Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

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

July 29, 2009

Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook Sampler

Enjoy this free sampler version of my classic guide to indie music marketing - featuring more than "201 Self-Promotion Ideas for Songwriters, Musicians and Bands on a Budget."

As seen in the major motion picture The School of Rock ... and in VIBE, Music Connection, Electronic Musician, and American Songwriter magazines.

Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook Sampler

Ebook sampler version of Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook 201 Self-Promotion Ideas for Songwriters, Musicians and Bands on a Budget Bob Baker © 2007 by Bob Baker All Rights Reserved Spotlight Publications St. Louis, MO -1- To Jay Conrad Levinson, the godfather of Guerrilla Marketing. Thanks for shining the light, blazing a new trail, and inspiring millions (including me) to take the guerrilla path less traveled! Other books and resources by Bob Baker: Guerrilla Music Marketing, Encore Edition: 201 More Self-Promotion Ideas, Tips & Tactics for Do-It-Yourself Artists Killer Music Press Kits: The 29 Most Important Elements in Creating Sizzling Music Publicity Materials 70 Ways to Promote & Sell Your Music on the Internet Internet Music Marketing Crash Course Music Publicity Crash Course Do-It-Yourself Internet PR for Songwriters, Musicians and Bands MySpace Music Marketing: How to Promote & Sell Your Music on the World's Biggest Networking Web Site What Every Musician Should Know About Self-Promotion Get more info at Cataloging-in-Publication Data Baker, Bob, 1960Guerrilla music marketing handbook: 201 self-promotion ideas for songwriters, musicians and bands on a budget / Bob Baker p. cm. ISBN-10: 0-9714838-5-X ISBN-13: 978-0-9714838-5-9 1. Music trade – United States – Handbooks, manuals, etc. 2. Music – Vocational guidance – United States. 3. Internet marketing. 780.23 B167G Published by Spotlight Publications, PO Box 43058, St. Louis, MO 63143 USA. © 2007 by Bob Baker. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Spotlight Publications. Manufactured in the United States of America. -2- I want to give you a FREE collection of music promotion reports, tip sheets and tools! Thank you so much for making the decision to open this book and read it. I’m confident that the principles and suggestions you’ll find in these pages will inspire you and boost your self-promotion efforts to new levels. But the journey shouldn’t end there. That’s why I invite you to download a free copy of Indie Music Marketing Secrets. To get it, just visit You see, I’m on a mission to empower musicians and creative people of all kinds. I’ve watched too many truly talented artists squander their potential because they bought into outdated myths about the music business or convinced themselves that marketing was “hard” or “expensive” or “lacking in integrity.” What a crock! But instead of complaining or throwing up my hands in frustration, I decided long ago to do something about it. I’ve dedicated my life to uncovering the secrets of successful independent musicians and sharing my findings with smart artists who are willing to listen and learn. Are you one of them? In the Indie Music Marketing Secrets report, you’ll discover:       A rarely used marketing trick you can steal from restaurant menus How to create a 12-month music promotion Action Plan A simple technique that forces people to listen to your CD Your two most important music career actions – hands down Understanding the music fan “Attractor Factor” And much more Again, download your free copy at To your success! -Bob Baker -3- Contents Introduction – page 6 (of the full version) Section 1: Guerrilla Music Basic Training 1) 2) 3) 4) 3 Simple Steps to Effective Music Marketing – page 14 The Power of Goal Setting: A Foolproof Plan for Reaching Your Music Aspirations Faster – page 20 The First 5 Steps to Marketing (and Profiting From) Your Music – page 27 The #1 Question You Must Answer When Promoting Your Music – page 35 Section 2: Guerrilla Music Marketing Online 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) The New Rules of Internet Music Marketing – page 40 How to Use Blogs and Podcasts to Promote Your Music Online – page 46 MySpace, YouTube and the Social Media Revolution – page 54 How One Artist Used the Internet to Sell 12,000 CDs and Quit His Day Job – page 61 The 6 Most Common Music Web Site Design Mistakes – page 66 Guerrilla Music Marketing Activity Worksheets – page 70 Section 3: Guerrilla Music Publicity 10) 32 Ways to Promote Yourself, Your Band or Your New Release – page 76 11) Killer Press Kits: The 29 Key Elements in Creating Sizzling Music Publicity Materials – page 84 12) How to Exploit the Music Media and Get the Widespread Exposure You Deserve – page 94 13) 6 Steps to Getting an Avalanche of Press Coverage – page 98 -4- Section 4: Guerrilla Music Money & Sales 14) 39 Ways to Sell a Lot More of Your CDs, DVDs and Music Merchandise – page 103 15) The Easiest Way to Make Money in the Music Business – page 117 16) 25 Ways to Finance Your Next Recording Project, Music Video or Major Equipment Purchase – page 122 17) How to Double Your CD Sales (in 90 Days or Less) – page 134 Section 5: Guerrilla Music Promotion Tactics 18) 13 Low-Cost, High-Impact Music Promotion Ideas That Work – page 142 19) How to Use the Telephone More Effectively to Get Paying Gigs, Radio Airplay and Media Coverage – page 150 20) 19 Things You Should Be Doing Right Now to Promote Your Music Better – page 157 21) Often-Overlooked Promotion Strategies You Should Be