Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

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


June 29, 2006

Are You Certain? Or Not?

Here's a thought to ponder that just might have a big impact on the way you approach music success.

Life is filled with a combination of two things: certainty and uncertainty. Lucky for us, it is. If we were absolutely certain about everything, life would be routine and boring. If we were filled with uncertainty about everything, we'd constantly live in fear.

Having a balance between the two is healthy. The only thing is, most musicians (and creative people in general) have an unhealthy certainty and uncertainty balance.

Want some examples?

Common Topics Musicians Are Often Uncertain About:

- Do I really have what it takes to succeed as an artist?
- How can I possibly promote myself when I know very little about it?
- Do I even deserve to reach my music dreams?
- How can I compete with so many other talented musicians?

Common Topics Musicians Are Often Certain About:

- Pursuing an independent music career is a tough, uphill battle.
- It's not what you know, it's who you know.
- If I can't get widespread radio and media exposure, I'm doomed.
- Without a record deal, I will wallow in obscurity for eternity.

Here's the thing, all of these thoughts of certainty and uncertainty are merely personal perceptions. In other words, they're choices that each person makes. So, if you get to choose, why not put a more empowering spin on your choices?

What if you were to reverse the categories above? What if you had a sense of certainty about your ability to promote yourself and find your unique place in the world of successful artists?

You might not know how you're going to get there, but you can still embrace a feeling of confident expectation that you will arrive. You do the same thing when you drive somewhere you've never been before. You may not be familiar with the route, but you "know" that you will get there.

And what if you cultivated a less certain attitude toward music industry rules and traditions. What if you asked, "Do I really need radio airplay to reach my fans?" or "Might I enjoy an indie career much more than the traditional record deal path?" or "How can I make promotion fun instead of a hardship?"

Keep a watchful eye on the way you process your world. And when you find yourself latching on to a certainty or uncertainty, ask that most powerful of questions ...

What if?

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:42 AM   1 comments


June 26, 2006

On George Carlin & Al Gore

Pardon the off-topic post, but this is a topic I feel compelled to write about.

At first glance, George Carlin and Al Gore don't seem to have a lot in common, but I think they do. About 15 years ago, Carlin recorded a hilarious routine called "The Planet Is Fine." Go here to read the full text, but here's an excerpt:

We're so self-important. Everybody's going to save something now. "Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails." And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. Save the planet, we don't even know how to take care of ourselves yet. Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great.

The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles ... hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages ... And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn't going anywhere. WE ARE!

We're going away. Pack your shit, folks. We're going away. And we won't leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam ... The planet'll be here and we'll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet'll shake us off like a bad case of fleas.

The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we're gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, 'cause that's what it does. It's a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed.

Carlin's point was that the environmentalist slogan should have been changed from "Save the Planet" to "Save Our Own Asses." Last week that idea was driven home a lot further when I saw the film "An Inconvenient Truth," the new documentary that chronicles Al Gore's mission to make people aware of the real consequences that humans are beginning to witness after decades of short-sighted treatment of the Earth's atmosphere.

There are no tree huggers, no pleas to be kind to Mother Nature. Gore simply shows -- using a nice blend of humor and facts -- how global warming, melting ice caps, and rising CO2 levels are having a real effect on people's lives -- and how things will only get worse for humans if we continue to ignore the changes taking place.

See "An Inconvenient Truth." Keep an open mind. Decide for yourself how important this issue is.

Or at least take 90 minutes to learn how a future generation may be shaken off the Earth like a bad case of fleas.

Here's a trailer for the movie at YouTube:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUiP6dqPynE

And here's Gore being interviewed by David Letterman:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tf7s0kTlftg

Again, see the movie. Keep an open mind. And decide for yourself how important it is.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 11:34 AM   5 comments


June 21, 2006

Do-It-Yourself Internet Music PR

You know you want media exposure for your music. You know you deserve it. But how do you go about getting it? And how do you get around all the closed doors and obstacles that seem to confront you at every turn?

The answer: By learning the simple secrets to music publicity ... AND by squeezing all you can out of the Internet.

I was recently interviewed by Joan Stewart, widely known as the "publicity hound." She got me on the phone and picked my brain for 70 minutes, while adding a ton of her own considerable wisdom on the topic of gaining media attention.

Here's part of that interview:

Joan – On so many music releases that I see, and even so many little news items in the paper, the writer fails to mention what kind of music the musicians play.

