Welcome to this free sample chapter from my bestselling book, Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook: 201 Self-Promotion Ideas for Songwriters, Musicians and Bands on a Budget.
Thousands of music people have purchased and prospered from this manual over the past several years. To give you an idea of the impact it's had, I invite you to read some of the comments I've recieved from readers and others in the music industry. Honestly, I'm floored by the positive response and solid reputation this book has gained since I published the first edition in 1996.
To help empower even more music people to reach higher levels of success and recognition, I'm making certain sections of the book available for free on my web site. Here is the entire introduction, which gives you a great idea of what's in store for you as you strive to get exposure and attract more fans to your music.
Introduction to Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook
Welcome to a new way of promoting your music. For decades, aspiring musicians thought the only legitimate route to success was landing a recording contract with a major record label. The times have definitely changed. The Internet and low-cost recording technologies have created a thriving do-it-yourself music movement. Unfortunately, thousands of songwriters and artists still believe the road to widespread recognition can only be traveled through a record deal.
I believe the best way to approach a career as a musician who writes and performs original music is to take control, get your hands dirty and market your music yourself. No one feels as strongly about your craft as you do. Which means you're the best person in the world to spread the news.
Sure, promoting your own music takes lots of effort. But it's well worth it. And it can be profitable. Here are just a few examples of music people who have succeeded on their own terms:
Doing it yourself
- It took her more than four years and several hundred live shows to do it, but singer/songwriter April Nash (www.aprilnash.com) sold over 60,000 copies of her self-released CD.
- John Taglieri, a solo singer/songwriter from New Jersey (featured in Chapter 6), sold more than 5,000 of his own CDs primarily using the Internet.
- Working alone from his house in West Virginia, Scooter Scudieri (www.scudieri.com) sold 1,500 copies of his CD in six months, which led to an appearance on NPR's Mountain Stage radio show and an opening slot for Dave Matthews and NRBQ.
- Mikel Fair and his electronic music project 303infinity have earned about $200,000 through merchandise sales and performance royalties. Fair has a loyal fan base and a mailing list of thousands.
- Instead of shooting for a record deal, singer/songwriter Ellis Paul decided to concentrate on songwriting, getting in front of people and building a buzz. His first two independently released CDs sold more than 25,000 copies combined. Rounder/Philo Records later re-released one of his CDs.
You've most likely heard of singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco. Over a seven-year period she sold more than 400,000 copies of her many independent releases (that's an average of 66,600 units per year). In one year alone, DiFranco performed 130 shows and generated almost $2 million in gross ticket sales. She's been written about in glowing terms by just about every major magazine and newspaper in the country.
The astounding thing is, DiFranco accomplished all of this without a major record label, commercial radio airplay, MTV exposure or advertising. "If you are disgustingly sincere and terribly diligent, there are ways for any serious artist to operate outside the corporate structure," she once told the Los Angeles Times.
At age 20, DiFranco started her own label, Righteous Babe Records, and began performing a growing number of solo acoustic shows. Coffeehouse gigs led to colleges, then larger theaters and major folk festivals. DiFranco now has more than 30,000 people on her mailing list (with more signing on every show) and several employees who handle CD and merchandise orders from a warehouse in Buffalo, NY.
"My problem with the guys who run the music industry is that their only priority is to make money," she adds. "My priority is to make music. The fact is, they need artists more than the artists need them."
So the next time you get down in the dumps because that major label recording contract hasn't come your way yet, pause and realize that - like DiFranco and other self-supporting musicians - you may be better off as an independent artist.
And don't think that the examples I use here are rare, isolated cases. Granted, most indie acts don't reach such impressive levels. But there are thousands of songwriters, musicians and bands turning a decent profit. And they're doing it on their own terms - doing something they have a real passion for: making and sharing music.
Putting your music career in focus
This manual was written to help you along the confusing path that leads to success with your music. The concepts, ideas and suggestions in these pages are simple. That's not to say they're always easy. There's work to be done here, but it's the kind of activity that's well within your ability to pull off.
The problem with most independent music people, even the ones who take lots of action, is that their energy is wasted on the wrong things or by taking an unproductive approach. By the time you finish reading and working with this manual, you'll have a much clearer idea of how to direct your energies.
There are a couple of essential attitudes that run throughout this manual:
The guerrilla music marketing challenge
- Whenever you take action to promote your music, you must know exactly what your purpose is and why you're taking the action to begin with. The way to make sure you're going about things effectively is to come up with a plan that makes sense, have very focused goals and realize that you need to provide a benefit (or solution) to everyone you connect with in the music business.
- Think outside of your mental box. Human beings are creatures of habit. We become victims of our own routines. Therefore, it's no surprise that we slip into a narrow way of doing things. Habits are quite useful when they involve brushing your teeth, getting dressed and driving a car. But when it comes to promoting your music, this routine way of thinking - and acting - is stunting your progress. When you market yourself the same way you've always done it, or the same way a thousand other artists have done it, you become part of the great indie music swamp in which everyone looks and sounds the same.