Using to Market Your Music – page 163 Guerrilla Music Marketing Activity Worksheets – page 173 Final Guerrilla Music Marketing Thoughts – page 178 Visit for even more marketing ideas for songwriters, musicians and bands on a budget. While you’re there, sign up to get Bob’s free music marketing tips by email. -5- Introduction Welcome to a new way of promoting your music! That’s how earlier editions of this book began: talking about a “new way” to promote yourself and build a music career. I’m happy to report that this strategy is not so new anymore. Musicians of all stripes the world over are taking their talents and empowering themselves to build their own fan bases, book their own gigs, sell their own CDs and merchandise, and create business models that work for them. It’s an exciting time to be an independent (also known as “indie”) musician and not have to rely on A&R big shots, record labels or “the industry” to rescue you from obscurity. Today, you can rescue yourself and build your own music career – on your own terms. Old habits are hard to shake For decades, aspiring musicians thought the only legitimate route to success was landing a recording contract with a major label. It was also assumed that a new band needed to be on commercial radio and in major retail outlets to have a fighting chance to survive. The times have definitely changed. The Internet and low-cost recording technologies have created a thriving do-it-yourself music movement with unlimited options to get exposure and reach fans. Unfortunately, thousands of songwriters and artists still believe the road to widespread recognition can only be traveled through a record deal. My advice: Wake up and smell the gigabytes! I believe the best way to approach a career as a musician who writes and performs original music is to take control, get your hands dirty, and market your music -6- yourself. No one will ever feel as strongly about your craft as you do. Which means you’re the best person in the world to spread the news. Sure, promoting your own music takes a lot of effort. No doubt. But it’s well worth it. And despite what you may have heard to the contrary, it can be profitable. Artists who have succeeded on their own terms Here are several inspiring examples of self-empowered musicians:  Over the past 20 years, Loreena McKennitt has sold 13 million of her “eclectic Celtic” albums worldwide. Her independent music career spans seven studio recordings and one double live CD. She is completely selfmanaged, self-produced, and the head of her own internationally successful record label, Quinlan Road ( McKennitt’s music has won critical acclaim and gold, platinum and multiplatinum sales awards in 15 countries across four continents. She continues to manage her own career to this day.  In 1988, Lorie Line ( got a job playing piano for customers at a Dayton’s department store in Minneapolis. Little did she know it would lead to Lorie Line Music, Inc., a family-run business that has released 26 of Line’s CDs, with sales exceeding 5 million copies. She has also published 20 complete books of piano music. Line attributes her success to the basics – hard work, talent, perseverance and gut instincts. She is involved with every aspect of her company: management, sales, direct mail, public relations, marketing, tour scheduling, web site management, and music creation. ”It’s hard to believe that the company I started in my basement is now the second largest artist-owned record label in North America,” she says. “People always ask me how we do it all by ourselves. It is overwhelming if you think about it too much. But, because I do something that I absolutely love, my job is rewarding and continually fun.”  Does the name Mark Maxwell ( ring a bell? Perhaps not. But he's one of the best-selling saxophonists in the world. And although his name is not a household word, his 17 self-promoted solo releases have sold nearly 500,000 copies (yes, half a million) without the support of a record label or significant radio airplay. David Nevue ( quit a good-paying tech job a few years ago to become a full-time musician and author. The move wasn’t exactly a risky one. Over the previous six years he had spent much of his  -7- spare time building awareness for his spiritual solo piano music on the Internet. Through hard work and persistence, he went from obscurity to being one of the most widely played independent New Age artists. He now has thousands of fans and earns more than $5,000 a month from his various independent music activities. Nevue shares his secrets in a book called How to Promote Your Music Successfully on the Internet.  The Philadelphia-based indie band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah used online buzz and word of mouth to sell 270,000 copies of its debut CD. Guitarist Robbie Guertin told Spin magazine, “What can [a record label] do for us that we can’t do ourselves? Maybe if someone came up with a good answer, we’d sign. But no one has yet.” John Taglieri (, a solo singer/songwriter from New Jersey (featured in Chapter 8), has sold more than 12,000 of his own CDs primarily using the Internet. It took her more than four years and 200 live shows a year to do it, but singer/songwriter April Nash ( sold over 60,000 copies of her self-released CD.   