Tag Archives: Marketing

Scarcity And The Live Show

Naturally scarce things stay valuable naturally. Artificially scarce things lose value despite all the effort involved.

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

I can share this picture with any number of people, but it can’t replace the experience of actually being at a Stonefed gig.

When the whole Napster thing hit, I was one of those folks that didn’t get it.

I got all wrapped up in this idea that people were being jerks by taking music, and I wasn’t afraid to tell people how I felt about it. I had this notion that what we had was an attitude problem, and everybody’s attitude had to be fixed.

Over ten years later, I feel differently. I’ve come to realize that computing has fundamentally altered the landscape of the media, and that the alteration was by no means “unnatural.” That is, the fundamental rules of value weren’t somehow broken by us all getting high-speed, high-availability data that could transmit music. The way things are valued underwent a huge change, but not actually in a way that’s alien and incomprehensible.

Yes, there have been some very uncomfortable and unhappy consequences, but a lot of BS is also getting flushed down the toilet – and that’s a good thing. I think there’s a decent chance that these growing pains we’re experiencing are a doorway to a reality where the things that are naturally valuable, that really matter, are what will retain their value.

Things could go all topsy-turvy again at any moment, but I see the live performance as becoming more and more the locus of a musician’s ability to create value for themselves and others.

Here’s why.

Real And Artificial Scarcity

Way back when, recorded music was physically scarce. The equipment and facilities necessary to record sound were much more difficult to acquire, and the distribution media was actual, physical media. A record (the actual round thing with grooves) wasn’t something that just anybody could create on a whim. Recorded music was naturally scarce, naturally tangible, and naturally hard to reproduce without explicit permission. As a relatively scarce physical good, recorded music had a sort of natural monetary value. People who could afford recorded music bought it without a second thought, because you had to have a physical thing to play the music, and you couldn’t just make a copy for someone else.

As technology marched along, though, there was an inexorable shift. The technology required to put music-representing information into a form that machines could play back got cheaper and cheaper. There was still a good bit of scarcity, though. For instance, you could copy your favorite record to a cassette tape, but it took the entire linear play-time of the record to do so. You could make a copy for a friend, but it wasn’t a trivial process. Even with a high-speed dubbing deck, it could take a while to create the copy – and generation loss meant that the copy of the copy had a good deal more noise (and other artifacts). It was unlikely that the average Joe had a multi-copy tape deck around, so there usually weren’t many dupes to be had. The dupes also still had to be physically present for playback to occur.

So, even with consumer-writable media, recorded music was still pretty scarce.

The situation above continued to develop. We eventually gained the ability to make digital copies, which made generation loss a negligible problem. Even when the price of write-capable optical drives dropped, and the media became more affordable, there was no great tsunami of change.

And then, it became possible for regular folks to compress digital data that represented music. It also became possible for people to transfer that data between remote computers, and to do so without a fixed piece of media. (Yes, they needed network infrastructure, but the data isn’t “fixed” to the network cables. It just travels across the network media.)

Recorded music wasn’t scarce anymore.

See, the entire point of a computer is to store, change, copy, and transfer data, and to do all that as quickly as possible. Once recorded music became computer-manageable data, its scarcity was all over. You didn’t need individual pieces of physical media. Making copies was trivial, and got even more trivial. Transferring the copies was trivial, and got even more trivial.

Now then.

The record companies and established recording artists didn’t really like this, because their business model was and is based on the idea of recordings being scarce. As a result, the record companies hatched (and continue to hatch) all kinds of strategies to create artificial scarcity. Copy protection systems, DRM for file-based media, royalty schemes that are tailor-made for terrestrial radio but crazy for network streaming…all of it is built, even if unconsciously, around trying to keep recordings scarce.

The problem, though, is that anything you can turn into data is not scarce anymore. Fast computers and fast data have made demanding money for a piece of media obsolete. (Politely asking for money as a “thank you” for an experience is not obsolete, however.) All the copy-protection and DRM schemes in the world can’t change the simple fact that the entire globe basically runs on machines and networks which are purposefully and specifically designed to make data as un-scarce as possible.

