It might seem initially that creating a hyper targeted product is only going to limit the amount of fans you have access to, but the more time that I spend in the music industry the more I realize that this is in fact the only way to go. It was a weird realization to have – that for example the Mongolian Folk Metal band I manage, Tengger Cavalry, was doing much better than a many death metal bands I know with a broader target demographic. Many a manager or label executive can tell you that your band shouldn’t be trying to be everything to everyone but it’s hard to actually learn this lesson without seeing it firsthand.
It might seem counter-intuitive then that I try to explain this to you in an article then – but I think what really matters beyond that realization is the implications of it. It shows us that in the modern music industry we can still sell product but it has to be to super targeted markets. It also shows us that people aren’t quite as fickle as some might want you to believe. In fact – brand loyalty is more important than ever because now it relies purely on word of mouth. Part of why it’s important to get a ‘critical mass’ PR campaign is that after a point the PR becomes self sustaining, people start to come to you for press and not the other way around. As it happens – it seems that the only way to reliably set up a word of mouth campaign is by having targeted audiences.
Why is this? Well – it should be fairly obvious if you belong to any sort of niche or underground scene. A lot of these bands know exactly who they are marketing to – even if they don’t really admit it. For example, Noisem, whose bassist is currently trying to take a nap on my couch (And criticizing my old grindcore band) have managed to cultivate a very specific audience largely through their distinct dedication to the scene. As far as I can tell there is no grander scheme beyond ‘playing with bands that work with us and playing at appropriate venues’ but nevertheless this has allowed them to get a hyper dedicated fanbase of young death metal fanatics and the word of mouth buzz has gotten to the point that the band gets placements on major websites with minimal PR.
Cultivating a distinct image and role for your band in any scene is not – by nature – a hard thing to do. Unfortunately though it’s also something that many bands are trying to hook up in obvious ways. If you want to go the obvious route though it’s rarely going to work unless you are among the best of the best. Other ways to generate word of mouth come through crazy marketing stunts (Which rarely pay off in the long run) or, as I mentioned before, massive PR pushes. The thing is though – PR campaigns have to be done properly and with the right company and product. Sometimes you can get a ton of press, but if things aren’t resonating properly then organic reach just won’t happen. That’s fine though – it just means that in the future you need to tweak your approach.
How does this tie into angular marketing though? Well simply because if your product is unique enough people will talk about it. That’s why someone like Tengger Cavalry can generate so much buzz – because seriously, how many Mongolian folk metal bands are there? More than you’d expect to be sure – but still not a whole hell of a lot. It’s the same with someone like former IMP client Nic Nassuet who has managed to win a bunch of awards simply by selling a product that few others provide and services a hyper targeted niche. Again – people don’t care until you make them care, and if you genre tag alone makes people go “Oh, that’s interesting” then you’re already off to a good start.
What I’ve noticed about hyper targeted niche’s is that rarely does it happen by someone writing down a bunch of genre tags and going from there and if does, you can usually tell. Usually it’s an organic thing, something that feels right for the artist. If you’re just throwing together adjectives to figure out what kind of music will be profitable you’re going to get nowhere. Instead you need to emulate a band like The Aristocrats who managed to take a unique set of musical backgrounds and turn it into something that is truly special.
Finding a tiny niche isn’t a easy thing to do – but it will always pay off. Being a part of a scene is crucial because it helps bring you into a community, but from there you need to find an even tighter corner to dominate. In a world where minimal pay is guaranteed we need to give people every reason to want to purchase from you. Word of mouth is the way forward in 2016 and the deeper you delve the more you can make – people pay attention to weird things and if you can cause heads to turn then you know you are on the right track.