Sounds Like… Fitting In Before Being Different
As an artist, is it more important to be fitting in, or more important to be different? Maybe a bit of both.
You’re in a relatively unknown band. I can be reasonably sure that’s true or you wouldn’t be looking for marketing tips. How do you get someone to stop long enough at your page to listen?
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Take your artist ego right now and stuff it in the closet. You know the one, the one that tells you you’re unique and have your own sound. Oh, you might, but that attitude won’t get you fans. Now figure who you’re really like. Not who influenced you, not who you want to sound like, but who people tell you you sound like.
Marketing is about convincing people they need to take some action. Like listening or buying. In reality, they may not need what you tell them, but a good marketing campaign will get them to open their ears and wallets. Remember the Pet Rock?
If I want to get you to do something and you have no idea who I am, I better be able to teach you who I am in a few seconds, cuz mama told you never to talk to strangers. You must find familiar points that someone just introduced to you can understand immediately.
Like … who do you sound like?
Well, after polling a bunch of enemies and friends (never choose just one group, always get a spread), you find you sound like The Steaming Nachos. It does not take a genius to realize that if someone likes The Steaming Nachos, they will probably like you. You may not have the same instrumentation, the same skill, the trademark cheddarwhammy riff, but there’s enough there to make the connection. ELP does not sound like Yes, yet the similarities tend to say if you like one, you like the other. No, I know you don’t, you’re a musician. We’re talking about normal people. So, now that your ego is in the closet, find out what The Steaming Nachos does and steal their ideas. Hey, this is marketing and it’s a ruthless world. Why go through the work when you can steal someone elses?
Seriously, try to make your site familiar (Not exactly similar) to theirs. Do they have an active forum on their site? Get one. Picture galleries? Poetry? The idea is for you to be able to get that fan of The Steaming Nachos, drag them to your site and they will be comfortable enough to stay and check it out. This is an easy way of fitting in.
Now go to The Steaming Nachos site, become a regular poster, and lure people to your site.
There’s more to fitting in than just that. For example, another way of fitting in is lifestyle association. People in their 30s who played D and D in high school listen to Jethro Tull. Again, not 100% accurate, but a demographic anomaly to use to your advantage. Some forms of music have certain lifestyle connections. Goth and Punk being the most obvious, since part of that lifestyle includes being “inyoface”. Make sure your site links to AND FROM related sites. 70s style guitar metal? Get a link exchange from motorcycle shops. Horrorcore? Link exchange with gothwear shops. Skatepunk? Better email every boardshop on the net and ask for link exchange. Linedance? I refuse to give any clue what might help you, sorry.
There’s the obvious design things for fitting in as well. Goth bands do things with black and red. Country bands have cowboy boots. If you’re in a heavy image genre, you better present the image right up front to let the visitor know what to expect.
OK, now that you’re biting your lip and saying you’re none of these things and too fresh to be genrecized, deal with it. Fitting in on some levels is important. If you do techno-polka, show me a bit of both. If you’re multi-genre (REALLY – not Rock, Classic Rock and Guitar Rock) then present an imagery that appeals to your fan base. A portrait. Clear logos. Show what instruments you use. If you can’t, then keep it simple.
Once upon a time I was fortunate to be doing some design work for a magazine called Vibe. One of the guys who ran Vibe at the time was some dude named Quincy Jones. Quincy liked things simple. When showing a design that had an “artist feature” area and a picture of the artist featured with a glow and cool stylistic effects, his reply was “I don’t want to see lightning shooting from their eyes. Show me them.”
All portraits shown on the Vibe website went to absolutely plain on plain one color backgrounds.
It’s a lot cleaner. And the image works for hip hop, latino, dance, jazz, R&B? You don’t have to say an image didn’t look right for the artist. They’re always just the artist. No way to turn off a listener before they hear you. Unless maybe you’re just that ugly.
Which brings us to the next topic.
I need to say no more about this topic. If you aren’t aware that sex interests people, then maybe music isn’t for you. Obscenity, on the other hand, may or may not sell. Depends on genre. If you’re in hip hop, the language is almost expected, and OK on your site if you’re any hardcore genre. Otherwise, don’t risk offending the visitor. Speaking of which, if you do Christian Music you may want to forget the sex sells part. But generally, a sexy picture gets a little better reaction than the one of you the morning after that party at the beach house. And you’ll probably have fun taking sexy pictures of the band anyway. Unless you’re all middle-aged unwashed overweight bald bikers with beards. Not that there’s anything wrong with that?
At this point, hopefully, you are fitting in. Once you’re playing the game and making believe you’re like everyone else, let THE MUSIC tell people why you’re different. They won’t listen unless they have some compelling reason, some connection to something they already like. Look familiar, look professional, look good. Be surprising.
Or you can look totally radical and scare 90% of your visitors away, or simply make boring music where no one will listen twice. Its your choice.
And I leave you this time with a cool musical quote dealing with images:
Dancing is the vertical expression of a horizontal desire.
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About Paul DeStefano
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