In past articles on Songs4Worship.com, I've taken readers through various ways to prepare for and record an album. But even with the most painstaking care in songwriting and recording, too many praise and worship artists-not to mention mainstream ones-leave a crucial detail until last frantic minute: how to market the CD.
That's understandable: Most folks get into music for artistic rewards, not financial ones. That said, it still costs at least $2,000 to press 1,000 copies of a CD (assuming near-zero recording costs). That's a considerable investment. And to not take a serious stab at promoting your finished CD is a sin-yes, a sin-for these three reasons:
- It's hiding your musical bushel under a bed, not putting it on a lamp stand.
- It's reducing the fruit of your God-inspired efforts to a vanity pressing.
- It's failing to use the same creativity you used in making your recording to market it.
So read on, and learn that a great marketing campaign-just like a great recording session-need not cost the equivalent of a mega-church's Sunday collection. What it takes is planning, persistence and a partnership: You take care of all the grunt work and seed planting and God, to quote Keith Green, will take care of the rest!
1) MAKE A PRESS KIT: "Who do people say that I am?" Jesus once asked his disciples. The late Bob Briner, author of Roaring Lambs, put a creative spin on this: He took it to mean that even Jesus knew the value of good public relations. To SELL, first you have to TELL. And a wonderful way to tell people about your music is to get press.
To do that, you should assemble a press kit to send to media people and music critics. It need not cost anything to put together a first-class kit (and believe me, as a Chicago Tribune staff writer, I've seen thousands). A great press kit should include:
- A quality black and white photo. Avoid clich‚d backgrounds (brick walls) and stress close-ups of faces over full body shots. Remember, photos get shrunk in print.
- A one-page band bio. Make it clever, brief and avoid meaningless superlatives. ("Cleveland's best praise and worship band.") Instead, give concrete-and clever-comparisons. ("Sounds like Toby Mac, Larry Norman and Phil Keaggy in a muddy tug of war.")
- A one-page quote sheet. Get anyone, even fans, who have heard your band to give good quotes. Approach local Christian bookstore owners. Email record company people who've heard and liked your work (even if they haven't signed you). Nothing wrong with persistence and push here; quotes on book jackets often come from people who haven't even met the author!
- The CD, but with "suggested tracks." Point press people to your best stuff. They are creatures of stress and deadline, after all.
Once you get some good clips, add them to your press kit! It's fun to watch it grow. And if you're looking for reviews of your CD, don't forget the Internet. Web sites like The Phantom Tollbooth (www.tollbooth.org) are good about reviewing unknown artists. But don't be passive: Follow up your mail and wrap it in an outrageous or memorable envelope (so when you call, you can say, "The band with the CD in the purple foil bubble wrap." THAT they will remember.)
2) TAKE IT TO THE WEB. At gigs or from your car trunk, what's the potential audience for selling CDs? Now: Ponder that question when considering the World Wide Web. A professional Web site will help spread the word (for an example, see my band's Web site, at bluelitsouls.com). Even better: See if you can get on a Web site that sells independent music and has built-in traffic. CD Baby and Paste Music specialize in rock-oriented indie music (both tend to be selective in their quality control). More praise-oriented sites include DelicateFade.com and WorshipMusic.com-which, along side big-name artists, claims to feature "the largest collection of quality independent label worship music." Hey, that could be YOU!
3) HAVE A RELEASE PARTY-OR BETTER YET, PARTIES. Think of it this way: Having a CD release event gives you a certain amount of buzz and mileage releasing your product. But having two parties can be even better. For starters, not everyone might be able to (or want to) make a full-blown concert party. A more intimate "listening party" (where the CD might be played over a coffeehouse sound system while you and the band mix and mingle) might be more appropriate for older listeners, or those who prefer a sort of wine-and-cheese setting. Especially with worship music, smaller, more intimate gatherings are an excellent way to not only let people know about your new CD, but also to share the journey behind the music. If the CD is a church worship band release, make the release a church-wide and/or outreach event. Space the events out to guarantee maximum draw; a month to six weeks is usually good, and don't book any gigs/appearances around the events that might steal your own thunder.
4) FORM A STREET TEAM. God intends for us to live in community, and the ultimate form of community for a band trying to make a mark is to gather together a "street team." Street teams are usually super-dedicated supporters who do it all-hang up posters, play the music for people at parties, get into Web chat rooms. Best of all, they will probably generate lots of good viral marketing ideas for you. Give them some sort of honorary title, gift or verbal appreciation, and you're bound to inspire even more loyalty (and hard work on your behalf).
5) THINK VISUAL. Great marketing means standing out. One way to do that is to give listeners something to see with their music. "For years indie artists rarely thought of videos since there was really nowhere to broadcast them except for local video shows and the occasional spin on an MTV specialty show at 2 a.m.," says Jerod Gunsberg, head of sales and label relations at the Telegraph Company in New York. "Now all of the sudden it is more important than ever. Independent musicians now need to start thinking up strong visual concepts since it is becoming more and more integral in how they are presented to their potential and existing fan base."
Now before you groan about how hard it was to record your album, look at it this way: It's easier than ever to assemble video tracks; Apple Macs, for example, come with film-editing software. The tracks can be uploaded onto your Web site, or one that sells your music, so there need not be pressing costs. And if you're looking for a cheap way to make videos, college film and TV programs offer a gateway-you get a free (or near-free) video in exchange for being an experimental subject.
A QUICK HIT LIST OF OTHER IDEAS:
- Put stickers on your CDs to tell people who are browsing CD bins who you sound like.
- Keychains, glow sticks and other cheap-but-cute giveaways with the band name on it spread the word.
- Hire an independent publicist, if the budget allows. National press is priceless in taking a career leap (Call record companies to get leads on who they use or recommend.)
- Get onto compilation CDs, if possible. Worship Leader Magazine's SongDiscovery is a great compilation that regularly features independent worship bands and artists. For more information, see www.songdiscovery.com
I hope this article has been a blessing to you. If you have any questions about music and marketing, please don't hesitate to contact me. My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lou Carlozo is a Chicago-based record producer and journalist. He is lead guitarist of the band Blue Lit Souls, who released their album "The Stairwell Years" on June 28. The album is available at www.pastemusic.com