Dear Tim Sweeney:
I have read a number of your articles regarding pre-show promotion. In
most of them, it talks about handing out sample tapes or sample CDs to potential fans. While I have tried this and it works for me, there are times when I get a greater response than others. Even though, I am handing out the same two songs each time.
My questions are, which is better, sample tapes or sample CDs and should I hire a "street marketing company" to do it for me, since they can hand out more than I can?
First of all, I am happy to see that you have taken the steps you needed to start to effectively promote your live shows. Too often, I will get emails that say, "I've handed out hundreds of flyers before a show and I get little or no response, what did I do wrong?"
Obviously, handing out flyers to people who are not familiar with you or your music is not productive. Like I have always said and will continue to, "No one can hear your music on a piece of paper." It doesn't matter how great you say it is on your flyer, people can't listen to a piece of paper. So I am glad to see you are serious about giving them a sample of your music to listen to.
I am also glad to see that by handing out tapes and CDs, you have moved passed the "dead end philosophy" that, just inviting the people on your mailing list to every show, will be the answer to your ongoing success. Obviously, once fans have bought a CD, it doesn't make sense to invite them to more shows for the sole purpose of trying to sell them another one.
While the questions you asked me are very easy to answer, I am sure that they have been a source of frustration for you. Remember you have to "break the pattern" of not thinking creatively. Regardless of what others say or think, challenge yourself and believe in yourself. Just as you did in writing your songs and producing your CD.
With all that said, the answer to whether sample tapes or sample CDs is better to give out, depends upon the demographic of your fans. While most artists and bands can easily tell me whether they get more women or men at their shows and what age bracket they are in, most can't tell me the kind of jobs their fans have, or their income level. This is critical information for you to know!
Why? Depending upon the type of jobs your fans have and what they get paid for them, usually dictates what kind of car they drive. This is important because you may be handing out sample tapes to people that only have CD players in their car! While they are polite in taking them from you, they won't listen to them in the car where we want them to. While they may have a cassette player at home, that defeats the purpose of what we are trying to do. We want them to listen to it in their car, where most people listen to music. We want to frustrate them on the limited amount of music there is on the tape or CD. If they like it, they will want to come to your show to hear more or want to buy the full-length CD.
So you need to determine which is better, sample tapes or sample CDs, based upon your fan's particular job, income and their car. However, keep in mind that with in the next few years, all American cars will only have CD players.
Regarding your last question, should you hire a "street marketing team" or company versus you handing out the sample tapes or sample CDs. Don't be fooled!
While a street marketing team can hand out ten times the amount of copies you can, their effectiveness is one tenth of what yours is when you hand them out. Even if it's to a smaller amount of people.
The purpose of you giving out the sample tapes and CDs is for you to "bond" with the potential fans. While someone else can easily give them the sales pitch, it's not the same for music fans as talking to the actual artist themselves. Street teams are often viewed by music fans like the girls in department stores who try to give you the free perfume samples or try to spray you as you walk by. Your music deserves more than having a street team just blindly handing it out and so do your potential fans.
Review the section in "Tim Sweeney's Guide To Successfully Playing Live", about where to specifically hand out the sample tapes and CDs for your upcoming shows.
Don't forget on your sample tapes and CDs to have your web site address, date and place of your upcoming show and where people can buy the full length CD (Guitar Nine, Tower Records, etc.)
Author Tim Sweeney is head of Tim Sweeney & Associates, who are entering their 18th year of being, "the only true artist development company in the world."
Tim is one of the music industry's most sought after experts and consultants, and has written several influential books including "Tim Sweeney's Guide To Releasing Independent Records".
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