Music Marketing for the DIY Musician

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Business Basics for Musicians

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Copyright©2015 By Bobby Borg 


With literally hundreds of tradeshows, conventions and networking possibilities that exist each year for musicians, it’s wise to understand which are the most viable to attend, what you can expect from these events and how you can get the most for your hard-earned money Below are a few tried-and-tested tips passed down from seasoned professionals that can help!



1) Know The Conventions And Know What They Offer

The first step to becoming more savvy about networking and industry conventions is to understand which industry events are the most successful and worth attending. You can find literal thousands of conventions on the Web by simply typing “music + conventions” into your favorite Internet browser such as Goggle. South-by-Southwest (SXSW) held in Austin Texas in March, ASCAP Expo held in Los Angeles in April, the NAMM show held in Los Angeles in both Jan and rotating cities in July, and the Taxi Road Rally held in Los Angeles in November are just a few of the most notable of events among many. Each event offers something unique ranging from panel discussions, workshops, equipment exhibits, endorsement opportunities and industry showcases. Just be crystal clear as to what the event offers and whether they have a reputation for delivering on its promises. When in doubt, ask experienced music professional or friends you trust.



2) Set Realistic Goals

Though music conventions and trade shows can be a wonderful investment of your time and money (to make connections, advance your professional career, and learn important facts about the music business), don't set your career expectations too high. You’d be surprised at the number of bands and artists who delude themselves with the idea that A&R and other industry professionals are waiting behind every corner to wave their magic wands and whisk them up from garage to super stardom. It’s not enough to simply give someone a business card or demo tape and then sit back and expect to gain employment or procure a record or publishing deal. No one’s going to hand you success on a silver platter. Attract the attention of those that can help you by first helping yourselves. If it's really a record deal that you're looking unrealistically to procure in one weekend when you have very little going on for yourself, It may a more worthwhile your time and money to save the rather expensive admission fees that some conferences charge and work at building a strong buzz in your hometown first. It’s a matter of getting your priorities straight.



3) Get Compensated (Comped) By Volunteering Your Services

Once you’ve set your sites on a particular event and determined that your objectives are realistic, you may be able to save some money on admission fees or better yet not pay any fees at all by getting comped for your services. You should know that most conventions recruit volunteers to help out with various activities ranging from stuffing goodie bags to checking badges at the door or gate. Contact the convention’s Website and determine the responsible point man/women long before the event start-date and you just might luck out.



4) Travel With A Friend And Save

Another way to save a few bucks when planning to attend your next music business convention—particularly one that is out of your area, is to travel with a fellow artist or band and share expenses such as gas, tolls and hotel rooms. You might even be able to find (through a social network or meesage board) a friendly artist who lives in the area in which the event is being held—and who can offer you a place to stay—or suggest a cheaper alternative to a hotel. The Indie-community of artists can be that helpful. Just be safe. Be smart. And be willing to return the favor. We’re all in this together.



6) Serve As A Spokesmen/Women For Other Artists To Cover Costs

If you really have the entrepreneurial spirit and have an outgoing personality, you may be able to serve as a promotional representative for a number of your acts in your area in return for a small fee (which will help cover your travel expenses). Inform local artists that—since you already plan on attending a popular conference, you’d be willing to hand out their promotional items and packages on their behalf. As long as your motives are honest and professional, it could serve as a win-win situation for all.



7) Prepare A Plan Or Schedule For What You Intend To Accomplish

To ensure that you get the most out of the music business conference you’ll be attending, first view the event’s Website and take notice of the various companies for whom you’d like to make a presentation, the workshops you’d most like to attend and the panelists you’d like to meet. Map out a plan of attack. Don’t just dump your music in anybody’s hands who looks important. Know what you want to get out of an event before you get there and plan a strategic attack to effectively reach your desired goals. Your time and money are too valuable.



8) Educate Yourself About Companies And Panelists First

Conduct research on the companies for whom you’d like to make an introduction as well as the panelists you’d like to meet. You’ll appear more knowledgeable and professional when making your presentation and will have that much more ammo to strike-up an interesting conversation. Additionally, remember that industry executives are not short of ego and may be offended if you approach them without really even knowing whom they are or how to correctly pronounce their names. You might even think about preparing questions in advance.



