Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros


August 31, 2005

Help Hurricane Victims

The news coming from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida is devastating. Hurricane Katrina did a number on many coastal cities and a lot of people are homeless and hurting. Check out these pages at NetworkForGood.org and FEMA to learn about ways you can help.

Musicians are stepping up and putting together benefit shows, as you'd expect from the creative community. And here's a pretty cool e-mail that Derek Sivers from CD Baby just sent out to artists who sell their CDs on the site:

If you'd like to donate all profits of your CD sales to the Red Cross disaster relief fund, to help the hurricane victims, I set up an easy way for you to do this at CD Baby.

Log in to your CD Baby artist account here:
https://members.cdbaby.com/login

After you log in, click [YOUR ITEMS], up top, then [EDIT ALBUM INFO] next to your CD, then click next to "Giving profits to charity." It will explain more about how it works, there.

If you choose to do it, it will put your CD into a special section of cdbaby.com, linked from the front page, of other artists who have chosen to give their CD profits to the Red Cross.

Tomorrow morning I will email over 1 million CD Baby customers, telling them about this special promotion, encouraging them to buy some CDs from this special section.

You may think that a few sales won't help, but with thousands of musicians banded together to do this, I think it will help a LOT of people get their lives back together after this disaster.

Do your part and help out any way you can.

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 4:27 PM   0 comments


August 29, 2005

Sell More Music CDs Offline

Here are some cool ideas and tools you can use to sell more of your CDs in the real world (as opposed to the online world).

Jeff Kartak is a working musician who created a new point-of-purchase CD display and sales generator called The CD Seller. It holds 12 CDs, has a locking cash box with a slot for cash and checks, a sign holder and a fitting that allows it to be mounted on any standard mic stand. Visit TheCDseller.com and read this posting at CD Baby for more details.

Over at David Hooper's IndieMusician.com blog, a reader named Hog Whitman shares his unique story of using a Suma Dek display to sell CDs at a local gas station. (Scroll down to the Comments section.) He also lists tips for setting up a similar sales arrangement in bars.

Some other places to purchase affordable retail displays are DiscMarket.com, CounterDisplay.com and CardboardDisplays.com.

Remember, these ideas and tools amount to nothing until you put them to USE.

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 3:08 PM   2 comments


August 25, 2005

Outrageous Music Marketing Ideas

I'm not sure exactly what triggered it. Maybe it was the jet-lag of flying back from San Francisco (more on that awesome trip later), but my mind started popping with creative, off-the-wall ways to promote your music. So I jotted down some notes last night and am sharing them with you today.

Okay, so maybe these aren't truly "outrageous" ideas, but they certainly aren't the traditional things that most musicians think about when they do marketing. Ready? Here we go ...

Outrageous Music Marketing Idea #1
Turn Yourself Into a Happy Meal

I definitely advocate that indie musicians *not* try to emulate the same tactics as the major labels. However, there are times when you can take one of their ideas (or an idea from a related entertainment industry) and give it a small-scale spin.

You know how the major film studios promote their new animated features by tying into fast food chain kid meals, such as the McDonald's Happy Meal. Most likely, you won't be able to land a nationwide Happy Meal deal. But you might be able to do something cool with a local deli or restaurant.

I know a couple of radio disc jockeys in my town who have sandwiches or special meals named after them at certain eateries. Why couldn't you do that? Especially if you perform regularly at a particular coffee shop, bar or restaurant. For example, if your band is called Sweet Potato Sunrise, approach a manager with the idea of offering a Sweet Potato Sunrise omelette, or a Sweet Potato Sunrise latte, or a Sweet Potato Sunrise daiquiri?

You get the idea. The special name would get you exposure at the establishment whenever it's open (hopefully, you're item will be listed on the menu). Plus, you can use the unique promotional angle to get mentions in the local press.

Outrageous Music Marketing Idea #2
Become an Instant Cult Classic

The success of the film Napoleon Dynamite has me thinking. The movie itself is still growing on me, but I'm fascinated by the buzz it has among people who really connect with it. Most of my friends who rave about it have seen it numerous times and claim that the more they see it, the more they appreciate and enjoy it.

What a nice position for a filmmaker to be in. Admittedly, a lot of people don't like the movie and its flat characters at all. But those who do appreciate the film like it a lot -- and preach about it to their friends, memorize lines, encourage theatres to have midnight showings, etc.