What this means is that the intrinsic, monetary value of the data itself will drop to some minimum. The minimum may be zero, or it might not be. I don’t know.

Anyway, this is where the live show comes in.

Live Performances Are Naturally Scarce

I’m not just saying this because audio for live performance is what I do.

I’m saying this because it’s the conclusion that seems to be supported by the facts I’ve got.

As of this writing, we don’t have a way to convert an actual show into data, and that means that live shows are – digitally speaking – rare. Sure, someone can record the show on video and post the file, but you can’t make a copy of actually being there. You can’t mass-duplicate being in the crowd, and having the band right there, and being in a moment that can only happen NOW and never again. You can’t.

Now, if we ever find a way to digitize and store memories, all bets will be off. If we ever find a way to have true, full-blown, full-fidelity telepresence, the all the bets will be even more off. (If we get to that point, though, I’m betting that we’ll have made it to a completely post-scarcity society. Or a horrific dystopia. Could go either way, I guess.)

The point is still that we haven’t yet found a way to get realtime, ephemeral experiences into a form that’s trivially copied and shared. Thus, the immediate and transitory reality of a live show with a live band has tremendously more intrinsic scarcity than recorded music does. Heck, it has more intrinsic scarcity than recorded music EVER had. Big record companies could stamp a lot of vinyl, but they couldn’t make copies of the actual band.

So what?

So, I say, record your music. Record it as well as you can. Shape it, polish it, and be proud of it. Even so, recognize that the recording as a saleable product in and of itself is not the concept that it used to be. The recording is a mass-marketing tool for your act, and one that you may be able to get some money from. That money, though, comes from the experience of liking and supporting the band, instead of paying to be in possession of information. The recording is data that represents how cool your songs are, just like your artist bio is data that represents how cool your band is. The purpose of this data is to be shared by as many people as possible.


Because it helps to create a lot of value around the very scarce experience of being in a room and listening to you craft an experience in real time. At least for the time being, that experience is naturally rare, and therefore precious.

Measure Your Marketing

If you want to be smart about promoting your band and your shows, you need to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

I do NOT subscribe to the notion that “if it can’t be measured, it doesn’t exist.” I think there’s all kinds of room for things that are experienced, undertaken, and managed at an intuitive level. There isn’t a single thing wrong with saying, “this seems to be working really well, so let’s go with it.”

At the same time, though, I’m a proponent of quantifying things when there’s freedom to do so. This freedom seems to come along after you get to a certain comfort level.

Sometimes, a DIScomfort level.


You get to a point where things either seem to be working, or they seem to not be working, and you get a second to step back, scratch the ol’ noggin, and try to suss out the whys and wherefores. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in an artistic, technical, or business discipline – you eventually reach a state of needing (or wanting) to get at some underlying science.

You know. Numbers. Stats. Correlations.

When it comes to doing promo for your band’s recordings and shows, I’m of the opinion that it’s better to start figuring out the numbers early. If nothing else, being willing to take “the hard look” at what’s working and what isn’t can save you both money and effort in the long run – and who doesn’t want to have more cash and more free time?

De-mystifying Advertising Analytics

When I say the word “analytics,” it may be pretty intimidating. I’m a pretty tech and science savvy dude, and it was a touch intimidating to me when I hadn’t really gotten into it. The reality, though, is that being analytical about your promo comes down to one basic concept:

Each piece of your promotion should have some way to unambiguously self-report on its effectiveness.


Okay. Let’s rewind.

Think about some ads that you’ve seen lately, especially if they were in some “traditional media” channel. It doesn’t matter what they were for. Did the promo say anything about “mention this ad and [some reward will be offered to you]?”

If the answer was yes, then the advertisement was set up to self-report on its effectiveness. The advertiser offered a special incentive for a customer to mention that specific ad campaign, with the goal being to keep track of how many people actually mention the ad. If a ton of people mention the ad and claim the incentive (“Two For One!” or whatever) then the advertiser knows that – at some level – the ad campaign was effective in reaching an audience. Either the tallied number of people saw the ad and responded, or a smaller number of people saw the ad and passed on the information to their friends.

