and tickets for their live events. In the old industrial economy, artists played concerts to sell recordings; in the digital economy, artists gives away recordings in order to sell concert tickets....Ironically, for all the insurrectionary rhetoric of the digital revolutionaries, the Internet is actually emerging as nothing more (or less) than a sales and marketing platform for physical products – a medium to create demand for concerts, readings, speeches and seminars."

In his blog, "Never Neutral," Ernest Priego, a PhD student at University College, London, lists some ideas he came up with, some of which I think you'll find useful.

      "Artists cannot expect to survive in the 21st century without doing their own promotion (this means also giving work for free).

       "This does not mean that those who already make a comfortable living whilst giving away (some) of their work free made it solely online.

     "There are thousands of talented artists out there online posting their work for free & promoting themselves and still remain impoverished and unnoticed.

     "While it is true that we are living through a paradigm shift, “old” media still determines what’s popular and appreciated.

     "Granted, there are no chances for any serious 21st century artist to make a living without working your arse off promoting and sharing online."



As you gather from these newsletters, I try to keep current on all matters affecting our industry. So if you need advice on how to make your label successful, let me help you as I've helped so many others "manage for success." Email me (see below) so we can discuss how I can improve your business.

Should you be thinking of creating your own label, I recommend my book "The Complete Guide To Starting A Record Company," The Second Edition can be ordered as a printed, spiral-bound volume, or as a downloadable eBook in PDF form. Updates are available to buyers of the book, and you can read the complete Table of Contents and download the Introduction at <>.



I recently came across a very interesting white paper titled "Best Practices of the Online Promotion of New Musical Content" written by Bas Grasmayer, a young Dutch student and musician.

In the piece, Mr. Grasmayer analyzes and compares five recent "product launches." These are Radiohead's "In Rainbows," Nine Inch Nails' "Ghost I-IV," Groove Armada's "Drop the Tough" EP, Dangermouse and Sparklehorse's "Dark Night of the Soul." And Mos Def's "The Ecstatic."

I won't go into the details of his essay, but his summary bears closer examination. First, what does NOT work, or work well:

     "Not going all the way....If you're going to give something away then REALLY give it away.

     "Creating unnecessary mediums instead if utilizing existing least make it interactive, social...and add value.

     "Expecting people to pay for what they can get for free. People might pay, but most will pick whatever way is most convenient."

Second, what DOES work well.

     "Giving fans a reason to buy....Create added value.

     "Freemium. By offering something for free, one connects with fans and they will spread the word about you (as long as what you're offering has value)."

     "Understanding that the package IS the product."

     "Buzz. By generating buzz, you can turn people just turned on to your product into fans....This works best if they can give others free samples (free music) to see for themselves how great the brand or product is."

     "Co-branding. By co-branding" (with a product or other brand) "the two brands can benefit each others resources and skills."

Finally, there are many more ideas that I found in a September 2nd article titled "100 Free & Affordable High & Low Tech Music Promotion Tips" on Hypebot.

You're probably already doing many of these things, but perhaps you'll get a few new ideas from reading the above. If so, or if you have other ideas to contribute, please email me (see below) and I'll post them as an addition to this newsletter on the "articles" page of my website.

Until next month,

Keith Holzman -- Solutions Unlimited

Helping Record Labels Manage for Success.



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Copyright 2009 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.