As a radio host, blogger and music promoter I often have the pleasure of talking to artists about how they market and sell their music. The business side of our genre is perhaps not as pretty and relaxing as the music itself, but for artists it is important to have a strategy for promoting and selling music. I have also spoken with artists who create magnificent music – but who clearly don’t understand much about selling music in the Internet age. So I thought that I should give a few of my opinions on that matter. Feel free to write a comment if you disagree or would like to add something.
1. If you want to be a New Age music artist, you should be able to play your music live.
To quote Tom Newman;
“My idea of making music is to have an idea and play it by hand, and if you can’t play it by hand use a sequencer or sampler, but at least play as much of it as you can by hand, because we are human beings. It is very easy to get a machine to make music, that’s fine, but it is not human beings expressing themselves. (Mike Oldfield, A Life Dedicated to Music, Chris Dewey)
Synths are great of course, and is in many ways a live instrument too (just look at Tangerine Dream’s long career). But use synths wisely. A good idea is to use them only for the synth tracks – not the complete arrangent. Would you go to a fancy restaurant and get something the chef just warmed up in the microwave? It is the same with that flute solo, cello part or drum beat. Live is better, and it will sound much nicer on your recordings too.
2. Remember that New Age music fits nicely into programs on jazz and world music festivals. Our genre creates atmosphere and has great melodies, and that is what many concertgoers are looking for. Even pop and rock festivals needs music for relaxing after a hard night…
3. Don’t rely on the album format; Understand what recorded music is today. Albums still sell of course, but you can also sell a track as soon as it is finished. If you use 6 months from the first song is ready to the album is all done, you have actually lost 6 months of promotion and digital shelf time for that first track.
4. If you want to make music, listen to music, get to know your genre. In his book On writing Stephen King says that if you want to be a writer, you should read as much as possible. You can’t be a good writer without reading. I think the same goes with music. You would be amazed of how many artists say that they rarely listen to music. Not just New Age music, but any music. In order to be an artist, you should also love and appreciate the music of other artists.
5. Know and define your audience; Put yourself in the perspective of the future fan. In New Age music we are, in general, looking for positive, relaxing harmonies that are not too complex. I’m not saying that you should release a spa, healing or Pilates album. After all, it doesn’t hurt to be original. But if you are an unknown artists, it will help you to release an album within an established marked. It is simple business sense.
6. Understand the value of a local audience; If you plan to release an album within the meditation music subgenre there is a large and ever-growing market for meditation classes and self help courses. Join forces with local profiles in this market, and you will have an audience that is willing to pay top dollars for a personalized music experience. This audience will be worth more than millions of playbacks on YouTube or streaming music services. Also remember that meditation music performed live is great for homes for the elderly and hospitals. Only Yanni fills a stadium these days, so no artists can afford to be picky…
7. Work with other artists and don’t be afraid to contribute on their projects. You will grow as an artist this way; Creativity is about giving. Too few artists in our genre have “jam sessions” together. And when you do this you are promoting yourself to a new fan base.
8. Don’t think you can do everything yourself .Just because you have Photoshop installed doesn’t mean that you should do the cover.
9. New Age Music labels are great. Many labels are gone, true, but the ones that remain are here because they know what they are doing. They will be able to give your music the fine tuning it needs, and they know the market.
10. Consider hiring a New Age music promoter. They will be able to help you even if you don’t need a label (or don’t get a record deal) . They can help you with the market side of things.
11. Attend at different kinds of New Age and Healing conventions. Here you can market your music – and get a bigger network. Again; don’t underestimate your local market.
12. Find a theme you like. As I mentioned under 5 that it doesn’t hurt to be original. But there is also a reason why spa, meditation and relaxation albums are popular. In our modern, hectic world, inner peace and harmony is perhaps the most important thing of all. It will improve your sales if you highlight the healing powers in your music. A creative approach to spa and meditation will sell for sure.
13. Define your Internet strategy early on – and do it 100 %. It is better to have two or three main channels for communication (like Facebook, artist blog and music homepage) – than 10 channels that are almost never updated (like personal band pages on certain portal pages). Internet is not about making a fancy page once and then logging off; Internet is about frequent updates.
14. Online radio is a great way to promote your music and earn revenue at the same time. As a radio host I have seen how artists who are good at selecting the right channel for their music get lots of PR and sales (through iTunes and Amazon links in the radio player). My advice when contacting radio channels is to be personal and explain why your material would fit the programming on that perticular channel. I use 5 seconds to determine if this email was sent to 30 other channels at the same time. Why should I play your music if you don’t know the profile of my channel? Also; Believe it or not, but channel managers add a certain artistic touch to their music selection too. If your music doesn’t fit the program, it doesn’t mean that it is bad – just not right for that channel.
15. Your music does not have to be available in 100 online stores. iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and a few carefully selected stores (and/or streaming services) are more than enough. To have a main store is also great for the fan base. Don’t underestimate the value of your own homepage as an online music store. This is where you can get 100 % of the sale price minus credit card fee and shopping cart subscription (like E-junkie). That is a much better deal than Apple or Amazon have to offer. Remember; make it easy for your fans to buy and download your music. A registration is NOT needed for a purchase.
16. If you want Internet success, be prepared to give away free music. Your success will largely depent on how much you are willing to give. I’m not saying that Torrent networks are a good way to promote your music, but new fans are recruited in many mysterious ways. I would suggest to make albums dedicated for giving away. Make them fast and make the cheap; Think of them as your promo titles.
17. Know where the real money is; Music Licensing. I know artists who sell 100 copies of their albums, but still makes more money that the ones who sell 200.000 copies. They have a name of themselves in TV and movies, and you can hear their music in the background of popular programs. New Age music is perfect for this use. Don’t forget that businesses also have need for music for their presentations. I know artists who license their music to airlines and chains of hotels – even corporate websites and for events. Since music licensing usually is costly for companies, you can expect to earn good money here. Don’t sell your music cheap.
18. Don’t forget; New Age music is about positivity and optimism. You might feel better about your music if you are not doing it for a living. A day job will not hurt your creativity, and will give you a feeling of security. It is a great hobby after all. The days of easy money in New Age music are long gone.
Bottomline; You, the artist, must be your no. 1 fan. Start by paying 10-15 dollars to your artist account for your new album. This is to show yourself that this is a great product that even you would buy. If you wouldn’t buy it, creating New Age music is not for you.