So one thing that I’ve been developing recently is a massive template for a 25-35 page marketing plan. Wile I’m not going to post that here I do want to touch on some of the general ideas that a good marketing plan is going to need to have. This is gonna be a two parter, but I think by picking apart the key elements of a marketing plan you are going to be able to help your band reach a new level and learn how to sell your work to a broader audience. A lot of these lessons are borrowed from fairly standard marketing books. While it certainly makes sense to read those I think that e also need to take the time to make sure that we interpret them for underground musicians, folks who can straight up ignore certain aspects of marketing because they just don’t matter for this sector of the economy. What it boils down to is what we’ve talked about again and again on this blog – your band is a business!
So the first section of marketing that you need to be aware of is of course a mission statement created in conjunction with our previously discussed SMART goals and SWOT analysis. Using these elements you are going to be able to really find what seems realistic for your band and what you are going up against as well as what tools you have. When it really comes down to it, having a mission statement is only a small part of the marketing plan, but it serves as a nice general overview you can come back to. Given that a marketing plan is often 30 pages long or more it’s not necessarily wise to always have to keep referring to various sides of it at all times. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to summarize what you are trying to do with your band in a paragraph, this will certainly help with the elevator pitch you are trying to give to labels. Keep in mind – a lot of this stuff might not be for you as much as it is to help make you look professional so when the big players come calling you don’t look like you have your thumb up your ass.
After that you’re going to want to take a look at your fans, who they are as well as what they are interested in from you. Remember, you’re trying to sell a product here, so it makes sense to look at the exact demographic of person you’re trying to sell too. In my experience in underground music race and age aren’t as big players as they are in more traditional entertainment so you can often circumvent that, though it does help to have that information. You also need to remember that your average fan probably doesn’t make too much money – that seems to be a general rule of underground music. At the same time you also need to gauge their reactions to what you create, be it songs, merch, a live performance or something else. This is part of why I think it’s a good idea to keep spreadsheets tracking merch sales etc. You need to be able to use this data in order to interpret what is going to be useful for you further down the line.
Now that you’ve started to determine what you’re going to sell, how much of it you’re trying to sell and who you are going to sell too you can start to figure out the actual marketing strategies behind it. Remember that just as your band has a brand you want to have a brand for each piece of merch. This is why bands like ACxDC sell onesies, because that product has a sort of innate branding behind it just because it’s so goddamn ridiculous. It’s also why Abbath has a snow globe, the product strategy (It’s a black metal dude in a snow globe c’mon) serves to boost the brand strategy (Abbath is no longer a super serious black metal guy but rather like a beloved uncle of the scene). Remember that every product you sell needs to serve the larger brand, maybe not even just of your band but the genre as a whole if it’s tight knit enough. We are all trying to make the underground rule, so we need to create products that reflect that desire.
This ties into the pricing, which will be the last aspect I talk about in this article about laying down the groundwork of your marketing plan. I think I’ve discussed before about how pricing is just as much a part of your branding strategy as anything else. If you price things super cheaply with lots of loss leaders you look like a DIY band just trying to make good who want their music to get out there. However people might also think that you’re just a schmuck who doesn’t really believe in their work. By the same token if you price things to high then you look like an asshole. I’ve written about finding a balance but you need to keep in ind the various pricing strategies that you ca use and try to decide which items should go for how much to make sure you maintain your semblance as being a ‘real motherfucker’ a desire which I think is fairly characteristic of music fans from across the underground scene.
When it comes down to it, laying down a foundation like this is going to make your life a lot easier down the line because it will give you some larger guidelines by which to base your experience and planning around. As much as I like to lay out quarter by quarter plans it’s really only with hard work and knowing exactly who you want to be branding yourself and knowing who you want to target that you are going to be able to figure out a way forward to make this entire thing work out. You need to create a strong foundation, like the old story says, the wise man builds his house upon the rock, but the fool built his on the sand. Do you want to be a fool?
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