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The concept of American recording artists promoting their music in Europe is not new. Musicians have been “crossing the pond” for decades, sharing their sounds. However, strategies on how to do so effectively have changed in recent years due to the Internet and other forms of digital technology. With a shaky world economy, particularly in the EU (European Union) and in America, independent musicians have a greater challenge in selling themselves successfully, but with some savvy, hard work, and a bit of luck, it can be done.
Independent American bands would not necessarily find much difference in marketing to European listeners than they might if they were to market themselves domestically, but there are a few differences to consider before trying to share abroad. In 2004, The International Journal of Media Management (JMM) published the article “The Evolution of Business Models and Marketing Strategies in the Music Industry.” Its authors Valerie L. Vaccaro (State University of New York) and Deborah Y. Cohn (Yeshiva University) examined industry trends, made predictions, and offered advice to readers about how to better market and sell music.
Vaccaro and Cohn concluded that musicians should: 1.) “Increase choice in regards to where and when consumers can acquire music on and off the Internet.” 2.) “Offer better value and rewards for subscription services. Use customer relationship management. (CRM)” 3.) “Depending on target market preferences, use CRM, permission marketing, and viral marketing.” 4.) “Be customer-oriented in delivering services and products.” In other words, independent American recording artists should find out what listeners want and make every effort to give it to them via the Internet. Musicians should utilize mass electronic communications through social media.
Independent American songwriter and recording artist Helen Walford and her husband Christopher Insley (of the band The Christophers) moved to England from America. They currently perform together under the name Pophysteriavictim. Walford has worked with BBC Radio 2 and has been involved in many projects including Oh Boy. Performer asked her how independent American musicians should approach moving to Europe. She said the best thing is to know your market.
“It’s easy enough to research bands and where they’re from, and to get a feel for a scene just from social network sites. Every city has a scene. It doesn’t take long to get to know people once you start gigging.” Walford suggested playing open mics regularly, at first, in the area one moves to. “If moving here to work as a musician you need to have a work visa. Have the proper documents or you’ll get turned back by immigration. I got a phone call once from a musician who got turned away by border control. It was sad and a waste of time and money. Just bear in mind that things are more expensive here. Be aware of the costs of living and eating wherever you choose to land,” she says.
Walford continues by saying, “There are different rules in the UK. It’s best to read up on the PRS (Performing Right Society). Visit the website prsformusic.com. It deals with publishing, performance, and royalties and such. Just be sure any original material is protected under copyright law. There are so many ways to self-promote these days. Social network sites, band websites, blogs, and Twitter are all great ways to get your name out there. Just remember to be respectful and professional because word spreads fast, especially on a small island like the UK.”
Legendary American indie diva Linda Gail Lewis echoed Walford’s sentiments about selling music in Europe. Lewis said she has found much success performing in Scandinavian countries, such as Norway, because “while they are large in size land-wise, those countries are less densely populated than America. There are more rural areas and small towns that don’t have as much to offer in ways of entertainment. So, if an American musician, like myself, goes there to perform and does well, you can develop a fan base and a loyal following sometimes easier than you can in the States.”
She continues, “My brother [Jerry Lee Lewis] and I have great fans in Europe. We performed there together this summer, and the response was just incredible. It feels good to have so many devoted fans listening to us.” Lewis’ husband Eddie Braddock is the former Director of Promotions for American icon Stax Records in Memphis. He explains, “There are no more brick-and-mortar stores. The Internet has made it more of a challenge to sell music. Get an agent in Europe who has an ability to book you. Once you get there, you’ve got to be able to deliver. You’ve got to be able to play well.”
Joe Lamont of Pipeline Entertainment Group has for years managed and marketed Grammy-winning, American recording artists Arrested Development in Europe and elsewhere around the world. When we asked him how independent Americans might promote themselves better in Europe, he said it depended on whether or not the artists want to actually go to Europe, or to just simply sell their songs there.
He says, “It’s a broad topic. The first thing American artists should do is make a plan. If they’re moving there or even just trying to sell there, they should be preparing ahead of time for success. They should know what they’re going there for.” If American musicians are having trouble succeeding domestically, those artists should consider why they think selling their works in Europe might garner more success. Musicians should consider the exchange rates of their money. An American band might do well if it is paid in euros at a time when the American dollar is not as valuable.
“The good thing is that there are so many countries in Europe, and so many festivals to play at. Fans in European countries tend to be very loyal; they’re into musical poets. It’s a troubadour thing really,” Lamont says. When asked to elaborate specifically on how independent musicians should market themselves in Europe, Lamont recommended that they find an agent or a publicist in Europe to work with, someone who is based there and has a history with the industry. Lastly, he said recording artists should “be on every social networking site on the Internet. Just get the word out and let folks know you exist. Make your presence known. Yes, an agent would be great, but it’s usually not something easy to come by until an artist becomes somewhat know on the circuit. I think indie artists going to Europe need to contact venues and send them their music.”
Lastly, audio engineer, educator, and journalist Justin Colletti published an incredibly thorough, 6,000-word article giving independent musicians tips on how not to go broke. In it, he recommends that musicians have little or no debt before pursuing work in the industry. He recommends further that independent recording artists live a modest lifestyle in order to achieve sustained success. His insightful article, and many other helpful tips, can be found on the New York City music site sonicscoop.com.
Independent American musicians may find increased success in Europe if they plan their marketing strategies well, utilize the services of established agents there, and make careful considerations of their long-term and short-term goals in music.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
After having met thousands of musicians and celebrities, James Hester decided to write a book about how life in the entertainment industry was not always glamorous to him. His book, Rock Scars, chronicles his personal journey through entertainment and explores the essentials of being a rock star.