Why Your Demo Isn't Enough to Make It in the Music Business
In today’s world, musicians are expected to be a one-stop shop for their own marketing, production, PR, and everything in between. Long gone are the days of A&R managers, discovering your raw talented un-branded and undeveloped. As if it weren't hard enough to complete your demo, you also have to figure out how to promote it and when you should follow up.
Today, there are so many tools that offer ways to automate these added responsibilities, but they don’t handle everything. You still need a strategy and plan to know how you’re going to get your music out into the world.
A lot of musicians lean into this “struggle.” But if you want to become a successful musician, you need to get away from the struggle mentality and focus on how you’re going to make real money. You need to know who you are and where you're going. And sometimes that means spending time doing the things you don’t want to do.
The secret to sending the perfect music demo doesn’t depend on your talent, who you know, or how bad you want it – it lies within your ability to think outside the mind of a typical musician. It means thinking like a business owner. You're a creative entrepreneur, carving the path to your own personal future, which means you need to advocate for yourself in more ways than one.
When you’re in promotion mode, it’s important you know how to maneuver around producers, bloggers, and their personal interests. Musicians who embrace the industry with a business mind will often have better insight into how to send the perfect demo and actually get a response from the people who matter most. Leverage the clever and strategic tactics marketers and salespeople use to sell products and services.
Assuming you have a demo complete and are ready to send it to labels, music bloggers, and the world, here are four things you need to do to think more like a boss when it comes to promoting your music.
1. Establish your goals and timeline
It can be hard to juggle emails, conversations, and contacts while also trying to build your talent as a musician. If you’re running in circles trying to make things happen, it’s easy to lose track of where you are with certain contacts. It can leave you feeling restless and out of control.
Nip this in bud and create a timeline of events you want to make happen throughout the next three, six, and nine months. Start with big goals, and continue to break them down into smaller and smaller tasks. Make these tasks and goals visible and check in on them regularly. It can be a tough exercise to put this all out in the open, but it’s critical to your success.
Here's a breakdown of how you can create your goals. Each item will have a deadline next to it.
2. Identify key target audiences
In marketing and business, before you ever create a campaign or business plan, you need to think of the people you're serving. In this case, don’t think of your audience as your fans or general listeners, but, rather, the people you're sending your demo to: producers, bloggers, radio DJs, etc.
Get to know their environment, what makes them tick, and what their motivations are. What kind of responsibilities and challenges do they face? How can you make their lives less difficult? Get to know them, understand their pains and priorities, and find creative ways to connect with them.
3. Be intentional in your messaging
Have you ever talked to a salesperson who was clearly following a script and ignoring your unique problems or requests? Frustrating, right? People see right through multi-recipient email blasts, just like they can see right through tactless, BS marketing.
When you’re sending a demo, don’t put people on a single email list or newsletter. Take time to craft individually personalized messages. Just because you're personalizing messages, it doesn’t have to take a ton of time. With tools like DropTrack, you can easily personalize demo submissions and send them off quickly. Just remember to be intentional and find thoughtful ways to say, “Hey, I’m not only talented, I also know my stuff.”
4. Put the music first
No matter how many business tips we give you, at the end of the day, if they aren’t backing a quality recording, drop everything else and focus on that first. As a business-minded person now, you need to be thinking about the quality of your “product,” aka, your music demo. You can launch all the cool, creative marketing in the world, and if it ends with a terrible listen, you’re screwed.
Do your research and make sure you’re thoughtful about how and why you’re sending your demo to a record label, music blogger etc. Keep it simple and tactful, yet creative and intentional.