Doing it yourself You’ve most likely heard of singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco. At age 20, she started her own label, Righteous Babe Records (, and began performing a growing number of solo acoustic shows. Coffeehouse gigs led to colleges, then larger theaters and major folk festivals. Over a seven-year period she sold more than 400,000 copies of her many independent releases (an average of 66,500 units per year). In one year alone, DiFranco performed 130 shows and generated almost $2 million in gross ticket sales. She’s been written about in glowing terms by just about every major magazine and newspaper. Note: DiFranco was one of the early indie music pioneers who, in the 1990s, accomplished all of her success without a major record label, commercial radio airplay, MTV exposure, or advertising. “If you are disgustingly sincere and terribly diligent, there are ways for any serious artist to operate outside the corporate structure,” she once told the Los Angeles Times. According to the Righteous Babe web site, “Along the way, she has inspired countless other musicians to rewrite the rules of the recording industry by striving for self-sufficiency and refusing to allow art to be subsumed by commerce. Small wonder, then, that Ani made CMJ’s list of the 25 most influential artists of the last 25 years, taking her place alongside U2, Nirvana, the Pixies, and Radiohead.” -8- So the next time you get down in the dumps because that major label recording contract hasn’t come your way yet, pause and realize that – like DiFranco and other self-supporting musicians – you may be better off as an independent artist. And don’t think that the examples I use here are rare, isolated cases. Granted, most indie acts don’t reach such impressive levels. But there are thousands of songwriters, musicians and bands turning a decent profit. And they’re doing it their own way – doing something they have a real passion for: making and sharing music. Putting your music career in focus This manual was written to help you get a grip on the confusing topics of music marketing, promotion and sales. The concepts, ideas and suggestions in these pages are simple. That’s not to say they’re always easy. There’s work to be done here, but it’s the kind of activity that’s well within your ability to pull off. The problem with most independent music people, even the ones who take lots of action, is that their effort is wasted on the wrong activities. By the time you finish reading and working with this book, you’ll have a much clearer idea of how to direct your energies. There are a few essential principles that run throughout these pages. They include the following: 1) Question everything you’ve ever been told about the music business. If you get involved in the music biz for long, you’ll encounter plenty of people – some with impressive résumés – who will offer you their best music business advice. That’s fine. The more information you take in, the better educated you’ll be. But remain flexible and open-minded. The rules are changing quickly, so beware of anyone with an outdated, blackand-white view of the music world. These days, you get to pick and choose which existing “rules” truly apply to you – and you can create more empowering rules that suit you along the way. 2) Give yourself permission to succeed. The biggest mistake you can make is waiting for someone or something else to deem you worthy of pursuing a music career. You don’t need an official sanction or a green light from anyone other than yourself (and the segment of the fan population you serve). So go ahead and give yourself approval right now! 3) Whenever you take action to promote your music, you must know exactly why you’re taking the action to begin with. Action by itself is not enough. You must know the purpose behind your actions. What is the real outcome you desire? The best way to make sure you’re going about things effectively is to come up with a plan that makes sense, have very -9- focused goals, and realize that you need to provide a benefit (or solution) to everyone you connect with in the music business. 4) Think outside of your mental box. Human beings are creatures of habit. We become victims of our own routines. Therefore, it’s no surprise that we slip into a narrow way of doing things. Habits are quite useful when they involve brushing your teeth, getting dressed, and driving a car. But when it comes to promoting your music, this routine way of thinking – and acting – is stunting your progress. When you market yourself the same way you’ve always done it, or the same way a thousand other artists have done it, you become part of the great indie music swamp in which everyone looks and sounds the same. Your music marketing challenge In this manual, I’ll poke and prod you to be different, to expand your thinking, to focus your goals and actions – in essence, to become a true Guerrilla Music Marketer. We won’t be talking about national advertising campaigns, music videos on MTV, or worldwide retail distribution. Instead, the following pages will show you how to:     Work from the trenches, with little or no money Use often-overlooked techniques to give your music wider exposure Build a following one fan at a time Use each small success as a stepping stone to a bigger and more significant success story I’m also going to ask you to do some serious soul searching and then commit your thoughts to paper by filling out the two Activity Worksheet sections. On these pages I take the main points covered throughout the book and give you a space to craft your own responses. I implore you to use these worksheets! For it is here where my assorted suggestions come to life and become your own. By writing in these sections, you’ll get a clearer idea of where you are and in what direction you need to be heading. Guerrilla techniques in action It was using these same guerrilla tactics – while capturing my thoughts and goals on paper – that led me to start playing music when I was 15. (The year was 1975, in