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"Gum At The Wall" Marketing Approaches And Why They Don't Work
Robin Spielberg,

MusicDish Network Sponsor
Focus marketing has been key in the success of our indie music label playMountain Music. I am constantly astounded by the sheer number of artists that take the approach of "throwing lots of gum at the wall and settling for what happens to stick". This is not only a waste of time, but a waste of energy and financial resources--all so precious to the hard working indie artist.

To be successful in this ever-changing business with ever-changing challenges, today's indie artist simply MUST be as passionate about business and marketing as they are about their music. No amount of money or hired expertise can substitute for the artist's own passion of getting his/her music heard.

And so, my first word of advice is start with your passion. Who do you want to reach? What are your sales goals? (come on, pick a number, any number) Is it your desire to build a huge radio audience? Is it to have a busy tour schedule? A little of both?

Here's one example of the "Gum At The Wall" marketing approaches not working:

I have seen artists whose egos were well-served by hiring radio promoters so that their indie records would gain airplay and perhaps even show up on radio charts. This is all fine and good. But what happens if you are actually successful in such a campaign?

Let's say your CD holds a position in the top five of your genre for several months? Ok, so some people have heard your music. But if you have not worked on successfully marketing your music to distribution outlets and stores, or if you have not at a minimum set up a web site shopping cart, you have spent good hard earned money on radio promotion without putting the building blocks in place and your CD buzz will end as soon as the radio campaign ends.

If this seems oh so obvious to you, then good! I have seen over a dozen artists make the exact same mistake I just mentioned. Their records received air play on nationally syndicated radio programs but were nowhere to be found in stores on or off-line.

Here in my own business office, we have a multi-pronged approach to marketing. First, we keep track of purchases made through our web site ( Having 12 CDs and 4 songbooks for sale, we know, for example, that we can send mailings to those who have previously purchased sheet music about an upcoming book release. This saves us the expense of mailing to the thousands of buyers who have not purchased sheet music, but are perhaps interested only in the holiday CDs. By using a database program like Filemaker Pro, we can organize our mailings by purchase, state or zip code, and coordinate these mailings with upcoming concert appearances. Moreover, e-mail newsletters advertising internet-only specials, go out quarterly.

We still use traditional methods of distribution such as Borders Books and Music, but now we complement them with the ease-of-use sites like and as well as our own site.

There is no need to be in every store in every state, or on every web site that sells music. Keeping our invoicing streamlined is, for us, the way to go. It can actually be HARMFUL to be in too many stores. Why? Because that means your inventory is "all over the place", and after six months time, it may very well come back to you cracked, chipped, broken, stickered... and all at your expense. Rotating distribution outlets , for us, makes a lot more sense. Believe me, if your fans are looking for your music, they will find it. And if stores are getting repeated requests for your music, the distributors will find YOU.

After experimenting with, offering free downloads, we decided that digital downloading was not for us. Yet. Yes, 3000 people downloaded my bonus track from "Dreaming of Summer", but that just proved people enjoyed downloading the track for free. I am not yet sold on the digital download sites as a profitable business for indies. At the moment, I would rather put energy into foreign music licensing. It's a big world!

Contests, free concerts, playing for a cause (benefits), are all ways to grow the indie artist's mailing list, which is the #1 marketing tool in my book.

Focus marketing is not only the most economical approach to your music business. It is a way of focusing yourSELF, your music, and your own goals.

This article was made possible by a call-for-articles, Focus Marketing, a company bridging data analysis and marketing strategy development for the music industry, to independent artists and labels on their experiences in promoting and selling their music.

Provided by the MusicDish Network. Copyright © Tag It 2004 - Republished with Permission