Guest Post by Pete Warren: Can Social Networking Replace Traditional Marketing When it Comes to Music Products?

Pete Warren is an engineer, producer, songwriter, and great friend.  Several weeks ago, he posted an entry to My Space about the proper role of social media when it comes to marketing music.  I asked to post it here as well.

Worlds ApartPete is the founder of Wave Alias Studio in Franklin TN.  It’s a state of the art Pro Tools studio that is on par with anything on Music Row. 

Check out some of Pete’s work, you will not be disappointed.  His recent solo instrumental CD, “Worlds Apart” and Merry Ellen Kirk’s “Invisible War” which Pete produced and co-wrote much of with Merry Ellen.

Finally, before the article, I have embedded a video created by Jonathan Ward, with Pete’s song “Paddy’s Jig”, the first track on “Worlds Apart”.




Can social networking replace traditional marketing when it comes to music products?

People keep asking this question: Will social networking replace the big machine of record label style marketing?
I say NO. If it were doing so, the question would not need to be asked. Period. But I’ll throw in my 2 cents worth, and let’s see where the conversation goes. Stick with me through this. I’m going to try to use some parallel examples within other businesses.
Typically, if you’re in any business, you are manufacturing a product to sell, or you are selling a service. Music is a bit of both. It’s a product and an experience that we sell. Clearly, there is decline in specific areas of the music industry. We’re at a crossroads that lacks signage. Meaning, you know you have to take one of the three roads before you, but which one? Who knows? There are no clear signs pointing the way. But I would propose that traditional business planning is a great place to start.
Let’s say that your friends come over for dinner, and when they do, you grill some burgers. They all tell you they are the best burgers they’ve ever had before. Now, some of those friends will tell you that because they’re your friends. Your mom will tell you you make the best burgers in the world too. Maybe you even serve these burgers at the church social, and everyone there says they’re fantastic. By the way, all of these people will quickly lie to you about your burgers because they feel good by doing this, and they know it makes you feel good. But they could also be telling you the truth. You can’t know yet, because you’ve never asked anyone to actually pay for one of these so called amazing burgers. Get the parallel here? This is why there are so many people on American Idol during the audition phase thinking they are really talented when they completely lack talent. They’re not idiots. They’ve just not yet had the experience of trying to impress someone who won’t tell them they’re talented because they love them.
So, back to the burger guy… You decide you’ll open a burger stand. You set up shop at a popular street corner. You start selling burgers. You go to Costco and buy the supplies. You’re not buying many supplies (like a limited run of your cd), because you only have one stand. You pay your business taxes, rent the spot to set up your stand, and you start, for the first time, flipping burgers for the public. You charge $5 a burger.
To your surprise, people decide they like your burger, and you become a local success. So much so, that you are now able to hire someone else to flip burgers because you’re getting caught up with dealing with accounting, purchasing, and taxes.
Next, you move to a more permanent establishment. You set up shop in a popular local strip-mall. Traffic increases. You’re next to a popular grocery store. You hire a few folks to work in the store. Suddenly, you realize that you’re being overwhelmed by issues such as payroll, people taking sick time, people quitting without warning, etc… And there’s one other problem. A big one. The chairs are mostly empty during lunchtime. So you decide you’ll do a little marketing. Yellow pages? Nah. Newspaper? Nah. How about printing menus and throwing a few coupons on it? That’ll work. You now, instead of hiring someone, go out and door to door deliver each and every menu to local businesses. Suddenly, you’re not flipping burgers. The guys you hired to do it, well… They’re not as good as you are. But hey, you can train them, right? Or you can hire someone to put out those brochures.
You start getting more traffic in the door. You have to hire more people. You open a second store on the other side of town. Things are working well. you’ve gone from a local success to a regional success. People are starting to say that you make the best burgers in town. It’s a reputation you deserve for your talent. But there’s a whole nation of people who have yet to experience your burger.
This burger stand is in Colorado. The two stores are there. People in California have heard about how great this place is, but yet, they can’t experience it. So you drop an add on the internet. But why would the people in California bother to order a burger they have to fly to pick up? It won’t happen. So, of course, you set forth an expansion plan for your business.