case you’re keeping score.) In the 1980s I played the club circuit full time throughout the Midwest as a singer/guitarist/songwriter, and I later played in bands that each put out independent releases. I continue to play music part-time to this day. - 10 - I used many of the very ideas in this book to launch my own local music magazine in 1987. I didn’t have much money to work with and had no connections or experience with publishing. What I did have was a good concept and a knack for writing. That newspaper, called Spotlight, grew and flourished for 10 years until I stopped doing it in 1997. I put the paper to rest so I could concentrate on writing and publishing resources like this one. In 1993, a company published my first book, 101 Ways to Make Money in the Music Business (now out of print). I realized then that being an author would be a big part of my future. Later that year I founded the St. Louis Regional Music Showcase, an annual music conference that ran for five years in the Midwest. In 1996, I self-published the first version of the book you hold in your hands. Evolving over the years In the mid to late 1990s, after years of writing music success columns in the print world, I established an online presence for indie music marketing tips at At last count, my e-zine, also called The Buzz Factor, was approaching 10,000 subscribers. In more recent years, I’ve also been publishing blogs, a podcast and video content. I’ve also cranked out many more books and spoken-word audio programs, including Music Marketing Crash Course, MySpace Music Marketing, Unleash the Artist Within and Branding Yourself Online – while also speaking at music industry conferences. Why the résumé listing? To make a point: I wasn’t born into a wealthy family. I don’t have friends who wield great power, nor do I have any special abilities. I’m certainly not a super salesman and I don’t have a hyper, Type-A personality. Insight: But I realized early on that I had a mind, just like everyone else’s, that I could use to make things happen. The only thing was, it seemed so many people around me felt as if they were victims of circumstance; that life handed them their fate and they were just along for the ride. That wasn’t good enough for me. After reading many inspiring books and pondering about life for a while, I came to the conclusion that our lives are simply a reflection of our accumulated thoughts and actions. There’s a great quote by Earl Nightingale that goes, “We become what we think about most of the time.” If you truly comprehend that simple statement, it will change your life. The secret to musical success The problem with people living dead-end lives is that they think dead-end thoughts. People who enjoy successful lives think successful thoughts – and then reinforce those thoughts with positive action. - 11 - Once I realized this simple but powerful truth, I started directing my thoughts in more productive ways. And the actions followed quite naturally. No doubt, I’ve stumbled many times on my journey through life and the music business (and I continue to), but the rewards have been many. And they keep growing every year. Bottom line: Thoughts are things. What starts as an intangible concept grows into a reality as a result of mental focus combined with real-life activity. In fact, this is exactly how all songs are created. So I ask you: What thoughts do you have about your present and future as an independent musician? And what actions are materializing as a result? The Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook will help you sort out the answers, open your mind to the infinite possibilities around you, and motivate you to take the steps necessary to climb higher up the ladder of success with your music. How to use this book Many of the chapters in this manual were originally written as separate special reports. While I have arranged them in a sequence that makes sense to me, you don’t have to read the segments in any particular order. However, I do suggest that you read Section 1, “Guerrilla Music Basic Training,” first. These chapters give you a good foundation for the information contained throughout the rest of the book. Other than that, feel free to examine the sections and chapters that relate to whatever marketing or music career topic you want to focus on at the time. Warning: While I’ve gone to great lengths to load up this book with creative marketing tactics and techniques, I encourage you not to get so consumed by the tactical details that you lose sight of the big picture: making great music and sharing it with a growing number of fans. It’s not the web site, media exposure, or CD cover art that’s most important. What’s most essential is how those things help you connect with more fans in a meaningful way. I’m grateful that you’re allowing me to share these ideas with you. I sincerely hope you soak up the tips revealed in these pages and put them to good use. I look forward to one day hearing about your far-reaching musical achievements. Much success to you. Now get out there and promote yourself! -Bob - 12 - Section 1 Guerrilla Music Basic Training - 13 - Chapter 1 3 Simple Steps to Effective Music Marketing Ready to dive into this first chapter? Great. Here’s a simple question for you: What is music marketing? Sure, you know it’s something you have to do. You have at least some grasp of what is it. You recognize it when you see it (most of the time). But at its most basic level, can you explain what it is? And more importantly, can you spell out the basic elements of effective music marketing? Because, after all, if you’re going to invest your time and energy in