One thing that I don’t think a lot of people in music seem to understand is targeting where the money is. People seem content to jut hit the same generic local punk markets utterly ignoring that there are millions of dollars sitting out there if they are able to look beyond an audience of just their friends. So I wanted to take some time to look at approaching new markets that can help you to get the recognition and income that you justly deserve. This isn’t about finding alternate sources of income like licensing we’ve already discussed that at length, this is about looking at your target demographic and realizing who has the funds that can make things change for your band over the long run and then trying to cater your products towards them. Some may call that selling it out, but I just view it as a way to help grow your brand and have more resources to address the folks who you wanted to be listening to you in the first place.
I think to understand what I’m saying I need to take you down the road of an epiphany of mine. I had a moment when I was trying to figure out how to most effectively market a heavy metal band. I would work at merch and noticed that fairly regularly we would have these super fans come up and spend a hundred bucks at the table. I tried to determine the defining characteristics of these superfans piece by piece and slowly came to a bigger realization about the genre. Musicians always talk about how heavy metal and punk is maintained by hungry 15 year old kids looking for music. That’s not true though. For the last 15 years, music starved teenagers have just pirated everything – I should know – I was one of them. So who does routinely give heavy metal the funding it needs? Well it’s older dudes in the trades who make good money and have no kids. There’s a specific type of branding those dudes like and when you see bands who have that on point you also tend to see a fair amount of money.
So how do we translate this into financial success? Well to continue on the heavy metal example I looked at what the people who were putting money were into. A lot of them tended to like burly stoner rock riffs with big choruses they could drink beer to. Moreover, they liked beer. Cheap and lots of it. They wanted things that reminded them of their youth but also that reflected a certain measure of class. These were people who liked to think of themselves as ‘salt of the earth’ and didn’t want thing that were too weird or overtly complicated in terms of their music consumption. They want pretty up front and brazen marketing but not have it be so intense that it fucks up their family situations with grotesque imagery. So that’s what I gave them, and it worked! Sometimes it can feel like lowest common denominator marketing is dumb, but guess what it makes money. The best bet though is to do a blend, both pointed at who you hope to be your super fans and grow from there.
I want to point out that I didn’t just do a demographic breakdown to figure out where the money was. I did a sub targeted demographic breakdown and used that to determine where the money was. That’s the key step to going from having your fanbase to catering to the part of your fanbase that makes you a significant chunk of your money. This isn’t always easy to do and it requires a lot of personal investment from band members and whoever sells your merch to make sure that you have your shit together and are properly tracking the right people. It’s times like this where having a Facebook group, not a fan page, can be helpful. It gives notifications to all of your core fans and helps to grow your brand by making the people who are most personally invested in your brand feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves. At the end of the day that’s why so many of us invest our energy into this – and if you can give that to your fans then you are going to see some rapid monetization of your band.
Tracking point of sale is tricky I know, especially at a local level when most people aren’t going to do more than attend a few shows and maybe buy a shirt. I think though that it’s important to try and track those people and document them, be it by mailing list or Facebook group. It’s not just about contacting them though, I really want to emphasize that. You need to figure out what the shared interests are in this group. Moreover you need to look at your genre as a whole and make sure that the people in your key funding group are similar to the people in the rest of the genre. If not, you either are misidentifying your fanbases musical tastes and other interests or you are missing out on a huge financial opportunity. Either case can potentially be huge for your band since if its the former it means that you can totally shift your marketing and be relatively consequence free, and if its the latter it means you’ve found a whole new group of fans to work with. Keep these things in mind as you continue trying to develop your marketing down the line.
I know that we tackled a few fairly major points this time around but I also think that these are all viewpoints that you should be able to pick apart and make work for your own band. Part of the struggle of writing this blog is trying to keep it relatively generic to the type of music that you play so I can’t always delve into specifics, but one thing that often works that I’ve talked about before is borrowing the marketing of people in bands in your genre that are slightly larger than you. Even if you are still to small to have superfans sometimes it can be worthwhile borrowing from their superfans demographics and going from there. The music industry is not really a place of new ideas but rather one where things germinate and grow, embrace that and watch it flourish.