Self-Promotion: What Works?

toby-keithMy favorite country music-related headline of the week: “Toby Keith Takes On Fashion with TK Steelman Clothing Line.”

In case you missed the latest in a long line of increasingly bizarre marketing attempts by country stars, Keith is planning on introducing his own clothing line into the  marketplace.  The “part rocker, part biker” themed clothing line will have a wide selection of options, including Keith’s trademark sleeveless shirts and leather wrist straps.  Overall, the line is aiming for a “country sexy” aesthetic.  (Somehow, that managed to put a smile on my face for an entire day.)

While Keith’s clothing line may be a little more about raking in the dough (and maintaining his spot on Forbes) than about selling albums, with the economy as it is and albums sales at an all time low, most country stars are resorting to almost anything to sell an album these days. But, what works? Does an appearance on a talk show (Letterman, Leno, Ellen, Today) pique your interest and convince you to buy? Do online blogs such as this one? Do online performances through Yahoo or AOL or videos posted on YouTube? Does intense fan devotion on MySpace or Facebook? Does promising backstage passes? A great bargain on Amazon? An exclusive with Walmart? Commercials? Radio play? Giving your music away a la Radiohead or Prince?

Or does the promise of an awesome concert sell albums? I applauded Kenny Chesney this week for announcing that Lady Antebellum and Miranda Lambert would join him on his upcoming summer tour. Those were genius choices.  One leaning pop, the other country rock. Both are younger, with rising fan bases and great word of mouth. They should both help Chesney inspire people to come out for his annual summer tour based upon a lackluster album. My question this week is therefore the following:

If you were managing a new group, based on your own experiences, how would you go about marketing them? What works for you?


  1. Get as much exposure as possible for your artist. Get them in magazines, get them on TV, get their songs in TV shows. be interactive with fans, blog, tweet, facebook, myspace, ilike, imeem, etc. Another words, the Taylor Swift approach.

  2. I agree 100% the Taylor Swift approach….give the fans a sense that they are getting a closer glimpse into your life with the personal blogs and personal photos. Gone are the days of the elusive stars private lives like Shania Twain and in are the open books of Taylor Swift.

  3. The marketing approach would depend on the artist and the demographic he or she is trying to reach. You don’t market a Sunny Sweeney the same way you market a Taylor Swift.

    As far as Toby Keith goes, it’s ironic that he’s getting a clothing line because I’ve always thought of him as the poster child for What Not To Wear. I’m jealous of those guns he’s got in the photo, though. I know they’re the result of some hard work.

  4. @ Razor: I’m sure his arm being pressed against his chest has nothing to do with his ‘guns’ looking like that either … ;)

    I think marketing is done best by an artist themselves mostly. Going out and meeting the fans after the shows, meeting with radio programmers and retailers, distributors, etc. It’s kind of old fashioned today I guess, but I still believe the old riddle: How do you sell a million albums? Sign a million autographs.

  5. The “Taylor Swift Approach” works well for people that want to be right in the middle of it all, that’s for sure. I will admit to reading the MySpace blogs of Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat.

  6. J.R. But that’s part of my ‘taylor swift’ approach. You are accessible to the fans and you have to WANT to sign those autographs, even when you’re beyond tired because one pissed off fan will complain to high-heavens if they’re ‘snubbed’ by you. I’ve seen it happen.

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