Marketing Is Everything (And Everything is Marketing)

Many artists incorrectly believe that marketing is synonymous with advertising. Therefore, when trying to increase sales of a (hopefully outstanding) product or service, they focus disproportionate attention on this promotional method. Consider the following scenarios:

  1. A dance troupe wants to attract bigger crowds to their shows.  They place ads in local newspapers.
  2. A college professor wants to recruit drama majors.  She asks her school to place ads in magazines geared towards actors.
  3. A guitarist wants to increase sales of a new CD.  He asks his label to place ads in trade journals and catalogues.
  4. An art school for children wants to drum up more business.  They place an ad in the Yellow Pages.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of advertisements.  They’re expensive and, with a world drowning in a sea of competing ads, certainly don’t guarantee sales.  In fact, countless marketing gurus have declared death to conventional advertising. Whether or not that’s 100% true, they rarely work in isolation.  To have any impact whatsoever, they must be supplemented with additional compelling messages.

For my book The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference, we made a conscious decision not to place a single ad anywhere (and so far have made good on that commitment).  Yes sales have been, according to our distributor, “exceptional.”  And there’s a reason why.  We market like crazy beasts. 

So what exactly is marketing?  Here’s my definition: EVERYTHING!  And everything is marketing:

  • The projects you pursue—what they are and why others should care
  • The products your produce—including quality and if they solve real problems
  • The art you create—and whether its newsworthy
  • The brand you build—your name, what makes you different, and how others perceive your work
  • The relationships you cultivate—how much trust exists, and if you wish them happy birthday  
  • The web presence you maintain—quality and quantity count, as does a strong call to action
  • The visibility you demonstrate—showing up and participating actively
  • The promotional materials you craft—both content and presentation
  • The e-mails you send—message, accuracy, and speed with which you respond
  • The persistence you show—whether consistently following through or giving up after 3 attempts
  • The customer service you demonstrate—especially when there’s a problem
  • The way you engage fans—both online and during the concert (including intermission)
  • The loyalty you cultivate—because active engagement generates buzz and referrals
  • The testimonials you generate—since words are more credible when coming from others
  • The look you wear—including the expression on your face
  • The attitude you project—even on your worst days

A bio or resume doesn’t just state what you’ve done.  It’s marketing.  Volunteering for a great cause isn’t just charitable.  It’s marketing.  Showing up late isn’t just unprofessional.  It’s (negative) marketing.  Your performances, recordings, paintings, lessons, and workshops are not just artistic products.  They’re marketing! 

So how much marketing are you doing?  And which messages do you convey?

  • Kevin

    Regis McKenna; Harvard Business Review; January -February 1991

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