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Identifying Your Target Music Market (Part 3)
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.

This article is also a continuation of Identifying Your Target Music Market (Part 1) and Identifying Your Target Music Market (Part 2).

Crawl The Web
It probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway. Web research is a must in this day and age. Run web searches on musical genres, contemporaries, and even yourself to see what comes up. Look for press coverage of similar artists. Visit artist websites and check out how they are marketed. Comb through music sites, such as AllMusic.com, Billboard.com, VH1.com, music.AOL.com, music and tech blogs (DigitalMusicNews.com, AOLMusicNewsBlog.com, and Billboard's Jaded Insider blog at Billboard.blogs.com are three favorites), and even the media search tool LexisNexis.com. Many local and state libraries also now offer magazines online. Of course, you'll want to pour through MySpace music profiles to get a feel for what's out there. Remember to visit the profiles of your favorite band's friends as well to see what kind of audience the band attracts.

Look For Intelligent Feedback
Search for similar artists on sites and services such as Amazon.com, Rhapsody's Player at rhapsody.com and Last.fm, and these sites will kick back additional artists you might like. This will help you understand who shares a similar fan base. For instance, do you like Fergie? Last.fm also suggests you might enjoy Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, and Nelly Furtado as well. A fan of Nickelback? Amazon says customers who like Nickelback also bought music by Evanescence, Staind, and The Fray. So start typing in your contemporaries and you'll begin to get a better idea of who their audience is.

Get It From The Horse's Mouth
You needn't rely solely on third-party research. You can ask your fans directly. Implement a mailing list form on your website and MySpace page that asks a few questions about your fans' interests and buying habits. You can even offer a freebie for their time, such as a coupon good toward music or merchandise, a free download, or an entry into a drawing for something small but cool (such as said download or merchandise). Cultivate a good list, and you'll have people to come back to for future feedback.

Asking The Right Questions
Now that you know where to look for answers, it's time to ask the questions. Just as you had to ask yourself a litany of queries to get to the core of what you have to offer, you will do the same of your target audience. Some of the answers will be based on concrete research. Some will be anecdotal evidence and supposition. It's not all hard science. To find out more about your current and potential consumers and fans, try to answer these questions:
* How would I describe my first impression of my target audience?
* Where does my target market shop?
* What are their ages?
* Where do they come from?
* What kinds of clothing do they buy and wear?
* Do they have any particular characteristics as a group?
* What magazines do they read?
* What radio stations do they listen to?
* Where do they live?
* What is their lifestyle?
* What are their views on life?
* What kind of education do they have?
* What is their income?
* What type of expendable income do they possess?
* What kinds of entertainment do they enjoy and purchase?
* What is the ideal way to reach these consumers?
* How do they prefer to be contacted?
* What kinds of products, in various categories, do they buy?
* What do they drive?
* What kind of movies and television shows do they enjoy?
* What websites do they frequent?
* Where/how do they purchase their music?
* With what consumer brands do they identify?
* What other types of music, besides mine, do they listen to?
* What is their comfort level with technology? Explain...

You may think of other questions that are relevant. Our example artist, Jane Vocalist, answered a few based on her experience, online research, and a mailing list survey through her website:

Q: How would I describe my first impression of my target audience?
A: Mostly women in their late teens through early 40s. They seem to identify less with the saccharin pop female icons of the day and more with contemporary male and female singer/songwriters. Some dress in a sophisticated manner; others are more free-spirited types. All seem to be interested in personal empowerment, musical quality, and intellectual pursuits. My listeners are both single and married. They are mostly college educated.
Q: What magazines do they read?
A: Rolling Stone; Harp; Performing Songwriter; Yoga Journal; 0, the Oprah Magazine.
Q: Where/how do they purchase their music?
A: The younger end of the target audience tends to be very web savvy and will likely download much of their music. The older spectrum (late 30s+) tends toward purchasing music at well-known retail outlets, such as Target and Best Buy, but they are not above learning how to download music. The older group especially tends to listen to music at work on their computers.

The quest doesn't end there. Looking at what others are doing and to whom they appeal is essential.

Researching Contemporaries and Competitors
One of the best ways to answer questions about your potential audience is to research how similar artists in the same or a similar category to you reach their consumers. List your contemporaries and find out:
* What magazines are they featured in?
* What products do they endorse?
* With which other artists do they collaborate and how?
* What TV shows and movies feature their music?
* How does their record company position and market them?
* Where is their music sold?
* Who attends their shows?
* What are their website and MySpace profile like?
* What does their CD packaging look like?
* What kinds of publicity do they receive?
* Where do they play (what kinds of venues and in what parts of the country/world)?
* What is their image like?
* What kinds of clothes do they wear?
* Who do they appeal to?
* What can you extrapolate about this artist's fans from this information?
* How might this info apply to you?

Now that you are up to your eyeballs in info, you are ready to trim it down into a usable paragraph or two, called your Target Market Summary. Like your Artist Summary, you won't need to throw in every answer to every question. You're gleaning overall impressions and demographic information and rolling this into a concise blurb. Jane Vocalist's sample Target Market Summary reads like this:

"Jane Vocalist's audience, although primarily female, is diverse in age and socioeconomic background. The group that will have the greatest interest in Jane is the 20- to 40-something age range. They are drawn to her unique, almost performance-artist style of acoustic pop alternative, with lyrics that touch upon their own life experiences. She tends to appeal to positive-minded, deep-thinking women who have an appetite for new and non-homogenous music, are opinionated on politics and world events, and read publications such as Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, the New Yorker, and even 0, the Oprah Magazine. Her fans are both married and single and tend to be college educated. Retailers apt to carry Jane's music are local and some regional record store chains, as well as online merchant eMusic. Appropriate radio stations include those in the alternative, top 40, and adult contemporary genres. Her audience is very web focused and download savvy, so particular attention will be paid to reaching out to a non-local fan base through sites such as GarageBand.com and Live365.com."

As Jane learns more about her audience and herself, she will be able to flesh out her Target Market Summary even further and narrow it down more.

Realize that your two summaries—one about you as an artist and the other explaining your target market—are dynamic in nature. They may change over time. You will need to tweak it as you grow and learn. This kind of focus is essential to your success. It keeps you from taking the "spaghetti on the wall" approach. (You know, throwing everything and anything out there and hoping something sticks.) Instead, your summaries will keep you on track. They are like your mission statements, guiding your activities toward the goal of reaching that coveted target audience. When opportunities come by that don't fit into your goal, you'll know they aren't right for you.

You too will be able to identify your target market in a concise paragraph. Doing this initial research and planning will help keep your message and marketing activities, both online and off, focused and on track. For more information, see MySpace for Musicians: The Comprehensive Guide to Marketing Your Music Online.

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