How can you tap into that? It's hard to manufacture cult status, but here's an idea: What if your music CD came with an accompanying trivia game? And what if the game tied directly into the theme, style and lyrics of your music? The game instructions could be included in the CD sleeve or delivered separately to everyone who bought one. Or, to make a greater impact with the trivia game idea, you could package the CD in a DVD case or even a small retail box.

To make this work, you'd have to come up with a cool, interactive game idea and have a CD filled with interesting or funny or insightful lyrics and music. But if you can get people examining the nuances of your material and sharing notes with other people who are memorizing your stuff, you might have some powerful buzz going for you.

Check back for a couple more outrageous ideas I jotted down. Hopefully, these will get your wheels turning in the meantime.

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 2:36 PM   6 comments


August 22, 2005

The Success of Self-Reliance

This should be quite evident to you by now, but just in case it isn't, here's further evidence that we live in an era of self-expression and self-empowerment. This time it comes from Associated Press reporter Justin Glanville in an article titled "Music Acts Forgo Industry Traditions."

The piece focuses on a New York-based pop band called The Churchills, which landed a major-label deal in 2000. After spending $270,000 of the label's money on a debut album and having high hopes of surefire stardom ... nothing happened.

Glanville writes ...

Countless other bands have found themselves in a similar quandary: Signed to a major label, with promises of widespread distribution and big promotional budgets, yet going nowhere. They are casualties of an industry increasingly geared toward acts who can reliably sell millions of albums at a time.

As a result, a growing number of artists who do not fit that paradigm are going independent -- financing their own records and tours, securing distribution deals and serving as their own publicists.

For these so-called Do It Yourself artists, securing a major-label deal is no longer the object of their aspirations. They have either become disillusioned with the majors based on past mishaps or never saw a place for themselves within the establishment to begin with.

Sound familiar? Glanville implies that the DIY route "only recently" extended beyond the underground punk-rock approach of the 1970s. I'm not sure how he defines "recently," but I've been preaching this philosophy since the early to mid '90s. You might say I was DIY before DIY was cool :-)

But this isn't about me. It's really all about you and how much you're willing to give yourself the power to steer your own music career.

The Churchills self-released their first album, "Here Comes the Sharp Things," in 2002. The CD won favorable reviews and got the band noticed by New Jersey-based indie label Bar/None, which released the band's follow-up, "Foxes and Hounds," in May.

Glanville continues the story ...

Still, the band -- like all DIY bands -- does not rely on its label to sell it to the public, as have bands of the past. Nor does it hire "outsiders" to do its legwork.

"What's the point of seeking out certain people who would have half the passion, take twice as long to get the job done and are not as invested?" lead vocalist Perry Serpa said. "We tend to outsource only when it's completely necessary."

But if the bottom line becomes irrelevant -- or at least de-emphasized -- what defines success among artists who choose to do it all themselves?

"The beauty of it is that the ideal of 'success' can be defined by each individual artist," Serpa said. "If you manufacture 1,500 records with the intention of selling them all on the road over two years' time and you achieve that, then that is success. The deal is that you really no longer need the bottom-liners to define that for you anymore."

I know I may be preaching to the choir here, but those words sound great to these ears. Can I have an amen?!

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 11:40 AM   1 comments


August 15, 2005

More Profitable Music Sales Tips

We already covered CD and merchandise sales ideas, some additional tips to boost sales, as well as a few great comments from blog readers. On top of that, Hugh DeNeal, co-founder of CheapShirtsForBands.com, offers these helpful pointers for selling more merchandise.

Give Away Free Stuff with Each Purchase. "You can get stickers, buttons, matchbooks, etc., for less than 50 cents each. Giving it away with a $10 or $15 sale of a shirt or CD may just be what pushes the customer into buying. Plus, it's one extra piece of promotion for you," DeNeal explains.

Have More Than One T-shirt Design. "Sometimes, if you have one or two simple designs, plus an elaborate multi-colored design at the same price, it will make the fancy shirt appear to be worth more. People like to think they are getting a deal, even if you paid almost the same wholesale price for the shirt. However, other people will prefer the simpler designs. Try to satisfy both needs."

