Waste #4: They purchase radio advertising to promote their product.
Unless you understand radio advertising and have the money to truly make and impact, this is a big no no. The unspoken belief by many independent artists is ‘If I buy commercial time then they will play my music.’ Not so. You as an advertising client and you as an artist in rotation are two separate things and, typically, one does not affect the other.
In short, clients pay for commercials to advertise a product or service. There has to be a certain degree of frequency (how many times played throughout the day) for your commercial to be heard by a small percentage of any station’s listeners. Nobody listens to a station 24-7. Those who are listening at 8am in the car may not be listening at 2pm at work and those listening during lunch at noon may not listen after work at 5. Truthfully, those that are listening at 8:15a may not be listening at 8:20a. There are so many listening options and we are quick to jump to another station or a CD when we are not satisfied. Unless you purchase a lot of commercials to cover a large number of hours over several days or weeks, your commercial will not impact a significant percentage of your intended audience and turn out to be a waste of money.
Furthermore, even if you did spend a lot of money on a large schedule the Program Director is under no obligation to include your music in rotation. For those who believe buying time so you can play your music during the commercial and get that credit for a spin thus get on the charts should study the charting process. True, there are charts that electronically count your songs embedded code each time it airs. However, get too creative and use a portion of the song that is not coded or that the service does not recognize it doesn’t count and again your money is wasted. The truth-most charting is accomplished through PD’s electronically reporting what they add, drop, and play. Again, they are not obligated to play you because your commercial is playing on their station.
A better way to spend your advertising dollars is to strategically place advertisements to promote your website, appearances, and events so you can gain an audience. Their love of you (along with your marketing) will help provoke the PD to inquire about your music and ultimately add it. This information holds true for authors as well with one exception. If you are looking to spend a lot of money and the salesperson wants to keep your ongoing business, they can act as an advocate to secure you an interview. If this happens be wise and sell, sell, sell giving listeners all vital information. You may not have access to that microphone again.
Waste #3: They purchase cute promotional material that ends up in the trash.
When independent artists or authors prepare to release their product they, of course, think of how they want their CD or book cover to look. After that they begin the process of considering promotional materials. Promotional items are a way to creatively further the name, image, and product of the artist/author. Flyers, hand bills, 8x10’s, posters, postcards, t-shirts, pens, bookmarks – this is all swag (stuff we all get). Items handed out to the general public, usually free-of-charge. They can create awareness of a new product’s release date, introduce an audience to a new name, or create consumer loyalty because everyone loves free stuff and usually remembers who gave it to them. The problem comes when indies attempt to use promos as marketing tools to influence Program Directors.
Keep in mind the purpose of promo items. They are to engage the public. The industry and the public are two different things and thus need two different approaches. Posters and bookmarks stuffed in padded envelopes with CD’s or books for review usually end up stuff in a drawer, in the promotions closet, or in the trash. They are not appreciated or even needed to decide the merit of a song or value of a book or author for an interview or airplay. All radio needs if the single for review and a relationship with you. Even the beautiful vinyl or plastic folders with the see-thru cover for the 8x10 and slits for business cards flaps stuffed with news clippings and bios and testimonials and such are wasted. 8 times out of 10 everything is thrown away and the expensive folder (if kept) is used for something else. Printing costs, Office Depot folders, photo duplication – all wasted.
Radio needs the focus of a single and a write-up until they request more. Print media needs bios and other written material. Television needs your videos. No one needs your “I’m Blessed” promotional bumper sticker. It will not determine the outcome of airplay and is money that could be spent somewhere else. In no way am I saying do not purpose promotional items. I am saying keep their purpose and audience in mind. If you decide they will further your efforts just please do not be wasteful.
Waste #2: They spend too much on production and not enough on promotion.
Obviously without studio time or a live recording there is no product to support the efforts of an artist and offer purpose to an independent record label. The best possible product will set you up for the best possible results. I am not suggesting you skimp on production. The problem comes when indie artists and labels spend 95% of their budget on studio time and leave nothing for marketing or promotional efforts. Is a great song a great song if no one hears it? Is it a hit if it never makes it to the airways or the internet? What I am suggesting is balance.
