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Marketing Your Music 101.2  
By Jim Weaver, CSO Editor in Chief 

Change Is Good...

Recognizing when change is happening in any industry is essential to staying on top. In the music business, radio and major record labels have controlled everything since someone figured out there was profit in it. Not anymore! Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Tracy Lawrence, Neal McCoy, Clint Black, just to name a few, have started their own record labels and taken a more active role in the management of their own careers and it's working. Believe it or not, you as an indie have more power in your hands today than ever before, why you ask? Because you don't have to rely on terrestrial radio anymore for potential new fans to hear your music... hello Internet! 

There has been a recent paradigm shift of major proportions in the music biz because of the Internet and more people getting broadband connections, as I write this I am listening to an internet country radio station and it sounds as good as playing a CD. What does this mean for you? Thousands of new places to be seen and heard, more fans, more sales, and less dependence on getting that major label deal to make it in the industry.

Do The Math...

In the radio business the numbers don't lie, if you play the hits, the people will come, they will listen longer, your ratings will increase and more advertisers will pay more money to be on your station. It's a formula that's been working for decades and isn't likely to change much in the near future. Music rotation is the key to success in terrestrial music radio, get the rotations right and you win. There are a limited number of signals available, so stations have to market to a larger, more general audience and try to appeal to the masses as best they can to get and keep those ratings high. Internet radio has virtually no restrictions at this point, if you want to start an Internet radio station that plays nothing but Broadway show tunes, you can! It probably wouldn't make any money, but you can do it by golly. So what's happening online? More and more radio stations are popping up everyday that have found an amazing talent pool out there called "indie artists", and guess what, these stations are not beholding' to major record labels in any way, they aren't getting any promotional considerations, major artist visits, interviews, not to mention payola in some cases. These stations are doing what radio did way back in it's infancy, they're playing what they, and their listeners, like... what a concept. Rotations are important but not AS important, advertisers are almost non-existent so far because the they haven't figured just how many people are listening online, but don't worry, they will.

The Proof...

Something happened in 2006 that doesn't happen very often, an indie band made a chart topping single! Congrats again to Heartland and their smash number one hit "I Loved Her First". The song spent several weeks at number one but before it got there, Indie label Lofton Creek Records found themselves with the fastest rising hit song in the history of the label, and everyone there was in a major scramble to stay on top of their newfound success. Some people at the major Nashville labels are probably still scratching their heads over this one. How does a virtually unknown band create a chart topper? The SONG, it's the power of the song. Not the band, not the record company, certainly not any music industry executives, it's the song! "I Loved Her First" is a great song that touched a chord with so many female country music fans that they were compelled to tell their friends about it, they called radio stations and demanded it be played, radio complied and a hit song was born. How do you think the word spread, your reading it right here, the Internet. Friends emailed friends, MySpace junkies told their friends, people went to Heartland's website and heard the song, then the radio groundswell started and life has changed dramatically for the guys in Heartland. I hope they have more hits throughout their career but remember what we've learned from this; it's the strength of the song and a "fan-base" willing to work to promote it that created this hit. Ten or fifteen years ago that song would have never been heard if it didn't fall into the hands of a major artist or producer or record executive, today it's a completely different ballgame.

Where Do You Go...

I know what you're thinking; "Hello, here it comes... now we hear the pitch about why it's so good to advertise on CSO". Nope, no pitch is forthcoming. I am writing this article to inform and educate artists, managers, PR people, record labels, promoters and anyone else who's interested. The information you need to make good internet marketing decisions is out there for the taking, so when it's time to spend your hard-earned money for an ad campaign to push your latest single or to let the world know your album is out, you will be able to spend it more wisely. 

Put this site in your favorites folder right now... www.Alexa.com. At the present time, this is the only site that I know of that provides you with an overview of the best places to spend your time, money and energy promoting yourself and your music. When you go to the site you will notice right under the Alexa logo are three selections available for your search; "Search", "Traffic Rankings", and "Directory". Type countrystarsonline.com (or the site of your choice) into the box and then click "Traffic Rankings"... a gold mine of information has just opened up to you. Now you have the power to see if what a site tells you is accurate or not, if a music website says they are Number 1, and they are really number 12, you can check up on them and see for yourself. There's even a "compare sites" area where you can type in multiple sites and compare them in one handy graph. Alexa isn't perfect, but neither is Arbitron for the radio industry, or Nielson for TV, but it's the best we have so far, so let's use it. 

Country Sites & MySpace...

If you're not on the MySpace bandwagon yet, then you're not paying attention. As of this writing, MySpace has 167 million profiles online... over half the population of the United States! That is staggering when you stop and think about it. And everyone who's anyone in the music biz has at least one MySpace site as part of their "street team" marketing efforts. This is a one-on-one, friends telling friends type of marketing, it's very time consuming, but it works. Put together a nice looking MySpace Music site to enhance what you do at your regular site and start making friends, it's worth the effort. Important: Do not let MySpace replace your regular website, every artist must have their own .com or .net website these days or you run the risk of not appearing legitimate.

Country sites, including CSO and others, are a terrific way to get your face and music in front of an established, targeted readership. MySpace is great because their overall numbers are huge, but when you narrow the field to only those who like country music, or whatever your style of music might be, the numbers drop significantly, and you still have to get the ball rolling yourself. 

Dedicated country music sites already have regular readers established, so their audience is already focused on what you do, half the battle is won the very day your article or banner is published. This is where Alexa.com comes in very handy to see where your time, money and efforts should go. 

The Wrap...

To boil this down, being a good singer/musician/song-writer is a good start, but there are still  far too many artists and not near enough major record labels. You have to believe in your heart that one day your major break will come, but now you know that even if it doesn't, you can still make it on your own in the music business. A business that is changing more and more every day, in your favor... thanks to the Internet 

Next time, let's talk Public Relations.

Jim Weaver

Do you agree, do you disagree, do you have a point that was left out? Submit your feedback here!

CSO Reader Feedback!

Love this article, I feel like you hit it on the head...it is changing and I have been a part of that change for a few years now with my music airing on internet stations...someone said to me when I was a little down about the lack of movement on my preview CD ...(2004) "hey, don't you get it, your a pioneer in the future of internet radio, you ought to be proud that someday you can tell that to your grandchildren!" from there out ...and since then I have seen the growth and now know that statement meant more than I knew at the time....there is hope and we each can make our own success's and perhaps more easily than in the early and present days of controlled "radio" via the world of the internet.
~ Ann Blair

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