Three Ways to Sell Your Band (even if you hate business)
By T. Perry Bowers
I’ve always had a knack for business, thanks to my entrepreneur-father. I learned so much from watching him engage in business transactions whilst I was growing up.
But a lot of artists despise the idea of commerce, especially when it comes to art. They say they hate commerce, but what they really hate is selling. They despise the image of the cheesy salesman making a pitch about some crappy product. Nobody likes people who shove things you don’t need down your throat.
I understand that – I hate it too! But some products are really good. Art is good. Music is great (some of it, anyway). If you’re a producer of art, you need to be able to sell it. Maybe, eventually, you’ll find an agent who will sell it for you. But for now, you are your own best advocate.
Focus on these three areas and it will help you sell your band:
1. Be Confident
We all grow up with different influences. Parents, teachers, mentors and friends all help shape our attitudes, opinions and beliefs about the world and ourselves. Some of us were lucky enough to have positive role models who gave us confidence in ourselves and what we created. Some of us were constantly knocked down and told we were worthless. Most of us ended up somewhere in-between.
In order to be a good advocate for your own music, you may have to look deeply into your psychology. This may involve therapy, meditation, long walks on the beach or big mugs of tea etc. You need to find out if anything is holding you back from being completely confident in yourself and your music.
When I was in my teens I had a drum set in the basement. One day I was playing a simple beat. I had just figured out how to master a rock beat and I was pretty pumped about it. I knew my Dad was upstairs. After I finished playing I raced upstairs to ask him what he thought. He said, something like, “sounds like you need a lot more practice.”
He was absolutely correct of course. But what I heard was “you suck.” That was how my young brain interpreted it at the time. He could have said, “that has potential” or even better yet, “keep jamming, I love that you are exited about the drums!”
I’m not trying to criticize my Dad or give you a lesson on being a parent. I’m just pointing out how simple statements have an affect on us, particularly in our youth. Sometimes it takes years to unravel them.
After that day, I struggled to regain my confidence as a musician. It was like an imprint on my mind that took years to rewrite. My cure was to practice – a lot! I played in bands and ran a studio. While I’ll never forget that message (which I interpreted as negative), I fight it every day because I love playing music so much.
A simple statement from my Dad impacted my beliefs about myself as an artist. Which, in turn, impacted my ability to sell my music. In my twenties when I was actively trying to “make it” in the music business, I didn’t really have the confidence necessary to be successful. I know that now.
However I was confident about my recording business. My business confidence grew when I started to rent rehearsal space. I found my niche and I was very good at it. My rehearsal space business took off and alongside it my recording business thrived.
I know band-leaders with great confidence in their music. They use their confidence to make moves and that’s the key – stop talking and make some moves. Book gigs, record things, practice (a lot), create advertising campaigns – do something! You can tell when confident talk is just a bunch of smoke because nothing actually gets done. Add a little weed to that mix and you have a disaster.
2. Have a Pitch
Create a nice little elevator pitch for your band. If someone asks what your band sounds like, you need to be able to answer! Don’t say, “well, it’s really hard to say.” It’s not hard to say! Say, ”We’re a rock band’ or “hip hop” or “ jazz” or “We are influenced by so and so and such and such.” Say “We are heavy,” “We are acoustic,” or “We are poppy.” Say something. People are curious. Feed their curiosity with your confidence. Be direct and sell your band. You might even gain a fan.
When you are on stage, take advantage of the opportunity. It sounds cliché, but make sure your audience knows you have a product. Sell that product. Talk about T-Shirts and music you have available.
If possible, try not to sound like a robot. Create a little story to talk about your CDs and download cards. Is there a theme to your album? Is there something interesting about how you recorded it? Tell those stories.
3. Be Honest
One of the most common misconceptions about selling is there needs to be deception involved. The truth is snake oil salesman don’t last long. You want longevity. You want people to trust you and that means you must be honest.
Howard Stern is a great example of how excruciating honesty works. He regularly mentions he has a small penis. He talks about his upbringing with crazy parents. He tells his audience he thinks he is ugly. He even talks about the kind of porn he uses for masturbation. His honesty has made him over a billion dollars in the radio industry.
I’m not suggesting you tell people how you pleasure yourself. All I’m saying is “open up”. Don’t be afraid to be a little vulnerable. Tell a story in-between your songs. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what is interesting in your own life because it’s yours. Your emotions will give you a clue. If you have a strong emotional reaction to a particular part of your life, it’s likely others will be interested in that.
Three things – have confidence, have a pitch and be honest. You may not sell a million records over night, but it is something you can use to start building your business as a band. Remember these things no matter what you choose to do in life. Plant the seeds now and soon they will be bearing fruit.