The CEO of Rock Blog

The Quest of a Student/Entrepreneur to Add Value in Music and Business

Marketing – another creative outlet!

Business can be boring sometimes, even for businesspeople. Imagine how musicians see it.

When I hear about anything going on nationwide in the music industry, however, I can’t help but be excited.

I read an interesting article from Music Globalization today that explains a fascinating trend- non-traditional retail outlets are selling more music than in the past. Stores that usually do not sell music as a main item are selling more of it than before!

Think about it for a second…how have music-related sales been performing year after year? Pretty much all physical music products (CD’s, DVD’s, etc) have been falling in sales 30-40% every year for at least the past 5 years. All I hear in the news related to retail music has been bad, therefore making it difficult for top-40 rappers everywhere to convince me their life is better than mine, but I digress.

Any place that reports an increase in sales is worth paying attention to. That is why the aforementioned article was written: how to get your physical product (be it a CD, or a USB drive shaped like an Uzi) into stores. For your benefit, I will summarize what I got out of the article here, but if you want to read the whole thing I encourage it.

How to get your stuff into retail stores

I’m going to be very clear: you probably will not get your music into an exclusive with Best Buy, Wal-Mart, or any other retail giant as an unsigned artist, nor do I think that’s what you want.

Besides, even these stores are experiencing losses in sales in the double digits every year. On top of that, these stores will only stock your product if you price it so low that even the retailer cannot profit from them, as they are willing to lose money selling your stuff only to draw your fans into their store to buy more stuff that they support more than your own stuff.

I’m not saying if you can get into Wal-Mart, don’t. I am saying, however, that in a world where you are competing for attention, eliminating all profit to participate in a system that doesn’t value you or your music is a tough choice.

Smaller, independent music stores are more achievable, but they don’t have enough high-profit items to justify selling records that they are unsure will sell. This means that top-40 artists will be given preference here too, because a smaller store cannot afford to take risks in a market that is losing money that fast. While you might get in, I want you to make a lot of money doing what you love, and only getting into a few small record stores won’t get you all the way.

What’s an independent artist to do? Aim for the non-traditional retail outlets.

Non traditional retail stores are smaller, solicited by artists less often, and are more likely to value what you have to offer, especially if it is relevant to their image.

Let’s see how it’s done

1. Build an Infrastructure

This is a key principle in business: If you want people to join your team, prove that you don’t need them. (But don’t act like you don’t, because that’s just rude). Businesses that are already making a profit can easily get bank loans. Hot girls/guys who already have lots of dates have no problem getting more dates.

Retailers will takes risks, but they want to see something that tells them you can sell. Show that you have sold 500, or 1000 copies (at gigs, or anyplace) and retail owner’s fear of taking a risk is seriously reduced. To quote Music Globalization’s M. Frascogna: “infrastructure lets a retailer know you’re hardened, not scared to promote, and won’t rely on someone else to “sell” you. Hint- this is attractive to the business world!”

(Note from Me: This principle will also help you get gigs, record deals, manager’s who know what they are doing, and media mentions)

 

2. Expand a Retailer’s Market Don’t Just Enhance it.

I am going to quote the Music Globalization article completely here, because first, it does a better job, and second, I want to watch Family Guy.

“Non-traditional retailers know who their market is, as should bands. If the two groups share the same market it is unlikely a store will be attracted to a partnership as the band simply enhances their store. Stores are looking for expansion- help in capturing a new market while keeping their image in tact.

For example: Chain store A has 100 skateboard shop locations, and attracts customers ages 13-18 who are punk rock listeners. The store is looking to expand into 20 new cities but wants to sustain customers for a longer period of time, 13-30. It isn’t in store A’s best interest to partner with a band that already shares these same market demographics as the partnership would only enhance the stores image. Store A stands to benefit by teaming with musicians that appeal to ages 19-30 in order to expand their brand. More than likely this will no longer be punk rock listeners, so Store A needs to capture a band who expands them into a 19-30 listener demographic. When it comes time to meet with non-traditional retailers it is important to focus on what you can do to “expand” their market. This isn’t difficult, rather takes some business detail in updating your bands market analysis and researching beforehand a target non-traditional retailers current market.”

(me again: This helps me a lot because I always thought your chances of getting into stores was higher if you appealed to their current demographic. Now I know that when you help a store expand their market, you are fulfilling a genuine need in business, and therefore you are much more valuable. In this case, you have two circles of customers: the retailer itself, and your individual fans. Keep both as close as you can.)

3. Think Global

People from different places of the world may be attracted to your music because it is different, edgy, and exotic. Companies/Business Owners wanting to expand are always looking for partners to make the transition easier for them.

“International talent can essentially be free for them because of the mutual benefit. Bands should be happy to potentially capture a new market without spending marketing dollars. Front-end money isn’t the motivating factor, rather sustainable sales over time.”

You might need to sacrifice a little profit in the beginning, but if you can tour, sell more merchandise and prove to the retailer that they could benefit from selling even more stuff of yours, it is worth it.

Regardless, if it doesn’t work out well, there is no harm done, and you have lost very little if anything (you can always get your merch back if it doesn’t sell there). Furthermore, if no one bought anything of yours in a new area because nobody knew you, your image has not sufferred.

One more quote from the actual article: “If you don’t have international business knowledge, nor know which stores to partner with, no worries. Non traditional retailer partnerships have advertising companies drooling. Identify the major players in advertising within your desired country, unleash your ideas, and they will be chomping at the bit to pick up a new account.”

This is a new concept to me, and would be a wise thing for myself, artists, and anyone hoping to manage artists to understand this. What do you think? Could marketing to advertising companies so you can establish the right relationships with the right retailers be an interesting blog post?

If so, I promise to give it a cooler title than that.

P.S. I found a cool video where the thinkGeek folks created a nonwashable, but ridiculously awesome shirt with a playable guitar woven into it. The video is below…maybe this could be a gimmick you could use soon.

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November 18, 2009 - Posted by | Business, Music Business

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