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Ruthless Self-promotion in the Music Industry - By Jeffrey P. Fisher
How do you...
-- Get your band more paying gigs?
-- Land a publishing deal?
-- Increase bookings for your studio?
-- Score new soundtracks and jingles?
-- Make more money from your music products and services?

How can you break down barriers and achieve the success you want, need, and feel you deserve? There is only one way to ensure your continued success in today's music world: you must master ruthless self-promotion. And ruthless self-promotion has only two functions:
-- To find new customers and convince them to buy what you sell.
-- To keep your existing buyers and, more importantly, get them to buy again (and again).

What is ruthless self-promotion? It's the constant pursuit of new buyers for your music products and services. You use various techniques to uncover the most motivated buyers and then carefully follow up to close sales. Essentially, there are only two ways to promote your music products and services: You either contact someone or you convince someone to contact you. All of your subsequent promotions fall into these two distinct approaches.

There are three simple methods you can use to contact people. One, you mail (or e-mail) a letter or other sales package. Two, you place a phone call. And three, you make direct contact. Alternately, you can only use four methods to solicit contact: One, you place an ad. Two, you send publicity. Three, you have a store front. And four, you run a web site (which is really just advertising, publicity, and a store rolled into one neat package).

The key to successful ruthless self-promotion is to promote before you produce. Think first how you will promote and sell your music products and services before you actually create them.

Next, identify your target market. Uncover what these people want and need and adapt your music products and services to fulfill those wants and needs. Now find the people who comprise your target market and how you can contact them. Look for mailing lists, media sources, newsgroups, Web sites, and so forth. Specifically you need to compile names, companies, addresses, telephone, and e-mail addresses.

You may have multiple markets and you may need to use one market to reach another. For example, a band wants to reach labels to secure the elusive recording contract. That's one market. The band needs to reach club owners for playing gigs. That's another, different market. Ultimately, the band wants to build an audience that both buys their music and comes to their live performances. It's hard to reach that audience directly (there may be magazines or other media that appeal to them, but probably not.) The only way to reach your fans is through playing live, building a reputation, and leveraging that into more gigs and a bigger fan base. So, the band must work hard to get playing gigs and the best way to do that is through the clubs. Concentrate on the clubs before you go fishing for fans. Build your reputation with clubs and fans alike before going after a label. At the same time, promote to your growing list of contacts through carefully targeted means (fan newsletter, media releases, Web site, etc.).

Establish an image and central message for your music business career. Together they form the key thing you sell. It is the repetition of your image and this message that form the basis for all your promotions. Now you may have many smaller, subordinate messages that you promote, but ultimately they should all lead (and reinforce) your single central message.

Understand this promotional paradox: You want to do the work, but sometimes have no experience. You must work extra hard to land that first project, even if it's a tiny one. That gives you the experience to leverage into another project. Let each little success lead you down the path to bigger and better things. If you manage to make only a single dollar with your music, make two dollars your next goal. Have some patience and never give up easily. Success that endures rarely comes overnight.

Decide whether to spend your time or your money on your promotions. If you have a endless supply of cash, pay for promotion. If you're like the rest of us you need to support your paid promotions with free or nearly free promotions. You need to choose more creative ways to get the word out. And that's not easy. That's why many people choose advertising or other instant or so-called easy ways to promote. These hapless beings don't want to spend their precious time looking for new business. True ruthless self-promotion requires a substantial commitment of your time and energy. It forces you to take all the necessary steps to present your image, message, and music products and services to your market. If you're not prepared to put forth the effort, don't expect any real return on your endeavors. Get out your checkbook instead or settle for far, far less.

Develop the promotional material you need that shows your intended markets what you can do for them. You need to let people know what you have to offer and how you can help them be better off through your music products and services. This promotional material must serve two purposes: You need to remind these people of what they need and you must convince them that you can meet those needs when they buy your music products and services.

Start promoting your music products and services. Put together a promotional calendar that lets you see at a glance what's coming up. Understand that your promotions can either generate leads or make direct sales. Often you must follow up your promotions by phone or in person to close sales. Make sure every promotion you choose includes a way for you to follow up or reconnect with people. Don't run an image ad. Place an ad that presents a compelling offer that gets people to contact you. Now you can control the next promotion. If you mail a promotional package to a prospect, make sure you follow up by phone and further control the steps leading to the sale.

Let this handy list help promote your music product and services: Ads, Business cards, Brochures, Contest, Copies and reprints, Coupon, Demo CD, Discounts, E-mail, Fact sheet (with history and philosophy), Fan letters, Fax cover sheet, Gifts, Flyers, Logo, Magnetic signs, Merchandise, Newsletter, News releases, On-hold promotions, Open house, Photos, Postcards, Premiums, Product and service samples, Publicity, Radio or TV promotion, Referrals, Slogan, Telephone, Testimonials and endorsements, Tip sheets, special reports, booklets, and books, Trade shows, Voice mail message, and Web site.

Use each successful sale to get additional sales from new buyers. Obviously you need another product or service to sell. If you only have one product or service, you better start right now looking for ways to expand and diversify your music industry wares.

Tell your market about each success and remind them that they too can experience your benefits. Use news releases, newsletters, Web site, sales letters, and phone calls to promote your success. Solicit testimonials from your satisfied buyers, too. Use these endorsements to convince other people to buy from you. Ask for referrals to other interested people. Promote to these referrals vigorously.

Promote regularly and make every promotional opportunity count. To meet your music industry success goals, let ruthless self-promotion become a permanent part of your psyche and the primary function of your resources.


Jeffrey P. Fisher is the author of three best-selling music books: "Ruthless Self-Promotion in the Music Industry," "Profiting From Your Music and Sound Project Studio," and "How to Make Money Scoring Soundtracks and Jingles." He is currently working on a fourth title due out during 2002. Get more information on his "Moneymaking Music" Web site at

For even more profitable music industry advice, subscribe to Fisher's FREE Moneymaking Music Tip of the Week by sending an e-mail message to with "subscribe tip" in the subject or body.

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