Bob – Yes. You find entire web sites that do that. You'll go to a web site of an artist and they used words like "amazing" or "lush" ...

Joan – Or "mellow."

Bob – You've got to view your web site, your press kits, through the eyes of someone who has never heard you and is totally unaware. The first crucial question you must answer is, What type of music is this? I even use the example of you walking into a record store and a clerk coming to you with a box of 10 CDs. The clerk says, "You can take any one of these that you want." What's the first question you're going to ask before you decide? Is it going to be who produced it? What's the hometown?

Joan – What kind of music is it?

Bob – Yes, the first question is what genre or what type of music. You want to know if it's something that you're interested in. So answer that question and answer it up front and quickly. If you do that in an interesting way with a news hook, then you're light years ahead of most people who are trying to promote themselves.

Now I'd like to give you access to this entire 70-minute recording, along with a full 20-page transcript of our conversation.

Read more about what Joan and I covered during our lengthy discussion here:
www.bob-baker.com/buzz/diy-internet-pr.html

-Bob

P.S. For more PR advice, also check out Killer Music Press Kits and Online Music PR Hot List 2006.

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posted by Bob Baker @ 8:59 AM   1 comments


June 18, 2006

Marketing While in the Military

A Buzz Factor e-zine subscriber named Rick is currently serving in the U.S. Navy. His ship has been deployed over the last couple of years to support the war in Iraq and Tsunami relief in Indonesia. In between operations, he has some down time. Here's part of an e-mail he sent recently:

I'm wondered if there is some way I can turn this down time into more press and promotion for my band. There is always a spin on any situation in a band, and each road block should be viewed as an opportunity to move forward. So do you have any experience in dealing with situations like this? This deployment probably won't be my last, so I want to explore options to market our music while I am away. I know a lot of guys in the military that play music and some of them are in bands, so I would like to ask for them as well.

I'm sure a number of subscribers and readers of this blog are in the military, with many more who have friends and family members who are serving. That's why I wanted to share my short reply to Rick, for anyone else who could use it:

Thanks for the e-mail. Here are some quick random ideas (some of which you may have already thought of).

First, look into any possible exposure with military related publications and web sites. I would think they'd be interested in a unique human interest angle like yours from one of their own. I just found these pages of links:

www.mondotimes.com/2/topics/5/society/74
www.world-newspapers.com/military.html
www.defenselink.mil/pubs/magazines.html

Also, think about your hometown media. "Local guy keeps his music dreams alive while serving," etc. That seems like a great hook to me.

Even more general media might bite on this. Write a press release about your activities and post it on Mi2n.com and 24-7pressrelease.com.

Hope these help. And a big thank you to everyone who sacrifices to defend their country!

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 9:25 AM   0 comments


June 15, 2006

'What Is INDIE?' The Movie

I just got a sneak peek at something that is not only fun and informative but much needed in this age of self-empowered creativity. I'm talking about a new documentary called "What Is Indie? A Look Into the World of Independent Musicians."

Produced by Dave Cool (his real name), an indie musician, record label owner and filmmaker, this 50-minute film explores the definition of "independent" and the philosophies, tactics and lifestyles of the music people who live it.


I've knew that Dave had been working on this for the past two years. When my review copy came in the mail, I had no idea what to expect. Once I popped it in, I was really impressed.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this "indie" concept, but even I was forced to think about many other subtle nuances to what it means to be "independent" in the music business.

The biggest revelation came with this question: If an artist is "unsigned," does that automatically make them "indie"? Well, if you think of indie as an attitude, a lifestyle, and a determined way to take control of your career ... the answer is NO!

Many "unsigned" acts are still banking on a major label deal to save them, and they simply do things on their own in the meantime -- because they have to. Many of the artists interviewed in the film agreed that these acts are NOT indie. True independent musicians don't mindlessly wait for record contract salvation. They move forward as if they are the only ones who will ever propel their careers.

Most valuable to readers of this blog are the extensive bonus interviews with people like Derek Sivers of CD Baby, Suzanne Glass of Indie-Music.com, Panos Paney of Sonicbids, author Daylle Deanna Schwartz, and David Wimble of "Indie Bible" fame.

"What Is Indie?" also comes with a compilation CD featuring music of the artists interviewed in the film, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and more. Great stuff!

Here's the best news. Dave Cool is making a special, limited-time offer for my readers. Go to this link and get a $4 discount off the price. But hurry. This discount won't last forever.

