Posted tagged ‘music marketing advice’

Content Quality Doesn’t Matter, Worry About the Context

February 16, 2010

My brother stuck in perfection paralysis

Ok – yea quality does matter some, but here is what I mean:

Don’t spend all day and night trying to get that video of you guys in the studio looking like it was put together by James Cameron.

Just record the damn thing, edit accordingly, and get it up on your site.

And I’m not just talking about with videos.  Same goes with blogs and yes, even your music.  Bruce Springsteen recorded one of the most heart wrenching albums of all time on a four track recorder (Nebraska).  By all accounts, the quality of the record is horrible, but the songs are placed in the right context – so you don’t really pay attention to the quality.


That is part of what is so beautiful about working hard to build this totally indie career.  Because you are constantly adding value to the relationship with your fans, you start to build this amazing amount of trust with them.  They start to genuinely care about you as a person.  So in the end, they only really care about your story.

That said, I’m not saying you should forget about producing great looking and sounding stuff.  I’m just trying to push you past getting stuck in perfection paralysis.

You know those guys that are still working on their record almost 3 years later?  Perfection Paralysis.

Or how about when your lead singer is on his 10th vocal take?  Perfection Paralysis.

I promise you, that 10th vocal take isn’t going to be better than the 2nd.  That extra hour you spend editing video isn’t going to cause your video to go viral.

If you are satisfied with the story the content tells, get the stuff out there and let it breath.


Bands Should Review Other Bands Like Authors Review Authors…

February 11, 2010

Sort of a clumsy headline, but think about that. Authors LOVE to get their name and quote on the back of a new title.

Why don’t more bands do this?

Think for a second if you got 10 of the best bands in the state to review your album for their fans. And not only a review – but take a page out of the Seth Godin Linchpin promotional campaign and do video reviews/interviews with other bands and artists.

Think about all the direct access to thousands of real music lovers you would have in a matter of days.

There are studies abound that prove the worth of an initiative like this.  A recent one by Edelman, says that trust in referrals from “friends” is down to 25% from 45%Meaning – people are starting to get back to trusting the experts.

Who are the music experts?  YOU.  The people who play and write the music.

Whether you know it or not, people look to you for your taste in music.  So join up with a group of bands and review/suggest each other’s records to your respective fans.

Here are some easy things you could try when you come across a local group or record you like:

1.  Ask to get together with them for a video interview.  Do a local version of an “Artist on Artist” show.  Upload it to Youtube and distribute via your social sites to your respective fan bases – be sure to plug your band and site in case the vid takes off and goes viral.

2.  Do a Q&A type interview for your band blog.  You’ve seen them in the local e-zines before.

3.  Start a Local Scene Podcast.  Upload it to iTunes, etc.  Also – media outlets have already started looking to the everyman content producer for show content.  It isn’t out of the question for a local radio station to pick up on your podcast and schedule it to run every day or week.

4.  Record a quick video of you talking about the band’s record.  It is kind of imperative that you don’t pull a “reverse spam” technique and just start plugging every record in town just to get your name out there.  And remember – this should be a “suggestion” to your fanbase more than a record review.  You are telling your “fans” about a great new local band that you like.

5.  Play shows with the bands you plug. This is really powerful, I’m serious.  I have seen and been a part of some HUGE local shows where bands have TRULY pooled their fanbases.  And by “truly” I mean that all the fans were genuine fans of each band.  All the fans stuck around for the duration of the show.

Listen.  You know all those cool shows you saw growing up?  All the shows highlighting artists and bands in the light you wanted to see them in?  Everything from performance to backstage interviews, etc.?

You have the power to do that yourself now.

We are the broadcasters of the world now.  We are the radios.  We are the televisions.  It used to be decided for us by mass media outlets who was good and who was worth listening to.  NOT ANYMORE.

Now YOU decide.

With the click of a button you can send off a video interview that could possibly be seen by thousands and result in albums sold for your buddy, bringing you one step closer to a tighter more relevant scene.

