Posted: Feb 1, 2021
Category: The Musician Business
**Guest post by Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan of MakingMoneyWithMusic.com. Originally featured in the Disc Makers Blog. Reprinted with permission.
"In part three of our DIY music business series, you’ll learn to leverage key services and expertise to help you delegate promotion, sales, and marketing tasks so you can grow your music career.
While you hear a lot about independent musicians and how you can build a music career with a do-it-yourself mentality, doing it yourself doesn’t mean doing it alone. There isn’t a singular music industry. Instead, there are industries that serve every facet of the foundation upon which you build your career, and you have to master them all to succeed and grow as an artist.
This is the third in a multi-article series. In “How to build a team of experts to support your DIY music career,” we address the general scope of different roles within the industry, and “Don’t do it alone: Live music event roles” focuses on your live show. Today we’ll tackle another subset of roles to help grow your music career: those associated with merchandise and getting media exposure.
You’re not on your own. When it comes to merchandise, exposure, playing live, managing your music career, etc., there’s often a service or site that can help or provide expertise. You can leverage these services and resources to offload work you normally would have to do yourself — sometimes for a fee, often for free. We’re doing our part to outline all the major music business roles, the work each performs, why what they do is helpful for your music career, and how you might outsource the work or empower yourself to take on the task.
Having merchandise to sell is a key component of any music business revenue strategy. These roles, and the work they tackle, are required to get your music distributed and your products and merchandise created and manufactured.
Who: The person who distributes your music to digital stores, streaming services, physical stores, and more.
Why: To make your recorded music available to retailers, service providers, and aggregators so it can be streamed or sold to generate revenue and build a fan base.
When: Any time you have a new track you want the world to hear.
Hire: There are no distributors to hire. Distribution is a service.
Service: Services such as CD Baby not only distribute your music tracks across streaming platforms and retailers, they also help you collect royalties. Distributors differ in the fees they charge (flat fee, percentage, etc.) and the amount of additional services they provide.
Who: The person who is responsible for designing, creating, distributing, and selling the artist’s merchandise.
Why: To create new revenue streams and generate additional revenue, having products and merchandise to sell is critical.
When: You can sell your products and merch 24/7/365 at your website and online store, as well as at all live events, whether in-person or virtual/streaming.
Hire: When you start out, the merchandise manager is usually a friend, band member, trusted fan, or family member with design skills and an eye as to what merchandise might sell. They also can handle managing existing merchandise inventories or merch-on-demand storefronts and fulfillment (order-taking and shipping).
Service: For creating or branding existing merchandise, you can use services like Merchly to produce custom merch and apparel and build an inventory to sell through your own online store. For creating an online storefront for people to click, order, and pay you on their own, use storefront services like Shopify or Gumroad. If you use WordPress as your website solution, you can use eCommerce solutions such as WooCommerce.
How to DIY: You can choose to sell, handle online order-taking, and fulfill orders on your own without a digital storefront by creating a product and merch page at your website and using Paypal.ME or Venmo to collect payments.
Some of the most impactful activities are done by the people who work to get you noticed. This starts with having a web presence (i.e. your own website — you can’t rely on social media alone), but after that, it’s all about marketing. This includes promoting yourself through your channels and getting press and media coverage. There are four different types of media channels you should know about: read “Tailor your music marketing campaigns for different types of media” and “Tailor your music marketing campaigns for paid and earned media” to learn more.
Who: The person who creates and manages the artist’s web, social, and mobile presences.
Why: So much of the music industry is Internet-based and you must have a mobile-friendly web presence and social media accounts set up to distribute, promote, and publicize your act and your music. Your website is your home base on the web and should be the thing you consistently publicize and promote since it will contain everything about you and your music — including where to stream or purchase your music, links to your social media accounts, and more.
When: Day one. After that, it needs to be maintained and continuously updated.
Hire: You can hire web designers, a webmaster, or people who specialize in creating websites by networking, or through sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, and TaskRabbit. These individuals can also help you with your domain, linking the domain to your website, and more.
How to DIY: You can create your own website using tools such as WordPress, Blogger, Google Sites, and others. Many will allow you to route a purchased domain (via GoDaddy, NameCheap, etc.) to the site as well. To learn more, check out our book, Making Money With Music, which has a chapter dedicated to building and managing your web, social, and mobile presences.