Now, if they’re really smart, the advertiser will keep track of how much each incentive-claimer bought, and whether or not the aggregate profits offset the cost of the advertising. This is why all the big retailers have reward cards and other ways of invading your privacy. They want to gather as much data as possible, and then correlate your buying habits with their profit and loss statements. In real time, if possible.

I could get into what it means if you answered “no” to the question “Was an incentive offered for mentioning the ad,” but that’s not really germane to this article.


The point is that figuring out whether or not your promo is effective means embedding a measurement strategy in the promo itself.

Embedded Measurement

So…how DO you embed measurement into your promotional efforts?

The most immediate way is to use promo channels that already have measurement and reporting built in. Even at the most basic level, you can make observations about Facebook likes and shares, or Twitter favorites and retweets. You can then compare those numbers to all kinds of different things – when you sent out the Facebook post, what wording you used, when and where the show was scheduled, etc. Counting the number of responses you get is obvious, and I’m sure you already do it. However, you might not already be trying to correlate those “measures of engagement” with the various strategies that you try.

This is all fine and good, but what if you’re trying a promo method that isn’t web-based? For instance, lots of bands post flyers, but I know of very few bands that know if they actually work or not.

Mostly, I think bands post flyers because other bands posted them in the past. It’s a tradition!


This is where an incentive program can come in very handy.

For instance, you could have some special merch (like a free CD and sticker) to give away to anybody who comes to the show and brings a flyer with them. If you’d rather not have people pulling your flyers down, you could also make the same offer for anyone who comes in with a cellphone picture of the flyer.

You do need to be careful that you can afford the incentive. You might need to put a limit on the number of redemptions, if the incentive is relatively “spendy.” (“The first 10 people to bring in a flyer get a free shirt!”) It’s fine to get people in the door with a promo, but if the cost of the campaign outweighs the benefits of a larger audience, then the promotion wasn’t worth it.

You also need to be aware of whether or not your incentive actually focuses on your music, or if it focuses on something else. It’s perfectly fine to make a deal with a venue where people with cellphone pics of your flyer get a discount on a hamburger, but you need to be aware that some folks will take the picture and make the trip only for the food. On the other hand, incentives for band merch and cheaper admission make the promo solely about your band and your show.

Once you have your incentive program operating, you do need to remember to count. At the very least, make a note of how many people took advantage of the incentive and when. (This can be as simple as marking a tally on a sheet of paper with a date at the top.) When you relate this information to other numbers that you already have, you can start to get an objective picture about your different promo activities.

The ultimate goal is to figure out what promotions get attention AND actually make you more money. It’s not that making more money is the only worthwhile goal. It’s that turning a profit is one worthwhile goal among many…

…and measuring your marketing is very helpful in achieving that end.

Promotion Pie

Show promotion is an expense like any other: It shrinks or grows based on risk and reward.

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

Music folks of all kinds, from instrumentalists to vocalists, sitar players to sound guys, are often their own worst enemies when it comes to the business side of the…er…business. Maybe I’m just trying to flatter myself, but I don’t think it’s because we’re mentally lazy or incapable of analytical thought. No, I believe the root of the problem is that “business” is a discipline that’s separate from music and production, and so it doesn’t get developed to the same extent.

Or it doesn’t get developed at all.

As such, music humans can get bamboozled by business myths, or easily blinded by “gussied up” portrayals of how the industry works.

One of the areas that seems to be the most opaque is that of promotion. There’s no shortage of people who provide services related to it, and you can’t swing a stuffed-toy marmot without hitting someone on the Internet who dispenses advice about it. Promotion suffers from “mythology” as much as anything else I’ve encountered over the years, and I myself have blundered into believing fairy-tales.

