Sooner or later, musicians ask themselves, “How do I market my band more effectively?” In their effort to find answers, musicians often ask friends, family members or other musicians, and receive a variety of answers, such as:

  • Record a song
  • Post a video on social
  • Get professional photos

Recordings, videos and professional band photos are all certainly important and necessary. Yet to market your band more effectively, each are ultimately a spoke on a wheel, connected to a central, core question that ideally shapes and directs overall promotion for anyone marketing anything:

What makes you unique?

In business, companies call the answer to this question a “value proposition”—a short statement that clearly and succinctly answers the #1 question that customers ask themselves:

“Why should I choose your product/service above any other competing product/service?”

In developing answers to this question, businesses spend time carefully determining the uniqueness of whatever they’re selling, and steer all marketing material by it. A few examples from well-known advertising slogans:

  • “Bounty, the quicker picker upper” (faster than the competition)
  • “Lay’s—betcha can’t eat just one” (more compellingly delicious than the competition)
  • “Pitney Bowes—we power transactions that drive commerce” (more profitable, by implication, than the competition)

While many bands prefer not to think of themselves as businesses (or disdain the notion altogether), most music fans nonetheless ask themselves the central consumer question when it comes to going to shows (or buying music):

“Why should I choose to see a performance by your band above any other performances by any other band?”

Bands answer this question in a variety of ways:

  • Some bands play original songs. Why should someone see a band that plays originals? Because audience members can’t see another band playing those songs. And even if another band covers those originals, it’s always a more unique experience to see the band that wrote the songs and performs them in a way that only that band can perform.
  • Some bands put together unique cover-song shows, like classic albums live. Why should someone see a band that plays classic albums live? Because audience members find few opportunities to hear their favorite albums played in their entirety, note for note. Other takes on unique cover-song shows include Christmas music shows (e.g. Trans-Siberian Orchestra) and video game music (Video Games Live).
  • Some bands perform with such infectious energy that, whether they play originals or covers (or a blend), their fans come to shows because they cannot experience the same “wow” factor with other bands.
  • Others attract audiences with over-the-top presence, kitsch and high camp (e.g. Steel Panther).
  • Still other bands offer introspective performances of such emotional depth and relatable subject matter that audiences feel more understood and connected than with other bands.

Many bands, of course, combine several elements to distinguish themselves and define their uniqueness, but I think you get the gist.

In whatever way that bands choose to define their uniqueness to stand out from the crowd, their “value proposition” becomes the guiding element for all marketing material.

So, define your uniqueness. Ask yourself, “What are some of the notions I might have to give up to get there?

Here’s a tip: If you’ve ever felt “weird” or “different,” you just might be onto something.

Most importantly, clearly define what it is you love about music. What are you compelled to share? Answers to these questions not only create an energy that attracts fans and followers. It provides fuel to sustain you through challenging times and provides lasting meaning to the awesome times.