So one thing that has been teaching me a ridiculous amount lately has been competitor analysis. It’s shocking how this took me so long to properly codify but when it comes down to it competitor analysis has basically singlehandedly revolutionized how I approach music marketing. It’s one of those things that we all sort of do involuntarily. I talk all the time about how we need to go out and look at the other bands in the scene and see what works for them and talk to them but that’s not it. There’s many more levels to find the true beauty of competitor analysis and reap all of the potential benefits. Using competitor analysis you should be able to pick apart what makes your peers tick and then take that apart for your own benefit down the line. When it comes down to it – all the best bands just rip off the music and strategies of a million other bands in order to create truly original products that people are genuinely interested in.
See – while on a superficial level competitor analysis certainly does take the form of looking at your peers actions I think it’s rare that people document them. Furthermore, in an industry where presentation is everything sometimes it’s good to mimic larger bands. I’m not saying you need to try and emulate their business tactics but rather that you can try and copy some of their branding. For example – if you look at some of the biggest bands in your genre there is probably a certain slickness in how they present their product. You want to be able to look at that and emulate that selfsame slickness. It’s surprisingly easy too. It’s not hard, for example, to find the artist on your favorite record of last year from a big band and get them to do a cover for your own band. When it comes down to it – if you can present yourself professionally and try to not be cringy about it then you are going to go very far in this industry.
There’s a lot more you can learn from competitor analysis too. You can look at things like social media strategies and the products they sell. When it comes down to it you want to look at all of the major aspects in the presentation of your peers and the bigger bands you look up to and emulate as much of it as possible. You want to figure out what you need to be offering if you want to realistically compete with the bigger bands in the market. Of course this isn’t always feasible financially or even physically, since odds are you don’t have a merch guy or a crew. So even if the bands you really look up to have epic stage presentations and lavish items for sales you probably can’t emulate that right away. That’s why it’s important to look at your direct peers in the scene. They can help you remain realistic and on top of things without that weird cringy look that a lot of the lower level bands trying waaay too hard to be ‘pro’ suffer from.
Looking at a range of bands helps to ground you in reality too. When it comes down to it no one cares about your shitty band. You can figure out how everything fits in by looking at higher level bands alongside some of the smaller guys. At the end of the day it’s not always about presenting yourself as a huge band when you’re a small one, but rather presenting yourself as a band who are maybe a few levels higher. You want it to seem like your position is cautiously optimistic relative to where people think you are. For example – competitor analysis could show you that bands that are slightly larger than you and on one of your favorite indie labels have a specific way of presenting their music. You can take that model and use it for your own album presentation in order for fans to think that you are affiliated with those sorts of labels. Of course you don’t use their logos or anything, nor do you totally copy paste it, but you follow the format in order to look like you are part of a greater collective, and hopefully one of the better parts too!
So how do you keep track of all of this? Its quite a bit for anyone to process. Personally I use spreadsheets. I document everything, from key branding strategies, product strategies, pricing strategies, social media numbers and more. It’s the sort of thing that’s impossible to keep straight in your head but which can give you a sense of freedom when you look at it all. One thing I started to realize as I did more and more of these is that while many bands only have one or two good ideas that you can use if you can steal ideas from four or five bands you’re suddenly looking at a whole range of cool options and from there will be able to develop into something far greater. There is a sense of transcendent representation that you are supposed to be going for – uniting the scene and figuring out what makes it work from top to bottom, finding your place and pushing for bold and weird new band realities.
At the end of the day, it’s like I said earlier – anything you do is going to be ripped off from other bands even unwittingly. So if you want to kickstart your process then you want to figure out what has been working for your peers. You’d be surprised how easy it is to climb the ranks early on if you just take yourself moderately seriously and invest the time and energy (Or possibly money) in getting a good presentation put together. Bands are not a complicated thing, I still maintain it can all be reduced to a formula somehow and I know that a huge part of that formula is going out of your way to find your peers and copying what works for them, but simultaneously improving on it to create a better and more hopeful tomorrow.