At one point or another in every creative’s career, he or she learns the business/marketing side of things is just as important as the act of producing. When you get down to it, all creatives — whether they’re painters, poets, authors or musicians — want the same thing: to get people to notice their work and turn those people into fans. I’ve followed Eric Church for some years, but it wasn’t until the release of his latest album and seeing him live for the first time that I truly appreciated the genius behind his creative branding.
The show goes on.
A week ago, after sitting through a really terrible opening act, Church finally came onstage, alone, with an acoustic guitar. He played the opening song and then stopped to say this:
“If you’ve seen our show so far on this tour, you’re probably wondering what the hell is going on right now. Well, so am I. Here’s the deal: yesterday we had the stomach flu strike our band, our crew, everyone. We had no one to hang video, lights, nothing. But I’m still here. I’m still standing. We’ve talked about how every show on the Outsiders Tour is different. Well tonight, will be the most different one. Shit there’s nobody left, its just me. I’m going to give you everything I got. We have a couple band guys that feel okay to get up and down here. Here’s the deal — on Memorial Day we’re going to come back and play the full show. I’m not going anywhere, I’m here to play.”
- Eric Church is a true creative professional. He knows that singing (insert writing, painting, whatever here) is his job. It’s what he loves, but it’s also what pays the bills. There are going to be times when problems come up and everything is an uphill battle. To the true professional, however, the show always goes on. No matter what.
- I was a big fan of Eric Church when I showed up at the concert last Saturday night. But because of what happened above, I’m not just a fan anymore, I’m a full-blown fanatic (no, they aren’t the same thing). Even if he hadn’t sounded awesome acoustically (which he did) and even though it will cost him to play the same venue again for free, what Church gained in fan loyalty that night more than makes up for it. After the concert, I told everyone I knew in person and on social media what happened. In fact, it inspired this post! I know hundreds of other people felt the same and Eric Church’s tribe grew as a result. Go the extra mile for your fans and they’ll do the same for you.
No matter how much success you have, create the art you love.
The Outsiders, Eric Church’s latest album, deviated quite a bit from what he’d done before. Probably a full half of the albym couldn’t even be considered country music. But, as Church explained in a pre-release interview with Spin: “We were way left of center (with the previous album, Chief), and all the sudden, center moved left. When that happened, yeah, that freaked me out. I don’t like being there. I never, ever, ever want to be in the middle. I never want to be the standard.”
Although The Outsiders still has mainstream hits, songs like That’s Damn Rock and Roll, Devil, Devil (a personal favorite of mine and one I HIGHLY recommend all creatives listen to) and the title track, The Outsiders were way out in left field — just like Church wanted. A lot of people said the album had too much rock and in the same Spin interview Church admitted that some people would hate it. But he also promised some would love it.
Trim your tribe. It’s okay to weed out people who only feel so-so about your art. The ones you want are the people who go out and tell everyone about your latest project and devour everything you produce.
Learn how to market all of your creative funnels.
Before he got into music, Church graduated from Appalachian State with a degree in Marketing and he is the first to admit the importance of branding to his success. Part of that branding is his deep and unique collection of songs. Many musicians come out at concerts and play nothing but hits and singles. Sure, they’ll throw in a duet or an acoustic version sometimes, but for the most part, it’s all songs people know from the radio.
I’ve been impressed that Church’s set lists for The Outsiders tour include at least three or four songs that weren’t singles or hits — songs going all the way back to his first two albums. Not only is it refreshing to hear an artist play something that isn’t on the radio twenty times a day, it also exposes causal fans to Church’s unique style. It gives them another entry point to those songs and albums they might not know about. In a time where music sales (for those people who still buy music) is based around single songs, this tactic is a clever way to increase exposure (and, in turn, purchases) of those lesser-known songs and albums Not only will some people hear songs they weren’t aware of before, they’ll also associate that song with their concert experience. When that happens, what you’re selling is a memory, an emotional experience — something much more powerful than a casual listen of Spotify or Pandora.
Create multiple ways for people to enter your creative funnels — to sample and be converted to fans and buyers. This is made easier by lowering purchase barriers with emotional ties.
The best marketers watch those around them and are constantly looking for ways to innovate their brand. Don’t limit your studying to just indie authors. There are tons of successful artists out there to learn from.
Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.