Go here and grab your copy now:
http://www.whatisindiemovie.com/buzzstore.cfm

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:32 PM   1 comments


June 12, 2006

16 Insights for Indie Music Success

In Case You Missed It ...

This past March I presented a workshop for GoGirls Music in Austin, TX, during SXSW. It was only the second time I'd delivered this talk to an audience. And it was the ONLY time I recorded it.

I have no plans to give this exact presentation again, so I'm thrilled that I was able to capture it on audio.

The talk I gave that day was called "16 Insights for Indie Music Success" -- and, if you weren't there, I want to give you an opportunity to hear what you missed out on.

During this 40-plus minute workshop (now available as three MP3 files which you can download and start listening to immediately), I reveal some of my top indie music success principles.

For complete details, just head to
www.bob-baker.com/buzz/16insights.html

-Bob

P.S. You can hear a sample from my Austin talk on Artist Empowerment Radio Podcast #11.

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posted by Bob Baker @ 8:48 AM   0 comments


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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posted by Bob Baker @ 3:05 PM   0 comments


June 05, 2006

Going Postal Over the Music Industry

Here's part of a letter I received from Ant Boogie of Collective Hallucination. Read it and then see my response below. It may surprise you ...

Dear Bob,

I just need to vent with someone who would probably understand where I'm coming from. I am sooooo tired of the music industry as it stands now. It sucks. Everywhere my band goes and performs, people flock to our shows. They love us and they all have the same feeling: "Ya'll should be on radio and TV," etc.

However, the powers that be continue to force feed that garbage that's out there to people and it frustrates me. I'm not just thinking of my band, but there are so many great bands and solo artists out there who should be in the forefront of the music industry.

I used to love the American music industry, but the years have worn on me and I realize that it's impossible to be a real band (like Mint Condition) in this country and have some form of success. I mean, even a band as hot as Family Stand got shifted in the bull and politricks of the industry.

What the hell am I supposed to do? I can't even get "industry" folks to return my phone calls. It's like, "Oh, they're good but ..." they aren't "small enough in size" or "they're too old" or "they don't sound like ..."

I'm about to go postal on the music industry!

I appreciate Ant Boogie sharing his thoughts and allowing me to reprint them here. His frustrations have been echoed by countless musicians I've encountered over the years, including readers of this blog.

If my proceeding comments seems harsh, they're not directed at the letter writer above. They're meant for the mass of music folk who are fed up with the industry and the sense of helplessness and unfairness they feel is heaped upon them.

Fame, Fortune and Frustration

Let's start with Mr. Boogie's first paragraph and the words "Everywhere my band goes and performs, people flock to our shows." Wow. That sounds to me like a great achievement. Most bands would kill for a decent crowd at every show.

Any band that has a loyal following and packed houses at its shows should be generating decent income from CD and merchandise sales, as well as a cut of tickets sales at the door. That spells out indie success in my book.

Fans say, "Ya'll should be on radio and TV," which is a belief that Ant Boogie obviously buys into himself. Because his band apparently isn't getting the media exposure he feels they deserve, he feels frustrated.

But here are some important questions to answer along these lines concerning your own music career:
  • What is your ultimate definition of success?

  • What has to happen for you to know you've reached your goal?

  • What does "arriving" look like?
For most musicians, their answers are some vague combination of fame and fortune. But I contend that you must get clear about the outcome you are working toward.

If success means having a large and dedicated following and enough money to support the musicians, it's quite likely that Ant Boogie's band is already there. But if radio and TV exposure are the measuring sticks, no amount of satisfied fans or revenue would make him happy.

In my opinion, mass media exposure is part of the old-school model of music promotion. Niche marketing is the surest path to success these days. But a lot of people will still tell you, "Hey, you should be all over the radio." And maybe you will some day. But don't let other people's visions of success drive your own definition.

What's Right and What's Wrong?

There are a lot of things that should be this way or that way in the world ... but they simply aren't. Instead of focusing on what's wrong, zero in on your strengths and what you have.

Industry people won't return your phone calls? Great. Screw 'em! Who needs them anyway? Not you. Especially if you have fans who are supporting you in droves. Why waste your time on "industry" people who aren't interested?

Those special fans of yours are doing more than returning your calls -- they're investing their precious time, money and energy in you and your music. Focus on them, and not on the dysfunctional music business.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 2:36 PM   0 comments