promotion, it better be effective. Right? Don’t worry if you can’t come up with a quick answer to my question. On the other hand, please don’t curse me if you think you know the answer and feel my probing here is pointless. Because it isn’t. If you plan to read this book and use these ideas to create a music promotion plan for your music, you better damn well know why you’re doing it. You need to understand the underlying principles at work here. These elements are simple, but they’re often glossed over by eager musicians who just want to “get their name out there.” Getting your name out there is fine. It’s better than doing nothing at all. But mindless music marketing – without focus and purpose – usually leads to frustration and continued obscurity. The solution: Look under the hood and get a grasp of what’s at the core of every effective music promotion plan. - 14 - The three stages of music marketing When it comes right down to it, music marketing consists of these three elements: 1) Creating awareness – taking action to communicate your identity to a specific audience 2) Making connections – starting and maintaining relationships with a growing number of fans and media/business contacts 3) Asking for the sale – generating cash flow and creating incentives for fans to spend money There they are. The three stages of marketing. In a nutshell. Seems simple enough, right? Then why do so many music promoters get it wrong? They spend time on one or two of these stages but ignore the second or third. Or they get busy doing a bunch of marketing “stuff” but don’t stop and think long enough to ponder how their efforts fit into the three-stage process. Don’t make these mistakes! Want some examples? Have you ever seen a band or record label run an ad that shouts out something along the lines of “Wakeup Call, the New CD From the ABC Band. In Stores Now!” Just the name of the band, the name of the CD, and the fact that it is now on sale. Perhaps you’ve even created an ad or flier like this yourself. What’s wrong with this picture? Well, with this ad, the band is creating awareness, and it is asking for the sale. But it leaves out an entire, all-important stage: developing relationships with fans. This error would be especially unforgivable if this was the only marketing method the band was using. Why? Because consumers typically need repeated exposures to something before they’ll get out their wallets. In addition, they need to feel a connection to the music and the artist. This ad does nothing to facilitate the relationship. And that means wasted money spent on advertising. Another example: Have you ever known (or been in) a wonderful band that does a good job of creating awareness and a great job of connecting with fans – perhaps through their live shows? But then they drop the ball when it comes to asking for the sale and generating cash flow. They don’t make people aware that they even have CDs for sale and don’t make enticing offers for fans to buy now. - 15 - Again, they’re only putting together pieces of the puzzle. And it’s the missing pieces that are stopping them from reaching the music career level they really want to be at. To help you use the three stages of music marketing better, let’s examine each stage and go over a summary of how you can make the most effective use of each one. 1) Creating awareness This is the crucial first step. You really can’t do much with the next two stages until you’re getting results from this stage. Obviously, exposure is your main goal here. But before fans, the media and other people in the music business can help you, they need to be aware of you. They need to be familiar with your name and the type of sound you create. As you’ll read in a number of chapters throughout this book, there are certain things you need to do before you march out into the world and start promoting yourself. First, you must:    Define who you are as an artist. Determine who your ideal fans are. Come up with a way to clearly communicate your identity to these ideal fans (and media/business contacts). Once those issues have been addressed, you take action to communicate your musical identity (and the benefits you offer) to a specific target audience. Some of the ways you accomplish this is to:              Perform live as often as you can. Pin up posters to promote your gigs. Register a domain name and create an artist web site. Set up a artist profile. Post music video clips on Research and discover where your ideal fans congregate online and off. Contact influential bloggers and podcasters. Pursue media coverage online and off. Set up shop on sites like,, and more. Write and distribute press releases. Pursue radio airplay online and off. Determine the words and phrases that potential fans use to search for new music like yours. Optimize your web pages so they’re more likely to be found with those key words and phrases. - 16 -  Determine what popular artists you sound like and tie into those artists’ existing fan bases. This is just a quick overview of the steps involved in this stage (I’ll get into more details about many of them later), but it should give you a good idea of what creating awareness is all about. 