posted by on Marketing, Music



I attended an online Music Biz Association webinar last week presented by Mark Mulligan. Mulligan is the author of the Music Industry Blog, Managing Director of of MIDiA Research and “a media and technology analyst of more than 15 years’ standing and one of the leading voices in music industry analysis.”

I really like Mulligan’s blog posts because he is a music industry wonk, something I can only aspire to. His work is original and thorough. He often presents his research findings at music industry conferences.

One of the ideas Mulligan presented in this webinar is that music itself is no longer a revenue-generating product for musicians. This has powerful implications for the average musician’s marketing strategy and tactics.

Because music is so much in abundance now (due to the digital democratization of both music production and distribution) it has effectively been commoditized down to zero price, so that makes it hard to make a living as a musician.

This is not a new idea, of course. The effect is even more pronounced for emerging artists or artists with niche appeal.Mark Mulligan Popcorn

So what is a starving musician to do to keep themselves going?

Mulligan proposes that artists should follow the marketing model developed in the early days of the cinema (theater) business.

Here’s the basic idea (from a 2014 post on Digital Ascendency on Mulligan’s blog): || Read more

posted by on Marketing, Music


Josh's Gear

You are a solo artist looking to record your next single, or album, but you need other musicians to perform on your tracks. You could be a songwriter who doesn’t sing, recording a demo in need of a vocalist. Or maybe you are a front man or woman who wants to showcase your original material, and you are searching for other likeminded, talented musicians to be your bandmates.

I know I want to work with the best musicians I can find on my projects. Preferably, they are even better musicians than me and will add a whole new creative dimension to my music. But we all have limited budgets.

How do we get other musicians to sign up to learn our music and lay down a track in the studio, or show up regularly and spend time practicing and putting together a set to perform out – preferably for free or little cost?

The other day I was chatting with a fellow musician at the Seattle AFM (Musicians Union) Chapter 76-493 before a meeting. He was talking about how he has a goal this year to release six albums (!) of original music. Now, he has the songs all written, but he has found it difficult to get other musicians to perform his songs in the studio for free. In particular, there was a musician whom he had approached because he was a much better guitarist. Somehow, my friend just couldn’t seem to get the other guy to lay down the guitar tracks to my friend’s songs. For free.

It became clear to me that my friend’s expectations were perhaps misaligned with reality.

I figured it’s time to share the obvious. Or maybe not so obvious.

I haven’t been at this music thing for that long (I’ve got friends who have been musicians for 40+ years, after all), but I’ve picked up on some pretty important basic etiquette of musical collaboration.

I’ve written another article about the mechanics of long distance musical collaboration, but this post is really about the business, the monetary  – and the non-monetary –  exchange involved in collaborating musically.

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posted by on Interviews, Marketing, Music, News, Social Media


Michael Lewin headshot

I “met” Michael Lewin virtually (online) last year on one of the indie artist Grammy® Facebook pages. He sent me his CD, “Beau Soir,” in the mail, and honestly, I really loved it. I didn’t think I would. It was all classical piano pieces, and all Debussy, at that. We communicated briefly via Facebook, a medium in which he was unfailingly polite and sincere.

This year, Michael released a companion Debussy album, “Starry Night”, also on the Sono Luminus label. It’s a good thing he has a label to help market his music, because I think Michael is one of the least self-promotional, yet most talented artists I know.

Although Michael and I have never met in person, and I cannot say I am at all, even remotely, any kind of expert in classical music, I find Michael’s music pretty amazing.

It never fails to surprise me how much of a person is expressed in their music, regardless of the genre or format. I can hear Michael’s reserved and polite, almost formal personality, and his highly precise musical technique. I am not a pianist, but I can hear the perfectionism when he plays. It’s not surprising, given his education at Julliard, and the time he spent studying piano in France at Debussy’s boyhood conservatory in his hometown of St-Germain-en-Laye. Michael Lewin has devoted his life to the piano, and he demonstrates a level of musicianship that most of us can only aspire to.

Juxtaposed with that intensity and focus on technique, I can also hear the love Michael has for the pieces he plays. One cannot help but be moved by the passion he expresses while playing, and he has a loyal and growing global following as a result.

Michael also had a featured performance of a Chopin Nocturne on the Grammy-winning No.1 Billboard New Age Album “Winds of Samsara,” by Ricky Kej and Wouter Kellerman.

This fall has seen further well-deserved success and visibility for “Starry Night.” The album has been featured on the front page of Apple Music, MusicWeb International awarded it September 2015’s Recording of the Month, and Rhapsody named “Starry Night” one of the Top 10 Classical Albums of the Month.