9) Have Your “30-Second Pitch” Down Packed

When finally meeting with perspective companies or industry executive, you want your presentation to be clear and to the point. Industry professionals at conventions are typically swamped with other people requesting their attention so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get their attention at all. To increase your odds, be sure to wait for the right opportunity, and then introduce yourself with a firm handshake. While looking them in the eye, concisely tell them what you do, what you realistically plan to accomplish, and what you’d like from them. Ask them for a business card and whether it would be okay to make contact in the near future. If they have a moment to offer a piece of advice, be happy with their answer. Acknowledge that you understand they are busy and say goodbye. You’ll appear more confident, considerate and mature. Like the popular saying goes, first impressions really do matter.



10) Be Conservative With Handing-Out Packages

Keep in mind that most industry pros understandably prefer not to walk around the convention with pockets full of CDs nor do they want to fly back to their perspective cities with boxes of press kits for which to review. At the very most, give them your business card with your Website URL on it and ask them to take a look (Note: Just be sure that you have an informative Website that provides samples of your music and biographical information.) Additionally, you can ask if you could send them a package a few weeks later—long after the convention has passed and their lives are settled back down to daily business. This is much more convenient for the business professional. 



11) Schedule An Appointment In Advance

Depending on your goals, objectives and calling in the business, you might be able to contact specific company representative and actually schedule an appointment time to visit with him or her. This is a most effective approach since a connection is established between both parties before the event even begins. But note, in these situations, you really have to have a clear pitch as to why you would like to meet with the prospect company and what they can potentially get out of the meeting with you—for instance two company representatives discussing cross-promotional ideas is a likely scenario where a advanced meeting may be arranged.



12) Get-In And Get-Out As Efficiently And Effectively As Possible

Having already devised a strategic plan of attack, you’ll not only be clear as to what you want to accomplish, but you’ll know precisely at the time you’ve accomplished it. In other words, don’t be the last person hanging around the seminar or hotel bar every night ready to pounce on the industry pro you’ve already introduced yourself to three or four times over. Don’t over sell yourself. Familiarity may breed contempt. Come, conquer and split! Don't be the last one to leave the party. [On a side note, you might also want to be careful about how you conduct yourself professionally under the influence of alchohol. You might consider refraining from drinking altogether. Enough said!



13) Be Prepared To Follow-Up On Your Leads

Note that if you a really serious about furthering your career in the music business or any business for that matter, you’re going to have to get extremely organized with logging all the contacts and information you acquire at a convention, and be sure to follow-up in a tactful and tenacious manner. Device a system by which you store data making notes as to what you spoke about with a contact, when you said you would get back in contact or send him or her a package. Give the contact a few days or a week to get settled and then send them a pleasant email telling them how nice it was to have met them. This will go a long way!



14) Handle Your Professional Network With Care

Be patient. The world wasn’t build in a day—and besides—the music business is your life commitment—right? Keep in mind that it may be more strategic to slowly build your credibility with your contacts over time by conservatively providing them with performance information or positive reviews you might receive—rather than going in for the kill and asking for help or a job off the bat. Remember, these professionals have busy schedules. Just be sure they don’t mind receiving your emails and try not to make them feel as though they are part of some mass mailing list.



15) Find The Right Blend Between “Networking” And “Getworking:”

Remember that you can travel to every music business convention held each year, stay abreast of all the happening places to be seen, and perform at every open mic in your home town—but it’s not enough if you seize to develop and grow with the information you acquire. Yielding that same six-song CD you’ve recorded two years prior may not be the most effective strategy for career advancement. Know when to get back to the drawing board and improve upon your songs and image or you’ll run the risk of falling into a huge rut. Keep in mind that the conventions and parties will always be there for you when are ready for them. Find the balance between “networking” and “getworking” that works for you. As Ghandi said, “We must first become the change we want to see.”  Peace!



Want to learn more helpful tips? BOBBY BORG is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician: Creating and Executing a Plan of Attack On A Low Budget (September 2014). The book is available on AMAZON in physical and digital format or on Bobby Borg ( See Special Offer! 



This Article: Copyright © 2015 By Bobby Borg All Rights Reserved. Not to be posted, printed, or used in any other way without proper attribution to Bobby Borg 


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