Being overwhelmed by the daily tasks of running the business, you’re no longer doing what you love to do… Flip burgers. It’s in your best interest to keep flipping burgers, ’cause that’s what got this whole thing started. Do what you do best. You outsource several aspects of your business. The first is HR. So now ADP is taking care of that. you have tons of free time now. You also outsource marketing. Now, there’s some bad firms out there. Or maybe they’re not bad, but they’re not right for you. This is a tough part of building a business. But there’s zero question that a burger flipper is going to be better at marketing than the pros on Madison avenue. So you hire them to put together a commercial, and you open your first burger stand in Colorado Springs. Then in Omaha. Then in Kansas city. Chicago. New York. Nashville. Orlando. Los Angeles. Etc…
Pretty soon, these ads start bringing people in. Each store puts out their own team of people who put menus on the desks of local businesses. They run contests. The local radio station comes by to get free burgers in exchange for doing a broadcast there.
Then you start a training center. Now you’re teaching thousands of people how to teach their people to flip burgers the way you do.
Along the way, your fixed and variable costs of doing business have gone from high to low. You’ve brokered deals for lower prices for the beef and buns you serve every day. You suddenly realize that now you can afford to do what you really want to do, and you stop training people. You let someone else take that over, and you go back to tour the nation. You’re going to visit every store in the country, and personally flip the burgers yourself. People show up in droves to get a burger flipped by the guy that started it all. And they have an "EXPERIENCE."
Does this all sound like rambling? Or is it clearly a parallel to our business?
So you’re an indie artist that decides to sell your product (not your experience) through the internet. You send notes to everyone on FaceBook and MySpace. You’re on reverb nation, t61, etc… People love your music. But they don’t buy it in droves. You’ll sell a couple thousand copies that way. Maybe 1 out of 1000 that try it it actually works for. But starting up a business in music, which is what an artist is, takes money, planning, and time. It takes new marketing methods AND traditional means of marketing and distribution. We like to think that there are a couple of "indie" bands and artists that have made it work on their own. I’ve yet to see any indie artist that, when offered a distribution deal, will say no. Why not? Because they have the opportunity to outsource their marketing and distribution efforts, which allows them to focus on doing what they do best. Making music (assuming).
I’m just seeing WAY too many people making albums, spending all their time on social networking, and wondering why it’s not working. I’m not picking on any one person. I’m just answering the question I see asked non-stop about social networking.
Advertising has two parts. Directional and Creative. Creative advertising gets people interested. Think you’re typical soft drink ad. It doesn’t tell you where to buy it. It just makes you want to buy it. Directional advertising and marketing tells people how to find your product once they have a desire to buy it. So any marketing plan must include an appropriate balance. Coke doesn’t need directional advertising, because it’s commonly known that you can buy it at any grocery or fast food joint. On the other hand, you don’t need a TV ad to tell you you’re having chest pain. you need a phone book to direct you to the local heart doctor. Hope that quick example helps clarify.
The success of an artist requires the correct balance of these forms of marketing and advertising.
In my opinion, if one is going to do this right and has any chance at all, it’ll look something like this:
1. Write great songs.
2. Record great songs using professional engineers, producers, musicians, etc… (spend the money on it, it’s worth it).
3. Make your packaging look great.
4. Develop a marketing plan that goes beyond social networking, but also includes it.
5. Make your website look great and easy to find. Blog often, as it drives traffic to your site and increases your Google scores (meaning you’ll show up at the top results faster).
6. Outsource marketing, distribution and advertising.
7. The most important one. Deliver the EXPERIENCE of your music. There are several ways to do this. Video Blogs, music videos, EPK’s and then the most important part of it. SHOW UP AND PLAY SHOWS! This is a lot like the burger flipping tour idea mentioned above. Deliver the experience. Deliver the experience. Deliver the Experience. I once knew a preacher that said everything three times so it would sink in. His 30 minute sermons took an hour and a half to deliver as a result. But you get my point, right?
SO, back to our question… Will social networking replace traditional marketing? NO NO NO! But it can help in the beginning. It helps get the ball rolling. It shows those traditional marketing outfits that you’re sold out at your shows, that you’re doing 100-200 dates a year, and that you’re selling albums everywhere you go.
What do you think?