Who: The person who is responsible for creating and managing the artist’s persona and brand, coming up with marketing opportunities, and running marketing and advertising campaigns.
Why: To build your fan base, it’s crucial to know your target audience and their demographics, tune-up your persona and brand, and come up with an overall strategy for how you’ll promote and publicize you and your music. Growing your fan base is critical to boosting the money you can make with music.
When: Any time, though persona and brand work ideally should be defined with assets created as early as possible in your music business.
Hire: You can hire a marketer or person with marketing planning and branding skills by networking, or through sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, and TaskRabbit. Additionally, some publicists, such as CyberPR, specialize in publicity and custom marketing planning for indie musicians. Most marketers charge a flat fee for this work.
Service: You can use specialized matching services like MarketHire, which matches your needs to skilled marketers.
How to DIY: You can create your own marketing strategy, plan, and work on your persona on your own. To learn more, check out our book, Making Money With Music, which has chapters on your persona, marketing, promotion, and publicity. Also, read our Disc Makers Blog posts, “Define your persona, find your voice, and build your artist brand” and “How to generate music marketing, promotion, and publicity opportunities.”
Who: The person who generates publicity for the artist, works with the press/media, and arranges interviews.
Why: To make the world aware of your music and video releases, shows, and events by garnering press, media attention, and exposure.
When: Any time, though usually tied to major music releases, live shows, events, and tours.
Hire: You can hire a publicist or someone who is skilled in creating a press/media kit or press release by networking or through sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, and TaskRabbit. You can also check your local Chamber of Commerce for publicists in your local area, though be aware there’s only a subset of publicists who specialize in music publicity. Publicists usually charge monthly, but can charge by the hour or project. Like any advertising, there’s a risk you could spend more money on publicity than what it generates you in return since the benefits of publicity are often hard to measure. To help mitigate this, you should set a threshold amount to spend, set publicity goals, and monitor the publicist’s progress to see if the publicist is achieving what you set out to do.
Service: You can use specialized matching services like CommunicationsMatch, which matches your need to skilled agencies, consultants, and freelancers. For creating press kits, you can build one on your website or use services like My PPK Power Press Kits.
How to DIY: You can do your own publicity, including writing and distributing press/media releases on your own. To learn more, check out our book, Making Money With Music. Also our Disc Makers Blog post, “Define your persona, find your voice, and build your artist brand.”
Who: The person who manages an artist’s social media presences, creates content, posts updates, manages engagement, and maintains a consistent voice aligned with your persona.
Why: Social media is a powerful but time-consuming publicity channel. There are strategies and tactics to use to boost engagement and grow your followers — as well as missteps to avoid — requiring expertise.
When: From here to infinity.
Hire: Publicists and promoters may offer these services, but you can also hire a person who specializes in social media management by networking, or through sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, and TaskRabbit. Social media managers usually charge flat fees based on the amount of posts or channels they are managing. Just like with publicity, there’s a risk you could spend more money on social media than what it generates you in return, so you’ll want to define which metrics to use and set clear goals as to what you want to achieve (i.e. “x” amount of followers by “x” date).
Service: You can use specialized matching services like CommunicationsMatch, which matches your need to skilled agencies, consultants, and freelancers who specialize in social media. In addition, there are tools, such as HootSuite and Loomly, which help aggregate and manage social media accounts. These tools also offer other tools, metrics, and services to help you track your engagement, direct messages, and more.
How to DIY: You can handle your own social media marketing by creating accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and more and manage your posts yourself. To learn more, check out our book, Making Money With Music.
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Understanding these roles and thinking through the tasks and activities that need to get done is an effective way to determine your best options for delegating this important work to grow your music career. Don’t forget, to the extent you take on these roles yourself, you are building skills that are marketable and can earn you money if you end up performing them for someone else. In other words, the skills you acquire to promote your music and build your business are good for your non-music resume as well."
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Authors of the critically-acclaimed modern classic, The Indie Band Survival Guide, Billboard Magazine call Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan “the ideal mentors for aspiring indie musicians who want to navigate an ever-changing music industry.” Their latest book, Making Money With Music (Macmillan) and free Making Money With Music Newsletter, help all musicians - from startups to pros - build a sustainable music business and make money in today's tech-driven music environment.