5 lessons brands can learn from bands

Metal Hand Sign

[Originally posted at ‘Round the Square]

I operate in two worlds. By day (and often into early evening) I craft brand-focused communication programs for a variety of mission-driven organizations. By night (and often into early morning) I write, perform and record with a band as part of Boston’s vibrant independent music scene.

There’s always been a synergy between the two, as I often draw on my marketing and branding experiences while managing promotions for my bands. The last year or so, however, I’ve noticed the tables have turned a bit.

Nowadays, however, I find myself bringing my DIY music marketing experiences to bear on my branding projects at Sametz. Music blogs focused on independent artists have become an excellent source for current thinking on building connections in our increasingly noisy, fragmented world.

With limited resources, independent bands must make the most of every opportunity. At the same time, they’re less encumbered by red-tape and drawn-out decision making processes, and more willing to take calculated risks. As a result, musicians and bands are out in front of many mainstream marketers. Consider…

One step beyond…

Bands understand from the get-go that their music effects different people in different ways, and often fulfills a variety of needs beyond the simple “entertainment” a particular genre offers.

Bands purposefully promote the social aspect of their music: the emotions it triggers; its power to inform and educate; its ability to conjure memories; and so on. Businesses should take a similar approach. While they are undoubtedly important, take a step beyond your core value proposition to see what surrounds it. Your constituents aren’t monolithic, after all, and neither are you.

People are people…

Artists have always understood that personal connections drive success. Putting on a great show is important, but it means nothing if you aren’t building personal connections in the process. And playing a show is often the easy part; it’s the time before and after the set spent hanging with the club staff, the sound person, other bands––and the audience––that really makes a difference.

Organizations should follow suit; people aren’t likely to become loyal to your brand unless they have a (positive!) sense of the people behind it.

I want my ____ TV…

Successful bands understand their role as mini-media companies. Via websites, photostreams, Twitter, blogs, video channels and other social media outposts, bands produce a mosaic of content with a particular voice––one that people find valuable and regularly worth tuning in to.

Businesses must understand that on the Web, entertainment and commerce are quickly becoming one and the same. The ability to engage is more important to brand-building and the bottom line than anything you can say about the “speeds and feeds” of your programs, products, or services.

It takes two to make a thing go right…

Bands are always collaborating: sharing audiences, leveraging resources, and cross-pollinating ideas. Whether they’re working with an engineer, a producer, a club owner, or other musicians, artists are constantly moving and existing outside their immediate orbit.

As a result, bands (independent, working bands anyway) rarely become isolated. They are in constant touch with what’s happening creatively around them. Business should look for opportunities to work outside of thier comfort zone; to experience new ideas and new ways of doing business.

Here, there, and everywhere…

Bands have always understood that it’s far better to be discovered by fans than forced upon audiences. When a listener “discovers” a band, they feel a sense of ownership which soon breeds feelings of loyalty and advocacy. By being everywhere it matters to be––from social media sites, to blogs, to internet radio, to soundtracks of all kinds, and beyond––bands strive to be visible enough to “get found.”

Marketers, of course, now call this “inbound marketing”… but bands have been doing it for years.

Looking for cues to help craft your inbound digital marketing strategy? Instead of reading xyz marketing blog, take a few minutes to study how your favorite artist (or the local band you keep hearing about) is using their website as the hub of a broader inbound strategy.

Independent artists aren’t so “starving” anymore. Many are savvy marketers who could teach us a thing or two about communicating effectively in our complex world. And chances are, someone you know or someone within your organization is a working, independent musician.

Learn from them… and then, please, buy a CD.

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