In the music industry today, creating a buzz about a new independent musician is a tall task. You would think that the Internet would have democratized success, but while there are certainly some musicians who have seen their careers take off following the release of a video or adept use of social media, more often than not, “stars” are still created by the large music labels, like Sony or Warner. Labels often pay radio stations to have their musicians played, leaving independent musicians scrambling for time on community and public radio. So in many ways, if you are not “labelled”, you are stuck with the 99.9% of musicians who are trying to build a fan base grassroots, hopefully creating a popularity for live performance and selling a few CDs. So what are the best marketing tactics to build an independent musician?
In the fall of 2014, Brickworks took on the task of helping build one such musician, a Toronto-based Roots Americana artist named Suzanne Jarvie. The challenges with Suzanne were plenty – no history, no albums to date, and little live performance experience; it was basically a clean slate. In that clean slate however, Brickworks identified an opportunity to build this musician’s personality and presence from the ground up around the launch of her debut album, Spiral Road. She has amazing music and a great story, so we believed that if the music was heard it would speak for itself.
Brickworks first helped with the development of a visual brand for her target audience, which guided photography and video development. Having consistency in look and feel across all platforms is key, especially with images being core content, especially online. We then focused on building a website based on great photography and a clean overall look that would appeal to the music types that follow Americana. We then set up her Facebook Musician Page, a Twitter account, and You Tube Channel for a video of her lead track, “Spiral Road”. In addition, we shot and edited two live in-studio videos to be released at a later date.
With content in place, we secured a premiere on Popmatters for her lead video and drove views through Facebook, Twitter and an eblast introduction to radio music directors. With the video in market, we helped officially release Spiral Road, on November 11th, 2014. Using traditional PR, we sent snail mail CD copies to key influencers and worked the phones to secure interviews and record reviews.
Within the first two weeks, radio play began to emerge, and positive reviews came from Twang Nation, Exclaim! and Pittsburgh in Tune, which called Spiral Road, “a remarkable debut record, 4 out of 5 stars”. CBC and Sirius Satellite gave Suzanne feature interviews. We used these reviews to hit hard on social media, and started calling music directors to secure additional radio play on stations that play independent music. Some of this outreach has crossed the ocean. Album raves from Belgium and Netherlands ensued and all of this buzz has led to distribution and tour offers in Europe and new festival dates in Canada. In four weeks she landed on the Europe Americana Chart, and was the only independent of the 30 artists on the chart. In the January chart she has just recently reached #10.
The lesson here speaks to the need for having a great product, but more importantly the need for a systematic and well-thought-out media and outreach strategy. In the music industry today, great musicians do not have to wait for a label to get started, however they do need to build a strategy for success. A visual brand, good content, social media savvy and old school phone calls – something almost anyone can do – can separate a new musician from the clutter, leading to success.
To check out Suzanne’s video please go to http://www.popmatters.com/post/187200-suzanne-jarvie-spiral-road-video-premiere/