Part 3. Marketing Preparations – Without Knowing Anything About Marketing

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monk playing electric guitar in the monastery

Continuing the history of making the first album.

As the title indicates, this entry is going to be about some of my pre-release marketing preparations. If I was going to go to all this trouble to write and record an album, I wanted the world to know when I released it.

If you are like me, you know a musician or two who spent a lot of time, energy and money recording their first album. They are talented and can sing and play their instrument well. The songs are written and recorded with good production values. But nobody other than you, some friends and their family members ever heard of this musician or their brilliant CD.

I decided early on, I was not going to be that guy. More people than just my family and friends were going to hear about it when my album got released.

I am a Graphic Artist in my day job. My graphics skill set came in really handy with the development of the marketing materials for the album. For all you musicians out there who aren’t talented in the visual arts, you need to find someone who is. Maybe one of your friends is a web designer or knows someone who knows someone. I knew a band who had an average looking logo – then one of their fans made them a new one (based on the old one) by carving it out of wood! It was so much better than their old logo; they threw out the old and started using the woodcarving.

I’m not going to spell out all the details of “How I Built My Website”, but I will provide a few general guidelines. First thing, I had to have a one, preferably with a simple domain name. gregorianrock.com is going to be easy for people to remember, I won’t have to spell it out and it doesn’t contain a hyphen. These are three good rules to follow for domain names.
As for what to include in the site and how to present it, I looked at successful bands I liked, and emulated them. We’ve all been on those sites that have poor navigation or look like they were built by somebody who had never built a website before. Don’t have a site like that! Keep it simple and professional.

A huge addition to my marketing preparations was a music video for the first single, “Sanctus”.

There are books with titles like “How to Make a Music Video”. I’m not going to rewrite that book right now, but I will tell you some of what I did. What I did was a much more ambitious approach than most people will do for their first music video. And, it was going to be ambitious with almost no budget.

The first thing I did was write a one paragraph description of what was going to happen visually while the song played. With that as my guide, I broke it down further into seven sections and made notes about each one. I wrote down how quickly the cuts would happen, lighting changes, types of camera movement, and other general ideas. Then I made a detailed storyboard that showed the length of every shot, the visual composition, what type of transition, the subject’s movement in the frame, et al. As I shot my video, the storyboard was modified to accommodate various changing circumstances and revelations. For example – I had a certain player doing something for a shot in the storyboard, but when I edited that shot in, I noticed that that musician wasn’t actually playing at that moment in the song. The shot was moved and the storyboard updated.

There wasn’t a convenient monastery to shoot in, so I built a virtual set in Lightwave (3D software). My plan was to use a green screen and composite the actors into my virtual set (I told you it was ambitious). I bought a costume and props; borrowed a green screen curtain; built a frame out of PVC pipe and rebar on which to hang it; upgraded my software (the most expensive thing in the budget); and so on. For some really great tips on video in general and special effects in particular, check out http://revision3.com/filmriot. These guys have great advice for those of us with low budgets.

Early test footage revealed a number of important items: I couldn’t shoot at home in the room I first planned because the ceiling fan hung down to low and showed up in the frame; the camcorder I was going to use wasn’t as good as our still camera for shooting video; I was going to need to upgrade my copy of Adobe Creative Suite to get the results I wanted. This is noteworthy because having a plan is as essential as being willing to modify that plan.

As shooting progressed, I found that people have schedules and go out of town and have all manner of things come up that delay the process. Once again, I tried to roll with the punches and just get the things done that I could, when people were available.

Like I have described in earlier posts, the music production was taking much longer than I envisioned. There came a point when I had to draw a line in the sand and say, “no more waiting for tracks to arrive.” So even though there were still some songs on which live players would have been nice, eventually I decided that a few midi tracks were going to have to suffice.

Up to this point, I had been doing most of the album with almost no budget. But now I had arrived at a point where I needed to hire a real pro to be my audio engineer. It was time for mixdown and mastering, two things that often make the difference between a CD sounding “ok” and “amazing & professional.”

How would I pay for this? It would mean saving up for many months. More delay. Then someone said, “Use kickstarter.com to fund your project.” My response was “What is that?” Thus began my introduction to crowd-funding.

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