Manage for Success: A Few Marketing Tips, Newsletter #34, February 2004

 

"Manage for Success" is a free monthly newsletter for record label executives who want to operate their companies efficiently and successfully, and who have indicated their desire to receive it. 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 2004 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.

 

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I was delighted to read in this week's Billboard (dated February 21) that year-to-date unit sales of recorded music have increased almost 27 percent over the same period last year. That's wonderful news indeed.

 

However, an article in Daily Variety dated February 11 says that teenagers 13 to 17 years old spent 15 percent less for music CDs in 2003 than they had in the previous year, per market researcher NPD Group. And that's not good news for the many record labels whose music appeals to this audience.

 

Variety says that this "precipitous decline is partly due to increased on-line file sharing, partly due to less buzz about new releases and -- perhaps most worrisome for the music biz -- more competition for alternative entertainment dollars such as videogames. Software sales in that category actually rose a healthy 12 percent in 2003 among that age group."

 

The article goes on to say that the industry might be nearing the bottom of its three-year sales slump, as the numbers mentioned at the top of this article seem to bear out.

 

As I wrote last month, "this improvement is pretty good news, but let's hope that 2004 sees a healthy increase in both unit and dollar sales for the industry as a whole, and the indie segment in particular."

 

Following up on suggestions in last month's newsletter about ways to increase your label's market share, here are more ideas.

 

I mentioned that you should try to keep your artists touring on the road. I know this is hard with limited or no available tour support funds, but many artists and their labels have been extremely creative in getting sponsors to defray a part if not all of the costs for such a tour. The main thing is to find a company -- local, regional, or national -- whose image matches that of the artist or group. For example there might be a song in an artist's album that ties in directly with the image of a potential sponsor. Or you might be able to get a regional truck rental firm to supply a truck at no charge for an artist's tour and have the truck carry a sign on it emblazoned with the name of the rental firm and the fact that they're sponsoring the tour. The parked truck with its sign outside a venue is an extremely cheap form of advertising, and creates good will to boot.

 

In addition to all the standard forms of marketing (see my book, "The Complete Guide to Starting a Record Company") try a "viral" approach. Email can be an extremely effective and essentially no-cost method of spreading good news about an artist. Ask your loyal fans, and those of the artist, plus everyone on your staff, to send a message to each of their friends about an upcoming local gig or to spread the word about an act's current successes. And in the email ask the friends to, in turn email their friends with the same information. Such news can spread like wildfire and can be extraordinarily helpful. And you just might sell some music.

 

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My book, "The Complete Guide to Starting a Record Company," is now available for sale exclusively at http://www.recordcompanystartup.com/. It's not available in bookstores.

 

The 235-page book is a primer that takes readers by the hand and guides them through the many steps involved in building a record company. It includes numerous checklists, charts, diagrams, forms, and an index, with URLs for more than 100 resources. It can be ordered as a downloadable eBook (in Adobe AcrobatÆ PDF form) at $29.95, or as a printed, spiral-bound book at $44.95.

 

This is an indispensable text for musicians and entrepreneurs who want to start and manage their own independent record labels. You can read the complete table of contents and download the Introduction at the above web site.

 

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Be sure that news about your artists and label are being disseminated as much as possible. I was amazed to discover, when I started sending out press releases for my book, that there are lots of publications, both print and online, that I wasn't previously aware of. Do an Internet search for music publications to find them. Check with your publicist to be sure they've gotten the word out to all appropriate media, or do it yourself.

 

Are you making beneficial use of street teams for those acts whose music warrants their use? It's another inexpensive, but frequently successful, form of marketing. Such teams are like fan clubs whose purpose it is to get the word out about an artist by promoting, marketing, and even selling records on high school or college campuses, or in their local neighborhoods. They can put up fliers promoting a gig, or distribute at concerts promotional CDs, stickers, or other inexpensive items that the label supplies.

 

Just be sure to leave no stone unturned in getting your message to your music-buying public.

 

Until next month,

 

Keith Holzman -- Solutions Unlimited

 

Helping Record Labels Manage for Success.

 

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Copyright 2004 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights reserved.