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Click to email ChrisAn Introduction to the
"Four Front" Music Marketing Concept

And What They Have to Do With You...
Christopher Knab - Fourfront Media & Music - Updated May 2011

Back to Music Business 101

If you’re a musician and you want to make money from your music, you’re in a challenging position. If you’re like a lot of musicians, you spend huge amounts of time and money to improve your music and performing skills, but you haven’t thought much about the business of music, or how you’re actually a part of it. When you combine making music with making money, you become a part of the music business—whether you like it or not. Since most musicians don’t know much about the music business, they don’t realize how much that ignorance can cost them.

My music business career began in the retail side of the industry in the 1970s. That led me to working in radio broadcasting and running my own independent record label, where I learned about distribution, publicity, and the role the live performance industry plays in making artists and bands successful.

During that time I felt like I was only seeing separate parts of the music business. Then around the early ’90s, I finally saw the whole picture, and understood what the entire music industry looked like and how the various aspects of the music business worked together. It was then that I developed what I call the Four Fronts of Music Marketing.

I was finally able to describe the structure of the music industry. Since then, I’ve been using my system to show others what they need to do to work their independent music projects—by using the tactics and techniques that all successful record labels use.

These “Four Fronts” I call Artist and Product Development, Promotion, Publicity, and Performance.

I divide the First Front into two partsArtist Development and Product Development— for a very important reason. Artist Development is about developing your music and building a solid business foundation for your career. It’s as important as Product Development, which is about developing a way to record, manufacture and sell your music. What has or has not been done in Artist Development will either help or hurt the music product you make and intend to sell.

The three remaining FrontsPromotion, Publicity, and PerformanceI call these the Exposure Fronts. They include those activities that will get your music heard, talked about and experienced live.

So, let’s take a closer look at how the music business is set up, so that you can learn how to protect, promote, publicize, and sell your own independent music.

The First Four Fronts - The Details

The First Front: Artist and Product Development.

Artist Development: Preparing Your Career

The Artist Development part of the First Front includes fundamental issues that are the basis of your music career. These are the same issues a professional record label would consider when they’re deciding to sign an artist or band. It’s your job, more and more these days, to develop your own career creatively and in a professional manner. Artist Development includes such important things as:

  • Songwriting skills
  • Copyright issues
  • Music publishing
  • The role of thePerformance Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC)
  • Music equipmentand instrument needs
  • Band/musicianissues and agreements
  • Artistmanagement
  • Ethical, moral,and political issues
  • Record label dealings (A&R and misc. other)
  • Contracts and legal issues
  • Creating yourimage
  • The beginningof Social Networking

Product Development: Making and Selling Your Record

The Product Development part of the First Front includes those areas that are directly involved with recording and selling your music, such as:

  • Marketing and sales plans
  • Home and/orProfessional recording studios; producers, engineers
  • Mastering andmanufacturing
  • Choosing which formats to release your recording in
  • Graphic design and printing for CDs
  • Traditional distribution and sales: research and contacts
  • Retail options: chain stores, mass merchandisers, mom-and-pop stores, misc. other retailers
  • Distributor options: one-stops, independent distributors, rackjobbers
  • Internet sales and distribution, mail order
  • Website design and creation
  • Live show sales

The Second Front: Promotion

Getting Airplay for Your Music

The simplest way to remember it is: Promotion equals airplay. Airplay is how most people hear new music for the first time. It’s the business of securing broadcast support for your record. This is the Front that record labels rely on to hopefully secure a hit record. Radio airplay is still the most effective exposure to get for your music; it’s also the most difficult to secure for independent artists.

Key Promotion Front issues are:

  • Radio airplay: format selection
  • Station research: commercial, non-commercial, Internet, and satellite radio stations
  • Creating stationcontact lists
  • Promotion tactics and strategies
  • Program and music director relationships
  • Independent radio promotion
  • Video: (YouTube, Vevo, etc,)
  • Tracking airplay on the charts

The Third Front: Publicity

Creating a Media Buzz and Social Networking

If the Promotion Front is about getting airplay for a song, then the Publicity Front is about getting your music talked about in the media and by your fans. Publicity creates opportunities for music fans to read or see reviews, interviews, and feature stories about your music in print or on the radio, TV, or on Internet sites. The key issues included in the Publicity Front are:

  • Print media research: magazines, newspapers, fanzines
  • Broadcast media: radio and TV; website interviews and blogs; reviews, interviews, stories, and intensive Social Networking via, Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, et al.
  • Creating broadcast, print, and Internet contact lists
  • Publicity choices: on and offline reviews, articles, interviews, calendar listings
  • Music programs and shows research
  • Publicity and public relations plans, both online and in traditional ways
  • Analog and electronic promo kits: (All of the issues listed here can and should be created both in traditional ways and posted on your website and other Internet related services)
         -   Bios
         -   Fact sheets
         -   Photos
         -   Press clips and quote sheets
         -   Cover letters
         -   Press releases
  • Press relationships: publisher, editor, writer/blogger issues
  • Media deadlines
  • Social Networking with fans (Twitter/ Facebook et al)
  • Advertising options and choices (Note: publicity is free, but advertising is paid for.)

