Pretty or Effective – Writing Music to Sell

This wasn’t on my roster of things to write right now but I got this post from one of the smartest people on the net and it has something great to tell us musicians about how to tell our stories in music.

I’ll paste the whole thing here and link you to the article too:

Pretty websites

…are rarely websites that convert as well as unpretty ones.

If the goal of your site is to position you, tell a story, establish your good taste and make it clear what sort of organization you are, then pretty might be the way to go. And you can measure the effectiveness of the site by how it impresses those you seek to impress, by its long-term impact.

But it’s a mistake to also expect your pretty website to generate cash, to have the maximum percentage of clicks, to have the most efficient possible funnel of attention to action.

There’s always been a conflict between the long-term benefits of beauty in commerce (in architecture, in advertising, in transactions) and the short-term brutality of measurement and direct response.

It’s worth noting that conflict in advance, as opposed to vainly wishing you could have both optimized. You can’t. The smart marketer will measure how much direct response it’s costing to be beautiful, or how much storytelling is being sacrificed to be clicked on. Not both.

Seth Godin

You may wonder why as a musician I want you to dirty your artistic soul with marketing. Well, if you haven’t worked it out, art is marketing, falling in love contains aspects of marketing… You can’t escape sales & marketing no matter how strongly you feel committed to the works of Marx, Lenin & Stalin (ok so that last one was just cruel). If you want to sell your music, whether by yourself or through a major label, you have to get the concept of marketing. Might as well build it in to your Riffs and Mixes now.

Let me grab you two examples of Pretty & Unpretty websites so you know what we are talking about

One of these websites hosts huge sale volume with no external salesmen to tip people over and the other is just the tip of the sales iceberg. One of these sites isn’t super pretty but it shows exactly what we need to know to do business. If we want more it is right there as we scroll down. The other people, what do they sell -Men drinking coffee? No they are selling lifestyle. Sorry I mean houses. I won’t say their website is wrong but it sure puts style over substance. Even the discount is bolder than the base price. Can you say Ob-fu-scation LOL.

Don’t Play My Game

Amazon know that people coming to buy a book don’t need a lot of flim flam (people who buy videos do seem to need some). Metricon know that people who buy homes prevaricate a lot more. For some illogical reason people like to avoid committing.

Music thieves commonly have large collections. If people could steal houses then it would be like Monopoly night at Dr Crazy’s house on every block. Every month or so we’d need to bulldoze all those mansions into a corner to burn. This proves it is not the having of the thing that worries people, it is the fear that the decision may be wrong. I know, I debate over spending $1 on a record. The bigger the commitment the bigger the fear.

You can ease the fear by making music that immediately shows your unique story as brutally clear as Amazon, or you can sneak up on people by hiding yourself under layers of fashion – like that plastic surgery that obscures the natural beauty of the woman till she becomes an atrocity.

When making music, decide who your likely customers are. Do they want style or substance. I say that many music fans in most genres in the last few decades have wanted style. This is definitely what has been delivered in spades. Problem is that it is much harder for you to get picked-up when all it takes to be picked is to put on the right cliches. There is a kid who is better looking than you. There is a starlet who can wobble over 12 octaves (admittedly with 11.9 of them auto-tuned), making your solid 2 octaves look irrelevant.

For a gambling man that would be bad odds. The reality here is you can’t compete with the Justin Bieber juggernauts. So don’t play that game. Thing to know is juggernauts are large so you can always run around underneath doing just fine as you ignore each other. Find the people Justin can’t touch, sooth etc and sing to them.

Rock Hard

There are 7 Billion people in this world. It has to be that there are a lot of people wandering in the darkness looking for something they relate to. You can have the jump by learning exactly what Seth is telling you, what marketers learned on the Web as early as 2001. Substance sells, quickly and easily. Reason is that people want to feel: be touched, soothed, to explore, entertained, to forget and they want to be able to do it all again.

If your record is as truthful and clear-of-purpose as that Amazon page then you make the decision so much easier for fans who are ready to engage & buy. They are your hope, not the kids fighting over who has the more culturally relevant haircut or better bit-crushing on the vocals.

If I am confident that a record will bring me pleasure I don’t just want it, I need it. It helps fix me. You’ll get me every time with a record that is brutally honest, brutally musical, brutally you*.

*  “Songbook: Best of Trisha Yearwood” is not remotely brutal music but her passion or story is never hidden. “Splinter: Songs From A Broken Mind” by Gary Numan is brutal both in sonics and lyrics. I don’t love the distortion & blam but the words are heart rending (thanks for coming back Gary). It only took me a few moments to know I had to have these records.

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