Michael Lewin Rhapsody Top 10

I hope you enjoy my interview with Michael. I’ve put a link to his website and social media channels at the bottom of this post so you can watch and listen to him play, follow him on social media, and find out when he’s coming to a town near you to perform.   In addition to being a fantastic pianist, he’s a super nice human being.

|| Read more

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Night Riots Promo Pic

What factors cause a band with regional popularity to suddenly break onto the national scene?

Night Riots is a California-based rock band that has gotten a lot of buzz recently, and this article is all about how and why from a marketing perspective.

Disclaimer: I don’t have any personal or professional connection to Night Riots; I’m just interested in profiling them as a marketing case study in indie music success.

I’m a member of a public Facebook Group called The Music Biz Weekly Music Marketing Mind that currently has over 1250 members. If you’re a musician or otherwise in the music business, I can recommend this group as a great place to share and get ideas about music marketing.

A few weeks ago, one of our Facebook group’s members, Diane Phillips, posed a question to the group about Night Riots. This stimulated some lively commentary from myself and others, because goodness know that we Music Musketeers, er, Marketeers, er… Marketers cannot refrain from giving our opinions when asked (and even sometimes even when not asked). I say that with great humility and affection.

I thought it would be useful to summarize what I learned from my research and other peoples’ comments about Night Riots’ recent success. Perhaps you will see elements of yourself, if you are a musician, or your clients, if you are a music marketing consultant, and find something that you can run with to further your own success.

|| Read more

posted by on Marketing, Music, Social Media



Blah blah blah personal branding blah blah blah purpose blah blah blah cause marketing…

I hear several related refrains oft repeated in the world of social media gurus:

  • “Purpose” is important if you are going to do social media
  • “Cause marketing” (eg. The Ice Bucket Challenge) is the best way to get attention in a crowded social media world drowning in selfies
  • The millennial generation wants to know what principles a brand stands for before they will buy a product with that brand
  • “Storytelling” is the heart of marketing today
  • Being “genuine” is critical in getting your message across because trust is everything in social media and marketing

When my friend, social media practitioner and public speaker, Russell Sparkman, guest lectures in my social media class, he emphasizes the important of Purpose (which from now on in this post, I will refer to with a capital letter) with his succinctly worded foundational principle for social media and content marketing:

As Russell says, “the path to engaging content happens when you connect the dots between:

  • The share-worthiness of meaningful content,
  • The share-worthiness of content that offers “utility purpose,”
  • Increased consumer expectations that brands must address social issues,
  • And consumer acceptance of brands talking about the good work they do.”

Create A Marketing Plan With Purpose

In working with artists to create a marketing plan that is personalized to their music and where they are at in their musical career, I think all of these “outbound” marketing reasons around social media effectiveness are great. But there are also very clear practical reasons to be clear about your Purpose before launching into the frenzy of ANY PR, promotion, or marketing of any kind for your newest release, for a single, or for your music video.

To be clear, this post is NOT about Purpose in a religious sense, although that may be related for some people. It is, however, all about something transcendent. Also, I will note up front that I am very aware that the items I am talking about spell POT. OK, enough 9th (6th?) grade jokes.

|| Read more

posted by on Marketing, Music, Social Media


Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 3.51.13 PM

[Watch me talk about this post with Michael Brandvold on the Music Biz Weekly Episode 195 on YouTube here or listen to it on Soundcloud here.]

YouTube is the number one search engine for music, so having at least one or two music videos up there seems like a no brainer, check-the-box item for an indie musician.

And once in a while, a music video from an unknown artist goes viral, giving them a huge boost in visibility.

As indie artists, we all feel the pressure to produce a stellar music video (or two), and we look with no small amount of envy at those artists who seem to get discovered overnight via their viral music video. But how is it done? Can you make a music video that is more likely to go viral?

I’m less interested in the viral videos by popular stars like Taylor Swift (Bad Blood) or Sia (Elastic Heart, Big Girls Cry), because those are undoubtedly supported by large online marketing efforts. I’m more interested in music videos made by relatively unknown artists with small to zero marketing budgets which nonetheless seem to have caught on and propelled those musicians’ careers forward in a significant way.

So let’s look at three recent examples.

|| Read more

posted by on Interviews, Marketing, Music, Social Media

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Grant Maloy Smith is an Americana indie artist who lives in Rhode Island. I first met him as a member of the online indie Grammy®  community this past fall. I was impressed with how he seemed to know everyone. Online pictures of him kept popping up collaborating with other musicians I knew, like Jody Quine and Ricky Kej/Wouter Kellerman, performing live or playing on their songs in the studio. For a guy based on the East Coast, he sure seemed to show up at LA recording sessions a lot!

