Published Oct 26, 2008Like so many doe-eyed Jerseys, musicians are the dairy cows of the business. Properly milked, music and its by-products have a long commercial life in the form of gig fees, record sales, licenses, merchandise and publishing royalties. But one of the most lucrative by-products isnt the music itself but rather the personality or "brand of the artist. Musicians are cool. Some of them are mysterious, some sexy, and some just good fun all emotional values that can be used to sell all sorts of things to all sorts of people. Since the days when sought-after composers were given lucrative patronage by the wealthy classes in exchange for showing up at dinner parties, musicians have leveraged their je ne sais quoi to obtain commercial success.
More recently, savvy advertisers have used music and the personalities of musicians in all sorts of ways to market their stuff to the public. Some involve straight-up commercial endorsements, while others create a more subliminal connection between music and consumer. The emotional power of music is considerable, and when music is associated with a certain product or service, that emotional resonance transfers to the product or service itself.
This is largely what lifestyle marketing is about: using music to create an emotional response, which in turn influences the consumers choices. In return, lifestyle marketing helps artists find a wider community and potential sales base for record sales, concerts, and so on.
Successful lifestyle marketing involves a happy marriage of brands, and in a way, its a ménage à trois. One partner is the music/artist, one is the product or service, and the third is the consumer the first two are trying to reach. Lifestyle marketing works when these three come together with an identifiable, harmonious emotional resonance. Good marketing connects bands with fans via a third product or service that based on their consumer profiles theyd probably both be into. Thus, Sarah McLachlan can help sell scented candles to new moms. Fucked Up? Maybe not so much.
Before you saddle up that high horse and swear that youd never sell out like that, consider that most radio play is a kind of lifestyle marketing. Radio stations use your music to create a brand that attracts a certain kind of listener, and then they sell airtime to advertisers who want the attention of that listener. If you gave a CD to the bar where you and your buds hang out, thats a lifestyle marketing choice too.
Any place that people gather in large numbers is a lifestyle marketing opportunity provided the kind of people gathered are the kind who might like your music. Launching your own lifestyle marketing campaign can be as simple a matter of identifying local businesses where your music can be played and appreciated, and asking for counter space to sell your discs and merch on consignment. But there are plenty of other ways to use local businesses to get to your fans: for example, make a deal with the local café to provide your t-shirts to all its servers, and then have a listening party that you then advertise around town.
Any idea that engages consumers directly is a good one. Contests and draws for CDs, merch, or free show tickets, are a great way to get both retailers and consumers involved in your cause. For that matter, if you think your fans are sticker-appreciators, why not leave a trail of stickers in your wake? Getting the word out on a larger scale is more complicated, and thats where marketing firms come in. Lifestyle marketers have extensive databases of so-called "lifestyle accounts: cafés, clothiers, spas, bowling alleys, bars, specialty stores, wine makers, ski hills, you name it. They provide a range of services starting with simple "spot marketing (typically, giving out your CD and promo pack to a select list of businesses), to activities that can be either direct appeals to the consumer, or more amorphous associations.
Hiring "street teams to go out and confront the public with their product in and around lifestyle account points (malls, clubs) is a very direct approach. Compilation CDs and free downloads are popular giveaways. On the downside, some people find street teams irritating and invasive and that negative response can bleed through to you. A more indirect strategy employed by lifestyle marketers is to create a special event that is itself a lifestyle account or venue for you to be associated with. Often these special events are made to look like something else for example, it may be billed as a fashion show, but really its promoting shampoo and it uses your new CD on the runway or as a giveaway.
Because the promotional force of lifestyle marketing is aspiration ("She bought it, so I want it), the top end of lifestyle campaigns is the celebrity endorsement. Some marketing firms specialize in handing out CDs to celebrities via swag bags at festivals, etc, or helping to engineer occasions where Celebrity A is see hanging out in Club B while your new track is being spun. But while having your song wend its way onto a celebrity iPod may have a payoff, you will, I guarantee, pay a very large amount of money to make this happen.
Which brings us to the words of caution. There are many, many bullshit artists out there in marketing land. They promise to deliver gazillions of new fans, but what they really do is take your money and then spam with world with either email or random compilation CDs that many people chuck out without ever listening to.
These kinds of campaigns dont work because, in attacking the public indiscriminately with music thats only been accepted on the basis of "somebody paid, they ignore the number one rule of music marketing, and that is that the relationship between the music and the fan is personal and valuable. If you just throw shit on the wall to see if it sticks, well, youve thrown shit.
As always, the magic formula for a successful marketing strategy is that "music plus fan equals revenue. Conversely, garbage plus fan equals nothin. Marketing strategies that work are the ones where your music is presented as having real value emotional and otherwise. With lifestyle marketing, the goal is to put your music in a place that makes people feel good about themselves and by extension, you.