Think of it like this:  Through Twitter, Ashton Kutcher can directly send news to more people than CNN.

Take advantage of that, please?

p.s.  The video “Linchpin” link above is from David Meerman Scott’s Web Ink Now site.  I’ll talk more about this in another post – but start following some of the new marketing experts.  They will give you a ton of ideas.  Scott, in particular has massive amounts of free material.


twitter:  @davemhuffman

The Importance of Staying in the Game: The Story of Anvil

February 2, 2010

Anvil Stayed in the Game for 35 Years...

I just watched the Story of Anvil.  I’m not gonna lie, I cried a little.  Not a “sad cry” – it was mostly a therapeutic type thing.  Like what I had spent time doing the last few years wasn’t so unlike what everyone else tries to do.

Plus, it really reaffirmed a belief I’ve had for awhile.

There are lots of ways to “make it” in this business. There really are. From landing that rare elusive record deal that so many still seem to chase, to playing cover songs locally and pulling in $30K a year…there IS a middle ground with music now.

Some give themselves a time frame.  “If I don’t make it in 5 years, I’m done.” Many of us get frustrated when we hit a wall and see no fan growth and we feel like giving up.

For me though, success in this industry has always boiled down to longevity.

What?  Not skill?

Nope.  I can name a ton of guys that could smoke my ass on guitar/vocally/songwriting.  Yet, I made a living and they didn’t.  Why?  They gave up.  For whatever reason – they just gave up.

If you look at most truly successful indie bands with a strong roots following – most took at least 10 years to get where they are.

Even the guy playing 5 nights a week locally.  I betcha he’s been at it for awhile as well.

Check this video out real quick.  It’s short.  Note:  You really can’t see the crowd until the end.  Just listen for them singing along.

That took me the better part of 6 years in the same project to pull off.

Why did I show you that video?  I’ll actually reveal the answer to that in #1 below 😉

Because every year since I decided to make a living as a musician, there was some point where I decided to quit.  Some point where I felt like “success” wasn’t coming fast enough.  And that is a dangerous place to be because you get desperate.

I had a buddy recently call me to chat and manager he talked to had told him to spend $15,000 on a radio campaign.  And my friend was seriously thinking about doing it!  And yes, I’ve been there…so I’m not judging.  But he was getting desperate and impatient.


Listen, you are in for a long ride.  I’m telling you.  Very few people in this industry make it to the top in their respective careers without going the long haul.

And the people who do make it with little effort are flimsy and ill-prepared.  They aren’t hardened by the miles on the road.  The nights of hecklers and getting paid nothing.  The nights where you drive 8 hours to play for an empty bar and then the bartender even goes in the back during the set.

THAT SH*T MAKES YOU WHO YOU ARE.  Embrace it.  Keep your head down and move up the hill.

Here are some tricks you could try:

1.  Challenge Yourself Constantly

That venue in the video above holds 1,200-1,500 people.  We, along with 2 other bands, put about 800 in the place.  We knew we could not sell that place out or even come close. But we gave it a shot.  And you know what?  We felt pretty damn good about that 800 – it actually came during a period of “stagnation” for us and helped push us on through mentally.

2.  Keep Things Fresh

Ever done an acoustic tour?  If you are a solo act, have you ever performed with a band?  How about doing your own version of a local storytellers show? Thrown your own festival?

If you are in this for the long haul you are going to need to keep it interesting for YOU as well as the fans.  Yes, just playing music every night is fun enough – but come talk to me after you’ve played 175 shows in one year of the same old stuff.  I bet you’ll feel like mixing it up then.

3.  Break From Touring

Maybe you don’t need to do this.  I sure wish I did though.  I burnt myself out many times playing 20-25 shows a month with zero breaks in between.  I wrote a blog post on releasing steady content – and I think touring is kind of the same.  Especially now in the age of digital when you can stay in touch with and engage your friends/fans just by uploading a Youtube video or commenting on their pages.