I finally met Grant in person in February of this year at The Soiree, a showcase of indie Grammy artists at the House of Blues in LA, where he and I played backup for one of our mutual friends, nominee Paul Avgerinos. Grant was just as much fun in person as he is online.

I’m always interested in artists who

  1. Write and perform their own original music
  2. Collaborate with other artists often and outside both their own genre and immediate geographical area
  3. Have retained a sense of humor, and more importantly, a sense of purpose and vision for their music, in an industry that seems very opaque and anonymous
  4. Have had careers in other fields, where they have acquired strong business and social skills which they apply to their music careers
  5. Have over ten thousand Twitter followers

I think you’ll enjoy this interview with Grant, and learn some practical tips as well.

|| Read more

posted by on Interviews, Music, Social Media




Since I’m not attending SXSW myself this year, I thought I’d bring you a real life, in the trenches, on the road, slice of life post about three female artists I met through Madalyn Sklar’s GoGirlsElite and #ggchat.  I’ve met two of them In Real Life, and have watched  two of them perform on ConcertWindow – which feels almost like IRL I’ve read their blog posts and listened to their music, and they are all such positive and energetic women, doing all the right things to market themselves in this crowded place we call indie music.

Meet Rorie Kelly, Mary Bue and Alex Winters. [Full disclosure, Mary Bue is a music marketing client of mine, but Rorie and Alex are not. All three women are also being represented by my friend Stacey Sherman of RSP Entertainment Marketing while they are at SXSW.]

These three talented musicians got together (completely unbeknownst to me) and booked themselves an unofficial showcase gig tomorrow, Thursday March 19, 2015, at 8 PM at the Waterloo Ice House in South Park Meadows.

I love this story because:

  • It’s a bunch of women getting together to make their own gig happencommunity, not competition!
  • It’s social media at its best – helping people meet their business goals. Rorie, Mary and Alex met and got to know each other via the GoGirlsMusic network, which is a great virtual networking tool. The public Thursday Twitter chats at the hashtag #ggchat at 3 and 9 PM EST are well-attended by both male and female indie musicians and are always lively and informative. You’ll note below that they have some mutual male musician friends as well who are also frequent participants in the #ggchat Twitter chat, and helped encourage this group gig at SXSW.
  • They all have great stories in addition to great music. I know some good PR will come from this for some deserving indie artists just trying to get heard above all the SXSW noise.

On to the interview.

|| Read more

posted by on Interviews, Marketing, Music

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I got an email recently from an MBA student at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business named Carl Petrillo, asking if he could interview me about my experience as a musician and an entrepreneur (a “musicpreneur”, as my friends Aaron Bethune and Tommy Darker call it.)

Carl is a musician, too, having worked as a pianist, singer, music director, and choral arranger. He also spent time on the cruise ship circuit before he decided to apply to business school. I suspect Carl has actually made more money in the music business than I have, but in an ironic reverse trajectory of my career path, Carl has decided to move from being a musician into the realm of MBA school. Carl remains active in music as the Vice President of Foster Talent, as well as on his own newly-created YouTube channel.

You can watch Carl perform his original song, Coming Along, on YouTube. Carl is a witty songwriter. [French Canadian saxophone players may not want to watch the music video, however.]

Carl interviewed me for a Foster School class called “Marketing 555: Entrepreneurial Marketing.” I kind of like that – Marketing 555. Sounds a bit like a band name. Anyway, I digress.

We met and Carl asked questions, I talked way too fast for an hour, and we did some follow-up by email, and now my thoughts on marketing my own music are enshrined on the Marketing 555 Blog. Ah, the internet. So here’s the first part of the interview and a link to the rest:

“For my interview of an entrepreneur this quarter, I decided to interview a local musician who, armed with an MBA and years of experience in the tech industry, is working to build her band’s brand from scratch. Today, Solveig Whittle is a music marketing consultant, teacher, and one half of the band Solveig & Stevie. I initially stumbled upon Solveig’s writing from an interview she did with musician Molly Lewis and was struck by the quality of the interview questions. Solveig was kind enough to sit down with me, and then follow up over email, to explain how she thinks about her own entrepreneurial venture as a musician.” – Carl Petrillo, MBA Candidate at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business

 [Read the rest of Carl’s interview with me here…]