This week, I spent a lot of time in my car and therefore had a wonderful opportunity to listen to music. My selections ranged from a lecture series on late Beethoven Quartets to Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 8, to Steve Reich to Chopin Nocturnes and then to the Beethoven late quartets, particularly the Grosse Fugue. These choices depended on what mood I was in:
- Did I want to be stimulated or provoked or soothed?
- Did I want to relax and feel restored?
- Did I need something to contemplate or to help me ponder the meaning of life?
- And what about staying alert on a long drive?
Music is a powerful way of tapping into one’s emotions and that is why people love to listen to music.
Interestingly, my thoughts dovetailed perfectly with my most recent class at Yale on marketing for musicians. Admittedly a huge topic, marketing is essential in this day and age since most musicians just starting their careers are not likely to have the money to hire professional publicists or managers for marketing help.
And even musicians and ensembles who are under management must do their own marketing since that enables them to control their message and reach out personally to their following. During the recent visit from So Percussion to our class, Adam Sliwinski told us that he writes all of the text for So Percussion that appears on their website and on their Facebook Page and Twitter feed, even though the group is under management.
So what kind of messages should you be sending out to your audience? And how to figure out what to say that will hook your audiences in?
One point that resonated powerfully for my class was the importance of understanding the emotional benefit of one’s music to the target audience because that forms the basis of your marketing messages.
I started out with So Percussion’s message:
“So Percussion makes a rare and wonderful breed of music that both compels instantly and offers rewards for engaged listening.”
This message clearly appeals to So Percussion’s audience, which has been described by the Boston Globe as “both kinds of blue hair…elderly matron here, arty punk there.” Both of these groups are highly educated (note the tone of the language) as well as attracted to music with which they can connect immediately, as well as think about and react to in a more engaged way.
My students related to So’s message because it encapsulated how great music is both an immediate experience as well as an opportunity to dig in and learn more. As an effective marketing message, it forges a powerful emotional connection between the musician and the audience member. The challenge is how to communicate that emotional benefit to your audience so that they will come and listen to your music.
So how do you assess the “emotional benefits” of music?
The question I posed to my class was this:
What iPod playlist would your music appear on?
1. Sad and Contemplative
One of my students has collaborated on a full-length cabaret piece based on the Orpheus myth that traces the five stages of grief. The music, which includes original compositions as well as selections from Gluck, Shostakovich and Philip Glass, would appear on two different playlists: a sad one and a contemplative one (or, as he put it, the opposite of what you would listen to if you were working out at the gym!).
2. Soothing and Restorative
The student composer in our class told us that his music is perceived as soothing and restorative. He has heard from audience members that they enjoy listening to his music in their cars on the way home from work since the music is a wonderful way to come down after a tough day at the office.
And what is the benefit of listening to such music?
As my own driving experience demonstrates, music provides a way to make a deep emotional connection that may be hard to verbalize. The Chopin Nocturnes, for example, enabled me to be contemplative, to relate to the sadness of that music and to feel restored after an intense week of work. The Beethoven late quartets were there when I wanted to be inspired and provoked. The Reich was my soothing music and the Prokofiev gave me a jolt. And the lectures, interspersed with music and brilliant intellectual insights to the music, kept me enraptured on a long spell on the Mass Turnpike.
Marketing messages telegraph to prospective audiences the reasons to come out and buy tickets to a concert or buy a CD. The most effective messages will tap into the benefit to the prospective buyer of making this choice. So think about the benefit of your music to your prospective audience member. It will make your marketing both easier and more authentic because you are forging a meaningful connection with the people you want to attract.