The Fourth Front: Performance

Finding Your Audience

For most styles of popular music, the live Performance Front is the foundation for developing a fan base and it's an important part of marketing and selling recorded music. The key areas of the Performance Front are:

  • Live show venues: clubs, halls, fairs, festivals, etc.
  • Venue research: creating venue contact lists
  • Booking agents and concert promoters: roles and relationships
  • Live performance and live concert contracts
  • Internet: plans for streaming concerts, downloading concerts, misc. web live music ops.
  • Lighting, sound, and equipment needs
  • Tours: planning, tour coordination, concert promotions
  • Road managers, roadies, and life on the road
  • Touring as marketing: radio, press, and retail opportunities

What All the Fronts Have in Common: Three Essentials

Dollar and Sense Issues: It costs money to develop and promote music. To put it bluntly, it takes more money than talent these days to get your music to the attention of consumers.

Image Development and Management: Developing an honest, yet consistent image is essential for any artist. An image is what people remember about a singer or a band—finding and managing that image is of the utmost importance.

On and Offline Marketing Opportunities: Gone are the days of building your music career without the use of current digital technology. Online sales and downloads are a booming business. Internet radio stations number in the thousands and opportunities for live Internet performance broadcasts are already an everyday occurrence.

Social Networking and more Social Networking: Use Twitter, Facebook, etc. consistently. It should go without saying that the advances and opportunities involved with staying in constant contact with your fans is more important now than any time in music history.

There is a huge increase in music releases these days (over 1000 new music releases a WEEK) that if you don’t consistently stay in touch with your fans, it will very difficult to grow or even maintain a loyal following. Fans are more fickle than ever these days!

Lest you think that the Four Fronts are only for beginning artists and bands, let me tell you this. You may just be getting started and think that all this is a one-time deal until you are “discovered.” Sorry about that, the truth of the matter is that the more successful you get, the more time you’ll spend dealing with the Four Fronts (both on and offline). No matter how well-established or famous musicians become, every record they put out is like starting over again. For each new release, even superstars have to devise a marketing plan that is based on the ideas and structure of the Four Fronts.

The Four Fronts are Interrelated

You must realize that the Four Fronts interact and depend on each other. In some ways there’s a catch-22. In order for you to get your recording into mass distribution, the distributors and stores will ask you how many sales and downloads your record has had, what kind of radio support your record is getting, how the media is supporting your music, and what the audience response to your live shows has been.

In order for you to get significant airplay, the radio stations want to know why they should play your record; how it’s been selling, if you’re getting good reviews in the media, and how well your live shows are being received.

In order for the print and broadcast media to be willing to review your music, they want to know why their readers and audience would want to know about you; how your record is selling, what radio airplay you’ve gotten, and if your live shows are creating excitement. And today your fans want to know the same things!

In order for you to get better live shows and tours, the booking agents, concert promoters, and venue operators want to know that they’ll make money from your concert. They may check your retail and Internet sales, airplay statistics, and media reviews before they decide to work with you.

Today, the Internet offers all Four Fronts for marketing purposes… (manufacturing websites to place your CD orders and prepare your digital files, sales opportunities galore, plus web radio broadcasts, social networks, web publications, and even the ability to stream or create the  podcasts of your concerts.) So, you’ll have to work the Four Fronts of music marketing on the Internet while still using the traditional “analog world.” of music marketing.

Let me say it again loud and clear:

The Four Fronts of music marketing are interrelated and dependent upon each other!”

No one uses the tools in every Front equally. Many acts, for example, build their careers primarily by playing live as often as possible (the Performance Front). Others have jump-started their careers with college or Internet radio airplay (the Promotion Front) or become “critic’s darlings” and received a ton of favorable press and/or mentions on the social networking sites (the Publicity Front). Others combine different elements from the Four Fronts both on and offline. The trick is to pay attention to what works best for you and build on your successes. It’s up to you to decide what mix is best for your career.


Christopher Knab is an independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He is available for private consultations on promoting and marketing independent music, and can be reached by email at: chris@chrisknab.net

Chris Knab's new book,
'Music Is Your Business' is available NOW from the Music Biz Academy bookstore.

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