Components of DIY Marketing

For the entrepreneurial musician, a well-designed, comprehensive marketing campaign is key to establishing a lasting career.

Marketing is the complete process of creating products and services to satisfy your target audience, build awareness, and make sales. It includes researching, goal setting, strategizing, and executing. In this article, we discuss three aspects of DIY marketing that are often overlooked by musicians who believe that marketing simply involves social media and YouTube videos. Here we focus on building a brand identity with slogans, testing products among fans, and measuring marketing efforts.

1. Building Your Brand Identity with Slogans

What do Apple, Ozzy Osbourne, and hundreds of other successful companies and brands all have in common? They all employ brand slogans to build their identity. Slogans provide further information about a brand, communicate an overall philosophy, and increase memorability. They can even become part of your brand’s logo or be used to market a specific product or service, such as your own album or concert tour. Cypress Hill branded its Smoke Out Festival with the slogan, “An all day mind altering event.” And Bring Me the Horizon (a British metal-core outfit) branded its album Suicide Season with the slogan, “A perfect soundtrack to a life spent on the edge.” No confusion there.

What follows are several tips for creating a slogan that can make a lasting impression with your intended audience. Remember, slogans don’t have to be grammatically correct; but they must be pithy and direct.

Reflect the identity that you want to project. To better communicate what you do and who you are, suggest the personality and culture you want to project within your slogan. To emphasize his punk roots and to pay homage to icon Iggy Pop, for example, Henry Rollins used “Search and Destroy” as a slogan to accompany his logo. In fact, Rollins even tattooed the logo on his back and uses it on T-shirts and other merchandise. The Los Angeles indie metal band Clepto, which has Saudi Arabian roots, uses the slogan “Thrash Punk Gypsies,” which sums up the band’s sound and spirit.

Speak to your audience. When creating your slogan, consider whom you are trying to appeal to. Understanding your likely target audience is crucial. Get a sense of your audience members’ age, gender, education level, and income. Also, research their activities, interests, and opinions, and understand behavioral issues and the things that motivate them. Also consider the regions where your audience is located. The band House of Pain uses the slogan “Fine Malt Lyrics” in its logo to pay homage to its home city of Boston and to the Irish community there. Harley Davidson uses “American by Birth. Rebel by Choice” to pay tribute to the proud and loyal group of riders in the United States and the free country in which the brand was founded.

Stand out from the competition. Study your competitors, who may share a similar audience, so you can highlight what makes you unique. The musical group Pink Martini, which has an expansive musical style, uses the slogan “Music of the world, without being world music” to stand out. The metal band Manowar is listed in The Guinness World Book of Records as the loudest band in the world and has had that fact as its slogan for many years.

Stress the benefits. Create a slogan that draws attention to benefits that are important to your target audience and that you can honestly provide. Apple, undoubtedly one of the biggest companies in music, used the slogan “1,000 songs in your pocket” to promote its first-generation iPod and emphasize its large storage capacity. Recently, Apple used “Any kind of file, on all your devices” to promote the cloud. And guitarist Slash recently used the slogan “With everyone, from Ozzy to Fergie” to promote his new solo album that featured numerous guests. In all cases, note how these slogans all sell the benefits. They answer the customer question “What’s in it for me?”

Make it memorable. Making your slogan rhyme can be an advantage. Big-band legend Benny Goodman used the slogan “The King of Swing” throughout his career, and it was often used to introduce him on radio and television shows. His slogan was short and catchy.

Keep it short. Limit your slogan to just one or a few simple words. Also consider what might look cool and be adaptable on your products and marketing tools, such as your business cards, websites, e-mail signatures, etc. For instance, Bruce Springsteen used “The Boss” interchangeably with his own name.

Be believable; don’t exaggerate. Your slogan should not be perceived as out of proportion. Using language like “The greatest band on earth” when you’re starting out is just silly. Yes, jazz legend Jaco Pastorius called himself “The World’s Greatest Bass Player,” and the Rolling Stones adopted the slogan “The World’s Greatest Rock Band,” but both artists could back it up.

Offer an explanation. Use a descriptive tagline that tells people exactly what you are. For instance, the classic rock band ZZ Top uses the tagline “That lil’ ol’ band from Texas” throughout its website and on other PR materials. Billy Joel used “The Piano Man” in all his publicity and released a record of the same name.

Don’t confuse your audience. The whole point of a slogan or tagline is to educate your market about what you do, so don’t make the message confusing for your audience. The members of the Beatles, four in total, whose music was no doubt fabulous, adopted the clear and direct slogan “The Fab Four” for use in their publicity posters and other media. In contrast, the band Green Jello (renamed Green Jelly for legal reasons) used the slogan “Green Jello Sucks.” The name is confusing: Did the group’s music really suck? Was it taking a stab at the makers of the Jello? Or was it something band members did on stage? Yikes! In any case, it’s not a flattering, legally smart, or clear slogan. Don’t be confusing.

Look to your fans. Ask your most-likely fans how they might sum you up in a word or phrase, how they think you’re different, and what they feel is most important to them. You could even hold a contest and offer a prize. Not only can you form a closer bond with fans by getting them involved but also you may find a cool tagline to brand your band.

