[ Editor’s note: this article was written by guest contributor and DIY musician Ethan Collister, who I happened to meet at a music conference. Go figure.]
The competition at a music industry conference is steep and abundant. Hundreds and even thousands of delegates buzz about like swarms of hungry bees trying to promote themselves and get a piece of the proverbial honey jar. Amidst the din and racket the task of promoting yourself can be daunting.
Cutting through the noise at a music industry conference
So what does it take to stand out?
On one hand the answer is simple: Play exceptional music. If you do what you do really well someone is bound to take notice.
On the other hand, how will anyone recognize your skills if they don’t know about them? You need to reach out so others can find you and discover your talent.
You need to market yourself.
Here are a few essential tips for cutting through the noise and marketing yourself effectively at a music industry conference:
1. Carry Business Cards
Business cards are an absolute must for attending any music industry function. When you meet someone you want to stay in touch with, it is essential you can offer your contact information.
Your business card should include your name (or band name), vocation, your website and email address. I like to include my phone number too. All of this information should be clear, legible and up to date.
Having a cohesive brand looks very professional. If possible your business card should use font and imagery that is consistent with your website, latest album and any other recent branding you may have done.
When you meet someone, be sure to offer your card at a natural point in the conversation. Don’t push too hard. People don’t like to be sold. Also, make sure to ask for their business card too so that you can initiate a follow up.
2. Make Posters
If you and/or your band are showcasing at the conference, a poster can help spread the word. Keep in mind you won’t be the only one using this type of advertising — so captivating imagery is crucial. Put in some time and effort to create a poster that stands out. Again, cohesive branding is important so try to use imagery and fonts that are consistent with your most recent work.
3. Have CDs On Hand
It’s good to have multiple copies of your album or demo on hand. Pass it along if it is requested or if it feels appropriate, but don’t push too hard. Many people return from conferences with huge stacks of CDs that never get listened to. You don’t want to throw away your merchandise without a getting a return.
Focus your efforts on connections that you think have real potential. Handing out two or three albums to people who are actually going to listen is far more desirable than passing out fifteen or twenty albums that will end up in the garbage without even having the cellophane wrap opened.
4. Bring Other Promotional Materials
Print media is abundant at a music industry conference so being creative with promo material can help engage your audience and make your brand memorable.
Last month I attended the International Folk Alliance in Toronto and was struck by some of the creative promo material circulating at the conference. Branded guitar picks, digital download cards, CDs, bracelets, necklaces, bottles of hand sanitizer, percussive rhythm shakers and cookies were some of the more creative and engaging forms of advertising that stood out to me.
5. Be Yourself
The core of your brand is your personality. The way you walk, talk and engage with others is easily the most direct and effective way to market yourself.
People appreciate sincerity. Avoid putting on a show and try not to think too much about selling yourself. A hard sell can turn someone off in a hurry!
A great way to get people on your side is to think about how you can help them as opposed to focusing on how they might help you. The music industry is all about building relationships and there is no better way to do that than to help someone achieve their goals. You will be amazed at how often the favor is returned.
Some musicians are intimidated by marketing or fear that it will somehow lessen their credibility. In fact, marketing is a creative art in itself and there is no reason you can’t enjoy the creative process of marketing in the same way you would enjoy any other creative medium.
We recognize good music because it is creative and exceptional. Marketing is no different.
So don’t let your creative juices stop when you put down your instrument. Treat your marketing as an art in itself.
Dare to be creative stand out from the crowd.
Do it well and do it differently!