Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

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


June 10, 2006

5 Music Success Questions

A recent issue of Music Connection magazine featured an interview with Clif Magness, who has produced and co-written songs with artists such as Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, Lisa Marie Presley, Charlotte Martin, and many more.

When asked how he prepares for working with a new artist, Magness said he usually asks the artist five key questions:
  • What are your influences?

  • Who are your favorite current artists?

  • How do you see yourself as an artist?

  • How do you want to be seen as an artist?

  • What kind of music career do you want to have in the future?
As a producer, Magness has his own set of reasons for asking these questions. But once I read them, I quickly realized they are also great questions for indie artists to ask themselves -- especially when it comes to marketing.

The first question, of course, helps answer that age-old question, "Who do you sound like?" In this context, your musical influences can be in any genre from any time in history. While you may resist admitting that you "sound like" someone else in particular, certainly you have been influenced by some well-known artists. And most likely, fans of those artists could very well become fans of your music.

Next, knowing who your favorite current artists are can help you understand where you fit in with the current musical landscape. This may or may not be useful, considering that the commercial landscape consists mostly of major label artists, and you are operating in the indie realm where you shouldn't be as concerned with popular trends, what's selling well, etc.

Still, having an idea of who you sound like and how you compare with other artists of the past and present will give you a great sense of where to focus your self-promotion energies.

Who Do You Think You Are?

Questions 3 and 4 above likewise act as excellent self-examination probes. How you see yourself as an artist reveals a lot about your self-image. Not only does it expose your genre and the unique way you approach it; your answers also speak volumes about your confidence, clarity and vision.

"How do you want to be seen as an artist?" brings to light whether or not there's a discrepancy between how you currently view yourself and how you ultimately want others to perceive you. If the gap is a wide one, you may have identity issues you need to resolve before you market yourself further. You then run the risk of not communicating who you are musically clearly enough OR creating a situation where who you are is clear to everyone except you!

The final question, about the career you want in the future, is another great one. Where you eventually want to end up greatly determines the steps you take today to get there. Most musicians focus on what's right in front of them or mull over the injustices and successes of the past.

But you must ask yourself (as I encouraged in a recent Buzz Factor ezine issue), "What do I ultimately want to achieve?" and "What will getting there look like?"

Answer these questions in the clearest way possible. Then make sure your current actions are moving you closer to those ideals and not further away!

-Bob

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