Keep It Simple. "Avoid too much variety in shirt and ink colors. It's best to have a design on a light shirt and a dark shirt. Do your best to keep your sizes well stocked."

Display Your Merchandise Attractively. "You don't need to display every shirt size you have. Put one of each shirt design on your table along with your CDs and mailing list sign-up form. Print a price sheet with your prices and shirt sizes available. Also, if you have stickers or handbills listing your upcoming shows, invite people to take them."

Seek Outside Help. "It is best to have someone selling your merchandise who is not in your band. People like to talk to the performers and often you will get caught up in conversation while fans are waiting to buy your stuff."

Don't Forget the Low End. "Invest in some less expensive can huggers, embroidered patches, magnets, etc. Some people will come to your shows with just enough money to pay the cover and have a few drinks. They might support your band with only a couple of spare bucks. Two-dollar can huggers and one-dollar refrigerator magnets are a good option for the broke but supportive audience member."

Thanks for the excellent tips, Hugh!

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 11:44 AM   2 comments


August 12, 2005

Music Ads: 6 Steps to Powerful Promotion

I'll be the first to tell you that print and online ad space should not be the first place to invest your money. There are many creative no-cost and low-cost ways to market yourself that you should focus on first.

However, there are times when precisely placed and timed ads could benefit a promotional campaign. With that in mind, here's a short excerpt from the Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook to help you make the most of advertising if and when you do use it.


Six Steps to Creating Powerful Music Ads

It's sad to say, but most music marketers approach advertising in a shoot-from-the-hip, spontaneous manner. That quality is great for jamming, but it does little to make the best use of your ad dollars. Whether you're designing an ad for a print magazine or web site, here are six principles you should use to generate real results from your advertising efforts.

1. Have a purpose for every ad

If you're running an ad just because everyone else is, or because you have a new release coming out and it's the thing to do .., slow down. Beyond that, what's your real objective for advertising? Is it to get people to go to stores and buy your new CD? Add people to your mailing list? Solicit mail order sales of your recordings? Promote a live show?

Don't expect an ad to work miracles and accomplish multiple objectives. Pick one purpose for each ad. Then make sure its design works toward that end.

2. Remain consistent with your theme and design

Choose a look and attitude that will stay the same for many weeks and months to come. Having a consistent design and feel to your ads burns an impression of your music into the minds of consumers. And that's exactly what you want to do! Think of the Coca-Cola logo. It's changed very little over the decades. And it's one of the most recognized images in the world. Bottom line: Consistency rules!

3. Start small

Don't think your ads have to be bigger than the other guy's or gal's. A lot of marketers let their egos steer their ad decisions, not rational thought. A series of small ads run regularly over time will have 10 times the impact of one or two full-blown, full-page ads that people never see again.

4. Make the offer prominent in your ad

After you decide on the marketing objective for your ad, create a corresponding offer that will inspire readers to take action. Examples: a free download, a $3 discount, free CDs for the first 50 people, etc. Then make sure that offer is prominent in your ad. Don't bury it.

5. Stick with a budget

Figure out how much per month or per quarter you can budget for advertising and then stick to your plan. There are two reasons to do this:
  • So you don't go nuts and blow your whole bank roll on advertising, and

  • So you don't get side-tracked and skip advertising when you need to be.
Again, I don't think you always have to be running display ads. But during those months when it's in your best interest, make sure there's a system in place so you don't miss publication deadlines and lose out on the exposure.

6. Include complete contact info

There's no excuse for leaving out your street address, phone, e-mail and web site info. If you have them, list them!

Before you rush to slap together another ad, look over these music advertising tips. You'll be glad you did.

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 4:53 PM   0 comments


August 10, 2005

GarageSpin Delivers the Music Goods

Looking for another great source of helpful music news? (Besides this Indie Music Promotion blog, of course :-) Take a gander at GarageSpin.com.

Editor Michael B is a vocalist-guitarist who has worked as a product manager for RealNetworks and in licensing and business development for The Harry Fox Agency. His regular GarageSpin blog posts point readers to the latest developments in podcasting, digital home recording, music marketing and more.

Here are some recent items that caught my eye:

The Podsafe Music Network. Adam Curry, "the PodFather," just launched this new site. Calling all musicians -- Submit your music immediately. Basically, the network is a library of "podsafe music" (i.e. music allowed to be downloaded freely and/or used in podcasts) submitted by independent bands and used by podcasters everywhere.

