Monday, November 9, 2009

Making the album part 10,373: Advertising

Before I write 10 billion words on the topic, I might as well cut to the chase: I created a 30-second radio spot for my album this weekend, and here it is...

Zak Claxton 30-Second Radio Spot

Okay, now I can write 10 billion words. ;-)

Why should I bother doing advertising for my music?
If you're like most people, you think that you are immune from the effects of advertising. You know that there's advertising all around you, as you browse the Internet and see banners, as you watch TV and see commercials, as you drive down the road and see signs and billboards. But you, oh mighty reader, believe you are impervious to the effects of advertising. And it is indeed true that some people are more susceptible to the allures of good ads than other people are.

But if you think that advertising has no effect on you, you're wrong. Advertising is but one step in the marketing of a product or service. How do I know this crap? Simple. In my life outside of being a wanna-be rock star, I own a very small advertising/marketing company. It's so small that my VP is a cat and my senior account manager is a goldfish. It's basically me, alone in a room, creating web content, magazine ads, press releases and so on. I've been in that business for about 20 years, so I've managed to learn a few things along the way.

1. Advertising doesn't sell on its own.
What it primarily does is raise awareness. Long before you feel a need to buy something, you need to know about it. If you're a musician trying to sell recorded music, there are quite a few ways to go about doing this, like doing interviews, and mentioning your music while you perform live, and so on. But sometimes, that's not enough. So the first step in trying to sell music is that people -- also known as "potential buyers" -- need to be aware you have music for sale.

2. Advertising can be expensive!
Whoo, really expensive. And I'm going to take a wild guess here and imagine that you are an indie musician trying to keep eating and paying your rent during a bad economy, and that the very idea of spending a bunch of dough on any kind of advertising is ludicrous. You don't have some big corporation (i.e., a record label) paying for the ads. But do keep in mind: if you don't invest in your own music, it's hard to know whether people would have been into it or not if they never find out about it.

So, faced with this dilemma, musicians often compromise, but in a bad way. "Well," you think, "I've already got my stuff up on MySpace. That will have to do." Sorry to tell ya, but that's not going to be a complete solution. You need something that's going to reach out to people, as opposed to having them come to you. Without giving away all my little secrets, my recommendation is to look for vehicles that are scalable. For example, a non-profit Internet-based radio station might be willing to run your ad spot in exchange for banner space on your web site. Or, perhaps you can look into doing some small-scale impression-based advertising on Facebook, where you can control exactly how much you can afford to spend. There are always ways to gain awareness of your music; just like any other service or product being sold, the more awareness you want, the more it's going to cost.

3. But how do you make an ad?
I promise you, in as much as we advertising people would like you to think there's some magic behind what we do, it's all just creativity. As musicians, you probably have quite a bit of creativity in you already. Now you just need to channel it for this purpose. A few notes...

a. Listen to some ads! See which ones grab you and which ones make you turn the dial (or turn off the radio entirely). Why do you like the ones you liked? Why do you dislike the others?

b. Make sure you have a "call to action". This means you're going to give the listener something to do. In the case of my ad above, I just want them to go to, my web site where they'll be able to listen to more music and make an order for the CD or the digital downloads.

c. Include some music. Sure, you only have 30 seconds, but it doesn't take much to be recognized. In my example ad above, note that I have sections of three different songs of mine: "You're Like a Cloud", "This Afternoon", and "Thanks Anyway". Just a few seconds are enough to give the idea of the tune. I recommend you use the most memorable parts of the song, perhaps the chorus. Since this ad was for a Second Life radio station, I used the songs that I felt would be most familiar to people who might have seen my play live over the last few years.

d. Create the ad. A radio spot is just a recording, and as a recording musician, you should have some idea of how to do that. My ad above has three elements: the voiceover (me talking), the music, and a few silly sound effects that help grab a little attention while the ad is playing. I'm a pretty experienced recording engineer, so it literally took me less than an hour to put this ad together using an audio editing software application. You should be able to figure this out pretty easily.

4. All this talk of commercialism is bumming me out, maaaaaan.
Sure, of course it is. We're artists, and presumably we don't think of our music as a "product". We create music because we love it, and hopefully not just for thoughts of selling it to people. If you're really opposed to promoting your music as a product (the definition of a product being "something that's for sale"), by all means: don't do it. No one will think the worse of you. But in my opinion, you can't have it both ways. If you're so full of artistic integrity that you feel advertising and promotion is beneath you, or cheapens your art, do not complain when the art doesn't sell. It's as simple as that.

In any case, I'm happy with the results of my ad, and pretty soon here, you'll hear it run from time to time on Indie Spectrum Radio. As I mentioned before, the main "call to action" of the ad is to visit my web site, so before the ad starts running, I want to be sure that my web site is all spruced up and ready to provide the next step, which is allowing people to purchase the music. It's all a big process, with one element linked to the next one. That's why I always recommend people to get their ducks in a row long before trying to actually release music for sale; it's never as simple as it appears on the surface, at least if you want a chance at being successful at it.


Mister Crap said...

If I'm not a F-ing moron, I'll try to remember to play this at the end of The Weekly Challenge episodes on 100WS.

It'll cost you a wooden cube named "Walter."

Listenership is a thousand or so, plus or minus a thousand. (My fans are weird, fickle, and mostly in prison)


Zak Claxton said...

Hee hee! Well, I don't know about anything else, but I can attest that in my experience, you are anything but a moron, Crap. And if your fans are in prison, then we share a mostly overlapping fan base.