Boss Lady

6 Invaluable lessons musicians can teach you about marketing


What does it take to succeed in music? If you said “talent”, you’d only be partially right. While talent is essential, it’s often strong marketing that helps set artists apart in the uber-competitive music world.

In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that top musicians are among the biggest brands in the world. Your average global citizen might struggle to recognize Citibank’s logo, but he’ll likely know Eminem and Beyonce.

For entrepreneurs and marketers, these musicians offer power lessons in marketing. From crafting a cohesive brand identity to building a community, there’s a lot you can learn from your favorite artists, as I’ll show you below.

1. Ensure that all marketing is “on-brand”

Do you remember this much-memed image of a casually dressed James Field (of Metallica) holding an expensive designer brand bag?

As The Verge recounts, this image was endlessly mocked online and negatively affected Metallica’s sales.

The reason for this wasn’t that Hetfield was doing exactly what a wealthy 40+ year old would do. Rather, it was because Hetfield’s appearance and activity was so off-brand. Metallica, as a metal band, had branded itself as existing on the periphery of mainstream acceptance.

Yet, seeing its lead singer walk around like an average person shattered that illusion.

This is something musicians can teach you about branding. The best ones make it a point to maintain the same brand image in every public appearance. This is why you’ll never see Beyonce not appear in public as the sophisticated, stylish diva that she is – it would be off-brand.

Takeaway: Make sure that every piece of marketing collateral you put out – blog posts, social media images, ads, etc. – meets your brand guidelines. Even a single off-brand appearance can shatter your brand appeal.

2. Use the same branding principles on every customer touch-point

If you have to maintain the same brand image, it makes sense that every customer touch-point – form marketing collateral to customer support – should meet your brand requirements as well.

Top musicians understand this better than anyone. If they have a new tour or album coming out, you’ll find that they make sure that every aspect of the fan interaction stays on-brand.

For example, Beyonce is coming out with a new album — OTR II. The album has a darker, more nostalgic aesthetic. You can see this on every aspect of her online presence, from the YouTube video previewing the album to her Twitter presence all share the same design.

This creates a much more cohesive brand identity. Any fan who finds Beyonce online will get the same experience of the upcoming album.

This is something you should aspire for your marketing campaigns as well. If your new campaign is bright and bold, your website should follow suit (or at least reference it in some way).

Takeaway: Your goal should be to make every customer touch-point offer the same brand experience. Think of how Apple has the same brand experience across its retail stores, website, and even product packaging.

3. Embrace new technology

The music industry has come a long way from its technology-averse ways of the Napster-era. Musicians, especially indie artists, today are embracing new technology faster than many businesses.

For example, if you click on the profile link in David Guetta’s Twitter handle, you’ll see a long list of places where you can download or listen to his latest album:

Deadmau5, meanwhile, has a nifty widget on his website where you can chat, subscribe to the newsletter, and shop all from the same window.

This is a stark departure from the industry’s earlier suspicion of technology. Musicians are embracing and sometimes, even developing new technology that can help them reach their fans faster and better.

Surely something marketers and entrepreneurs can learn from!

Takeaway: Always be on the lookout for new technology that can help you reach your target audience better.

4. Experiment with content

Look at the list of top social media accounts, and you’ll invariably find a few familiar names on the list: Selena Gomez, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, etc.

If you check the actual accounts, you’ll see a huge mix of content – live videos, stories, and conventional Instagram posts.

At a time when many businesses don’t even have a social media marketing strategy, top musicians are leading the way by embracing new content types. From “visual albums” to short-form video, they’re using different types of content to engage with new audiences.

Of course, for musicians, all this content remains in service of their primary art – music.

Takeaway: Be on the lookout for new forms of content that can complement your core marketing message. If your product is best demonstrated in-person, consider doing live video and stories for a touch of authenticity. If your audience is primarily on YouTube, share more videos on it.

5. Make community-building a priority

Building a community can be a superweapon in the fight for your audience’s attention. Brands might not get it, but musicians do. Which is why you see the top ones spend so much time and energy engaging with their fans.

While much of this engagement still happens offline, more and more musicians are building platforms where their fans can interact with each other. Besides social media, a number of musicians have dedicated forums for fan interactions, such as on David Guetta’s site. Similarly, Bon Iver has a ‘Community’ section on his website.

These forums, along with traditional fan clubs, Facebook groups, etc. help musicians build strong connections with their fans.

Consider doing something similar for your business.

Takeaway: Facilitate community building by creating forums and platforms where your users can gather and discuss issues. A strong community of users will be your strongest advocates.

6. Take advantage of collaborations

If there is one word that defines the modern music scene, it is “collab”.

Collabs – or collaborations – have become the mainstay of music charts, especially in pop, hip-hop and EDM genres. From ‘Despacito’ to ‘Thrift Shop’, that familiar “feat.” seems to be everywhere.

What’s happening is that musicians are beginning to realize that they can do better work together than they can do alone. The combination of skills and cross-genre experience often leads to a better final product. Plus, you get to tap into both your built-in audience for double the number of wins.

For marketers, the lesson is clear: look beyond your own team and find people to collaborate with. Is there another company in a similar but non-competitive niche whose work you admire? Perhaps you could work together on an eBook. Or you could feature one of their founders in a podcast or blog post.

Your goal should be to find companies that complement your core strengths and have similar audiences.

Takeaway: Work with companies, businesses and marketers who work in similar but non-competing niches. This can help you tap into their audience and learn new skills.

Take a closer look at your favorite artists. You might love them for their music, but if you dig deeper, you’ll find that they also have a lot of show you about marketing and branding. Take these 6 lessons as the starting point and apply them to your business today!

About Ryan Harrell'

Ryan Harrell runs MIDINation, where he shares his insights on music marketing and PR. A former startup marketer, he has a lifelong passion for music and has worked variously as a session guitarist, producer, and club DJ.

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