Bob Baker is the mack-daddy of music marketing. If you’ve ever surfed music sites on the web, you’re bound to have encountered the legendary Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook, by Bob himself. It’s filled with solid, creative, common sense to help bands get their music heard. So solid is it, that sales of the book actually increase every year. Crazy.
Bob has continued to crank out advice for bands through his blog, his podcast, and of course, lots of books. His advice can apply to artists in general, and his philosophy of empowerment should be the envy of any life coach.
I got to talk with Bob about his first book, his own dive into guerrilla marketing warfare, his music (he’s a musician too), and other music marketing goodness. Check it out:
GARAGESPIN: Your book "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook" has taken on a life of its own over the last ten years. What initially prompted you to tackle it?
BOB: In the late 1980s I started publishing a local music magazine in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. I did that for a decade. In the mid ’90s I began writing a column in my publication filled with tips to help musicians attract fans, sell more CDs, book gigs, and get exposure. I’ve always been fascinated by how some artists get exposure and attract a buzz while others don’t. In 1996, I took about 15 of the best columns and published them in a crude early version of the "Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook."
Sales were slow at first, but as the years went on, I continued to use the Internet to spread my message while updating the material and improving the packaging. A combination of a good title, useful content and good word of mouth have propelled sales. I feel blessed that the "Guerrilla Music" book is often talked about as a must-have resource for indie musicians. Looking back over the past ten years, I guess it helps that I was one of the early people online talking about the indie, do-it-yourself path. You might say I was preaching DIY before DIY was cool.
GARAGESPIN: How have you used some of the tools and concepts you write about to market your own books? What would you say was the book’s “big break”?
BOB: Well, a lot of people assume that the book appearing in the movie "The School of Rock" was a big break. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fantastic feather in my cap. But in reality, I got a lot more mileage out of simply informing people that the book was in the movie, which I suppose is impressive and adds credibility. But I doubt anyone ran out to buy the book after seeing it flash across the screen for five seconds.
I see a lot of similarities between the music business and the book business. And in that regard, I’ve practiced what I preach by taking the indie road to publishing success. I never did do traditional things like pursue retail sales, advertise, do book signings, etc. Instead, I used the Internet to take my message directly to the end user: the indie musician reader. I did this by giving away tons of my ideas and tips in the form of articles, ezines, sample chapters, special reports — and now using a blog, a podcast and video content.
The biggest secret to my being able to make a living as an author is something I call “chipping away at success.” There was no one connection or review or sales promotion that put me over the top. It was an accumulation of little things — done consistently over weeks, months and years — that led to the positive word of mouth and recognition I enjoy today.
I encourage musicians to take the same approach. Sure and steady over the long haul wins every time.
GARAGESPIN: Why do so many musicians and artists need help promoting their own music/art?
BOB: Because artists love to write, create, record and perform. It’s a very personal and internal process. So when they have to turn their attention to creating awareness of what they do, it’s way outside their comfort zone. So they stiffen up and feel they have to shift into business and sales mode. They have bought into the idea that it takes money and connections and a certain type of outgoing personality to promote themselves effectively. And that simply isn’t the case.
GARAGESPIN: You preach effective music marketing. Explain.
BOB: It’s about using creativity instead of cash. It’s about not limiting your list of promotion options to the tried-and-true, and not accepting the age-old limitations set by the industry. Effective music marketers don’t waste time complaining about the sad state of things. Instead, they think outside the box and look for opportunities all around them.
GARAGESPIN: Is it fair to say you also encourage a positive thinking philosophy?
BOB: Absolutely. But it’s more than just blindly thinking happy thoughts. It’s all about choosing an empowering attitude and following that up with action. The most successful musicians don’t wait to be "discovered" or pray for a "big break." They realize that they are ultimately the only ones who can make or break their music careers, so they take matters into their own hands.
GARAGESPIN: What do you see as the most exciting opportunities unsigned bands have today for getting their music heard?
BOB: Probably embracing social networking sites like MySpace, YouTube, and others. Instead of having one main site where you try to direct all your web traffic to, it seems a better strategy these days is to have a presence in a number of places where music fans congregate. You should stop marketing so much "at" people and put yourself in a position to be "discovered" by active consumers on these various networking sites.
Also, give your fans the tools to help you spread the word. Allow them to use your music in their podcasts or music videos they create, etc. Think of it as open-source music promotion. Get them involved in the creation of your marketing materials, and they’ll be even more inspired to share it with their friends.
GARAGESPIN: What new plans or ventures do you have on the horizon? Another book? Your own record label?
BOB: I just released "MySpace Music Marketing," which has been extremely popular. I’m also doing more audio titles, such as the recent "Do-It-Yourself Internet Music PR" and the upcoming "How to Be a Full-Time Indie Musician." Earlier this year I released "Guerrilla Music Marketing, Encore Edition," the followup to the first "Guerrilla Music" book. Writing is the best way I know how to live my purpose and serve music people, so I have no plans to start a label, manage bands, or become a publicist.
GARAGESPIN: Are you still playing and/or writing music? And is there a place we can go to hear a sample of your music?
BOB: Yes. I’ve been singing, writing songs and playing guitar for about 30 years. I’m a big fan of crafty pop rock a la Squeeze, Crowded House and Elvis Costello. You can hear one of my most recent songs, "Sin Is On Your Face," on my Myspace page at www.myspace.com/thebuzzfactor. That’s me singing too. And music I recorded in the late ’90s with my old band, Roomful of Jimmys, can be found at www.bob-baker.com/roj/
GARAGESPIN: Any other advice for songwriters and bands trying to get their music heard?
BOB: Get very clear with yourself about who you are and what kind of music you play. Your goal should be to seek out the people most likely to be attracted to your music. Find a way to quickly and clearly communicate your identity, so that your ideal fans will know immediately that what you have is for them.
GARAGESPIN: Thanks Bob, and best of luck with your latest releases!