at the Wall"
Why The Don't
Spielberg, Independent Artist
Back to The
Focus marketing has been key in the success of our indie music label
playMountain Music. I am constantly astounded by the sheer number of
artists that take the approach of "throwing lots of gum at the wall and settling
for what happens to stick". This is not only a waste of time, but a waste of
energy and financial resources--all so precious to the hard working indie
To be successful in this ever-changing business with ever-changing
challenges, today's indie artist simply MUST be as passionate about business and
marketing as they are about their music. No amount of money or hired expertise
can substitute for the artist's own passion of getting his/her music heard.
And so, my first word of advice is start with your passion. Who do
you want to reach? What are your sales goals? (come on, pick a number, any
number) Is it your desire to build a huge radio audience? Is it to have a busy
tour schedule? A little of both?
Here's one example of the "Gum At The Wall" marketing approaches
I have seen artists whose egos were well-served by hiring radio
promoters so that their indie records would gain airplay and perhaps even show
up on radio charts. This is all fine and good. But what happens if you are
actually successful in such a campaign?
Let's say your CD holds a position in the top five of your genre
for several months? Ok, so some people have heard your music. But if you have
not worked on successfully marketing your music to distribution outlets and
stores, or if you have not at a minimum set up a web site shopping cart, you
have spent good hard earned money on radio promotion without putting the
building blocks in place and your CD buzz will end as soon as the radio campaign
If this seems oh so obvious to you, then good! I have seen over a
dozen artists make the exact same mistake I just mentioned. Their records
received air play on nationally syndicated radio programs but were nowhere to be
found in stores on or off-line.
Here in my own business office, we have a multi-pronged approach to
marketing. First, we keep track of purchases made through our web site (www.robinspielberg.com).
Having 12 CDs and 4 songbooks for sale, we know, for example, that we can send
mailings to those who have previously purchased sheet music about an upcoming
book release. This saves us the expense of mailing to the thousands of buyers
who have not purchased sheet music, but are perhaps interested only in the
holiday CDs. By using a database program like Filemaker Pro, we can organize our
mailings by purchase, state or zip code, and coordinate these mailings with
upcoming concert appearances. Moreover, e-mail newsletters advertising
internet-only specials, go out quarterly.
We still use traditional methods of distribution such as Borders
Books and Music, but now we complement them with the ease-of-use sites like
Amazon.com and BN.com as well as our own site.
There is no need to be in every store in every state, or on every
web site that sells music. Keeping our invoicing streamlined is, for us, the way
to go. It can actually be HARMFUL to be in too many stores. Why? Because that
means your inventory is "all over the place", and after six months time, it may
very well come back to you cracked, chipped, broken, stickered... and all at
your expense. Rotating distribution outlets , for us, makes a lot more sense.
Believe me, if your fans are looking for your music, they will find it. And if
stores are getting repeated requests for your music, the distributors will find
After experimenting with MP3.com, offering free downloads, we
decided that digital downloading was not for us. Yet. Yes, 3000 people
downloaded my bonus track from "Dreaming of Summer", but that just proved people
enjoyed downloading the track for free. I am not yet sold on the digital
download sites as a profitable business for indies. At the moment, I would
rather put energy into foreign music licensing. It's a big world!
Contests, free concerts, playing for a cause (benefits), are all
ways to grow the indie artist's mailing list, which is the #1 marketing tool in
Focus marketing is not only the most economical approach to your
music business. It is a way of focusing yourSELF, your music, and your own
Robin Spielberg is
a classically pianist
and composer. After earning a B.F.A. with high honors
from New York University, Robin began a performance career as a soloist
in New York City’s finest piano rooms. In the Summer of 2000, she formed her
own record label, playMountain
Music with her husband, Larry
Kosson. Robin has played Carnegie
Hall to sold-out crowd, has
been featured on Lifetime live, ABC World News This Morning, CBS This Morning and Good Morning Arizona. She has been a recipient of the ASCAP
Popular Music Award each year since 1994.