5 Marketing Truths Musicians Have Ignored Long Enough

Posted by Dave Ruch on Aug 15, 2016 09:00 AM

Dave_Ruch_-_photo_by_Greg_MeadowsImage courtesy of the author

Struggling to book your act? Wish you could be generating more good-paying gigs? It turns out that the larger world of business and marketing has much to offer musicians in terms of proven knowledge to help us avoid wasting time on things that don’t work and focus instead on the tactics that will build our careers.

The problem, of course, is that most of us aren’t networking in corporate boardrooms, and we don’t want to dig through reams of advertising and sales research. We want to play music! That’s where this short and sweet list comes in – no need to reinvent the wheel. Here are five simple and universal marketing truths you can apply to selling your own act starting today.

1. Multiple impressions sell

After spending crazy amounts of time (and perhaps some real money) getting your promotional materials and website together, you crafted the perfect email and reached out for gig bookings to multiple venues that seem absolutely perfect for what you do. Then, you heard nothing. Crickets.

Where so many musicians get frustrated and give up is exactly where you need to remind yourself that it can take three, five, or nine “impressions” before the booking person is a) aware of who you are and what you do, and b) potentially interested in booking you.

In business circles, it’s often said this way: two percent of sales happen after the first contact, and 80 percent happen after the fifth contact. Think about that.

2. Features tell, benefits sell

Stop talking about yourself! “Features” are all about you – what you do, how long you’ve been doing it, how many albums you have, where you’ve played, what your music sounds like. These things are all important, and we love talking about them, but they’re not what sells you.

“Benefits” describe what the person hiring you gets out of the deal – a happy, engaged audience perhaps? Butts in seats? Someone who shows up on time and is easy to work with? Put the benefits front and center in all your communications. People care way more about themselves than they do about you.

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3. Social proof sells

When people are buying something, they like to be reassured that others have made the same decision and been delighted with the results. That reassurance is called social proof.

Sprinkle quotes from happy venues and audience members, and screenshots from social media posts, around your website where people will see them (i.e., not on a “testimonials” or “what they’re saying” page). If you have any big numbers to brag about (social followers, number of gigs you’ve played, etc), make sure everyone sees those, too.

[4 Social Media Mistakes Your Band Can't Afford to Make]

4. Email sells

For about a decade now, social media has been the shiny new object for marketers, with all kinds of possibilities for connecting with vast audiences and even, just maybe, “going viral.” And while the social platform du jour continues to change, one thing has remained constant: email is still way more effective for reaching your buyers and booking contacts (and fans).

Cultivate your social media channels as time allows, but focus your marketing efforts on boring old email. Build your list of booking contacts every single day, because your email list is your most valuable marketing asset. Period.

[10 Tricks to Build and Maintain an Engaged Email List for Your Band]

5. Teaching sells

Can you educate your audience a bit as you perform? Can you package your music around a topic or create a new thematic show that includes some interesting information between songs? Audiences love to learn something while they’re being entertained, and you’re infinitely more marketable when you have a “show” or “product” or “program” to offer.

Here’s the best part: in addition to all the usual music clubs and festivals you can sell this to, there are good-paying venues like arts centers, schools, universities, libraries, and museums that are always looking for something interesting for their (often built-in) audiences. In fact, some musicians (myself included) have built entire careers around this kind of work.


I’ve seen each one of these five concepts add to my “bottom line” over and over again as a self-employed musician, and I’m absolutely convinced they can do the same for you. I’d love to hear how it goes, and what else you’d add to the list.


Dave Ruch is a full-time musician and performer whose work has been featured on American Public Media, in Emmy Award-winning documentaries, and on stages across North America and the UK. A Buffalo NY-based teaching artist and Public Scholar for the New York Council for the Humanities, Ruch helps audiences of all ages connect with history and culture through music. Dave’s marketing blog for performing artists is entitled “Educate and Entertain: A Great Living in the Arts,” and he also contributes to The Huffington Post. Read his blog or visit his website.

Topics: Music Business 101, Marketing & Promotion


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