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Understanding where and how you fit into the marketplace -By Chris Standring
Let's take an interesting scenario...

Let's suppose I gave you one million dollars. I heard your band, really liked it and believed that you could be successful. Let's also suppose I have plenty of money to throw away. Here's the deal though. I'm not a record company, just an interested investor. I give you one million dollars to promote your group, to get on the radio and to sell records and get in the big music industry game. In exactly two years I want my money back. It's kind of a loan. If I get my money back after two years, I will give you a bigger deal to promote your next record, one and a half million dollars. If I don't get my money back we never speak again. Deal over, along with your career.


Think about it. This could be your big chance. One million dollars to put your music career on the map. Better yet, another million and a half for your next record. No strings attached. Just a chance to get you in the door and compete with the big boys.

Here's my question. What do you do with this money? Where do you begin? How do you entertain the idea of marketing yourself successfully?

It's a good question isn't it? Think about it. What the hell do you do??

I would be interested to get some answers right around now because I guarantee that 90% of you wouldn't know exactly where to begin. I don't say this disdainfully, after all most of you are creative people, not business heads, but the world has changed, and is changing rapidly. The days of being discovered are over. The days of signing a major record deal are diminishing rapidly. Of course there will always be deals to sign but right now it is about self marketing to get the attention of big industry folks. So give this scenario some thought because it may not be unreal.

Whether you have $5000 or $1,000,000 to invest in your career, the thought process should be the same. "What can I do to get myself to the next level, minimising all risk?" Let me delve further...

The painful truth is that one million dollars is a pitiful amount of money to play with in the major league music business. So, unless you are extremely careful, and I mean EXTREMELY careful, it will be unbelievably easy to literally throw this money away unless you know exactly what you are doing. With this in mind, I would suggest you learn 'exactly' what you are doing. The next question becomes, "What do I need to learn?" Well, you will need to learn about radio because you now have money to promote your record to it. You do want to compete with the big boys right?

Already, we might have stepped one rung of the ladder too far. If we are going to go to radio, what do we promote to radio? Surely a single that will lessen the odds of disaster. Now you will need to be aware of your competition, you will need to know what is hot at radio, indeed what is hot at YOUR radio format. But what is YOUR radio format? Is it CHR, Urban, Urban AC, AC, NAC, Alternative, Country? Any ideas? (Clue: go to www.rronline.com and peruse the radio charts, get familiar with where you fit in). Now, let's not forget that in order to promote to commercial radio it costs literally thousands upon thousands of dollars, out of the box. You shouldn't even begin to consider spending your money until you know that you will have some success in your format. It's a complete waste of time and money otherwise. You will need to test market, do a ton of research before you even spend a dime. Don't forget, I want my money back in two years and I will give you a bigger deal if you get me my money back. There is every incentive for you to get this right.

So already you are now thinking about lessening the odds of disaster because you want a succcessful career right? Ok, We have the radio thing down. Let's talk about Retail. You will need to get this wired. Here's a little info you might not know about. We all know how difficult it is to get distribution, right? They seem to want to deal with established relationships. Let's assume you have an 'in' and have a good distributor working with you. That distribution company has to sell your product to each retail store they are assigned to. Why will a Tower records or Wherehouse stock your record? Because you have good distribution? Hell no!! A distributor is only as good as the record company promoting your record. You, the label, will need to convince retail to stock your record. How do you do that? One way might be to deliver them hot faxes on a weekly basis telling them of all the promotion you are giving your record, namely; radio action, gigs, special marketing programs, paying retail exorbitant amounts of money to get 'end caps' (those cool stands at the front of the store, displaying 50 copies of your record at sale price). And so on. And this is just the beginning....

How much of this did you know? Be honest. To promote a record effectively, you have a small window of time where you can buy listening stations, promote to radio via an independent radio promoter and market you record effectively.

And don't forget, I want my money back or you don't get the next million and a half.

Once you put yourself in the competetive world of music business promotion something interesting happens. The artist seperates himself/herself from the art and sees things from a purely marketing standpoint. But not just marketing, marketing TODAY.
And the point of this little scenario? It is important to look at your product and ask yourself, "Do I have what it takes, and if not, how can I get to that neccessary place in order to compete?"

We have to exist in a professional playground, like it or not. How do we fit into this playground? Well, It's become a highly competetive world which means we have to try to keep one step ahead, and really know the business. Try to think above who you are as an artist and understand how you might fit into the marketplace.

Because, frankly, I would really like my money back!



By Chris Standring (A&R online)


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