By Jason Didner
My plan to release singles, one-at-a-time, rather than an album all-at-once has opened up a bit of controversy among the two authors whose writing influenced my strategy.
Shortly after the previous installment of this blog post was published, Frank Woodworth, the writer behind the “unbundling the album” article, tweeted this to me: “I’m not sure singles work for kids’ music because it seems like physical gifts drive all kid sales.”
A few hours later, I received a different point of view on the subject of singles from David Hooper, the self-titled “Music Marketing Guy” from Nashville, TN, in the form of an e-mail interview I had previously sent to David so he could e-mail me the answers.
Jason: So, I read “Six Figure Musician” as a general music marketing guide for people playing music and trying to build a following of adult/young adult fans. Which of the same principles might apply to growing a fan base of children and their parents?
David: Everything in the book applies to a children’s artist, but here are a couple of things that I think stand out.
1. You need to play your game. All music genres tend to be homogeneous at times, but it’s been my experience that music for kids is especially this way. My first recording session as a musician was singing vocals on a kids’ music album when I was five years old. Now, 35 years later, that stuff still sounds relevant because so many of the artists have failed to move forward.
Being “static” is fine, but the problem is that, as more and more artists come on board, it’s easy to get lost. What differentiates you from the next guy?
There is a real opportunity for artists who make music for kids to stand out by doing something different. If you’re a rock guy, do rock. If you do “dance” music, do it. Stop following formulas and make you own.
2. Know your audience. Sure, it’s kids, but kids have no money, so you also have to play to their parents. This is why we’re seeing more and more kid-style covers of songs parents know. That’s a good start, but how else can you target parents and make their lives more interesting and fun? This isn’t just about entertaining kids…
Jason: I found the fan club idea intriguing. How can that model be adapted to work for families of various sizes?
David: I’d have an “age ladder” you work people up. Start kids on a “monthly music club” which sends them music based on their ages. As they get older, the music changes, keep things age appropriate. When they turn six (or whatever the cutoff is) it ends.
Make it entertaining for the kids and keep it educational to please the parents. Market it as helping to teach very specific life skills.
Everybody, especially kids, loves getting something in the mail. Send a CD (or download card, or whatever you want to send your music on) each month, which you could cycle through for years along with a monthly newsletter, a birthday card, and other goodies.
Jason: Should all marketing activity really be directed at the adults in a child’s life? Parents, teachers, etc.?
David: Both kids and adults. Obviously, the adults are the buyers since they have the money, but the kids need to like it on some level. You need them to use your music and get results (education/entertainment) so the parents will come back for more.
If you can get to the teachers, that is great, because they’re reaching a lot of kids and parents. They’re trusted, so an endorsement will make your selling job much easier. If they tell parents your music will help kids to do better in school and be better people, that will help you out a lot.
Jason: When you make kids’ music, you can expect a somewhat rapid turnover in your fan base as older kids outgrow children’s music and younger children come along. How does this affect marketing activities and a fan club model? Lifetime membership doesn’t have the same ring for kids that it does for adult fans of a performer.
David: The good news is that parents have multiple kids over a period of years, so you could literally market to the same couple for 10 years or more, as their kids grow up. If you can get in, you’ll have a longer career than most musicians (seven years).
If you’re in this for the long haul, like 20 years, the kids you play for today grow up to be parents themselves. That’s why toys now are the same as toys in the 70s and 80s—parents know them and it makes it easier to market to kids. For example,Transformers, My Little Pony, etc. This will get you even more extension.
Then I asked David a follow-up question on Frank’s reaction to our effort to market single-song downloads in children’s music.
Jason: Frank Woodworth (Glacial Concepts) responded to my blog about marketing singles in children’s music with his premise that albums are preferable to singles in the kids’ music world because of the value of a CD album as a physical gift. Your premise that everything in the book holds up for children’s music appears to run counter to Frank’s position on this. Do you think children’s music changes the game on the full album release vs. the drip method?
David: It sounds like he is using “album” as a synonym for CD. You can put anything on a CD though – a single, an EP, or a full LP (album). Same for a download. It’s not a “this or that” choice – you should have both, provided there is demand for both.
The big positive for CDs, as he mentioned, is the physical “container” and that does make them great gifts.
He is correct that one of the big disadvantages of downloadable music is that they lack the “container” aspect. And as I said in the book, “downloads don’t advertise.” With so much music being consumed on portable players, like iPods, these days, what people are listening to is not as obvious.
A workaround for this, although not perfect, is a download card. In some instances, these would actually work better for kids’ music since they’re also collectable, they can be traded, it’s easier to do limited edition runs, they can be mailed more easily, etc.
With all this said, CDs are a great way to get music to people. Even with downloads as popular as they are, in some genres (country for example), physical releases are still as much as 60% of the market. As long as there are CD players in cars, there will still be demand for CDs. They’re not as popular as they were, but they are still popular.
Jason: My marketing plan, for instance, involves releasing all singles through the summer and fall and compiling an album leading into Christmas season, so I’m using the drip method to introduce the songs and then bundling everything into an album format when it’s time to give gifts.
David: I think that is smart. Get people involved with the product (music) now and sell them the container to give it away when it’s gift-giving time.
To follow David Hooper’s marketing advice more closely, consider his blog, http://www.musicmarketing.com
Jason Didner is a singer/songwriter with his own band, Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam. Their first single, “Five Sea Lions,” was released on June 4. He is also a member of CMN.