Music Plus TV: Independent and Unsigned Music Videos. Plus TV has launched its independent and unsigned Internet music video channel. Their focus on commercial-free, independently funded content may win them a psyched fan base. A cable network will follow in January 2006. Unsigned musicians can submit music (as well as videos, short films and animations) for review and possible broadcast.

Interview With Nathan Albee of HotLocalMusic.com
. A Q&A session with the CTO of HotLocalMusic, about the company and the mobile marketing services it provides, including ring tones, text messaging, e-mail management, blogs, etc. According to Michael B, "It's a cool example of technology being made available to indie artists, enabling them to empower themselves and promote their music to a targetted audience."

Cool Band Names. All about choosing the perfect name, including links to random band name generator web sites and band name registry sites.

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 9:39 AM   0 comments


August 08, 2005

Keys to the Music Success Kingdom

I received an inspiring e-mail last week from Jordan Olsen of the band Old Man Johnson. I asked Jordan if I could share his note with you -- not to show how cool I am, but to make a point about having the right attitude concerning your music career. Here's the e-mail:

Bob, I've been getting your Buzz Factor e-mails for years. I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate your tips and positive reinforcement as I go along this music business road. I've by no means met my goal of playing music full time, but it's a goal I'm constantly working towards. But more importantly, you've helped me redefine what I want out of my music career.

In my early high school years I thought "making it" was playing to arena-sized crowds, backed by a big label budget. Now in my mid-twenties, I believe success for me can be found simply performing to a packed club. I now have realistic goals that I can achieve on my own, where before only "luck" would be able to grant my wishes. I'm in control and a large part of this attitude can be attributed to your work.

I appreciate Jordon sending me these kind words of praise. But I have to tell you, he's giving me too much credit. Through my written words, I may have provided some mental stimulation to nudge him, but make no mistake: His ability to empower himself and take control of his place in music was there all along. He just needed to become aware of the power he already possessed.

My mission as a writer and author isn't to instill (or install) a little inspiration in you and temporarily pump you up. My real goal is to wake you up to the awesome capacity you already have to decide what you want, pursue it passionately and make it materialize on your own terms.

Too many music people put the focus outside of themselves -- on a record label, a manager, a contract, an agent, a sales chart, a program director, etc. But that's *not* where your true power lies.

If you want the keys to the Music Success Kingdom, look in the mirror. Because your ultimate level of accomplishment (however *you* define it) starts and ends with ... YOU!

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 2:37 PM   0 comments


August 04, 2005

Meet Bob in San Francisco Aug 20 & 22

My upcoming (and first-time) trip to San Francisco is already proving to be fruitful. I'll be speaking at three diverse venues and events. I hope to meet you at one of them. Here they are:

Saturday, August 20, 8:30 pm
Epic Arts
www.epicarts.org
1923 Ashby Ave
Berkeley, CA 94703
(510) 644-2204

This will be a brief and intimate talk/audience Q&A about indie music promotion and artist empowerment. Immediately following, the spoken word/music ensemble COPUS will perform. The band is described as "classical with a beat, rap without violence, hip-hop with a degree, jazz with lyrics." Visit www.copus.net for details.

There will be a $5-10 donation request, all ages, doors open at 8 pm. I'll start talking around 8:30 pm. Special thanks to Royal Kent of Copus for giving up some of his band's performance time to allow me to speak.



Monday, August 22, 7-8 pm
The Canvas Gallery
www.thecanvasgallery.com
1200 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122
(415) 504-0060
Inner Sunset Neighborhood, across the street from the Golden Gate Park near the Japanese and Botanical Gardens.

This is a very cool place with a creative environment. My topic will be "Unleash the Artist Within: The Self-Empowered Path to Becoming a Successful Artist, Writer or Performer." My presentation starts at 7 pm, followed by a casual discussion.

Free admission. You can just show up and most likely get in, but if you want to RSVP ahead of time and get on a list at the door, e-mail events@colbornestreetcreative.com.

A big thanks to Rachel Bates of Colborne Street Creative for setting this one up for me!



Saturday, August 20
San Francisco State University workshop
"Guerrilla Music Marketing: The Independent Path to a Successful Music Career."

UPDATE: Sorry, this event has been cancelled and will probably be rescheduled for spring 2006.

