Applied Synthesis: Marketing your Records
So you're going to bypass the major companies to produce and release your own record? More power to you! But, there are still some complications involved with doing it yourself, so perhaps you can benefit from my experience with an independent record label (Jazzical Records).
Without going into recording technique, record production, jacket design, etc. (which is your business) let's approach marketing head-on. The most important aspect of selling records is advertising and promotion. This can be accomplished in many ways:
• Radio airplay is the most widespread device to get any product to the potential buyer's ears. Bug your local DJ with information, EPs, LPs, or whatever your band has recorded. Make a nuisance of yourself to get the airplay you deserve. Don't forget DJs are inundated with promo records by the hundreds every week; but if the DJ knows you are local talent, and you are persistent in your communications with the radio station, the chances are excellent of getting airplay.
• Search out record or music stores that will accept your records on consignment, namely, you give them "X" amount of records and they pay you when the albums are sold. But remember, your success is proportional to advertising and publicity. Make an extroverted poster dealing with your product and submit it to each store with which you wish to advertise.
• Contact local radio stations about advertising your records on the air. Most stations offer surprisingly low rates at night (not prime time) for 30 and 60 second spots. Extract material from your record that is easily remembered after only a cursory listening for the ad, and get a pro to do the voice-over to give the spot a professional veneer.
• Mail-order advertising through a magazine can be extremely profitable. Polyphony is great for marketing independent electronic music because the readership is geared to that progressive niche. Use your head when you design the ad. Keep the price of your records lower than the biggies but don't sacrifice professionalism in your marketing. Color is nice (and expensive!), but remember that a good black-and-white ad looks as good as color if it is well-designed.
• Publish and distribute free brochures describing what the average buyer can expect from your product. Distribute these brochures at record shops and retail music stores if the owners are agreeable; also try to get a mailing list from whatever sources you can and mail the brochures to people interested in your record. For example, if your music is keyboard oriented (which is the case with Jazzical records), get a list of keyboard players in your area (often available from musician union directories) and mail brochures to them.
• Include an address right on the record jacket that people can write to if they want to comment on your album. With the comments coming in you will have the beginnings of a mailing list to use for future releases.
• If your output includes more than one album, include a discography of previous and "soon-to-be-released" records on the album jacket back. This is free advertising and the DJs can use this as reference in selecting other tunes for airplay.
• Have patience, make a trillion phone calls, try to get free advertising any way possible (giveaways to radio stations are extremely useful in promotion), and spread the word to anyone in the media.
So much for marketing; now for one last word of a more technical nature, concerning pressing plants. One of the most competent, prompt, and interested plants I've found is QCA Custom Pressing ((Contact Details)). They are primarily geared to independent labels with small resources, and their prices are extremely competitive. Contact Keith Myers in your correspondance and you will get excellent results.
Feature by Bill Rhodes
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