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Steve Moore, B.A., J.D. Author Steve has been in the music business for over 30 years! He's worked as a professional musician, producer, and has been involved in almost every aspect of the music business. He's also the author of "The Truth about the Music Business"

Promotion, Marketing and Distribution

“THE CATCH 22”  Originally Published via Bruce Maier and Damn Good Tunes

Promotion, Marketing and Distribution can be a “Catch 22”  As printed for Damn Good Tunes – Bruce Maier – http://www.damngoodtunes.com/ABOUT_US_XXAD.html

*(Entire Article less Gif’s)
The state of Normal Retail Channels (NRC) sales is so dire that it’s really hard to justify selling CD’s anymore, at least not in record stores. In fact, the traditional PMD plan is NOT working for the major labels, so what’s the point of traditional P/M/D? In business, you always want to have enough products to meet demand. If you don’t you’re losing money. After all, demand is what drives sales. However, what if you have the product, it’s in the stores and there’s NO DEMAND? You’re STILL going to lose money. So what to do?

It’s just so painfully obvious that way too many bands put way too much money into producing a CD and getting it pressed with shiny new shrink-wrap without having given ANY thought whatsoever to PMD. And what’s the point of having a ton of CD’s stuck in a closet? Or worse, lugging around a bunch of CD’s that you can’t sell at your gigs? You have to have a plan.

No record label would ever release a CD without a marketing plan. It’s relatively simple – figure out what the core audience will be and direct your marketing budget accordingly. Of course, the labels do have more money to throw at marketing although those coffers are drying up. Further, all major labels always plan to PAY for Ad’s (yes that’s what they call spins on Radio – Ad’s) and that is called PROMOTION. Yes, it should be illegal to pay for spins– however, the record labels can’t pay a radio station directly, but they CAN pay an independent promoter to insure the independent promoter pays the radio station to secure the coveted number of spins per day in all the major markets. If you don’t like it – then write your legislature because the FCC which provides the licenses for the radio stations is owned by YOU, as in “WE, the people”. And these radio stations ARE required by law to be for the GREATER good of the PUBLIC– not just to put MONEY in their pockets. But when you stop and think about it how many of you actually listen to the radio that much anymore? Are radio plays the end all that they used to be? Not with so many choices in today’s markets.

Then there’s distribution – the 3rd leg of this three legged dog! The record companies have major distribution – they can get their product placed in the record stores. But who’s buying the CD’s? Not many people, that’s for sure. Record sales are WAY DOWN and now iTunes has surpassed Wal-Mart as the number one retailer. In fact, Tower records is gone, Best Buy has reduced their SKU’s from the 10,000 or so mark to more like 2000 and record stores are closing all over the place. So what’s the point of shipping physical goods? Not much. In fact why ship ANY CD’s at all– most of them will be returned and charged against the artist’s account which is ALL recoupable by the labels. If you get into the NRC shipping game (at least shipping product that are not already paid for) you will run into the same costs. But there’s hope! If iTunes is the number one retailer doesn’t that level the playing field? Yes – to a degree because getting on iTunes is NOT hard at all. But you STILL have to have a PMD plan! How else are you going to stand out from ALL of the other bands that are vying for the same audience?

But PMD can be a catch 22 – if people hear your band’s brand new CD on the radio and they can’t find it at a local store, what are they going to do? Some will buy it…but more than likely find it for FREE on the internet and that’s not going away. You have to get creative! Some bands have actually increased their record sales by promoting file sharing! But beware – because people are tired of buying a CD that only has two tracks on it that they like. The buying public is educated and they are not going to WASTE money on music they don’t want, there are just too many options for them to get ONLY what they want and your job is to make yourself available to those that are willing to buy!

What should YOU do? If your label has paid for independent promotion, which is in line with their super cool marketing plan, and they shipped out product through their distributor to all the stores – then you should sell records, right? Not hardly. You are much better off figuring out what you can do on YOUR OWN and skip the entire major record company. They want a 360 deal anyway (a piece of every revenue stream that they can make) which leaves you with even a smaller piece of the pie than what you got 10 years ago which was basically a crumb anyway. About the best you could get out of record company was the PMD and tour support…but you wouldn’t see much by way of money coming back from record sales. So figure another way of going about it – as the old model is broken and billions have been lost in this decade alone!

But you can still put time, effort and money into promotion, marketing and distribution – just don’t do it the way it’s been done for the last few decades and you will be guaranteed to LOSE MONEY! Think outside the box and come up with NEW ideas to get the word out. And even though the core audience of regular radio is dying – it’s still a great way to gain exposure and to use a measuring stick as to what IS being promoted, so you are going to still have to work your local and regional radio stations, play those towns and KEEP playing them, give FREE tickets to anyone at the radio station that will come to a gig, leave your CD’s on consignment at mom and pop CD stores everywhere you can. AND anywhere you can and give the people that work at the CD stores FREE tickets to your shows to insure they help promote your stuff! Sell your CD’s at your gigs – or better yet GIVE YOUR CD’s away but bundled with a moderately priced T-shirt. At least you can build the cost of the CD into the T-shirt and the T-shirt acts as FREE advertising. And lastly work the internet – it is for all intents and purposes FREE but figure out a way to stand out from the crowd. You’re going to have to research and work at it – and not let one single avenue to work your product slip away from your clutches. And LASTLY, don’t expect fame and fortune to come knocking just because you have created what you think is THE greatest studio CD! You have to KNOW that the life of a even GREAT CD is short (unless of course you’re lucky enough to write a classic number one) so you will have to meet or beat what you’ve just done on your last studio record with yet another CD or offering and with a quick turn around. So full blown CD’s are not going to work – think in terms of smaller offering, in fact ONE SONG at a time!

Face it – you’re going to have to earn your fans one at a time with hard work and constant touring. But I can assure that IF your music (both recorded and LIVE) is that THAT GOOD, then people WILL KNOW IT and word of mouth is the best promotion you can get – people know what they like and what they will spend their money on. You have to have a core fan base and that fan base CAN support you both economically and spiritually. But that FAN BASE has got to be built through a lot of touring, and staying in touch with those fans. Figure out WHO your core market is and stay in touch with them in as many ways as you can – now that is a Promotion, Marketing and distribution plan! Your fans are your life blood – figure out what they want and give it to them. And if THE PEOPLE (the coveted and hoped for fans) don’t like your stuff – then you may want to consider another line of work. But you have to get out there and TRY because you CAN do what you want to do for a living (and that should be the goal to quit your day job) IF you are willing to work at it hard enough and you can’t just make great records or write great songs, you have to have a plan! After all one out of five business fail in the first year and the number one reason why they do fail is that their business plan doesn’t work! But again, don’t give up, you can do it – just make sure that you get that plan, and stick to it and allow for that plan to change as the markets change as they are going to change again and again. Exciting times we are in…take advantage of them!

If you would like to read more – please read my book, “The Truth about the Music Business”. If you can’t find it in your local store, just ask for it. They CAN get it!

Best of luck with your future endeavors…

Steve Moore, B.A, J.D., Author

This article is a Copyright (© 2008) of Music Square One, All rights reserved.


Thanks Bruce for allowing me to write for your magazine!

Steve Moore, B.A. J.D. Author

The Truth about the Music Business

High Cotton Records

Steve Moore & the New South

ButterMilk Media



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