Saturday, November 23, 2013


As a lifelong sales and marketing professional, my job has always been to present a product or service to the targeted customer and then get them to buy it. That's essentially the underlying goal of any artist. They are selling a product to a buyer (the fan).

Like any product or service in the market, you have to really analyze the marketplace and understand the opportunity.  Too often, young artists and parents are looking at things through emotion more than logic. Hearing your child's voice melt your and other people's hearts is very emotional. It's very easy to get sucked into believing they are a prodigy or the next big thing to hit the music scene. This is often why American Idol showed auditions of people who said their friends and family really believe in their ability. To us, it was laughable, but to that singer, it was their entire foundation of belief in their voice. Mom and grandma love it, so should you.

I manage all of Spencer's social media. I have the opportunity to read hundreds of messages and emails each month from other artists aspiring to become popular or have a career in music. The one common theme I have noticed is the extreme need for them to have Spencer's approval of their music, lyrics, or youtube videos. They candidly say they are very shy and nervous when they perform and want to know "the secret" to overcoming that. Many are waiting to be plucked mysteriously out of their insecurities and into stardom. The sad truth is that most artists can sing in the shower or in front of a small setting, but freak out about auditioning for their school choir solo or putting up a video online because they are afraid of haters.

I mentioned this in an earlier post about how important it is for an emerging artist to look at themselves like a politician. Every single setting you're in is an opportunity to "sell" your product to the customer. This means whether you're singing/performing or simply going to the store in your home town. This concept is probably the most difficult to learn as a young artist. It isn't about the music and performing as much as it is the other 90% of your time. Being on stage and performing is the result of what you do after learning how to be a good salesman off the stage. Sure, seeing an artist perform great on stage will sell them to a potential buyer, but keeping that buyer returning for more is the long-term goal.

I won't go into specific marketing strategies in this post, but I want to more address having the artist understand that they need to think of themselves as a salesman or politician. They need to adjust their performance or presentation of themselves to every setting and demographic in the room at the time. That means if it's a room of adults and older people, they need to talk, perform, and be what the adults and older people will be willing to buy. Sadly, this is perceived as 'sellling out' or compromising true artistry. But let's take a moment to assess the goals here.

If the artist wants to be a one-hit wonder, then by all means, focus all your energy on what's popular now and what your buyers will consume today. But the career minded artist will consider that they have to adjust who they are as an artist depending on the timing, setting and opportunity.

For example, suppose a sports team asked you to sing the national anthem at the opening of their game. An artist should be able to disconnect that the national anthem isn't their genre or style, but the upside of "selling" themselves to a captive audience is a "career" minded decision. They shouldn't be so picky to disregard an opportunity or audience of potential buyers simply because it isn't what they prefer most. Conversely, some opportunities and settings may not be the best for your long-term career. This is where it is very important for the artist to have experienced advice provided for them (a manager) who understands the road they are on and the best way to manage their political career (so to speak).

Take Spencer for example. He is a pop singer who sings positive music. Simple enough, right?

Now take the public school system he sings in at times. He goes to elementary schools, middle schools and sometimes has high school ages in the audience. When performing a live concert, you don't just sing back to back without stopping in between to talk. You have breaks between each song. In his case, to catch his breath sometimes cause he dances. But in those breaks, he will usually talk about something. Whether it be the song he just sang or the one he is about to sing or even about a platform he represents (bullying, food for the hungry, etc.) Being able to cater that message to the audience at hand is being a politician. Being able to connect with the audience at their level and within their culture or way of thinking is extremely important if you are to make them buyers (fans).  So, Spencer has to spend considerable time before each performance making sure he understands "who" will be watching.

He does this same thing for media interviews. Who is the reader, listener or viewer of the interview? What do they care about? What topics should he avoid and which ones should he talk about? What does he want to "sell" in that 10 minute interview?  It seems clinical and very strategic, but when you're trying to build a career, you have to think this way if you want to succeed. It's no different than if Spencer were playing basketball. He would make sure he understood the opposing team's guards since he will be defending against them. He needs to know what approach he will take to execute his game plan when he's in the spotlight. His background in sports has really helped us in preparing him for bigger venues and being in the limelight at times. We go through the playbook. We study game film (watch past concert footage) and really make sure he is politically ready to face the customers he will face.

So, again, without getting into specifics, the biggest point here is that beyond the skill of singing or performing, there is an underlying objective that the artist needs to keep working toward, and that is being able to "sell" themselves (the product) to their customers (the fan). Having a marketing and P.R. team only goes so far to sell an artist. I can create a great campaign, music video, or even photo shoot. But the artist's own mouth and public appearance will say more about who they are then the created media we can develop to "sell" them.

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