How to Develop
A Music Marketing Plan
Copyright February 2008 by Keith Holzman,
Holzman Solutions Unlimited.
Back to The
For years I've been stressing to my clients the need to develop -- and
implement -- comprehensive marketing plans for each and every release. And
lately, it seems, quite a few have asked me to guide them through the process
of creating them.
A truly comprehensive marketing plan should cover all
aspects of what's involved in getting the word out to the public about
an artist's newest release, and should indicate what each department (real
or "virtual") needs to do to implement its share of the project, and should contain budget estimates of what each step is likely to cost.
should include what's to be done to publicize the release, how you might
enlist and obtain radio airplay, how you plan to motivate your distributor
and retailers to move appropriate quantities into stores, and what'll be
involved in digital distribution of individual tracks and complete albums,
but most important -- how you plan to motivate the public to buy the
It should discuss when and where the artist should tour, and how
to make use of street teams and in-store performances.
If you're a
medium-size label you might have one or more people handling each principal
departmental function. However, if you're really small, then make use of a
wide variety of independent "virtual" professionals who specialize in overall
marketing, or public relations, or getting airplay. I successfully ran my own
label for some years with just one full-time assistant. All the rest of
the work was done on a project-by-project basis by one or more
virtual, freelance pros, it being my job to coordinate their efforts in
a constructive and meaningful way.
It's probably best to develop the
marketing plan as a series of "phases," each of which is for a certain period
of time. For example, Phase 1 might cover what's involved in setting up a
release and what's to be done prior to street date. Phase 2 could cover
the initial roll-out through the first few months of work. Phase 3
might cover a projected accelerated build-up based on positive
feedback from the roll-out. If, however, initial reaction isn't
overly positive, then an alternate Phase might cover how to "fix" any
given problem that developed during the first months of work.
some of the things that need to be included in an effective marketing plan,
broken down by traditional "departmental" functions. Remember that each label
functions differently, so make use of the following as best fits your own
company's style and structure.
Publicity. Also called public relations,
its job is to build public awareness of an artist and release thorough use of
such print media as newspapers and magazines, radio and television
interviews, etc., not only for the recording, but also in support of all
public performances and road tours. It's done through use of press
kits containing promotional CDs that are seeded to media three or
months prior to street date, and then committed follow-up with writers
Promotion's task is to get radio airplay for a release
based on the genre of music, and its inherent musicality. Stations,
whether commercial or non-commercial, will be pitched as appropriate. In
some cases, classical for instance, there may be a limited number
of possible stations that might broadcast the music; whereas there
are very many stations that might be right for a straight-ahead
rock track. A radio promoter might work a complete album, or just
a specifically chosen "airplay" track. And the person or department
may very likely obtain assistance from one or more independent
promotion people to assist in getting airplay. In that event, your
designated in-house person's job is to rally the forces and keep track of
plays and rotations.
Touring is usually the responsibility of an
artist's manager, since most indie labels don't have anyone on staff to
handle it. The manager's job is to keep the artist performing in front of
the public, but it's the label's job to coordinate its efforts
very closely with the manager and/or agent.
A label might also help to
obtain commercial sponsorship and/or tour support from appropriate companies
that might be willing to provide funds, instruments, or equipment in exchange
for publicity or other considerations.
It's also the label's job to
see that Publicity coordinates touring with media so that newspapers are
encouraged to not only write about an upcoming performance, but also to
publish reviews. Sometimes in conjunction with promotion, Publicity should
arrange for on-air interviews by local DJs and music directors just prior to
company's digital download direction is generally label-wide, but you might
want to offer a free track as an initial "come-on," or set up some kind of a
special promotional deal with one of the online stores.
to consider how email can be an effective marketing tool, and most important,
how you'll make use of the web. Each artist and release should have its own
web page or pages, but be sure that they've been fully thought through and
When appropriate to artist and music, clever use of street
teams can do a great deal to increase public awareness of an act, at
very little expense. But it will needed to be coordinated by someone
at the label.
You must also consider whether or not to make use of
video as a part of your marketing. Although effective music videos can be
made for a modest amount of money, some can be very expensive. Be sure
there's potential for your video to actually get broadcast on stations
where it might help build an artist's profile and career.
is one of the least important considerations, and generally unnecessary at
the outset of a new artist's release. Loads of ad dollars will not make
someone buy something from an artist she's never heard of and whose music is
unknown. Save such money for established artists, or in support of a release
that's accumulated sufficient heat to make the gamble seem
Budgeting. All of these efforts will have to be carefully
budgeted in a comprehensive spreadsheet. Allow for phased expenditures based
on what you plan to do and then on what's actually happening.
Don't "chase" a release by throwing money at it, but have enough arrows
in your quiver to use on selected targets as positive events occur.
And most important, be sure to keep track of all marketing commitments and
expenses as they're made.
Be prepared to set up your plan for a lengthy
period of time. It might be six or more months before a release takes off, so
be sure to budget accordingly. Encourage managers to keep their acts on the
road for an extended period of time. This is what builds exposure for
the artist and the music. There was an excellent illustration of this
an article titled "The Long Haul" by Cortney Harding (subscription required) in the
February 16th issue of Billboard, where she writes "marketing campaigns
for indie bands are looking less like sprints and more like
Above all, follow-up on everything. Keep
everyone involved well-informed, and be sure your own staff, all virtual
professionals, and particularly your distribution partner and retailers, know
about positive events as they occur.
Remember, any marketing plan is
just a road map based on what you hope will happen. Be prepared to take
detours as necessary based on positive or negative reactions to the music and
its marketing. After all, the plan is written on paper, not in
By the way, there was an excellent interview conducted by David
Byrne with Radiohead's Thom Yorke on
"The Real Value of Music" that appeared in the January issue of Wired. It was
followed by Byrne's own article titled "The Fall and Rise of Music." Both
have lots of provocative ideas that provide much food for thought.
Keith Holzman -- Solutions Unlimited
Helping Record Labels
Manage for Success.
Copyright 2008 by Keith Holzman, Solutions Unlimited. All rights
reserved. Adapted from "Manage for Success," Newsletter #82,
Keith Holzman is the principal of Solutions Unlimited, a management
consultant specializing in the recording industry. A trusted advisor
and troubleshooter, he is a seasoned music business senior executive
with extensive experience in all aspects of running a label. He was
President of ROM Records, Managing Director of Discovery Records,
Senior Vice President of Elektra, and Director of Nonesuch Records.
He publishes "Manage for Success," a free monthly email newsletter
devoted to solving problems of the record industry. You can subscribe
at his website <http://www.holzmansolutions.com>. Keith is a member
of the Institute of Management Consultants and has served as a
panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and as a board
member of many arts organizations. He can be reached at
Keith is also the author of the recently published "The Complete
Guide to Starting a Record Company" available both as a 235-page,
printed spiral-bound book, as well as a downloadable E-Book.
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