Be realistic in setting your goals and planning your budget. If, for example, you are operating with an internet only budget, then it will likely not make sense to drop $20,000+ for Kirk Franklin or JMoss to produce an entire commercial ready-to-broadcast project. The average radio promoter is $2500-$5000 per month. Not including funds for packaging, advertising, internet support, and more, you will not have the finances to support such a venture and will end up left with boxes of product in your basement. Rather, for internet only releases, you need 1-3 great tracks to get you started. The rest of your budget can be spent on a compelling website that calls for increased and repeat visitor traffic, a strategic and effective e-blasts/marketing campaign, and promotional appearances in your fan hot spots around the country. The download revenue will help fund the remainder of your production needs and your entire project.
In addition, educate yourself and utilize the technology that is available. I remember a friend of mine who owns a studio showed me how he was able to add an additional grand to his production fee simply by flipping a switch and clicking a mouse. The artist did not have the capability or the know-how to do this basic technique so he had to pay for it. By studying ProTools, CoolEdit, or Acid and basic production techniques and terminology, will put yourself in a much better position to save on production costs and invest in your promotion. Some of these software companies offer free trial offers and even full versions of older software that is just missing a few bells and whistles. Just find a financial balance. You must be able to get the word out about your work.
Waste #1: Many indies don’t make a budget up front.
Many independent artists, CEO’s of independent labels, and even authors, speakers, and pastors keep things running by using monies from their full time jobs, personal loans, and/or investors who have bought into their vision. In all instances, the money is coming directly from you; the independent. In the cases of loans and investor monies, those are funds that you will have to pay back. As an independent artist it is completely on your dime. There is plenty to lose.
With that in mind, it has always amazed me how many independent artists spend recklessly according to what they have or can get their hands on. They schedule their studio time around their paydays or their release around the date they will have the funds to order and ship product. There is no consideration of money for promotion or marketing, for example, because that is not a present and pressing issue requiring the money that is right there, right now. Money is spent as it comes in and spent without direction, focus, or a logical expected intent.
By making a budget upfront an independent is forced to do a number of things. It makes you research what it will realistically financially take to accomplish your goals. What is the average for studio time? What should be expected to promote the product? Should elaborate logos and websites take up so much money? Are those t-shirts and posters a necessity to be factored in or a desire to be considered later on? When you make a budget, write the vision, and make a financial plan, you have done the foot work needed to set clear parameters to operate within. You also give yourself a schedule of expenditures so there are no financial surprises down the road. Overall, the chance of over-spending, being over-charged, or ignoring an area that finances should have been dedicated to will be slim.
If you don’t want to waste money, know where your money is going before you make one date for studio time? Know how much you will truly need before you schedule a meeting at Starbuck’s with that investor. Know what the industry standard is so you do not pay for subpar work or miss out paying for someone that could have made the difference in your success. Take the necessary time, ask questions of those who have gone before you, research, then make a budget FIRST.
There was a woman who settled in her life’s routine. Like most she grew up with dreams. She wanted to be a doctor, world famous dancer, even an astronaut reaching for the stars but when it was all said and done the farthest she got was a 15-minute bus ride 5 miles from her home. Day after day the alarm clock would wake from her solitary sleep, wash, put on her navy blue dress for work and her flats, ate toast and drank hot tea, before grabbing her purse and descending the eight steps to the bus stop in front of her stoop.
Day after day…wake, wash, dress, eat, purse, steps, bus, work. Week after week…wake, wash, dress, eat, purse, steps, bus, work. Month after month and year after year…wake, wash, dress, eat, purse, steps, bus, work. The most intriguing part of her routine was the bus ride. Each day the #82 bus would pick her up from in front of her home and drive five miles pass the grocery store, 2 McDonald’s, a gas station and a school to the law office where she worked as a secretary. Day after day, #82, grocery store, Mickey D’s, gas station, school, work. Week after week, #82, grocery store, Mickey D’s, gas station, school, work. Month after month and year after year…#82, grocery store, Mickey D’s, gas station, school, and work.
As time passed she settled into her routine and became not happy but content with her life. She accepted that she would never be a life saving doctor. She believed she would never dance for the world nor see the stars as an astronaut. She had never journeyed pass the five miles it took to pass the grocery store, 2 Mickey D’s, a gas station, and school, on her way to work. She minimized her dreams from infinity to fit within a five-mile radius. She no longer believed in the possibilities of what she could not see and only believed in the certainty of her daily reality. Somewhere and at some time she lost faith and stopped dreaming.
