You never know who the next big songwriting or artist is going to be
You don’t know who the next big songwriter or artist is going to be. Everyone starts at the same place. So that approach of waiting until you can get something out of somebody and then deciding to contact them doesn’t make sense. Find people you connect with, people that interest you, and people who are doing interesting things and going with that.
When you see success happen, you realise just how random it is. Something has worked because it has just been a good song, people have liked it, it’s gone off. Sure there are things you can nudge it into direction, but you can’t stop something that works. People don’t realise how rare a great song is – it’s like panning for gold.
People spend their whole life trying to write that one amazing hit song. But there can only ever be one number one at a time. Encouraging people to be their best selves and write their best songs, these are the sorts of initiatives that will end up helping that random event to happen.
If success is dependent on a great song, then what makes a great song?
It comes down to human connection. Humans don’t think: did the bridge come in at the right place? It will be some emotional connection that will draw people into what’s going on. Most of this is completely unknowable.
There are formula which can work for a time too until the human connection is lost and then the next thing has to come along. Marketing can get things in front of people, but you can’t make people have an emotional connection with something. What makes it an enduring hit is that feeling that an audience has when they hear it that harks back to where they were when they first heard it.
What enhances the emotional connection of a song?
It’s easier to have the emotional connection when you’re sitting in the same room as the band playing live. It was easier for bands in the 80s and 90s to establish emotional connection with their audiences as they were on the road all the time. And they now have people in every town who have an emotional connection with the band.
Synchronised in film and tv shows
When you hear a new song on a digital streaming platform, it can be harder to have that emotional connection. But a sync placement in a television show or film can make a real difference to the emotional connection of a song with an audience. For example, Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. The film “Titanic” and the visual cue from the film created a strong emotional spark.
What was happening for you at the time the song was playing
Emotional connection to a song can happen via unique mini experiences in your life, or key events, like your first kiss, wedding, a trip.
Choosing songs is part of the marketing strategy
People often think marketing is: how can I get this PR moment? Or radio play? But the biggest thing is working out what the story is and what the emotional connection that you think people are going to have with that.
But go one step back. If marketing is everything you do to present yourself to the public, then choosing your songs is marketing. Ask what songs do you want to represent you. The artist knows where the biggest emotional connection is in terms of songs, but the record company is thinking which song is going to reach the biggest audience possible. The magic meeting place is where the two meet.
To take your audience out of their comfort zone, you need an audience first. If you try to take people who aren’t following you out of their comfort zone they won’t come. If you want to choose songs to polarise your audience, how can this be crafted in a story for the media? And then how can the next song create a soft landing for the audience?
It’s the artist’s art but it’s the record company’s money
Also know that if you’re going to polarise your audience you’re going to lose half your fans. But if you’ve got a big enough base and foundation, you can do those things. It’s the artist’s art, but the record company’s money, and the record company can only see the half of the audience that will be lost.
But sometimes to continue to be successful, in an overall discography, there needs to be an interesting album that isn’t commercially viable, that keeps people coming back for more beyond that album. It offers credibility. The Beach Boys, Kylie Minogue, and U2 have all done this.
Biggest marketing mistakes artists make
Artists often create their album and then they think about how to market it, rather than thinking about the album as part of the marketing process.
Then they think about what they want to achieve from a marketing point of view, which is often something like hiring a publicist, getting on a radio station, what premiere they’re going to get. These are not achievements, but tasks. If you’re thinking like this, you’ve missed the point and a big opportunity.
Go back and ask yourself: what do I want to achieve with it? Who do you want to connect with? And where are they? Who are those people? And how can I best reach them?
Don’t just do what everyone does or do something cause you think you need to do it. Think about who you want to reach with your song and find them. Think outside the box. Think of yourself as a media outlet where your audience will come to you. The work you do in your media outlet is about growing the people that come into your universe. Go to other media outlets to steal their audiences and bring them back to you!
Secret Sauce to a Good Publicist
What makes a publicist good is not that they’ve got some magical relationships, but a good publicist knows where the gatekeepers are, how to open those gates, which gates are pointless knocking on and what needs to happen to the marketing message to open the gates that have the potential to open. A good publicist will find the cracks in the door to get in because they know everything about the media outlet. They also are not trying to open 100 doors, but 10 meaningful doors.
There are some publicity companies that will charge you to knock on a door that they know won’t open. And don’t act in the best interests of their clients.
DIY Media Pitching – What Works Well
When you’re dealing with community radio and local media, most of the time the artist is going to have more luck in getting through to the outlet themselves. These media outlets love to hear from artists directly.
Before pitching, do you research, know what the media outlet writes about, the style of the writing, etc.
When pitching, tell them what you want and give them the story.
Ask for what you want and make it polite and well-reasoned. Ask for something that they can’t say no to by making it a reasonable request. For example, can you pass this on? Can you add this to the playlist?
Give them the angle that makes it interesting. It’s your job to come up with that. No one cares about an artist they don’t know that is releasing a new single. Think about it from a consumer’s point of view. 98% of people have no interest in hearing a new song. How can you intrigue them into wanting to hear what that is?
If you’re self-promoting your career and want some guidance and support, check out our Professional Development Mentoring Opportunity – Level Up Club here.
About Stephen Green:
Stephen Green is the CEO of The Music Press, which runs four of Australia’s most vital music media outlets, TheMusic.com.au, Purple Sneakers, Kill Your Stereo and Countrytown, speaking to nearly half a million music fans every month. Stephen also runs communications company SGC Media and Radio Monitor, Australia’s key B2B airplay statistics platform. Stephen has been working in music media and marketing for over 25 years, with his businesses spearheading campaigns for the likes of Gurrumul, Sheppard, Fire Fight Australia, BIGSOUND, Queensland Music Trails and more. He’s also a Dad, husband, vinyl collector, political campaigner and music industry advocate.
Episode Show Notes:
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