Online Music Promotion Diary: Branding vs. Business

by Matt @ Kurb on February 6, 2009

It’s certainly been one of those weeks in music promotion so what better opportunity to head over to my blog to work through some of the issues.

The music business isn’t necessarily a choice between artistic vision and viable business practice, but it is certainly a negotiation.

Are you going to build a strong brand image which attracts fans to your values, or are you going to be more pragmatic and try to negotiate a path between value for your fans and value in your pocket?

Both are strategies.

You can’t build a brand without a viable business model to sustain it. But then you can’t really expect to create high value for your “tribe” of fans if you don’t stand for or represent anything, so that’s where you’re weighing up and balncing the value of your efforts.

More questions have to be asked and parameters set.

Are you developing a product for a non existant audience?

As in, are you about to drop a release for sale without having done a 6 month online lead up?

Or are you developing an audience or a fanbase but still struggling financially because you haven’t prepared an adequate business model?

As in, you’ve built a great audience interacting online, but you really expect to monetize that by selling digital copies of your music on disc and online?

I’ve been somewhat unhappy with the progress I had planned to make by this point in developing and expressing my brand a bit more powerfully and I haven’t even sorted out my header.

But it comes down to this: From a business perspective, where, right now, am I adding significant value for my tribe by putting work into my brand? My best opportunity to move forward is by getting alongside my clients and delivering results – not by telling the world I spent their money on buying myself a new BMW as if that proves anything.

My point is that it’s nice to have dreams and schemes but dont stray too far from reality – the shape of your core business activity. Are you really going to buck the trend and sell out your first run of CD’s? You’re willing to back yourself and put you’re money behind it but have you really thought out your long term plan or are you just gonna be sitting there with a whole bunch of CD’s?

Didn’t it used to be so easy? All you had to do was sign your music away to the big label and they would do it all for you, resulting in your tiny slice of the pie. They had a great business model based around plastic discs but thats all but falling apart now. This recession will devastate the labels, and now it’s up to artists to launch new, smarter, business models if they are to survive.

But new business models require extensive set up. The move is on to abandon the shrinking retail store space for a diminishing number of titles in favour of a business model that works online.

That just can’t be drummed up overnight though.

I deal with clients are coming to me weeks out from a release or important gig and there just aren’t that many strategies online that can work that quickly.  Well they can, but it’s going to cost a lot of money and it wont necessarily give you much opportunity to guage and adjust for results.

And really, this isn’t the time to spending large amounts of money on promotion if you don’t have some kind of platform in place, and as I’ve said before, a proven sales record.

If you don’t have a proven sales record you really shouldn’t be throwing a lot of money into anything, until you’ve experimented with enough products and propositions to see where the market lies.

And how can you be dropping grands promoting something when you dont have the website, the blogs, the video promotion, the channels, the email list, the funnel – open to leverage that attention?

What you’re going to see, no matter how good or bad your promotion, is that all that attention will just slide through your hands if you have no way of converting it into some kind of relationship where you can access these subscribers.

It all comes back to the email list now. Not only to maintain access, but also to build relationships with fans rather than attempting to hard sell them before offering any kind of solid value.

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