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 8:52 AM   0 comments


August 03, 2005

The Music Biz Success Factor

Want to get a handle on your odds of reaching success with music? Well, don't tell anyone, but one of the best predictors is -- ready for this? ... your mental attitude.

I know, that's not as sexy as sold-out stadiums or red-carpet walks or having your photo taken on a beach with either Brad or Angelina (or both). But the cold truth is, your mental outlook will make all the difference in the world when it comes to your chances for reaching true success.

On Monday, I talked about Madalyn Sklar and the views we share on positive thinking. Today I want to point out another indie music supporter who also shares our enthusiasm for "the mental game" of the music biz. I'm talking about David Hooper of IndieMusician.com.

In a blog post called The Right Mental Attitude, David describes how optimism prepares you for life's inevitable speed bumps:

A positive outlook is necessary to see change coming, to be able to work with the change, and to make the most of whatever change comes down the pike in your life. If you expect change (but not from a vending machine!), you'll be in a better position to accept it and make the most of it.

In Developing a Magnetic Personality, he talks about more benefits of an upbeat mental outlook:

It's amazing how people gather around a person who exudes confidence. Someone who believes in himself and sees the potential in others around him. A man or woman who perseveres, continuing to put one foot in front of the other until success is attained.

How does a person develop such a magnetic personality? She chooses to be enthusiastic and develops the positive attitude of "knowing no defeat." Think about it. How many successful people do you know who have gloom and doom personalities?

And the importance of enthusiasm and a good sense of humor can't be overstated. Whenever you lose your ability to laugh, your physical and emotional health start to decline rapidly. Don't you enjoy being around someone with a genuine laugh and fun sense of humor? It really is one of the characteristics of great personalities.

Two other blog posts from David worth reading are:

A Remarkable Source of Self-Confidence Revealed

You Have Today in the Palms of Your Hands

So, whether you're walking the red carpet or just jamming in your basement, I ask you: Are you happy and enthusiastic doing what you're doing?

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 11:36 AM   2 comments


August 01, 2005

Positive Thinking: The Ugly Truth

I first met Madalyn Sklar at the 2NMC conference in Nashville about two years ago. She's the founder of GoGirlsMusic.com, described as "the oldest and largest online community of indie women musicians." I immediately liked Madalyn and her positive vibe.

A recent visit to her IndieMusicConsulting.com blog made it clear why I sensed I had met a kindred spirit. Madalyn considers herself an optimist and is unapologetic in wearing the label. Check out one of her recent posts:

I live my life being an optimist. Do you? When you are sitting down, writing your goals for your music career, are you thinking in a positive light?

Positive + Goals + Focus = Success! That is what I believe. Be positive. Set goals. Stay focused. Achieve success. Yeah, it's really that easy. But, are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you take responsibility or do you blame others?

Stay strong. Stay on track with your goals. Have fun. Inspire someone. Inspire yourself.

Madalyn has a great attitude. Sadly, it's a frame of mind that seems to be in short supply -- especially among aspiring musicians. Too many creative people prefer to buy into the struggles of the "real world" and discount all the "positive thinking stuff" as delusional mumbo-jumbo.

Here's my philosophy on this: I choose to believe that every human is born with an innate ability to live effortlessly, happily, abundantly and creatively. But, too often, people lose touch with their natural connection to this positive flow. Through fear, worry and other negative thoughts over time, they get disconnected from their true potential.

(I know all about this, because like most people, I've spent a lot of time in that disconnected mode throughout my life.)

One way to reconnect with the flow is to regularly remind yourself of more empowering thoughts and ways to process the world around you. It took a lot of pessimistic thinking effort on your part (not to mention discouragement from others) to block the connection, so it usually takes a little work to unclog it and get back to your natural state of living life to the fullest.

Is it worth the effort? Absolutely! And that's my reality -- whether someone wants to call it mumbo-jumbo or not. And I'm sure Madalyn would agree with me :-)

Get more tips like these when you subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine — the longest running music career tips email newsletter on the planet. Since 1995. Learn more about the free subscription here.


Or just sign up using this quick and easy form:

Your First Name
Your Primary Email


Your email address will not be shared. Unsubscribe at any time.

Connect with

posted by Bob Baker @ 4:32 PM   6 comments