What Musicians Can Teach Businesses About Inbound Marketing

by Dustin J. Hall | 6 MIN READ

musicians inbound

I (as well as the Firesnap agency) have provided inbound marketing services to companies for almost a decade. But prior to my career as a marketing agency owner, I was a professional musician and band manager for several years. I toured many parts of the U.S., negotiated contracts, secured TV licensing, handled promotions, logistics, etc.

Contrary to the care-free adventure people imagine the rock n' roll life being, it was actually grueling, tedious work. Much like being an entrepreneur, it involved a lot of sleepless nights on the computer (or in whatever coffee shop had free wi-fi) trying to grow reach and revenue.

In fact, many of the successful strategies I know as a marketer today, I originally learned during my time in the music industry.

Yes, professional musicians can teach marketers at even the most corporate companies a few lessons on successful inbound marketing.

Below you'll find 6 of the more obvious lessons, though I'm sure others could be added.

Music (Content) Comes First

musicians inbound marketing

Before we cover music and content, ask yourself this question:

Have you ever intentionally bought an album or downloaded a song you didn't like?


Likewise, bands that write music no one finds appealing tend to not do very well. The driving force of most successful musicians, from the Beatles to Michael Jackson to George Straight, are exceptional songs (i.e. content). And great songs are what drive fans to buy and share music. Super simple.

This exact same concept applies to businesses.

To produce successful marketing programs that drive growth, you need exceptional content that people will be willing to consume and share with others. In the digital marketing world, you need this more than you need just about anything else.

In fact, a 2014 study by the Content Marketing Institute shows that the most effective B2C marketers allocate 32% of their marketing budgets toward content marketing, while the least effective only allocate 10%.

Without killer content, businesses are destined to be garage bands, struggling to pay the bills and dreaming about someday winning the local Battle of the Bands.

Love Thy Fans

Sure there are plenty of musicians without fans out there, but can you name one (moms and spouses don't count)?


Musicians are acutely in tune (pun intended) with the fact that survival is impossible without fans...lots of them. Showing love to the fans is critical for this very reason.

Businesses have fans too.

They're called leads, clients, partners and employees.

And much like a band, these fans are the real revenue generators. It's critical to show them love just like musicians love their fans. I don't mean any awkward backstage activities - more like keeping them delighted with your business by recognizing them, consistently delivering value and taking the time to listen to them. An occassional hug might not hurt either.

Related: 5 Survey Types that Boost Your Inbound Marketing Efforts

You Gotta Hit the Road

inbound-marketing-musicIn today's digital music landscape of illegal downloads and 360 deals, musicians know that if they want to make money, they can't just sit around recording in the studio all day, waiting for people to buy their music.

They've gotta hit the road.

Sure, there's a chance their music could go viral on iTunes or YouTube, but getting in front of people and sharing their content is the surest way to successful growth. The more time spent daydreaming and hoping their music goes viral, the less time spent paying off their mortgage.

The lesson for businesses.

The odds of a blog article, video or even case study going viral are, well, close to zero. So if businesses want to be successful with inbound marketing, they too must "hit the road." This road is constructed of social media, email marketing, PPC and other channels of content promotion.

Organizations must plan on getting in front of as many people as they can. And much like musicians cut down on travel expenses by strategically organizing tour routes, businesses must also strategize the most efficient ways to route their online marketing journey through structured research and data gathering (leaving any opinions at the door).

Roll with the Punches

If every musician quit when somebody told them their music sucked or no one attended their concert, there would be no music in this world...period.

One of the first things musicians learn (well, most of them anyway) is to roll with the punches.

Not everyone is going to like the music. Not everyone will share it with all of their friends and wear the heinous sleeveless T-shirt out to parties. That's life, but it's not a good reason to quit playing music altogether.

This same philosophy applies to a business's content marketing endeavors.

Not everyone is going to like your online content, or even read it for that matter. At first, it may even seem like NO ONE is paying attention at all.

But does that mean it doesn't work, doomed to failure and worthless to pursue? No!

It simply means you have to keep trying, consistently learning from your failures by testing and optimizing.

At some point, you'll realize small successes and build upon them to create content that attracts fans on a regular basis.

Never "Sell Out" and Dominate Your Niche

music-marketingHang out with musicians long enough and you'll quickly learn that "selling out" is one of the worst things any artist can do.

"Selling out" means abandoning your unique sound or style for one that's already been made popular by other musicians with the intention of (hopefully) making more money.

Essenitally, trying to be everything to everybody for the sake of cash.

While it's possible selling out may produce more money, it much more commonly results in an ostracized fan base and loss of credibility in the community.

Real-World Example:

Ever heard of the French-American heavy metal band, Gojira?

Odds are very high your answer is no.

And yet regardless of their relatively unpopular status within today's mainstream music scene, Gojira has managed to sell millions of dollars of music and merchandise worldwide and have even landed multiple Grammy nominations.

If one day Gojira decided to cut their hair, put on some overalls and write country music, they would quickly lose every fan they have within their niche.

Businesses are no different.

Successful products and services often solve a unique problem within a specific market. Take IT security solutions, for example. If you work for a manufacturer and have been tasked with researching reputable IT security firms, would you sooner call the IT company that offers general security along with other IT solutions, or would you call the firm that specializes in IT security for manufacturers? Exactly.

Most people would not only opt for the specialist more frequently, they would also pay more for those specialized services because the perceived value is higher. This explains why cardiologists make roughly $500k per year while general practitioners earn about $200k.

In short, avoid "selling out" and stick to what you do best if you wish to dominate your niche and make higher margins in the process.

Know Your Audience and Scene

Professional musicians learn early on that promoting everything to everyone on their contact list is a sure-fire way to earn painful unsubscribes and reduce the size of their contact list...and musicians survive on contact lists!

In order to maximize reach and sales, musicians regularly segment their contact lists by geography, gender, age and other criteria to increase relevance, while also ensuring that their concert and new release promotions are well-timed.

The lesson for businesses.

Businesses also survive on their ability to grow and engage their contact lists. It's critical that professional marketers accurately segment their lists to increase relevance and timeliness.

Some of the more common contact list segmentation criteria used for marketing includes...

Buyer Personas - specific categories of contacts grouped by shared demographic data, industry type, geographic location, company data, etc.

Lifecycle Stage - common stages in the buying cycle, such as subscriber, lead, marketing qualified lead (MQL), sales qualified lead (SQL), opportunity, customer, etc.

Related: 3 Brilliant Buyer Persona Tools Every Inbound Marketer Should Know


When it comes to the fundamentals of marketing, musicians are actually quite savvy.

So next time your at a concert next to a bunch of long haired, tattooed musicians, try getting the party started by striking up a conversation about marketing strategy!

Or get the idea.

Create campaigns that rock using our free guide!

Download the Buyer Persona Creation Guide

Originally published July 17, 2014. Updated January 17, 2018.