Baker answered some City Weekly questions via e-mail on his way to Utah. The workshop is Monday, Oct. 10, 7-9:30 p.m. and will be held at Metcom Studios (352 S. 500 East). The event is free for Soundcheck Studios members, $20 otherwise. Register here.
City Weekly: Describe your music marketing workshop.
Bob Baker: Last spring, I did a survey of my readers and asked what topic they needed the most help with. The top two vote-getters were "How to convert fan attention into sales" and "How to sell more music and merchandise." So this workshop was created as a response to what my fans were telling me they wanted most, so I'm delivering it. That's a lesson all artists should learn. Pay attention to the needs of your most supportive fans. As long as that thing is in alignment with your identity and values, deliver it!
CW: For this five-city tour, you are hitting up Kansas City, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Nashville and Los Angeles. The latter two seem like especially obvious spots for the music biz. Why did you decide on Salt Lake City?
BB: Actually, I was invited by the Soundcheck organization (www.soundcheckseries.com) to come and speak at one of their monthly events. I'm really impressed with what they're doing for music people in the SLC area. Also, this is my very first trip to Utah, so I'm really looking forward to it. In fact, my girlfriend and I are arriving a couple days early to spend some time in nature in the Moab area.
CW: You teach at Berklee School of Music. What is your course?
BB: Berklee College of Music is the renowned school located in Boston. They approached me in 2007 to create an online course for their Berkleemusic.com site called "Music Marketing 101" (www.bob-baker.com/buzz/berklee.html). I also teach it, which allows me to interact with students all over the world from the comfort of my home in St. Louis, Mo. In fact, one of my former Berklee students, Taylor Howe, was instrumental in bringing me to Salt Lake City.
CW: What’s the biggest hurdle for an indie band to overcome when marketing themselves on a low budget?
BB: They are self-imposed: the stories they tell themselves about what's possible or what can and can't be done with limited resources. They use a lack of money or connections as excuses for not taking action. I've interviewed many successful indie artists over the years, and most of the people making a difference and making money with music moved forward despite the perceived obstacles.
Truth be told, I feel not having much money to work with is a blessing. It forces you to be creative and effective. Anyone can throw money at promotion (and most are disappointed with the results when they do). But it takes a resourceful and committed artist to make an impact with little or no cash to work with.
CW: What would be one easy and affordable way that an indie band can market themselves well?
BB: First, get clear about the specific type of music you create and perform, and realize the benefit that your music delivers to a fan. Then define the type of person your music will most likely appeal to—in essence, create a profile of your "ideal fan."
Hint: Your ideal fan isn't "everyone" -- that approach is too watered down. Your perfect fans need only make up a thin slice of the overall population. Once you know who they are, you should be able to figure out where they hang out online and off. Then focus your limited time and energy on delivered your message and interacting through those specific avenues.
CW: What are some simple things that bands can do to sell more merchandise and CDs at concerts? After all, this is how most bands actually make money, right?
BB: If you perform live at all, it's a great opportunity to sell music and merchandise. But it's not the only way. Pomplamoose (a popular duo I feature in my workshop that has used YouTube as its main marketing tool) makes a full-time living primarily from digital downloads. Up until recently, they didn't sell any physical products and rarely performed live. It just goes to show you, there are many paths to success these days.
But to answer your question, at live shows artists need to first and foremost make people aware that they have stuff for sale. Sounds obvious, but you'd be shocked at how often this is overlooked. Also, try to set up your sales table in a well-lighted area, preferably near the exit, where people have to walk by it to leave.
As I discuss in the workshop, there are many ways to make offers that entice people to make a purchase now rather than later. And there are clever ways to bundle multiple albums and other products so your fans buy more than a single item. That way, fans get more of your good stuff, and you get the financial rewards you deserve.
CW: What can someone who “just does it for the art of expression” learn from your workshop?
BB: My sincere hope is that anyone who pursues music is at least partially doing it for the satisfaction of self-expression. Just playing and creating for the "art" is great. You don't have to have a lot of fans or be making any money at all for it to be a worthwhile pursuit.
The real questions are: How much do you want to share your music with others? Do you want to let only a small circle of people hear your sounds? If you're OK with that, great. But if you would like to share your gift of music with more people, then getting on friendly terms with marketing will help you.
When it comes down to it, this isn't really about making money or being famous. It's about making a difference in people's lives through the music you create. If you stay focused on the value you deliver to your fans and the positive impact you make on their lives, marketing becomes a lot easier, and you'll find that money flows to you as a natural byproduct of that effort.
CW: Where can musicians find out more about you?
BB: My main music Website is www.TheBuzzFactor.com. There you’ll find my blog, podcast, video clips, info on my books and a free report called “Music Marketing Secrets.” You can also subscribe to my free Buzz Factor ezine, the longest-running music-tips e-mail newsletter on the planet – since 1995. I’m really looking forward to my first trip to SLC and would love to keep in touch with Utah musicians, managers, and music biz pros!