Let’s just say that it took me until only a few years ago to realize that show promo isn’t a magical process. It’s entirely understandable to me that frustrated musicians and techs, having worked their tails off for a night that was poorly attended, will begin to say that someone “should have promoted more,” or “those people over there should have spent more money on building a buzz for the show.” There’s a belief (that I shared for a long time) that promo dollars bring people to performances in predictable ways.

It’s a false belief, but it sticks around because massive, sold-out stadium gigs get a lot of press. We make the mistake of thinking that correlation implies causation (it doesn’t), and so we figure that all that press brought a ton of people to the show (maybe it did, maybe it didn’t). We also reckon that if we did press on a similar scale, more people would come to our shows (maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t).

Before going further, I should point out that I am still an outsider to the show-promotion world. I’ve made a good number of observations through the years, and I’ve even gained some hands-on experience with show promo and marketing in general. However, I have never been on staff with a firm that did concert marketing as its core business. As such, when it comes to things like numbers and percentages, I have no choice but to make educated guesses.

My defense for these guesses is that they seem to line up with actual realities that I’ve experienced. Those actual realities have played out in a way that suggests that promotion is a slice of the overall “pie” of show production costs, and that the slice’s absolute and proportional sizes are dependent on a number of factors.

More Pie For People Who Like The Filling

Like I said before, show promo isn’t magical. If there’s any foundational theory that the rest of this is based on, it’s that idea of non-magic. Lots of people think that promotion “creates” show attendees, but it actually doesn’t. Show promotion is just like other marketing effort, in that:

Show promo is primarily the act of informing a band’s existing, invested fanbase that an appearance by the group has been planned.

The key words above are “primarily,” “existing,” and “invested.” Sure, there are some folks that might see the promotion and get intrigued by the mere fact that something’s going on, but the main purpose is to connect with the folks who are already tuned in. Marketing ISN’T to reach the indifferent masses – it’s to reach the people who you’re very sure will go, “Shut up and take my money!” People run big, generalized campaigns for TV sets, because vast swaths of people are interested in buying them. People don’t run prime-time TV commercials for mic-preamps, because most folks don’t give a rip about ’em.

To bring this back to show-promo, though, think about a superstar, like Taylor Swift. Whether you like Taylor Swift or not, she packs stadiums. She also has a lot of promotional effort behind her. Now – here’s the question: What percentage of the people in that stadium were indifferent to Ms. Swift, yet came to the show solely because of the promo blitz?

That percentage is probably tiny. Yes, there are some folks in the crowd who are indifferent (or even dislike) Taylor Swift, but are there because a friend or family member dragged them along. Their presence is not a direct result of the promotion for the show. The fans who are invested – who are singing along, dying for a chance to see Ms. Swift up close, and are ready to buy a TON of merch – those are the people that the promotion was aimed at.

(By the way, in the above paragraphs, I’m lumping all promotion together. Expensive traditional media, essentially free social media, and middle-cost self-managed web presence are all in there.)

It makes sense, then, that promotional efforts need to be large enough to reach the audience that is expected to be listening, while not being so large that they’re wasted on people who aren’t:

The “promo” slice of the production expense pie grows in proportion to the number of people expected to be listening intently for the promotion’s message.

It might not seem like this busts the “if we only would have promoted more…” myth, but it does. You can’t promote a show into success if nobody gives a hoot about the act to start with. Taylor Swift gets a ton of big-dollar promotion because she has a ton of fans already – her act is “generally” marketable.

Pie Is Cheaper When You Make Your Own

Another myth of promotion is that more work or more expense gets better results.


More effective and more targeted promotion gets better results. Expense and/ or effort is mutually exclusive. This is because of the previous points above – promo is about getting the news to the people who are ready to listen.

Before the era of high-speed, high-availability data and social networking, you had to use traditional media for promotions. The traditional media outlets had defacto control over who could reach an audience, and a good amount of cash was required to gain access to that audience. Part of the reason for that expense and its justification was because of the massive coverage that the media outlets had. They would quote all kinds of demographics to potential advertisers. They would supply every kind of table and chart to illustrate how many thousands or millions of people they reached, how many of those people were in certain age groups, how many bought some product last year, and all kinds of other things.

