Don’t Advertise Your Music CD and THEN You’ll See Sales Soar

So you and your band just finished a killer EP or full-length of tunes you’ve all been slaving over for the last several weeks or months. You’ve dropped some serious coin into the right kind of software and the right kind of recording space. Or maybe some even more serious coin into a professional engineer, studio time, mastering, and post-production services. You’ve got artwork and a set list for your live CD release party.

And now you’ve got to let people know that you exist. Well, whatever you do, DON’T advertise. Think I’m crazy? I tell you what, I’ve published two books (one is being turned into a Lifetime Television movie) and I manage two heavy metal bands with albums, one band of which I serve as music publisher as well. (One of my bands opened for the Goo Goo Dolls and has a film soundtrack deal with a Sci-Fi Channel production). I’ve never had to pay for an advertisement to promote any of the products I’ve been involved with. If you want to see your sales and opportunities soar, take a look at these three most powerful marketing jet engines that will cost you next to nothing to ignite and get you launched.

Paid advertising for a product, no matter what it is, is not a short-term endeavor. You have to have consistency, frequency, and a long-term approach. It’s expensive to do that and hardly worth it at all unless you can afford to advertise very frequently, in the right markets, through the most important channels, in prime sections of advertising space, and over the course of many weeks or months.

A one-time ad in a weekly newspaper will only make a splash if it’s a full-page (ideally, back page of the issue) ad. And even then, the splash might not be big enough to cover the expense of the ad. A 15-second radio spot has to be broadcast very frequently to be even the least bit effective, not just a couple two or three times per day either. Ideally, at least, three to seven times per hour to start getting attention paid to what’s being advertised. Television is the same way. Prime markets cost more. Prime time slots cost more. You can buy 50 spots to broadcast your radio ad, but if your broadcasts are all between 3am and 5am, Monday through Friday (the cheapest slots), you’re not getting anything out of that wasted effort.

Anyway, the perception of paid advertising doesn’t have the same effect as other types of marketing. It is still widely known in business industries of all kinds that people find what is said in an advertisement generally to be less reliable and credible than what is said in, say, a piece of publicity, or in a journalist’s article, or in a blurb in their local news. T

he basic idea is, technically, anyone can buy an ad and say whatever they want within the laws of truth-in-advertising and the FCC. But getting interviewed, featured on the news, being a guest on a talk show, or getting to perform live in studio for broadcast on radio or television, are not things that “just anyone” can do. There are more stringent filters and more intense competition for that type of marketing. As a result, most people in the general buying public will take that media appearance more seriously than just a straight up paid advertisement.

Two of the best forms of marketing for an entertainment product such as a book, music CD, or DVD are still…and probably will always be…viral marketing and publicity. Viral marketing includes word-of-mouth and anything that “catches fire” on the Internet; anything that spreads from person to person at school, work, on the streets, or online. And publicity is getting placement of press releases and getting interviewed or appearing in print, television, radio, or online media outlets. Publicity can also include tying your product to a larger endeavor, product, or marketing campaign…like getting a song placed in a movie soundtrack or having your CD packaged with a fast-food joint’s value meals.

How do you start making the best use of viral marketing and publicity? First, you spend all your money and effort to make the best, most unique, most slamming product you possibly can. Next, you gather a list of the first people you’ll be introducing that product to (maybe even for free).

These people MUST be the kind of people that are like “gatekeepers” to the market you want to reach. They could be anyone from a well-connected industry exec, to the host of a popular show, to a local celebrity, to just a regular scenester party animal that everyone seems to know and like no matter where he/she goes in town. THESE people are the ones that have a lot of friends, connections, and influence and they can get a lot of people interested in your product in the fastest time. They can start the viral marketing off for you.

You, then, also want to make sure that you prepare a solid press kit so you can go after publicity. Don’t make a ton of press kits and let them sit around collecting dust. Simply put, get a copy of your CD, a one page bio of your band, a good quality photo of your band, and a cover letter where you introduce yourself to the specific editor or show producer and you ask the guy/gal to feature your band (and mention your new album or upcoming CD release party). Make sure your name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and band website are on EVERYTHING – on the CD itself, the CD liner notes, the back of the photo, and on each separate page of each document in the press kit.

Put all the pieces of the press kit in a nice folder of some sort to keep it all together, and there you go. The very first thing to do, though, with the media is to go to the website of the show, radio station, newspaper, or television station that you want your band featured on and look for an e-mail address for any show producer or assignment editor. Make an e-mail version of your press kit’s cover letter and send that as a plain text e-mail, short and sweet, to the media person you choose.

Let the person know that you and your band have a lot of exciting things going on and that you are available to be featured. Make a bullet point list of 3-10 extremely interesting things that make your band stand out from every other band out there. Then follow-up by sending your press kit by mail to that person. The important thing when working with the media, whether local or national, is to build relationships and think long-term. Keep at it and you’ll get the publicity that will be right for your band and will help sales of your CD.

Of course, there are hundreds of ways to market an entertainment product. Everything from cooperative distribution, to sponsorship of causes and events, to celebrity endorsements, to name branding, to breaking local ordinances in the name of art, to just going person-to-person, door-to-door and selling by hand one-to-one.

Keep something else in mind, marketing doesn’t start when the product is finished and in your hands. Good marketing starts about the same time the product starts to get created. This is especially true for entertainment products. You’ve got to get a buzz going to some extent very early so that you don’t end up with a spare bedroom (or worse, a warehouse) full of product that nobody has ever heard of yet. Start the marketing as soon as you start the creation of the product.

Finally, the third and most important marketing tool ever is your own creativity. Brainstorm the craziest ideas possible to get your CD in the hands of a drooling, hungry fanbase. Everyone does local shows and says “we’ve got CDs for sale, five bucks.” SO! Get creative. I manage two heavy metal bands. At one show, a well-endowed girl at the merch table was drinking a Snapple. I got on the microphone (after getting her permission, of course) and said, “If you go over to the merch table to buy a CD, our merch girl will take off her top!”

Do you think guys went? Uh, yeah! Out of curiosity if nothing else. She flirted mercilessly and made them all buy something then…tada…she took the top off her Snapple with great fanfare and read aloud what it said under the cap as if it was ancient Chinese wisdom. (I don’t even remember what it said, but the looks on the faces of those guys were priceless.)

Hey, we didn’t lie! Happily, nobody asked for their money back and everyone had a good laugh about it. My point is, get creative. U2 took a flatbed truck and performed live on it, without any fanfare, while simply driving through the streets of Manhattan unannounced. By the time they got under the Brooklyn Bridge, they had thousands of people in the audience and media crawling all over to watch and broadcast the free concert. Such a cheap and easy stunt might not work for everyone, but it definitely was creative. Most importantly, it worked.

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