4.  Be Realistic When Defining Success

No, I’m not telling you to sell yourself short.  You can still shoot for the stars.  But keep that as an “un-official” goal.  Instead just make a goal to “make a living playing music.” Before you know it, you’ll have accomplished that one.  And it will push you forward to hit the next milestone.

Whatever you do just hang in there.  Again, I will argue with the best of them that the biggest factor in bands not “making it” is that they gave up too early.

Not because they weren’t “good enough.”  They just quit because it’s a really hard thing to do.

Embrace the struggle.  Follow your gut.  And have a ton of fun.  Worse case scenario:  You’ll have a TON of great stories to tell one of these days.


tweet:  @davemhuffman

The Nashville Effect and Growing the Local Scene by Getting Out of Town

January 11, 2010

YOU can help grow the local scene!

Sounds counter-intuitive doesn’t it?  Well, it would be if that is the ONLY thing you did…you wouldn’t be local!  That’s obvious.  What I mean is in addition to playing live locally, showing up at the shows of other bands to support them, starting a collection of local music, or getting that artist collective started – the best thing you can do to shed light on our scene is to show up in another scene.

I’ll try to make this as simple as possible without going too in-depth:

1.  Build a local following (It doesn’t have to be large)

2.  Contact like-minded bands in other cities to “show trade”

3.  Open for them and return the favor by bringing them to your town to open for you (this is the show trade)

You guys know what a show trade is, I’m not trying to preach the obvious.  However, have you really ever thought about the benefits to our local music scene when you do this?

Been to the Dock or the Keys lately?  The Andy Shaw Band and Skilless Villains make the trips from Columbus and Dayton on the regular because they now LOVE playing in Chillicothe.

What does that do for me Dave?

It does a ton for you.  The main reason being that having a more reputable scene behind you means you get taken more seriously when you call a venue.  I call this The Nashville Effect.

I could do nothing more than live in Nashville, write songs, and busk on the street all day and when I call most venues to say “I’m a Nashville based singer/songwriter” a lot of venues are going to take me more seriously than if I was a “Toledo based songwriter.” Because the Nashville scene is WAY more reputable.  I know that is the extreme, but it can happen for us in Chillicothe.  Nashville didn’t come out of the womb churning out hits 😉

So get out of town already.  If you are not expecting to make some cash, then it’s really not that hard to get into a venue out of town.  Heck, you can’t play every week in Chillicothe anyway or else you’ll wear out your welcome and no one will want to come see you.

Below are some venues for you to start with.  You can either try to get in yourself or message their regular bands for a show trade.  I would opt for the show trade – you’ll get in MUCH faster.  In some cases, you could be hunting these venue owners down for a year or more JUST TO GET THEM ON THE PHONE.

  1. Scarlet and Grey Cafe – Columbus
  2. Oldfield’s on High – Columbus
  3. The Treehouse (formerly Andymans’) – Columbus
  4. Jackie O’s – Athens
  5. Canal Street Tavern – Dayton
  6. Trolley Stop – Dayton
  7. The Empty Glass – Charleston, WV
  8. Stanley’s Pub – Cincinnati
  9. Merry Arts Pub – Lakewood
  10. Coffee Amici – Findlay

Hope that helps.  I’ll talk more about touring strategy in another post.  In the meantime, start contacting these venues and shoot me an email at if you need any help/advice.  Good luck!

Let’s conntect on Twitter:  @davemhuffman

The Roots of New Music Marketing: Throw Out the “Marketing”

January 9, 2010

In the wake of all the business marketing, guerilla music marketing, and music management books I have read – I’ve taken away 5 main lessons.

I promise you, when practiced meticulously, ANYONE that plays an instrument will build a following with these.

1.  Work on Your Songwriting

This is an item that I have RARELY seen in a music marketing book, yet it is THE most important piece of marketing you will ever do for your music career.  It is also the gauge for which you can start to define your success; in the form of people singing along at your shows, quoting your lyrics online, sending email letting you know that your song helped them through a difficult time.

If your songs are great, people will spread your message for you. Read that part again because it is truer now than it ever has been with ability of social media to make things go viral to millions of people.  Just work on writing good songs.