Even so, it was all a game of averages. If you spent the money to do promo via a massive outlet, you hoped that the gargantuan audience held enough interested people to make the expense worthwhile. If you weren’t sure about the mass appeal of what you were promoting, you saved money by going with more niche media. Still, all you had was a hope that someone might hear the message and respond in some way.

Particularly for artists, there was a way around this:

The fanclub.

The fanclub was a list of people who you knew were listening for information about you. There was almost no uncertainty at all – they had raised their hands and said, “I want to be informed about every concert and every release and every poster and what the band had for breakfast and…”

With this information in hand, a band could do laser-targeted promo at a very controlled cost. Postage was non-trivial, but you knew that the message was going directly to someone who wanted to hear it.

The modern fanclub is social media.

Social media isn’t perfect. To some degree, the service provider (Twitter, Facebook, G+) still exerts a certain amount of “gateway” control. At the same time, social media allows a band to promote their shows directly to an audience that has actively declared their interest. The cost involved is even less than postage, in terms of cash required to reach any individual recipient. Even better, the “post” message engagement is measurable. You can see things like retweets, likes, and shares. There’s a much more readily measurable indication of what worked and what didn’t.

The “promo” slice of the production expense pie can actually shrink as the ability to directly reach an invested audience grows.

Again, I’m going to use Taylor Swift as an example. A few days ago, she (or her management) posted to Twitter that she was going to play five shows at the O2 in London. When I looked, that tweet had 9000 favorites and 11,000 retweets. The tweet probably took someone a minute to compose. It was sent out for free – no postage required. Nine thousand people thought it was cool enough to favorite, and 11,000 people thought it was so cool that they sent it along. If each of those 11,000 people only has 10 followers, that means that the message has reached 110,000 people.

At no major cost to the artist, if at any direct cost at all.

And it’s all a lot more trackable than an ad on radio, TV, or the newspaper. I’m sure there will be promotion via those outlets for the shows, but will it be more effective than one tweet just because it was more expensive, or took more work?

I doubt it.

You Have To Save Enough Pie To Actually Eat

The final part of this discussion is the bit that’s easiest to get wrong. It’s easy to get wrong because of the myths surrounding the issues that have already been put on the table.

It’s the idea that all promotion generates more profit, so greater promotional expenses are always justified. If promo were “magic,” then this would be a safe assumption, but it isn’t, so it ain’t.

It would be great if it WAS true. Believe me, when I was a venue operator, I would have jumped at the chance to get $2.00 back for every buck that went into promotional efforts. Heck, I probably would have been on board if it was even $1.50 or $1.25 per dollar.

But, that’s not how it works.

For traditional media, there are a lot of “minimum” costs. The first minimum cost is the barrier to any entry at all – how much money does it take to get any ad space? The next minimum cost is the barrier to effectiveness. The barrier to effectiveness is the money required to get an ad with placement that catches the attention of your hoped-for audience.

The problem, then, is that cost and uncertainty of effectiveness easily overpower a promotions budget.

I don’t know about anyone else, but based on my previous experiences, I would say this:

The “promo” slice of the production expense pie should not usually exceed 25% of the expected PROFIT from the promoted event or group of events.

I printed “profit” in caps because it’s easy to confuse profit with revenue. Back when I ran my own room, my average revenue was about $74/ show. I had a killer arrangement in terms of rent, as I was essentially subsidized by New Song Presbyterian. Seven dollars from each show went out in recognition of that upkeep. I paid myself with what was left over, and took personal responsibility for most supplies, equipment, and other expenses. That amounted to about $26 per show.

The profit, then, was around $41 per event. If we round up, we could say that the maximum prudent budget for per-show promo would be $11.00.

Eleven smackers buys absolutely nothing in terms of traditional media. All of my “promo margin” saved over a year would have been enough to buy exactly one, 8-unit ad in The City Weekly. (I could have purchased multiple smaller ads, but they would have been too easy to miss.) Even if I had gotten that big, omnibus ad, would it have increased my profitability?

