Tech Tip:Indie Marketing 101: Marketing Tips for the Independent Artist

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by David Hooper

Q: How do I know if the record deal I'm getting into is legitimate or if they are going to use us as a tax write off or something else of the sort?


A: Sometimes you don't. Record labels are often like little children in that they will play with a toy that don't really care about just to keep somebody else from having it. No matter what you do, you may very well end up like this.


With that said, there are some things you can do to increase your chances that your release won't land in the cutout bin before you're even finished recording it. The best thing is make sure you don¹t need the label before you go into the deal. That lowers their risk in actually releasing you and promoting you. Record labels will release anything they can turn a buck on, so do anything you can to make sure you¹re that band.


Q: I recently won an A&R directory from When I complete my demo and press package I'm wondering what the best strategy is to proceed with all of this valuable contact information that I have?


A: Four or five years ago, it was possible to email A&R guys directly and actually have them answer back. Email was a toy and they were just glad to get the messages. Good things don't late forever though and those days are over.


If you're trying to contact an A&R guy, I'd just call him up because he can't just press delete and make you go away. You'll have a hard time getting through, but just keep calling. Be nice to the person answering the phone. Receptionists are some of the most powerful people in the music business.

Don't mention anything about a record deal. Just tell him you respect his opinion and you'd like to send him a demo to see what he thinks about it. This works for a couple of reasons.


1. A&R guys love to give their opinion.

2. You're not asking for anything, so you're not putting him on the defensive.


You may think you're ready and you may even be ready, but A&R guys are going to find something wrong with what you've sent in, so you might as well head them off. If they do like your stuff, let them take the credit for discovering you rather than you take the credit for discovering them.


Just make the connection and keep checking in with the guy every few months. The goal here is to build a relationship. Friends help friends out. Make a friend and you'll have somebody to help you out. Just get in the door, don't ask for anything except an opinion on the first meeting, and you'll be fine. The relationship will build over time.


Q: Besides our regular promoting to media people, we would also like to create a newsletter to fans. What is the best way to get a mailing and email database going?


A: A mailing list is one of the most valuable tools you can have and a newsletter is a great way to keep your fans. The best way to get names for it is from people who attend your shows. It will start out small, but build it one name at a time just like you did your fan base.


Take a look at how other companies build their mailing lists. Referrals are a great way to do this. Here's something I have done to build my email newsletter. You can also modify it for a snail mailing list, but it will cost a little more.


1. I had some promo CDs from my label to give away. I sent notice to people on my mailing list letting them know about this stuff and that they could have a free disc if they referred ten people.


2. I contacted the people who had been referred with something like, "<> told me you might be interested in our free promotion tips newsletter from to help you get ahead in your musical career. If you are, please reply to this message." I concentrated on selling the benefits of the newsletter for best results.


3. People replied, I added them and my mailing list increased. A few months later I did it again on a larger scale since they were even more people on the list.


If you've got a program that can do a mail merge such as FileMaker Pro, this can be done easily. It's hard getting started, but you'll be fine once you get past the initial inertia problem.


Q: With university on the horizon my band has 6 weeks to record the perfect demo and get signed. Our area has a poor/nonexistent live music scene thus we've done no shows of note, however we will have a well recorded, professionally presented demo CD and band photos to show for ourselves. How likely is a record label to be interested in plucking us from university at the last minute?


A: Stranger things have happened, but I think you've got a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a good record deal within six weeks. It just doesn't happen.


Major labels are big corporations. They move extremely slow. Kid Rock was signed for eight years before his label really started pushing him. I know people here in Nashville with deals that are "on deck" to break when the scene or label needs a new star.


Like the SOS Band sings, "take your time and do it right." You want a career, not a deal. The good news is that a career is a lot easier to get than a good deal is.


Q: You mentioned in an earlier article that "the trick with a demo is to leave people wanting more. Never give people exactly what they want. Then they won't need you anymore and you want them to contact you." I don't understand what you mean by that. Please clarify --thanks!


A: The music business is all about showmanship. Never leave people satisfied. A hungry person is more likely to do what you want him to for a piece of food than somebody with a full stomach. Same goes for the music business.


The more you send on a demo tape, the more things there are for somebody to take about it. It's like a salesman who keeps making a sale once the sale has already been made. Don't over sell and learn when to shut up.


Q: I've read all of the guerrilla marketing books. What do you think about running radio spots in the middle of the night? Do you think they're effective or a waste of money?


A: Yes, late night radio ads can be very effective, but it just depends on what you're selling. I have heard everything from recording studios, to Y2K paranoia, to diet pills on late night radio.


Something that is almost as cheap and a lot more effective is to place ads on cable television. Believe it or not, you can get on MTV and VH-1 in PRIME TIME, for about $20 per sixty second slot. The trick is to go through your local cable company.


Need help with production of your television ad? Try your local college or community access station. You should be able to get a student to help you out without breaking your bank account. This also works great on music videos.


David Hooper is the founder of Mind Kontrol Records and Kathode Ray Music, an artist development organization specializing in promotion and marketing of independent musicians and bands. He is known for combining traditional music business knowledge with the guerrilla marketing necessary for independent bands to compete. He has worked in the past with Lords of Acid, Marcy Playground, and bush. Current clients include the Visitors, the Phone Militia, and Dresscode.