One day her alarm clock failed to sound the beginning of her routine. As she rushed in a panic her day became anything but regular. Her wash was rushed, her dress was wrinkled, cold buttered bread would have to serve as her breakfast, her purse was a wreck, and her usual eight steps were cut in half as she hurried to an approaching bus. Desiring to regain some normalcy to her routine she stopped, took a breath and found her usual seat. ‘This isn’t the usual driver or the usual passengers’ the woman thought; a notion she quickly deemed irrelevant. Pass the grocery store and pass one then two McDonald’s before passing the gas station and the school. As the woman prepared to exit at the law office, an even more unusual and unexpected wrench in her routine would occur. The bus coasted clear pass the law office.
Immediately fear took over the woman as she realized she inadvertently boarded the express cross town bus. She frantically searched for a remedy to a situation but this was new. She did not know what to do. This was completely outside of what she was used to. She didn’t know the turns the bus was making. She did not recognize the places she was passing…or did she? A sign, “Allied Nursing Institute” caught her eye. Her head swung as a sign “Dance School” entered her vision. She glared in aw as the sign directing traffic to the Space & Science Center passed. She reminisced with thoughts of her childhood. A flood of calm and wonderment overtook her. She began to remember there was more to life than the five-mile world she constructed for herself.
There is more to life than just what we experience each day. The world is greater than our individual neighborhoods. Even the number of people whose lives we were created to touch is greater than the members of our immediate family. Sometimes we let life bury the dreams. Too many disappointments caused us to lose faith or accept a belief that it was not meant for us. We cannot wait to accidently get on a bus out of town to remember all that life has buried. Dream again. Set new goals. Stretch beyond your comfort zone. Do something different and you are assured that something different will happen in your life. To walk with God, you have to first start walking.
In our everyday life we are surrounded by a variety of people. Some of the people we deal with on a daily basis are a joy to be with, and their loving presence nurtures and encourages us. Others may have the opposite effect, draining us of our energy, making us feel tired and exhausted. Our well-being can be easily influenced by those around us, and if we can keep this in mind, we will have greater insights into the quality of our social interactions and their energetic effect on us.
Once we think more deeply about the people we interact with, it becomes easier for us to work toward filling our lives with people who help us cultivate healthy and positive relationships. Even though it might not always seem like we have much control over who we are with, we do. The power to step back from toxicity lies within us. All we have to do is take a few moments to reflect on how another person makes you feel. Assessing the people we spend the most time with allows us to see if they add something constructive to, or subtract from, our lives. Should a friend sap our strength, for example, we can simply set the intention to tell them how we feel or simply spend less time with them. We will find that the moment we are honest with ourselves about our own feelings, the more candid we can be with others about how they make us feel. While this may involve some drastic changes to our social life it can bring about a personal transformation that will truly empower us, since the decision to live our truth will infuse our lives with greater happiness.
When we surround ourselves with positive people, we clear away the negativity that exists around us and create more room to welcome nurturing energy. Doing this not only enriches our lives but also envelopes us in a supportive and healing space that fosters greater growth, understanding, and love of ourselves as well as those we care about.
As you clean out your closets exchanging the bulky sweaters of winter for the short sleeves of spring and summer, clean out your telephone. As you throw out old papers and spring clean through the house, throw out old numbers and clean out email addresses. Toxins are poisonous to your body. Whether from the food we eat, the pollutants we breathe, or the people we let speak over us; toxins kills. They are poisonous to the individual body which infects the overall body of Christ. We become deceased, disabled, and ineffective all because of toxins. When it comes to the people in our lives we tend to surrender our power behaving as though we have no control over whose words, whose actions, whose drama we let into our life and spirit. We do have power. We have choices. We can say when someone is allowed to dump on us and when we don’t. We can, in love, ask someone to only share positive thoughts and words with them. It is time to re-evaluate the time we share with that person who always complains. If you are not assigned to counsel them then pass them to who is. Please know, I am not advising you begin to turn your back on folks. Toxins are specifically designed to destroy. That is their make-up, their focus, and their purpose. There are times when a friend may have a bad day and need your encouragement. That is completely different than the friend who can only complain about your strides forward, never supports, and only tell you to not even try. That is a toxic person you may need a cleansing from. As the seasons change and you are in the cleaning mood, consider cleaning your relationships as well. Get rid of the toxins.