Some may tell you that songwriting is inherent.  I couldn’t disagree more.  Songwriting is a craft.  And like any other craft it can be honed by studying other popular songs, practicing different chord shapes, reading lots of books, and getting better at capturing melody to get it from your head to the handy recorder.

2.  Give Out FREE Music

I can’t say this enough:  GIVE YOUR BEST SONGS AWAY.  Corey Smith gives away the most popular songs on each of his records.  You know what happens?  Something like 7 out of 10 people come back to buy the rest of the record!

And what happens to the other 3?  Welp, no one really knows for sure I guess.  But, they have your music and chances are they are going to let someone else listen to it which is certainly going to translate into MORE PEOPLE AT YOUR SHOWS.

Some say giving your music away “Devalues the product.” DO NOT LISTEN TO THESE PEOPLE.  Giving limited quantities of a product to a consumer for free is called sampling.  EVERY type of successful business does this.

Why not more musicians?

And you know by now that more people at the shows means more cash from the venue, more merchandise sales, and more people on the mailing list.

3.  They Are Not Your FANS, They Are Your FRIENDS

Ok, yea technically if someone likes your music then they are a “fan.”  However, some artists completely miss the boat when they think in terms of fans…Yea, I know the huge mainstream artists can’t do this, but as an indie artist YOU CAN.  And it gives you a distinct advantage.

Once I started thinking this way, not only did Jakob Freely’s following double, I ended up making some of the best friends of my life.

If someone sends you an email.  WRITE THEM BACK.  And be genuine.  None of this two sentences/I don’t have time to get to know you crap…ask about them.  REALLY get to know them.

Personally call/email/text to invite some of them to shows.

Play a free house show from time to time at an influential friends house.

Send genuine happy birthday notes.  People say that they don’t care about their birthday.  They’re lying to you.

Has someone showed up to your last 5-10 shows in a row?  Give them a FREE merch pack that includes everything on your merch table.  It will come back to you TEN FOLD.  I promise.

You get the point I’m sure.

Basically, forget all the “Street Team” mumbo jumbo… your friends ARE YOUR street team.  And they’re way more rock solid than any half witted crappy attempt to build one online through half-a** reward methods.

4.  Build Your EMAIL List

Guess what?  In a study that paired up Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, and Email, It was found that people still share and view content via EMAIL more than any other medium (

What does that mean?  It means you need to get a band mailing list and you need to do everything you can to fill it with relevant email addresses at every chance you get.

It means that the people who have signed up should only hear from you 1-2 a month.

Send one “Monthly Update” with plenty of new content like free acoustic demos, live tracks, photos, blog, overall show calendar and another “Market Specific” update to the people in the area you are about to visit for a show.

I’m dead serious when I say 1-2 of these a month only.  The exception to this rule is if you set up a list of people that opt-in for more frequent mailings.

5.  Help Cultivate the Local Scene

I know you want more “fans” than the next guy.  I know you look at other bands Myspace plays and think “Ha, I had more plays today…”

Some healthy competition is totally fine.  In fact, I guess competition all around is fine, but we all benefit when it is done in the spirit of competition rather than just selfishly trying to be the best.

So help out the next guy.  If we all do that then everyone wins.

  1. Share your venue contacts with bands in need
  2. Play multi-band bills and PROMOTE THE SHOW not just your time slot
  3. Show trade with out of town bands and bring them to Chillicothe
  4. Throw a festival with mostly local acts
  5. Start an artist collective and pool money to help each other record and promote

The list can go on and on.  Basically, the more active the Chillicothe music scene is – then the more people are going to be actively attending your shows and shouting your praises.  Plus, you know…there is that whole karma thing.

Alrighty…that’s basically it.  Sure, there is still a ton of other things you can do to build fans.  But these are the roots to the whole shebang.

I promise you, follow #1-#5 and you’ll at least be playing packed shows in your hometown in the next couple of years, if not sooner.

I also posted this over at


You on Twitter?  Look me up:  @davemhuffman