2) Making connections This is the step way too many aspiring musicians try to skip over. And they do so at their own peril. Quite often, artists don’t even realize they’re turning their backs on this step, or they don’t comprehend the importance of it to begin with. Core idea: As an independent artist, you can’t think only in terms of marketing to the masses. That’s an old-school, major-label strategy. So stop thinking about marketing as a way to catapult your message to an enormous, faceless crowd from a distance. Guerrilla music marketing is personal. It’s often delivered one-on-one. And even when you do direct a message to a sizeable audience, that audience is targeted and predisposed to like you. And, when communicating to crowds, your tone should be warm and personal. In fact, that’s one of the things that sets you apart from bands that are mass-promoted and “handled” by corporations. So, how do you start and maintain personal relationships with a growing number of fans and music business contacts? Here are just some of the actions you can take:            Build a mailing list by collecting names, e-mail addresses, and snail-mail addresses at your live shows. Talk to people at your live shows and become friends with your fans. Put an e-mail sign-up form on every page of your web site. Create incentives for fans to join your e-mail list. Send e-mail updates to your fan list at least twice a month. Mail post card announcements to your fan list every other month. Communicate with editors, reviewers, bloggers and podcasters in your genre and nurture relationships with them. Reply to all fan and industry e-mails promptly. Respond to people who post comments on your pages at MySpace, YouTube, etc. Start a blog and share your music-related thoughts and experiences with your fans. Thank your fans often and treat them well. - 17 - Can you see how important this step is? Your job is not only to make people aware of you. Your job is to notice the people who connect with you the most (or who can potentially help you the most) and cement the bond between you. 3) Asking for the sale When I encounter musicians who ignore this step, it always leaves me scratching my head. Why don’t more artists ask for the sale and encourage fans to spend money? Well, sometimes they simply forget to ask. Other times they’re too shy or they fear they’ll be perceived as cheap hucksters. My advice: Get over it! Want to know the biggest reason musicians avoid this essential stage? Insecurity. It’s the feeling that their music has no value and is not worth paying for. That’s too bad. Because if they’d only take a few more steps to encourage fans to buy, these artists would find that fans have a different opinion. Most consumers who spend money on music feel that it enriches their lives and have no problem parting with a small amount of cash to take home new music or download it to their computers. So get it into your head that your music is worth paying for. And make a commitment to this important third music marketing ingredient by doing the following:            Announce that you have CDs and merchandise for sale at your gigs – and have some fun with it. Set up an attractive, efficient merchandise table at shows. Make every music CD you release available for sale on Sell your CDs on through its Advantage Program. Use CD Baby’s digital distribution program to make your tracks available on iTunes, Rhapsody, eMusic and other major music download services. Stress customer benefits, not the features of your CDs. Use testimonials from satisfied fans and the media. Offer a money-back guarantee on sales from your own web site – yes, even for digital downloads. Sell more by offering a collection of your CDs and merchandise at a special bulk price. Make limited-time and limited-quantity offers. Offer lots of free bonuses to fans who buy now or at a minimum purchase amount. Selling your music is not the evil deed many musicians make it out to be. On the contrary, it’s an essential element to a successful music career. - 18 - So commit these three simple steps to memory. Engrave them in your brain. And the next time you create a new promotion plan, make sure your efforts are hitting on some combination of these three effective music marketing steps:    Creating awareness Making connections Asking for the sale Keep your eye on these three simple elements at all times. Doing so will make a world of difference in your pursuit of indie music success. - 19 - Chapter 4 The #1 Question You Must Answer When Promoting Your Music I’m going to use this entire chapter to deal with only one subject because it’s so vital to the success of your music promotion efforts. Every day I see the same mistake being made in this area and feel I owe it to you to drive this crucial point home. Suppose you walked into a record store and one of the employees (a complete stranger to you) came up and handed you a box filled with CDs. Then he said, “Here, these are extra promo copies we’re giving away. You can have any CD you want out of the box. But you can take only one.” Now let’s pretend that you were not familiar with any of these artists. As you picked up each CD to consider whether or not you wanted it, what would be the first question to pop into your head? In other words, what basic question would you need to answer first before you could make an intelligent (and quick) decision on which one you’d take? Would it be “Who produced this CD?” No. Would it be “What record label put this out?” Probably not. How about “Where is this act from?” or “How many awards has this band won?” No. And no. Would it be “How highly do these musicians think of their own music?” No. - 20 - Hopefully, you’ve come to the same conclusion that I have. The first question that anyone asks when encountering new music is … What kind of music is this? I use this box of free CDs example to make a point: This is exactly the same position that music editors, program directors, A&R people, and music publishers are in when they receive your unsolicited recordings along with dozens of others. Even though it’s great to think that everyone already knows