November 27


Music Marketing Mistakes

By Keith Livingston

November 27, 2017

branding, diy musician, music marketing

Music Marketing Mistakes

Audio Web SiteI ran across a music-related web site recently, and it’s a good example of how not to market. From these mistakes, we can learn how to market more effectively to our audience. In this post, discover the most common mistakes people make on their music websites, and what to do about them.

To the left is a screen grab of what I see when I land on the website (You can click the image for a larger version. I’ve edited out the URL and business name — it’s not my intention to shame anyone).

As you can see, the section you can see when you land on the page is taken up by a welcome message, an “About Us” heading, and some images. Let’s talk about why those aren’t the best choices for what goes at the top of your home page. These principles apply, no matter what kind of website you run.

Common Music Marketing Mistakes

This front page brings to mind many of the mistakes most people make when building websites for marketing music. Here are some of the common mistakes I see.

  1. Making the site about you
  2. Not immediately telling your ideal fans/customers they’re in the right place
  3. Overestimating how much trouble people will go to in order to listen to what you have to offer
  4. Not understanding the importance of the ‘above the fold’ area
  5. Not understanding the role of branding
  6. Not understanding the role of headings/headlines

Let’s go over these, one-by-one.

Making The Site About You

It’s your music site, right? It should be about you. Yes, and no. If you want to reach people, it’s better to let them know what’s in it for them, first. What do they get out of becoming your fan? What pain do they avoid?

Yes, you should tell your story. But they need to care first. And more of them will care if they think they’ll get something out of it. Your site should be a call out to your fans. The first thing you do should be to call them out. What do I mean by call them out?

Let Your Fans Know They’re In The Right Place

Look, if you’re Taylor Swift, or McDonalds, putting your name right at the top of the front page lets your fans know they’re in the right place. But what about Leslie Huggins, a sitar player? What if nobody knows who Leslie is? How does she let fans of sitar music know they’ve landed in the right place, when they hit her website?

Should she . . .

  1. . . .have a big heading saying “Leslie Huggins welcomes you”, and have it take up the top half of the page? Or should she. . .
  2. . . . put a picture of herself playing a sitar, and pair it with a quote from a review from Sitar Player Magazine. “Leslie takes sitar music to new heights.”?

One of those lets people know they’ve hit something they’re interested in, and one doesn’t. It’s a good idea to immediately let your potential fans know they’ve landed in the right place. Why is this so critical? And why does a big welcome message kill your sales?

Don’t Overestimate How Much Trouble People Will Go To For You

I don’t know about you, but I bounce off a lot of web sites. If I don’t see something I’m interested in right away, I’m gone in a matter of a couple of seconds. If I’m a sitar fan, I am not interested in someone’s name I don’t know. I’m interested in sitar! If I find out someone is good at making sitar music, then I’ll learn their name.

“Welcome to my site” does not generate any interest for me. It doesn’t move me forward, or make me want to go deeper.

Most people will not scroll down to learn more, unless you’ve interested them ‘above the fold’. They’ll leave the site in droves. Got it? Now, what’s ‘above the fold’?

Above The Fold

Above the fold is an old newspaper term for what shows when the paper is folded in half — just like you see it for sale on the street corner (do they still do that?). It is the most crucial part of your web page. The job of this section of your page is to get people interested enough to go scroll and learn more about you. But you’re not interested in just any people — your target audience is who you want to hook.

If they don’t know who you are, is your name going to do that? No. Are the words “About Us” going to drive them cray-cray with curiosity? No. How about “Welcome!”? No. Use that space above the fold to hook them in. Let your fans know they’re in the right place and then hook them in with curiosity, or startle them with a claim, or tell them how listening will make them feel. Get them reading the next section with anticipation!

One of my favorite headlines for an internet concert I did was, “This is what it would sound like if Neil Diamond and Blue Oyster Cult had a baby”. It called out to my target audience (the age group that would listen to those artists), and a particular type of music fan (eclectic). And (IMHO), it created curiosity. Damn, I’m good!

