Select Page

A report from the inaugural Balanced Breakfast National Music Industry Summit in San Francisco.

Indie musicians have an plenty of opportunity to market music these days — if they can keep from going insane, alcoholic or broke. They have to master many skills beyond music marketing and creating great tracks: develop multiple creative income streams, learn to constantly scale up, and redefine success every step of the way.

That was the theme of last weekend’s inaugural National Music Industry Summit in San Francisco, put on by the Balanced Breakfast, #BBSFSummit. This volunteer-run group of musicians & industry professionals meet regularly in twenty-seven cities to figure out how to make money doing what they love. Co-founder Stefan Aronsen‘s vision for empowering the community to push through challenges by working together includes their recent launch of a mobile networking app and this first-ever national summit.

Paige Clem & KC Turner are two key players in the Northern California live music scene.

Stefan led a fireside-style chat with John Vanderslice and Mike Deni of “Geographer”

During the closing session, Stefan got nationally-touring musician and studio-owner John Vanderslice to open up about what it really feels like at various levels of success. “As you climb up the ladder you think it’s going to give you pleasure, and at each rung, it never does. As a musician, you are constantly scaling up. In 2005 I sold 10K records and thought it would make me happy, It didn’t.” Mike Deni of Geographer added “There’s tons of joy when the stakes are low. You have to find a way to sustain your joy as you move up the ladder.” He adds “It’s not really a job. It’s the dumbest thing you could try to do in your whole life.” In the end, both John and Mike agreed that they had no regrets about how things turned out for each of them.

There’s tons of joy when the stakes are low. You have to find a way to sustain your joy as you move up the ladder.

Mike Deni – Geographer

Mike explained, “People perceive how you feel about yourself, so self-belief is key.” Isolation and the demands of touring and aggressive production schedules can easily lead to depression, alcoholism, and drug abuse if you let them. John has seen so many musicians ruin careers due to addiction and he credits his success in part to choosing not to imbibe while at gigs.

Other panels covered everything from social media to licensing, booking, and sound mixing. Marketing and social media were the themes of two different panels chocked full of actionable tips.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Drive people back to your own website from social media and other promotional efforts.
  • Give fans a reason to join your email list. Make it clear the specific content they get access to by joining. Subscribers should be the first to know and get the greatest value free content.
  • Don’t overly rely on one channel for promotion. Use email, social media, live video, radio, print, and posters.
  • Consider your target audience’s preferences when choosing which channels to promote on and prioritize those appropriate for your brand.
  • Venues look at your promotional game when booking you and expect you to deliver on marketing to your own fans.
  • Develop a brand that is consistent and clearly communicated in your appearance, and all materials used to promote your music.
  • Your fans are buying you, not your music, so stand for something they can relate to. Your vibe attracts your tribe.
  • Create an experience for your fans through your music. Engage senses. Think of what you want them to feel after a show.

Mindi Levine aka “Drive Time Mindi” on radio station KVYN 99.3 The Vine in Sonoma County is a 20 year veteran promoter of live music venues in the SF Bay Area and beyond.

Mindi Levine and Stacey DePolo after the promotivation panel at BBSFSummit

Here’s a video of one of the panels from the event for even more tips:

One thing that was surprising to me was the number of musicians and panelists I met who did not have an easy way to be found online.

Let me know in the comments how important you think it is for indie musicians to have their own websites in today’s market. In my next post on in my marketing music series, I will be reviewing the best examples from the Balanced Breakfast community of indie musician and music pro websites.

Andy Strong of The Damn Fanatics

Andy Strong of The Damn Fanatics