who you are and what you do, the sad truth is that most of your contacts will be clueless. That’s why giving them the first and most important clue up front is essential. Key point: Human beings need some way to process information and file it away in the proper place in their heads before moving on to any follow-up questions, such as “Where is this band from?” or “What unique spin do they put on this genre?” Without creating a mental category or comparison to something fans are already familiar with, it’s nearly impossible to get to these important follow-up questions. And if you can’t move this sorting-out process along in a swift manner, your music marketing efforts end up dead in the water. Why, then, do so many people who promote music either ignore answering this fundamental question – “What kind of music is this?” – or bury the answer so deep in their promotion materials that the reader gives up out of frustration before ever uncovering it? Unless you are (or are working with) a well-known artist, the people receiving your promo kits will be in the dark regarding who you are and what you play. Your job, therefore, is to answer that first all-important question right off the bat: “What kind of music is this?” It should be one of the first things people see when viewing your press kit, web site, or any other marketing tool you create. Straight from the slush pile Here’s an example I randomly pulled out of an overflowing box of review CDs years ago when I was a music editor. After opening the package, the first thing I see is a cover letter. Here’s how it reads (I’ve changed the name of the person, label and band to protect the misguided): “My name is John Jones, vice president of Widget Records, here in New York. I’m writing to announce that one of our bands, the Losers, will be playing in St. Louis on July 24.” It’s important to Jones that he announces who he is and what he does right off the bat. I’m sure this makes him feel good about himself. But how does this introduction move him closer to his goal of getting media coverage for the poor Losers? At least I know about the St. Louis date, something that should matter to - 21 - me. But since I don’t know what kind of music this is, I’m not impressed. On to the next paragraph. “The Losers’ music is already on national college and commercial radio.” Excellent. His mother must be very proud of him. But is this jazz radio? Alternative radio? Polka radio? Ten stations? Eight hundred stations? What? I’m still being kept in the dark. “The Losers are a new band founded in New York City. These shows are part of a year-long tour to promote their debut album.” More senseless background details before I even know what kind of music this band plays. But one thing I do know is that Jones sure likes talking about his band and its accomplishments. Now I’m starting to doze off. A musical diamond in the rough So I keep reading anyway, and finally, I come across this gem: “The Losers’ music combines Celtic violin with punk-influenced distorted guitars and melodic rock vocals ...” What? A description of the music? Say it isn’t so! And I only had to wait till the fourth paragraph to get it. And it ends up being a pretty cool description: Celtic violin with punk guitars. Now that’s different. That’s something I’d like to pop in the CD player and check out. What a great media hook for the band! Unfortunately, the label’s vice president has done the group a disservice by burying this vital piece of information in a dreary cover letter. Most media people would have given up on it long before they got to the intriguing description. But this never occurred to Jones. It was much more important for him to pound his chest and proclaim his name, title, city and the fact that his as-yet-undefined band was getting radio airplay. What a missed opportunity! Don’t make this same error. There’s a better way How much more effective would Jones have been if his letter went something like this? “Dear Bob, When we first told people we had signed a band that combined Celtic violins with distorted punk guitars and melodic rock vocals, they told us we were crazy. But we proved them all wrong with the Losers, a band that is now on a major roll. Last - 22 - month alone, over 325 college stations around the country were playing cuts off the band’s new self-titled CD. And now you can experience the Losers yourself when they come to St. Louis on July 24. I think your readers would get a kick out of hearing about this unusual Celtic/violin/punk-rock mix.” Admit it. This version pulls you in and lets you know what you’re dealing with quickly and interestingly – as opposed to Jones’s dry meanderings. Are you guilty of a PR felony? Take a look at the promotional tools you’re using now. What’s the first thing you see? Your address? The band members’ names? The record label name? Some vague reference to how impressive your music is without a specific definition of it? Stop beating around the bush and start getting to the heart of the matter. Media and industry people are often overworked and distracted. Don’t shroud your message in mystery, hoping it will tease people and make them read further. Remember this: No one will ever be as interested in reading your marketing materials as you are. So give them what they need up front, fast and simple. And answer the most important question first: “What kind of music is this?” Thanks for reading this Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook sampler ebook. To learn more about this classic guide to independent music promotion, please visit for more details and to see & hear what people are saying about it. -Bob Baker - 23 -