My guess is no, because the ad wouldn’t have been specifically targeted. I might have gotten more booking requests, but I didn’t have any trouble keeping the room busy. The risk that spending the promo money would be nothing more than vanity was very real. This leads to another rule-of-thumb:

The “promo” slice of the production expense pie isn’t worth spending if you have little confidence that the expense will grow the size of the entire pie.

The bottom line is that any production expense has to be justified in terms of making the show better, or making the show more profitable. If there’s a huge question mark in the profitability vs. promo area, then it’s far better to spend the promo budget on something else.

If cutting out a piece of a pie is supposed to get you more pie later, and it doesn’t, then you may as well have thrown that slice in the trash.

Marketing And Promotion Isn’t Magic

The idea that more people show up because more money is spent on “broadcast” show promotion is false.

Please Remember:

The opinions expressed are mine only. These opinions do not necessarily reflect anybody else’s opinions. I do not own, operate, manage, or represent any band, venue, or company that I talk about, unless explicitly noted.

I don’t know if anybody plays “Magic: The Gathering” any more, but that was the best metaphor I could think of.


There is a persistent myth in the music industry that more promotion = more concertgoers. This myth is untrue. (There are true myths, at least in my experience, but that’s a philosophical discussion for another time.)

Now, what IS true is that “the word” regarding an upcoming show does need to get out. Makes sense, right? If nobody knows about your upcoming gig, they probably aren’t going to show up. The problem is making the assumption that, just because someone knows about your gig, they WILL show up without fail. Of course, at an intuitive level, we know that’s not true. Even your best friends – people who love your music, or the venue, or whatever, don’t always turn up when given the opportunity.

For some reason, though, when it comes to marketing and promotion, we shut off this particular piece of knowledge and start acting like dollars and effort will force things to happen. As a result, money and effort is expended out of proportion to the returns it might bring. This leads to frustration, anger, and also less money for other things. Things like gear. And also food.

Fortunately, I think there’s a fix. The fix doesn’t solve the problem of people showing up, but it does solve our internal problem of believing a lie. The fix, like all troubleshooting, starts with understanding what’s broken.

“Broadcast” Advertising Is A Risky Investment

A quote attributed to John Wanamaker goes like this: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

Whether or not he actually said it, the quote illustrates the problem with advertising your show, album release, or anything else via traditional means. It’s hard to know if mass marketing is effective or not.

Traditional media is broadcast in nature. That is to say, it gets fired off into the public with no (or minimal) targeting. Sure, a publication, radio station, or TV production may have its own target audience, but the actual delivery medium effectively “radiates” to a general area. With the exception of their streaming services, TV and radio transmissions fly out with minimal directivity. Folks either tune in or don’t, but the signal still arrives at their location if they’re in range. That transmission power is lost if folks aren’t listening. The same analogy applies to print. Sure, The Salt Lake Tribune, SLUG, and The City Weekly target where they put their distribution stands. Even so, once the papers get to those stands, there’s no targeting at all. The “signal” is just out there, and you don’t immediately (sometimes ever) know if it reached any particular person or didn’t.

This is why traditional media advertises their advertising services the way they do. (So meta! It’s like a reflection of a reflection.) They say things like, “We reach thousands of people across the Wasatch Front. A percentage of these people buy from radio/ TV/ newspaper ads. Advertising with us works!”

Think about that last paragraph. Promotion via traditional media is a form of gambling. It’s really nothing more than a bet based on percentages – like Roulette, or Poker. If your product has a general appeal, then the percentage is in your favor. If your product is niche, then you’re making a risky bet.

Live music is a niche market. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of people who like to attend shows. The issue is that there usually aren’t a lot of people who want to attend YOUR show. So, just telling them that your show is out there isn’t going to turn them into a customer.

If you want to boil it down, you can say this:

Marketing and promotion is the process of gaining attention from the people who are already interested in buying what you’re selling. Marketing and promotion are NOT the process of magically turning people disinterested in your product into people interested in your product.

