Indie Music Marketing: Where the Music Industry Went Wrong Part 1: Why Indie Musicians are struggling to sell their music

There are three reasons why local, indie musicians are not achieving the levels of success they desire in the music industry. In this post, I will give a short overview of these three reasons and the role the music industry has played. If you are an indie artist and you are struggling to sell your music, if you are struggling to get promotion and publicity, then it is probably because of at least one of these three reasons.

Three Reasons why Most Indie Musicians are struggling to sell their music:
Reason # 1. Indie Musicians have forgotten or are not aware of, the true value and power of music.

Reason # 2. Indie Musicians do not communicate the value of their music or they do so poorly. This reason aims at how musicians market and promote their music. This reason also explains why most musicians are not able to network effectively at industry events and get the attention of music executives and the press. I will discuss this reason in a later blog post.

Reason # 3. Indie Musicians do not deliver the value of their music to their fans. This is all about distribution, how your music is delivered, received, and experienced by your fans. This is about how your fans experience your brand. I’ll discuss this reason later in another post.

In this post, I will discuss reason #1. Most indie musicians consider themselves entrepreneurs. They take great pride in marketing and selling their own music. They see themselves as business owners, as they should. However, most indie musicians have not made the mindshift change that is needed to begin thinking and behaving like an entrepreneur, as a business owner. That is, most musicians fail to ask themselves the question that every entrepreneur must ask to be successful: What is the value of the work that I do or the product I make? In other words, what problem does my music solve for my target audience? If you can answer that question, then you have the mind of a music entrepreneur.

So what is the real reason why the music industry is in the state that it is in today? The music industry has cheapened the value of music and reduced the value of music to entertainment, to a catchy beat or hook, to packaging. These are all features and not benefits. All marketers know that in order to effectively market your product, you have to focus on the benefits that your product delivers to the consumer. You shouldn’t focus on the features. The value of your product is not in the features but in the benefits. The value of your music is not in your hook or your beat but it’s in how people receive your hook. It’s in how your hook/beat/lyrics solves the problems of others. I will talk about this more in my next post.

The music industry and musicians themselves have also reduced the value of music by denying the powerful impact and influence, both good and bad, that music has on its listeners. We have heard musicians refute the influence of music and their ability to influence their fans. How many times have you heard an artist, especially a hip hop artist say that he/she is not a role model? I argue that in doing so, musicians are ignoring the power of the music that they make and therefore, the value of the product they are selling. They are also turning down an opportunity to connect with their fans in a powerful, influential way. Mike Masnick, founder of Floor64 and says that the business model musicians need to adopt can be best represented by the formula, cwf+rtb = $$. Cwf= connect with fans and rtb= reason to buy. I agree. Musicians need to connect with their fans and give them a reason to buy in order to have success now in the music industry. In order for musicians to connect with their fans and give them a reason to buy, musicians first need to understand the value that music has in the lives of their fans and in society.

Music is more than entertainment for fans. Music has more value and more power. When musicians begin to realize this and focus on the real value and power of their music, they will build a successful business model that allows them to connect with their fans and give their fans a reason to buy.

People do not just want to be entertained. It is true that people buy music to be entertained, but real music entrepreneurs dig deeper to find out the real motivation behind why people buy music. A real music entrepreneur asks these questions: Why do people want to be entertained? Why do people want to be entertained with music? When a music entrepreneur can answer those questions, then he or she will know the value of music and can give people a reason to buy it.

So why do people listen to music? Why do people want to be entertained? There are many reasons. One reason, people use entertainment as escapism. People turn to music to get their minds off of the struggles they face everyday. People also listen to music because it helps them deal with their struggles and problems. People listen to music when they are happy, they listen to music when they are sad. Listening to music is an emotional experience for so many people. People love the way music makes them feel. Music helps people express and deal with their emotions. Music helps people to relax and deal with stress. People also use music to change an atmosphere, to create an environment, a mood. Music has the power to change our moods. Music inspires, motivates. Music is so much more than entertainment and a catchy hook.

If you don’t understand the value that your music has in the lives of fans, media, press, and venue owners, then you will have a hard time marketing, promoting and selling your music. If you don’t know the problems and challenges that these people have, then you are not a music entrepreneur. If you don’t know the problem that your music solves for these people, then you are not a music entrepreneur.  If you have not created music that solves their problems, then you are not a music entrepreneur.

Over the next few weeks, I will continue the “where the music industry went wrong” series.  I will continue to discuss the value of music and how this can help musicians market and promote their music. I will give you action steps that you can apply right now to discover the value of the music you create. I will also talk about how indie musicians need to communicate the value of their music.

Let me know your comments so far. Do you agree with me? disagree? Leave me a comment.

Want more free music marketing tips and strategies? Get the free Music Success Toolkit featuring 6 free resources to help you sell more music, get more fans, and get more music exposure.  Toolkit contains: (1) Free report: “Top 8 Music Marketing Mistakes That’s Stopping You From Selling Your Music“, (2)  6 FREE easy ways to find the demographics of your target market with little work!, (3) 10 free street team marketing videos, and MORE! Get the free music marketing toolkit here: Music Success

Be Sociable, Share!


#1 truth on 06.30.10 at 5:39 pm

excellent read

#2 Music Success Coach on 06.30.10 at 5:44 pm

Thank you. I appreciate the feedback.

#3 Tim on 07.03.10 at 8:01 pm

Sounds good, but I really need to see the examples to know how to apply it. For the most part, I feel this is conveyed via image … you know when you see a picture the mood and message that an artist embodies, for the most part. If you hear the music first, you know the mood and message immediately. What else are you suggesting? Can’t wait to read the rest of your thoughts.

#4 Where the Music Industry Went Wrong Part 1: Why Indie Musicians are struggling to sell their music on 09.07.10 at 2:00 pm


#5 LinkMünki on 09.09.10 at 4:26 am

The internet revolution has made it a necessity for bands to gig relentlessly and sell merchandise to reach their audience. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it is true. Record deals like the one Helmet signed with ??? [i think sony] about a decade ago are simply a thing of the past.

But I think that brings indie music closer to the fans, where it should be in my humble opinion.

#6 david on 07.19.11 at 9:12 am

very good band is experiencing some awesome positive exposure but we are trying to parlay our”brand” to go to the next step product purchase

Leave a Comment