2. Testing Your Products Among Your Fans

Shifting from branding and slogans to a more subtle area of marketing, let’s look at the process of testing and feedback. Querying your most-likely fans and noting their feedback can help you get your music into presentable form and make improvements before you commit time and money to manufacturing, distributing, and promoting it. Without market research, you could easily spend thousands of hard-earned dollars recording music that’s unmarketable to music supervisors, labels, radio stations, and even your own target fans. Creating in a vacuum and simply hoping that people will love what you’re doing is shooting in the dark. Assuming that music is more than just a hobby and that you’d like to share your music with large audiences and make a decent living creating and performing it, seeking feedback can increase your chances for success.

The first step is to get your music (or product) into presentable form so you can test them among your target audience. This could mean simply putting together a pitch to present your ideas conceptually, or creating an inexpensive demo or prototype.

Whatever approach you take, be willing to pay your dues. Don’t rush the process. You may even need the professional advice of consultants, cowriters, and others to set you on the right track. This is crucial.

First and foremost, great marketing campaigns start with great songs. So once you’ve invested the necessary effort to get your products and services into presentable form, craft a variety of simple survey questions. They may include “On a scale of 1 to 5, how unique do you think my style is?” Or, “On a scale of 1 to 5, do you think this song should be included on my forthcoming debut EP?” Make your questions precise so that you collect the most accurate and unbiased results.

Live or on the Internet?

To distribute your questions to your target audience, you can use free services such as Survey Monkey ( or Zoomerang ( by embedding these surveys on your websites and posting hyperlinks on your social networks. You can also scour the Internet for relevant websites such as those of bands with a sound similar to yours. Engage their fans in a two-way conversation to form a bond, and then invite feedback. Include a survey deadline to ensure that you get immediate results, and offer a free song download or another giveaway to boost the incentive.

If testing your products and services on the Internet seems too impersonal, you can always present them before a live audience in rehearsal or at a city park. Gather a sample of your most likely fans (e.g., those from your gym, school, workplace, etc.), distribute your questions on small index cards, and perform your material while your audience provides feedback. If surveys seem “uncool,” someone can conduct random interviews outside your event as attendees depart. Offer an incentive to those who participate in your research. Beer and pizza work well. But hold off on the beer until the survey is finished.

Artists who are fearful of rejection or just anxious to get their material produced often overlook testing and feedback, but they are crucial to the marketing process and cannot be neglected. While some of these steps sound like work, the process is achievable if you are motivated. Research is the breakfast of champions.

3. Measuring Your Marketing

Finally, another overlooked area is measuring marketing efforts. A student recently approached me with a complaint that only six people showed up to his live performance. He sent out an email to 1,000 names, posted on a few social networks, and told his friends and family. Feeling like a promotion loser (in his words), he was ready to call it quits.

But after using some basic analytical tools, we quickly discovered that fewer than 10 people of the 1,000 on his list opened his emails. We focused on rewriting his emails with catchier headlines, more benefits, and a specific “call to action.” For his next gig, not only did 628 people open his email, 66 people showed up and paid. That’s a strong increase. So make no mistake: Marketing is not about doing things; it’s about doing the right things. This is the essence of marketing measurement and why it is so important to your career.

Measuring is the process of creating systems to collect and analyze information followed by acting on whatever is relevant to the goals of your marketing plan. These systems can include anything from Web analytics tools (like those on Facebook and YouTube that indicate the geographic regions in which listeners are most interested in your music) to counting sales every night and analyzing increases or decreases in revenue to researching your exposure at gigs, such as, “How did you hear about us?” If no one responds with, “We saw your ad in the paper,” you’d better stop placing ads in the paper. It’s that simple.

Know What to Measure

There are many areas where you can measure. For instance, measuring your customers’ awareness of your brand, and whether you’re at the top of their minds when discussing a certain category (such as local bands in Los Angeles or studios in Nashville) can help determine the success of your PR strategies. Measuring your fans’ attitudes about your products and services can easily determine their level of satisfaction and the likelihood of their recommending you to friends and family. Paying attention and measuring how well your offerings perform in each distribution outlet can indicate where you’re generating sales and where you’re wasting time.

Despite the benefits of measuring, a surprising number of bands and various companies neglect to develop a measuring strategy. They argue that measuring is too time-consuming and that the overlap between different marketing activities makes it difficult to measure cause and effect. While measuring has merit, it is not 100 percent accurate. Note that we’re not looking to develop the most complex systems. The agenda is to develop an easy-to-execute measuring strategy to help you informally keep score and be more efficient. A laptop computer, Excel software, index cards, and some free online tools might be all you need.

Without a strategy in place, you can easily flush thousands of marketing dollars down the drain. As John Wanamaker, a pioneering marketer and merchant, is noted for saying, “Half the money I spend on marketing is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which half.” A well-planned and executed measuring strategy can help you work smarter and faster (not harder), and use your time and financial resources to their full potential to learn what your target audience responds to. If you can measure it, you can manage it.

As you can see, there’s much more to marketing than Facebook ads, YouTube videos, and social media sites. We’ve taken a look at a few of the marketing techniques that are often overlooked. Creating a strong brand identity and being mindful of how you and your music are going over with your target audience are crucial factors in building a lasting music career.


Bobby Borg is an author and music industry consultant and guest speaker. His latest book, Music Marketing for the DIY Musician, published by Hal Leonard, outlines the complete marketing process, and is available on Amazon and at