Small Business Strategy: Social Marketing Plan for Musicians

Musicians have a lot of options available to them in the area of social marketing.  For one thing, music is second only to film in that music can actually be experienced by someone sitting in their home.  That may sound silly – of course they can – but there are a lot of businesses that have a hard time bringing across the value of their product because you can’t tell its quality from your home.  Like Swedish massage.  How do you know if a new massage place is good?  You have to either trust the opinions of other people on review sites like Yelp, or you have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.  You can’t actually test a massage while sitting at your laptop.  A musician’s customers, on the other hand, can actually sample the product.  That is a HUGE benefit to you in selling your product.

I’m not a small business – I’m an artist!  My music is art!

Of course you’re an artist.  The question is, do you want to be a paid file clerk who makes your art some of the time?  Or do you want to be a paid artist who gets to make music all the time?  Learning how to look at your music through a small business lens is how you can transition from having your music be a hobby, to having a musical career.  Let’s get started.

What kind of musician are you?

Do you write music?  Do you do studio work?  Can you produce or record music?  First you need to really think about what it is that you do well.  Maybe you love being on stage and want to do that all the time, but that’s not where you need to focus your efforts, at least at first.  So, what else can you do?  If you are good at teaching, music tutors can always find work with a little bit of networking.  Maybe that’s a good way to supplement your income while you build your performing side of the business.

Every Musician Needs Their Own Website

There really are no exceptions to this rule.  If you are going to market yourself, your website is the base of operations.  You may think word of mouth, or Facebook is enough, but the first thing people are going to do when they hear about you is check your website.  If you don’t have a website, they are going to think you’re not serious.  And, if you don’t have a website, you probably aren’t.  It’s time to get serious!

A website is your opportunity to make a good first impression.  And that’s one of the great things about a website.  Unlike in real life, where your first impression might bomb and you can’t go back and fix it, you have ultimate control over how people see you on your website.  Getting a website is very easy.  You can pick up a simple website by simply walking through the steps at GoDaddy – they will let you pick a domain name ( is best, unless someone has taken it already), and even walk you through the steps of setting up your website and your email.  That’s right!  From now on you can email people from an email address that screams professionalism.

four silly faces in a hat

Attributed to OakleyOriginals by Creative Commons license

Pop quiz:  If you have a choice between hiring two equally talented musicians for the same gig, and one of them is and the other one is, which one sounds like a professional musician that isn’t going to waste valuable recording time?

Answer: It’s the second guy.

Buy your own name, if it’s still available.

Your website should have tabs for work you’ve done, work you’re available to do, tour dates (if you have them), your blog, and contact information for how to reach you.

Photo and Video is King!

If there are videos of you performing, definitely slap them up on your website.  If you have a gallery of photos, that’s great too.  But, if you don’t have any of those things… you at least need to have one professional photo of yourself.  “Why?  It’s about the music, not what I look like!”  Yeah, I hear you.  But people still want to see what you look like.  The good news again, is that you get to choose what kind of impression you make because you get to choose the photo.  If you are trying to get work as a music tutor, a headshot of you and your trumpet is a great way to look professional to the parents that will be hiring you.  If you’re trying to get studio work, that headshot will do, or if you have photos of you doing studio work – that’s great too.  It allows the band to visualize you in the studio with them more easily.

Notice what the last two examples had in common?  They were both focused at the customer: the parent hiring the tutor, and the band hiring a backup trumpet player.  And that’s the second step.  After figuring out what you’re selling, figuring out who is buying and focusing your website toward them is the key.  You may love that photo of you looking cool on that blue couch with your awesome sunglasses, but the best picture of you is the one that makes someone want to pay you money.  AmIright?

Once you have your website up, you need to start blogging.  There are a lot of resources for “blogging for SEO” and “blogging for business” on the internet, including a lot of places on this website, so I won’t go into it here, but blogging 2-3 times per week is ESSENTIAL to the success of your small business.  It’s the way that Google starts to learn that when someone types “studio trumpet player Lancaster, PA” that they’re looking for You!

Next, you need to create a Facebook page (not your personal page, your business page!), your Google+ page, your Myspace page, and, if you have performance video and/or the ability to create video on a regular basis, your Youtube or Vimeo page.

Man, How Long Is This Going to Take?1914 old alarm clock

I won’t lie.  It’s a process.  This is not something you set up in a weekend and have a bunch of customers by Wednesday.  While, it is possible to set all of this up in a weekend, using social media to get customers and a fan base is a long-term strategy.  And the results you’re looking for are going to take months, to years.  You didn’t think music was a get-rich-quick scheme, did you?  I thought you were an artist!

If You Don’t Have Time to Manage Your Social Media Accounts, Don’t Do It Half-Heartedly!

If you’re working 40 hours a week as a file clerk and your band has gigs on the weekends out of town and you practice three evenings a week, you probably don’t have much free time.  And you are going to need some free time to manage your social media accounts.  Each kind of account takes a different level of commitment.  Twitter needs to be updated multiple times a day, Facebook needs 2-3 updates per day (and they have to be STRATEGIC updates, not just “I ate that new kind of PopTart – Yuk.”).  I recommend spending one hour a day on social media.  I can’t really promise any results unless you put that minimum of an hour a day into it.  But if you consistently spend an hour a day on social media, you will eventually start to see results. So, if you have a limited amount of time, I recommend Google+ and Myspace as good places to start posting.  You can link them to your website so that when you post your blog (you ARE blogging 2-3 times per week, right?) they appear there.

That said, even if you decide that managing a Twitter account and a Facebook page for your business are too much for you to handle right now, you should definitely go and create those pages anyway.  First of all, maybe you will decide you want to amp up your social media strategy one day – what if your name has been taken by then?  That would have been avoidable, right?  Second, it’s time to blow a little reality up your skirt: trolls are not like Santa Claus.  Trolls are real.  Don’t give trolls a chance to go and grab your name on a social media site before you do.  Go out there and grab your name on all the social media sites right now.  Even if you don’t ever use them – it means that no one can ever pretend that they’re you and post things on your behalf that don’t reflect well on you.

If You Do This, They Will Come

Attributed to ausnahmezustand by Creative Commons license

Attributed to ausnahmezustand by Creative Commons license

Starting to see yourself as a business, and acting that way is the beginning to having the great success you’ve been dreaming of, but it means daily focus and attention.  It is possible to make a career in music.  It just takes a lot more writing, and a lot more of a sales mentality than you thought.  But it can be done.  Good luck, musicians!

MJW LinkedIn photoMegan J. Wilson is a professional ghostblogger, commercial freelance writer and social marketing consultant.  She also blogs at Dirt Totem Productions, where she is an avid cheerleader for social media marketing for independent films.