In this manual, I'll poke and prod you to be different, to expand your thinking, to focus your goals and actions - in essence, to become a true Guerrilla Music Marketer. We won't be talking about national advertising campaigns, music videos on MTV or worldwide distribution. Among other things, the following pages will show you how to:
- Work from the trenches, with little or no money.
- Use often-overlooked techniques to give your music wider exposure.
- Build a following one fan at a time.
- Use each small success as a stepping stone to a bigger and more significant success story.
I'm also going to ask you to do some serious soul searching and then commit your thoughts to paper by filling out the two Activity Worksheet sections. On these pages I've taken the main points covered throughout the manual and given you space to put your own responses. I implore you to use these worksheets! For it is here where my random suggestions come to life and become your own. By writing in this section, you'll get a clearer idea of where you are and in what direction you need to be heading.
Guerrilla techniques in action
It was using these same guerrilla tactics and capturing my thoughts and goals on paper that led me to start playing music when I was 15 (the year was 1975, for those of you keeping score). In the 1980s I played the club circuit throughout the Midwest and later played in bands that each put out independent releases. (I still play in a band part-time. I'm a singer/guitarist/songwriter, if you must know.)
I used many of the very ideas presented in this manual to launch my own local music magazine in 1987. I didn't have any money (to speak of) and no connections or experience with publishing. All I had was a good concept and a knack for writing. That newspaper, called Spotlight, grew and flourished for 10 years until I ceased publication in 1997. (I put the paper to rest so I could concentrate my efforts on writing and marketing resources like this one.)
In 1993, I had my first book published, called 101 Ways to Make Money in the Music Business (which is now out of print). Later that year I founded the St. Louis Regional Music Showcase, an annual music conference that ran for five years in the Midwest. In 1996, I published the first version of the book you're reading now.
In the late 1990s, I established an online presence as an indie music marketing coach through my web site, TheBuzzFactor.com. At last count, my e-zine, also called The Buzz Factor, was approaching 10,000 subscribers. In 2001, Top Floor Publishing commissioned me to write a book called Branding Yourself Online. And in 2003, I self-published a new book called Unleash the Artist Within: Four Weeks to Transforming Your Creative Talents Into More Recognition, More Profit & More Fun.
Why the résumé listing? To make a point: I wasn't born into a wealthy family. I don't have friends who wield great power, nor do I have any special abilities. I'm certainly not a super salesman and I don't have a hyper, Type-A personality.
But I realized early on that I had a mind, just like everyone else's, that was capable of making great things happen. The only thing was, it seemed so many people around me felt as if they were victims of circumstance; that life handed them their fate and they were just along for the ride. That wasn't good enough for me. Through reading books and pondering about life for a while, I came to the conclusion that our lives are simply a reflection of our thoughts. There's a great quote that goes something like: "We become what we think about most of the time."
The secret to musical success
The problem with people living dead-end lives is that they think dead-end thoughts. People who enjoy successful lives think successful thoughts - and then follow those thoughts with positive action.
Once I realized this simple but powerful truth, I started directing my thoughts in more productive ways. And the actions followed quite naturally. No doubt, I've stumbled many times on my journey through life and the music business (and I continue to), but the rewards have been many. And they keep growing every year.
The Bottom Line: Thoughts are things. What starts as an intangible concept grows into a reality as a result of mental focus combined with real-life activity. In fact, this is exactly how all songs are created.
So I ask you: What thoughts do you have about your present and future as an independent music person? And what actions are materializing as a result?
The Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook will help you sort out the answers, open your mind to the infinite possibilities around you and motivate you to take the steps necessary to climb higher up the ladder of success with your music.
How to use this book
Many of the chapters in this manual were originally written as separate special reports. While I have arranged them in a sequence that makes sense to me, you don't have to read the segments in any particular order. The same goes for the bonus special reports at the end of the manual.
However, I do suggest that you read Chapter 1, "The Power of Goal Setting: A Step-by-Step Plan for Reaching Your Musical Aspirations Faster," and Chapter 2, "The First 5 Steps to Marketing (and Profiting from) Your Music," first. These chapters give you a good foundation for the information contained in other chapters. Other than that, feel free to examine the chapters and reports that relate to whatever marketing or music career topic you want to focus on at the time.
Warning: While I've gone to great lengths to load up this book with creative marketing tactics and techniques, I encourage you not to get so consumed by the tactical details that you lose sight of the big picture: making great music and sharing it with a growing number of fans. It's not the web site, media exposure or CD cover art that's most important. What's most essential is how those things help you connect with more fans in a meaningful way.
I'm grateful that you're allowing me to share these ideas with you. I sincerely hope you soak up the tips revealed in these pages and put them to good use. I look forward to one day hearing about your musical achievements.
Much success to you!
From here, you can purchase the book, read what others have to say about the book or go to TheBuzzFactor.com home page.