Your music is more important than your brand. Here’s why.
Lately, I’ve been struggling.
I’ve been so concerned about what people think of me that it’s getting in the way of making music.
Let me explain.
I write and produce songs from home. I also run a blog that helps part-time musicians start their careers.
My concern is that people will think that because I run a blog, my music must not be that good.
I’ll quote my imaginary haters:
“If he’s such a good musician, why doesn’t he just make music all the time?”
“He’d be a more successful musician if he just focused on music.”
“He probably couldn’t ‘make it’ as a musician, so he started a blog.”
Gosh, guys, chill out.
In all honesty, I worry about my “brand.” I wish I could just be an artsy-fartsy musician in people’s eyes. But I also love writing and helping other musicians.
Here’s the thing — it’s not about how other people see me. It’s about my passion(s).
I make music because I love to. And I started a blog because I’m passionate about helping other musicians.
So deal with that, imaginary haters.
In this post, I want to talk about why your music — what you’re passionate about — is more important than your “brand” — how people see you.
Why your music is more important than your brand
You’ve probably heard people say, “Just make great music, man. The music will be its own marketing.”
I whole-heartedly agreed with this for the first 10 years of my music career. It was basically my manifesto.
And although I’m no longer a fan of throwing all of marketing out the window, I think this is generally a good idea to start with.
I do think your music is more important than your brand or your music promotion. And I do think you should spend much more time making music than marketing your music.
Ryan Holiday is a guy who knows about marketing.
He’s an author and a former marketing consultant to big companies like Google and Complex. So he knows the ins and out of promotion.
And he points out that artists nowadays have to do it all. Not only do they create the art, but they’re also in charge of marketing their art.
“The artist can’t just be an artist,” he writes. “They also have to know how to upload YouTube videos, use GIFs, promote gigs, and figure out how to get followers on various platforms.”
He calls this “total brand and business control.” The artist is every employee in their own business.
And he knows that marketing is not the most important thing for these artists.
“…The unintended consequence of…total brand and business control, is that it diverts attention away from the most essential part of any creative profession,” he says.
“You know, making great stuff.”
You only have so much time in a day. Every minute you spend marketing, the less time you have to make music.
It’s like what Phil Libin, the founder of Evernote, said…
“People who are thinking about things other than making the best product, never make the best product.”
Your role as a musician is to make the best music possible.
Yes, you need to get the word out there. But that needs to be an afterthought, meaning you don’t think about promotion until you’ve made something great enough to promote.
In the same way, people will naturally laugh at your joke if it’s funny, people will naturally listen to your music if it’s good. People will be excited to share it with others.
Don’t misunderstand — I’m not anti-marketing. But your success in music can’t rely on the upkeep of your brand or how good of a marketer you are.
It’s all about the music. Make the best music possible, and it will propel your marketing.
How to focus on your music more than your brand
So how do you implement this idea that your music is more important than your marketing strategy?
Well, I’ve come up with some practical ways to help us all give top priority to making music.
The 3:1 Rule
The clearest way to focus more on your music than on your marketing…is to spend more time on your music.
Try The 3:1 Rule. It’s simple.
Spend three times the amount of time on your music than on your marketing.
So if you have an hour to do music stuff, spend 45 minutes making music and 15 minutes creating a marketing strategy.
If you have three free evenings in a week to work on your music career, spend two of those nights just making music. On the last night, you could focus on how to market that music.
Or let’s say you take Friday off work in order to record a single over the weekend. Spend the first two days only focused on the music. Just create all day for two days. Then spend Sunday creating a marketing plan.
You get the idea.
Don’t think about marketing…yet
Don’t think about marketing at all until you have something amazing to promote.
Stop thinking about marketing for now. Wait until you have the music. Then put on your Chief Marketing Officer hat get the word out there.
Schedule music time
This has been one of the most helpful practices for me.
By scheduling “music time” in my calendar, I’m holding my future self accountable.
I’m able to prioritize music over defaulting to Netflix or YouTube.
If you’re trying to focus more on making music, then you have to be intentional about actually making the music.
Be okay with little bites
Chunking is a method where you take a lot of information and split it into chunks. This helps you remember stuff, but it also applies to being a musician.
If you only have an hour tonight for music-making, that’s okay. Use that hour with intention.
Or if your lunch break is the only time for you to write songs, use it wisely.
Be okay with doing small things in short amounts of time. Many notes strung together make up a melody.
Create a marketing plan
Focusing on your music first is important. But one-third of your time will be spent on marketing, so you need a plan.
When it’s time to market the great music you’ve made, creating a marketing plan will seriously help its effectiveness.
You need a release strategy. You need to schedule social media posts. And you’ve got to read up on how to market your music.
Creating a plan will help, especially if marketing doesn’t come naturally to you.
Don’t care what people think of you
I need to say this to myself: don’t give a [censored] what people think of you.
Don’t market your music based on your desired “brand.” Share your music based on who you are.
Excitedly share your art with your fans in your own voice with techniques you feel good about on platforms you actually use.
Don’t care what people think of your brand. Just make what you’re passionate about. And share it with that same passion.
Because your music is the most important thing.
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