Have you ever noticed how infomercials and commercials sometimes start this way? “Do you suffer from severe pains in the scrotum, and a lack of thinking ability? Does it hurt when you try to think, or pee? You’re not alone. In the next 97 minutes, I’m going to show you how to easily and effectively get rid of sack pain, and get your brain back — in just 10 minutes a day! Hi, I’m Dick Macho, the founder of Sackaway.”

They call out their customer first, and then tell them who they are! You don’t care who they are, until you’re interested.

Here’s another way of thinking about it. What if a 30 second commercial started with 10 seconds of welcomes and introductions? “Hi. Thanks for joining us here for this commercial. I’m Hortense Slockmeier from Standard Supplies, and we’re happy to bring this special offer to you.” Has that piqued your interest? Probably not. It’s wasted space — much the same way as “Welcome” at the top of a web page.

The Importance Of Branding

Most people that haven’t been involved in marketing think of marketing as branding. They think that it’s all about getting people familiar with your logo, your face etc. That’s only part of the equation. And it’s the part that mostly happens subconsciously!

Let’s go back to the sitar player, Leslie. Her picture is going to resonate her particular vibe. It will have a sitar. She’ll be dressed in a way that fits her music and in a setting that reflects her music. These are all subconscious clues to her audience, that they’re in the right place.

It may also have her name on it, written in a particular font, or her logo. That logo will match the one on her site’s header, perhaps. The color scheme will likely be the same across the site. But these are not featured elements. Except for the logo, they are qualities of featured elements. As people hit her site, or see ads featuring her repeatedly, they will begin to recognize her. But they won’t come back if they’re not hooked in the first place. Branding is a mostly subconscious process that happens across repeated contacts, by consistently presenting qualities of your content.

The same thing is true if you’re a metal band. You might have photos with you looking deadly serious, even though you look like you’re 12 years-old, to me. You might have unnecessary umlauts and Xs in your band name. Your guitars might be pointy. You might have long hair. The font that your band name is in may be angular, and it may look like it’s 3-D and made of steel. These are qualities of elements that are on your page, and they’re all clues to your target audience, that they’re in the right place. They work with your content to establish a feel consistent with your music.

Branding is important over time. It complements your material. Branding is not the point. It helps support the point.

Not Understanding The Role Of Headlines/Headings

It’s common knowledge in the marketing community that a headline at the top of a sales page is responsible for 80% of the success or failure of that sales page. Frankly, I don’t know how true that is, but I do know it’s pretty damned important! Make it count. Anything in big print up top a page had better serve an important purpose.

Also, lots of folks skip down a page, just looking at headings. So, anything larger than the standard font should hook, or advance the story in some way. Please don’t waste the space.

If the paragraphs on your page are an electric guitar, headlines and headings are the amplifier. Don’t waste them with “Welcome”.

Website Review

Let’s look at the website in question.

Landing on this web page, can you guess what the page has to offer? Do you know if it’s a musician, or a service? If it’s a service, what kind? Well, the business name is _____ _____ audio, so that’s at least a clue. But the name doesn’t tell you what service he offers. The picture shows a guy working with some equipment, but you may not know why.

So, you might guess, but you might not. Let me ask you this. Does what you see generate enough curiosity to scroll further?

It turns out, this guy is offering very reasonably priced mixing and mastering services. What if, instead of his business name, he used the headline, “Pro mixing on a shoestring budget”. If you were looking for mixing services, would that be more likely to get you to scroll down, compared to the business name?

How about, “You send us your tracks, and we send you back a radio-ready mix”? Both of those headlines call out the target market better than the business name.

The graphics are in line with what he does. Better text would make that more clear.

The only other text element above the fold is “About us”. If people are going to hire you as a musician, or buy your music, they definitely want to know about you. But it’s usually information they want later. What do they want to know first?

In his case, they probably want to know that he does good mixes, and if they’re good, lol. So, slap a testimonial up there, instead of wasting the space with “About Us”! As it turns out, he has really good testimonials, but they are below the fold.

Alternately, you could go with “How (business name) Can Help You Reach Your Sound Quality Goals”, rather than “About Us”. That’s not great, but it’s about the client, not the business, and if you were interested in improving the sound quality of your recordings, you might read it.


Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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