In the 13 years since she started the ONswitch, Nancy A. Shenker has become a branding and marketing guru, spreading her gospel to her clients and to audiences across the country.
She has brought her expertise to everything from a pickle company to real estate developers, from large Manhattan advertising agencies to small, local retailers–all with great, tangible results. Whether helping to build a new business from scratch or strengthening and growing an existing brand, her meticulous attention to detail and to her client’s needs has positioned her as an industry leader. Along the way, she has blogged for the Huffington Post and been recognized in The New York Times, USA Today, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Nightclub & Bar.com and Fox News TV.
In this interview with The Guv’nor from 2013, Nancy imparts some sage advice to new and established acts looking to define themselves clearly and accurately so they can stand out from the crowd, especially in the crowded arena of social media. It’s a no-nonsense, common sense approach to connecting with your fans that you ignore at your peril!
THE GUV’NOR: In a previous blog, Casey Rae made the following observation: “It’s been said that the biggest obstacle to an artist’s success isn’t piracy, it’s obscurity.” First of all, can you define marketing for musicians? What are the first, basic steps musicians should employ to cut through the noise and ensure visibility right from the get-go?
NANCY A. SHENKER: Don’t just think about your BAND … think about your BRAND. Whether you are a solo artist or part of a group, your first step is establishing a clear vision for how you want to be viewed by your fans–not just your sound, but your look, your logo, your voice (the tone you use to communicate) and the adjectives that you want fans to use when they describe you. Every great timeless artist has a “brand personality” that carries through all his/her communications and fan interactions.
THE GUV’NOR: Casey Rae also went on to make another important point for musicians: ‘There’s … a premium placed on non-musical skills, like marketing. … It takes a real investment of time to achieve that kind of mastery [in marketing]. Today, it can seem like a musician can spend a huge portion of their day pondering data, maintaining interactions with fans and trying to attract new ones.” What advice can you give musicians about balancing the time spent marketing themselves with their need to devote time to the other aspects of their careers? Are there some marketing strategies musicians can employ that will give them more bang for their buck?
NANCY A. SHENKER: Creative types have a tendency to dream and wander. To turn your passion into profits, you need to become disciplined in how you spend your time and resources. Consider working with a personal coach on developing work habits that can stretch the hours in a day. I also recommend “time blocking.” Just as you schedule times to rehearse and write, schedule times to concentrate on marketing. If you can afford it, OUTSOURCE! (But choose your marketing agent wisely.)
THE GUV’NOR: Clearly, social media plays a huge part in the equation. Are there any basic rules musicians should follow to maximize their visibility in these media? Conversely, what are some of the biggest mistakes you see being made by those using social media as a marketing tool?
NANCY A. SHENKER: The world of social media is your stage–24/7/365. Google yourself and your band and make sure that what comes up is what you want the world to see. Post pictures, videos, music clips, and updates on your schedule to your social media sites. Many people take a scattershot approach to their social media presence. High quality social media requires a strategic plan for how and where you’re going to reach fans and influencers. Above all, be kind to your fans online and thank them for engaging with you. Be clever and engaging–offer free concert tickets to influencers in exchange for helping to spread the word.
THE GUV’NOR: At some point, musicians may find that such a DIY approach to marketing is no longer feasible, and that it would be best to employ a company such as The ONswitch to do their marketing for them. When do you think musicians should start considering such a move?What advice would you give to artists seeking a marketing company? What criteria should they be evaluating?
NANCY A. SHENKER: The business end of the music business is challenging (or even repulsive) to some artists. But, as in any business, you need to have solid financial projections and set aside some money for investing in professional help as soon as you can. Some bands have turned to crowdsourced funding sites (like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to raise money for special marketing projects). Organizations like SCORE and Chambers of Commerce sometimes offer free business skills classes. (I offer free 30-minute consultations to bands too.)
THE GUV’NOR: What trends do you see on the horizon that will have an impact on the world of marketing in general and marketing for musicians specifically?
NANCY A. SHENKER: Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are turning live music into more powerful (and memorable) experiences. Traditional marketing is being fully integrated with online marketing, and every live event can stay alive via the superpowers of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Vimeo and YouTube. Social media as a marketing channel continues to grow and web video is bigger than ever. The smartphone is the center of the consumer universe. We share our lives (and musical experiences and tastes) on them and shop on them. Fans have more power than ever before … be nice to every one of them!
Originally published February 17, 2013 and reposted here with revisions.