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Identifying Your Target Music Market (Part 1)
Written by Frances Vincent - 2007, Cengage Learning. Reprinted with Permission.
This article is an excerpt from the following book: MySpace for Musicians: The Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Your Music Online.

All marketers must find out who their target audience is before they can hope to reach them. This is true whether you are a self-marketing artist or a record company executive. You may already have a preliminary idea of who your audience is based on the people who come to your show and sign up for your mailing lists. But for those of you who are just starting out and who don't yet have a following, determining who will listen to your music, buy your records, and come to your shows can be a daunting task. In this chapter, I'll show you some tips for figuring out who your audience is and how to reach them. You'll find this useful not just for creating and marketing your MySpace presence, but for planning all your marketing, promotion, and publicity endeavors as well.

Who Are You?
Instead of wading through marketing theory and principles, let's make a homegrown approach to defining your product (you and your music) and learning about your target market. This is not a mental exercise; you must write down everything. The goal is to wrap up your brand and who your fans are in a concise paragraph or two.

If you've ever watched American Idol, you know that image and song choice are key to progressing in the contest. Randy, Paula, and Simon say it over and over again to singers who don't shine in their performance: "That just wasn't the right song for you." Singing the wrong song for your voice and ability, trying to emote lyrics in appropriate for your age group, or not jiving your image with your music is the kiss of death on Idol. The same is true for the regular Joe and Jane Musician.

First you must figure out, in a nutshell, who you are. Your MySpace profile, CD art, posters, emails, website, and more will be a reflection of you the artist. The "brand" you present must match up with your music and image.

The following questions will help you pin down what you have to offer. New artists struggling to find their niche will find this helpful in their quest for identity. Seasoned artists will likely find the answers flowing more easily. The exercise is important for both.

* How do I describe my music?
* How do friends, fans, or business associates describe my music?
* If I had to put my music into categories, what would they be?
* Are there deficiencies in my music? (Be honest). If so, what are they? (Examples include songwriting, lyrics, guitar skills, vocal range, production, and so on.)
* What kinds of people come to my show? What do they wear? How do they behave? How old are they?
* What kinds of places do I gig? What venues are appropriate for me?
* Who buys my music and where do they buy it?
* What kind of lyrics do I write (or prefer to sing)?
* Is there a common message, theme, or tone in my music?
* How do I see myself in terms of physical image? Is this compatible with my music and what people are hearing?
* What kind of image do I want to portray?
* Whom do I hope to reach with my music?
* What, musically, am I passionate about?
* What do I prefer to sing/play?
* What kind of voice do I have? What is its range and color?
* What kind of songs really let my talent shine through? What do I absolutely love to play/sing?
* Who are my contemporaries? What other artists (singed or unsigned) are in similar categories to mine, and how would I describe them?

As in Idol, self-awareness can make or break a performance and a following. This means knowing what you're good at, what people want to see you play, and how to affect others. Gather the information you've just generated and roll it into an Artist Summary paragraph of about 150 to 250 words. Be concise and direct. Write in detached third-person, as if you are writing about someone else.

This is a snapshot of who you are as a musical talent what kind of music you make, what you excel at, and what your image and musical message are. You don't have to plug in the answers to all the questions. Instead, take what you've learned about yourself and wrap up the highlights into your summary.

You may have holes in some of your answers. Perhaps the image you portray as an artist does not gel with what you envision or isn't compatible with your music in general. You may be aware of things you need to fix in your music, such as getting a great co-writer or producer. Make a note of what you have to change and work on. It is your roadmap for improvement. Write your summary wrap-up as if you have already fixed all these things. When you have a clear, written understanding of who you are and what you want to be, you will aspire to fulfill it.

Here is a sample of an Artist Summary writing by the artist herself:
"Jane Vocalist is an award-winning singer/songwriter from Portland, Oregon. Her crystalline soprano voice radiates warmth into her songs and is coupled with ethereal and emotive piano playing. Here lyrics are sometimes considered impressionistic, with interpretations varying depending on the listener. Yet she admits her themes are often about relationships, including those between family members, and even her relationship with God. While Jane write most of her songs, she often indulges in creating new arrangements of favorite cover songs, mostly in the pop genres of the '60s and '70s, as well as jazz standards. This acoustic pop piano artist appears throughout the Portland area. Jane's fans describe her live shows as captivating and enveloping. She peppers her performances with poetry of favorite writers between songs. Jane is an urban songstress who is both sophisticated and down to earth in her music, style, and interaction with fans. She believes in the truth of the human being, both beautiful and sometimes ugly. And her music attempts to unveil the human spirit as optimistic and enduring, despite its downfalls."

As you can see, it reads a bit like a bio. It can certainly be the beginning of your bio. You can make it longer and more encompassing. The more experience you have, the more you will have to say. Your Artist Summary, however, should be no more than one page long, no less than 150 words.

Your task is to clearly define who you are and what kind of music you offer. Believe it or not, that's the easy part. Read on to discover how to pin down your audience and craft your Target Market Summary. For more information, see MySpace for Musicians: The Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Your Music Online.

This article is continued in Identifying Your Target Music Market (Part 2) and Identifying Your Target Music Market (Part 3).

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