Market segmentation – now there is a fancy sounding term. It’s also a term that is going to hopefully make you and your band a whole boatload of money – or at least enough that you are able to pay for your day to day expenses. Fortunately it’s not too complicated to start doing this and in fact once you get cooking you’re going to find yourself making very exciting progress. Market segmentation is, in its essence, breaking down the potential market for your band into individual chunks and figuring out the best way for you to reach out to them. The reason we do this is because the odds are your band can’t afford to have a one size fits all approach to marketing. I mean sure it’s easier and it might involve a lower initial investment, but as you’re getting ready to start to grow your income and expand your fanbase then you want to take a look at who is int what you have to offer and then try and develop from there.
So how do you even go about doing this? It certainly isn’t straightforward but there are a couple useful mental exercises that I like to do in order to find the best way forward for making money in alternative ways. One thing I like to do is try and figure out how I would market a band to my dad. Now my dad likes hard rock and heavy metal but he is not the sort of guy who would ever buy the shirt for a band. He wears nice collared shirts and high quality jeans when he’s at home. So how do I get him to want to wear band merch? Well – one year I bought him a nice AC/DC colored shirt with the logo put in subtly on the breast. He loved it because it was a high quality article of clothing and one that he could wear around without looking weird. This is the sort of thinking you need to have. It’s not about calling people who don’t wear band shirts posers, it’s about figuring out what they would actually want to buy that would funnel money into the band.
What you have to realize is that for a lot of you guys in bands out there your music isn’t that unique and it’s not a product that’s going to totally inspire people to dive into your project with fistfuls of money. So you need to break down what the interests are going to be of your fans outside of the music. You need to look and see if your fans are into say… fine art and then try to figure out how your band can create something that will reflect that interest. This could be, as I’m doing with one set of clients, a nice framed picture, or, to continue the fine art example, you could focus on making your album art especially nice, catering to kids with art history degrees. There are a lot of other interests that could define your fanbase though and you need to figure out what those are and then create banded content around that. For example – Pilgrim are huge D&D nerds – so we are creating Dungeons and Dragons adventures in nice hardcover books for the fans who are really into the dorky side of the band, andwe know this will make money.
One of the things that you need to be aware of is the 80/20 rule. That is to say that 20% of your fans are going to be responsible for 80% of your income. You need to figure out what makes those 20% tick and try to keep giving them content that is going to make them feel special. This is why I feel for bigger bands having limited edition merchandise is the key. If you know that there are 100 people who will buy whatever you put out then two or three times a year you are going to want to put out something unique in order to maximize the customer lifetime value they represent. That being said – you don’t want to gyp these people. If you’re going to give them bonus tracks, unique shirt designs or anything else you want to make sure that it’s a good product and not just a money grab. Sure people might be fanatical about your band for a little while, but if you’re not creating unique items that show you really value the fans then when it comes down to it you’re not going to be able to retain those valuable superfans down the line.
Ultimately you want everything you create as a result of market segmentation to feed back into your brand. So as much as you might want to create nice collared shirts with your logo if you’re trying to be a scummy hardcore band it won’t make sense. At the same time – the odds are that your scummy hardcore band has very few fans who wear collared shirts. One could say that after a fashion it’s the fans who are creating the brand. I’m not saying you should be pandering but you should at least be aware of what they are actually into and not what you want them to be into. The difference being – even though it would be cool if all of your fans only cared about one color shirts printed on cheap material it’s probably not the case. Instead you need to spend the extra dime to figure out what is going to really make you money down the line.
So life goes on – you grow your brand through segmentation and hopefully eventually figure out how to maximize your dollars per head. Sometimes it’s not an obvious path but other times a little observation can take you a long way. It’s by making an effort to cater to the people who really care about your band by cutting up the demographics into refined groups. Once your data is rich enough (Data primarily collected by observing people at shows, no one is going to answer a fucking survey) then you will even be able to figure out what kind of merch you need to be packing for individual gigs. I know that sounds a little Minority Report-ish but if you look at some of the best merchandisers, bands like Iron Maiden they do this and do it well and it pays off massive dividends.