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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:09 PM   5 comments


At Jul 31, 2009, 5:33:00 AM, Blogger mista said...

hi BOB,
you share priceless,wonderful info to us i wish all my Kenyans indie musicians got this

At Aug 6, 2009, 1:32:00 PM, Anonymous IndieBandAlliance said...

Great stuff as always Bob. Been reading your stuff for years online and (I think) in Canadian Musician going back a decade or so. I like how you put in a lot of empowerment into your writing, I feel like I could have used more when I was just starting out. Love that widget too - I might have to give it a try myself!


At Aug 6, 2009, 3:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice of you to offer a sampler. To quote your own newsletter: "your job is to make it easy for your fans and supporters to share your music and web site"

You have here someone who has pent money with you before, but can't see this sampler because of (1) the FLASH requirement (I don't and won't use FLASH) and (2) the requirement to create another account with a third party (Enough already).

You aren't heeding your own advice. It ain't easy for this existing customer to try and buy more stuff from you.

I would be interested to see you address this in your next email newsletter.


At Aug 6, 2009, 3:35:00 PM, Blogger Bob Baker said...

Gene, Thanks for the feedback! It's true, I have encouraged musicians to make it easy for fans to access what they offer.

I have also often stated that I use as many new and available technologies as possible to spread my message - and I encourage others to do the same.

The vast majority of my web site (and web presence, for that matter) can be accessed by most computers without needing plug-ins or extra applications.

So I don't really feel bad using a cool widget that only some people can't or don't want to access. I respect your wish to not use Flash ever, but that shouldn't stop me from experimenting with at least some Flash-based methods of reaching new readers.

Sites like Scribd attract millions of readers. To choose not to use it would be limiting the numbers of people I can reach with my message.

So while I don't go out of my way to make it harder for the shrinking number of people who use dial-up to access my stuff, I also won't pass up new ways to spread the word to people in the broadband/Flash majority.

Hope this makes sense. Thanks for inspiring this lively discussion!


P.S. Scribd doesn't require you to create an account to access the widget. Not sure what you mean by that.

At Aug 11, 2009, 12:57:00 PM, Anonymous Will Duke said...

I've recommended this book for at least a year, and have consumed many chapters from it, but I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't ever read the intro/forward!

It makes me want to pick it up again, and promote it that much more - great advice for the young artists for sure.

And as time goes by, it's gonna be even better, because we all see what's happening out there. The independent artist has an advantage we never had...

And for the record, I think the widget is killer, and I'll definitely be looking to incorporate something similar on The Mastering Blog ... 'course it would be cooler if I also had something published :)

Thanks again Bob!


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