Let me lay a couple of examples of well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective marketing on you.

  • I once did an all-ages show for a band that wanted to make a splash in Salt Lake. The whole night was theirs. They spent money on radio spots, flyers, the whole thing. As I recall, about 10 people showed up to a 200 capacity room. To the best of my knowledge, all of them were existing fans.
  • I once did a show where the venue invested in a “far more extravagant than normal” newspaper ad for the show. It was a good chunk of the page, and in full color. The act came from a good, “name” pedigree. The show night was probably in the top 10 of the slowest nights in that venue.

Of course, I recognize that two examples isn’t a huge sample size. At the same time, I feel that it’s representative of what’s going on.

So…watcha gonna do? Take heart! The news isn’t all bad. Actually, the news is pretty good.

Do What’s Effective, Then Stop. Immediately.

The pretty-dang-good news is that you – yes YOU, you eating the sandwich over there – are your own media outlet now. (Remember my article about that?) On top of that, you’re not just a media outlet. You’re a laser-targeted media outlet.


If the marketing available to bands, artists, and venues were a guided munition, it would be able to home in on a target the size of a cell phone (not one of the big ones, either) in the dark, during a violent hurricane.

…and this isn’t because of studies. It’s not because of polling. It’s not because of statistical genius.

It’s because of social media.

There are a million lectures to be had about the power of social media, so there’s no need for me to repeat very much. What I will say is this:

As a musician, band, or anyone else involved in music, you have the unprecedented power of focusing your marketing efforts on people who have – effectively – declared directly that they are interested in what you’re selling. For this reason, you can get maximum results with a minimum of cost and effort. You just have to give yourself permission.

You don’t have to throw money at traditional media, hoping that someone might listen. You have Facebook likes. You have Twitter followers. You have people who look at your pictures on Instagram. You have people who have decided to listen to you, and you know who they are. Right now.

Yes, I know that capturing the attention of those folks is an issue. That piece of the discussion is beyond the scope of this article, although you might want to check into the resources that Carlos Castillo posts.

The upshot? Spend your precious money and energy on reaching the people that you know are already interested in some demonstrable way. Actually, because social media is effectively subsidized, you only have to directly spend energy. Ask the people who have already taken the trouble to “declare for you” to pass the word. Only some of them will, but the end result is still more effective than throwing a message into the howling, black vortex of broadcast media…and then hoping for the best.

Then, once you’ve reached out to the people who have already said that they want to listen, stop.


I mean it.

Give yourself permission to quit promoting after you’ve done all that will actually be effective.

It’s really hard, surprisingly, so make sure to practice.

Even in the music business, which is supposedly a very free-love, touchy-feely sort of place, there’s this incredible undercurrent of having to do an “acceptable” amount of work on a show. The undercurrent is so strong that people will actually spend time and money that they shouldn’t, doing things that don’t actually work, all to satisfy that sense that there’s a certain amount of “tired and used up” that must be achieved before something becomes legitimate. It’s all part of the competition based on work that I’ve come to deeply dislike.

I urge you not to do things that are ineffective simply to say that you’ve done them.

Do what matters, and then move on. Give yourself permission. Even better – give others you’re working with, like bands on the same bill, and the venue you’re playing at, permission to stop after they’ve done what works.

…and keep track of what works. Flyering (which is a form of broadcast media, I assure you) isn’t something that I see as working very much. However, if you can positively determine that it’s effective for you, with real numbers to back up your conclusions, then go for it! If nobody that follows you on Twitter is actually interested in your shows, then don’t sink a lot of time into marketing your shows on Twitter. If Facebook does everything you need, post to Facebook and then let things ride. Do what works for you, and avoid being lazy, but also recognize that all you have to do to avoid being lazy is to do what’s actually enough. Adding on a bunch of useless activity is just getting tired for the purpose of internal bonus points.

Marketing and promotion for shows isn’t magic. It doesn’t conjure an audience out of thin air. If you’ve done what you can, you’ve done what you can.