What Content Marketing Can Learn From Indie Bands

It’s not that I don’t like any mainstream music, but I find myself regularly appalled at the Top 40 FM stations. After a while, everything sounds exactly the same to me or I just get tired of hearing it on heavy rotation. I did the DJ thing back in college, so I know it’s not really their fault that “Call Me, Maybe” is on twice an hour.

And it’s not that I never go see big acts, either. I have, and I’m sure that I will again.

Recently, however, it seems that every time I’m going to see a band live, someone says, “Who is that? I’ve never even heard of them before. What do they sing that I would know?”

And then I have to admit that I’m a music snob who is addicted to the indie stations on Sirius radio, so they’ve probably never heard anything by that band on FM.

By this point, you’re probably wondering how this has anything at all to do with content marketing. Stick with me.

Something that I love about going to see indie bands at small venues is that the bands are so approachable. In fact, last month I went to see Ingrid Michaelson and was pleasantly surprised to discover that a band that I’d been listening to for about a year, Scars on 45, was the opening act. No one seemed to know who they were, but I was really excited. After their set, I bought a copy of their new album and went back into the hall to discover their drummer was walking around selling CDs. I was able to get my copy autographed and my picture taken with him in less than three minutes.

After Ingrid’s set (which, by the way, was also fabulous), I noticed the two lead singers from Scars on 45 were working their own merch table, so I approached them. Some friendly conversation ensued, as well as more autographs and pictures. When we left the venue, what do you think I discovered outside?

(If you guessed “more members of Scars on 45 autographing CDs and selling their own merch,” then you are correct.)

It works the same way online. What I’ve noticed is that so many of these under-the-radar bands are also really approachable on various social media sites.

A combination of all of that is what got me thinking about content marketing and some lessons that indie bands can teach us about it.

#1: Build a following from your content.

I only knew a few songs by Scars on 45 when I saw them perform live, but that was enough for me to know that I liked their style.

For you, the content marketer, this translates to always putting your heart into your work. Yes, it can be tiring to feel like you’re running on a constant content treadmill. Yes, you’re going to have days where your creativity seems to be waning. But don’t give up. Those bands get tired of living in vans and never being home, but in the end, they give their all to make sure they’re sharing their best work with the audience and listeners.

Produce solid content and use social media to supplement it. Though I’m reluctant to use the term “rockstar,” in this case, I do quite literally mean it when I say that this is the rockstar way. Their songs are their major content, but clearly songs aren’t produced quite as prolifically as, say, blog posts.

So they maintain their following by establishing themselves on social media sites. They’re tweeting, Facebook-ing, and blogging, too.

And the fan interaction – don’t forget that part. It’s a big one. That’s the part that brings your following together and really solidifies it.

Catch their attention with quality content and give them a reason to keep coming back for more. I own every Butch Walker album from 1998, on – former band, side projects, and EPs included. Most of them have been purchased without ever listening to the whole album (or even any of the songs) first. I will always order his new albums the day pre-order starts because he’s been keeping my interest in between: blog posts, amusing tweets, interesting pictures from the road on Instagram, music videos, non-music videos, a book, and lots more.

And all of that? It’s great content. It keeps me hooked. And you can do it too. (Even the music video part. Ask any company who’s already made one, and I’m sure you’ll hear that they got a lot of great feedback about it. Really worth considering as an addition to your content strategy.)

Don’t forget to make that content easily accessible from your web site.

#2:  Being a small business can actually be an advantage.

Part of the allure, as I’ve said, with these small acts is that they’re very approachable. They don’t have the resources to hire people to do everything for them, so they do it themselves. The band members are the ones fielding questions and comments on Twitter and Facebook. They’re outside the venues interacting with the fans. They’re working their own merch tables. They’re writing their own blog posts from the road.

As a small business, you have this same advantage when it comes to content marketing. If you and your employees are interacting with your customers and prospects, they’re much more likely to remember that they talked to a real person with practical knowledge of the business and not someone whose sole purpose is to answer telephones. They’re going to remember that it was the CEO who replied to their blog comment. They’re going to remember that it was a principal who conversed with them via Twitter. They’re going to remember asking you questions and, two days later, seeing a blog post that addresses those very topics.

And that’s where you, the small business, have an advantage. Your following isn’t so large that it’s impossible for you to meet and talk to all of them, so hop to it.

Make that personal touch a part of your content strategy. Maybe two of your blog posts a month feature your clients or you’re really active on forums talking to them. The point is that you have the ability to be a major, personal presence, whereas larger corporations, though in possession of more resources, don’t. At least not always (there are always exceptions).

Be approachable.

#3: Develop a unique voice.

As I’ve also mentioned, part of the reason I love this kind of music so much is because it doesn’t all sound exactly the same to me like the stuff I hear on the radio. There’s a unique sound to it.

(Sometimes literally – the first time I ever heard Fitz & The Tantrums, my immediate reaction was to say, “Wow, you don’t hear a bari-sax too often these days.”)

Not only does the music have its own unique sound, but the artists do, as well. Their voices in blog posts and social media updates are strong – they use colloquialisms and talk about things other than themselves and their music. They share other content: pictures, videos, other artists they love.

They sound like real people.

Like real people with whom I want to interact and do business.

The long and the short of this tip is to not be afraid to sound like yourself. Whether it’s a blog post, social media update, eBook, white paper, or anything else, let your voice and personality be a presence in your content. Take chances. You want to be cordial, respectful, and professional, but you also want to let your audience know that you’re a real person.

Real people with real personalities and unique voices will almost always win out over automation or someone who sounds too stiff and formal to be engaging.

All of this doesn’t just hold true for indie musicians, either. Think of something that you feel is like a best-kept secret – maybe it’s a band, but maybe it’s a writer, a clothing line, a bookstore, a restaurant, or something else entirely. What keeps drawing you back to it? My guess is that “quality content” will factor in there somewhere (however the “content” applies).

Based on your own experiences, then, what tips would you add to this list?

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Renee is a writer currently living in Central Pennsylvania (whatever you've heard is probably true). In addition to writing for CEM, she serves as the Managing Editor for Business 2 Community and pursues her dream of once again renting her own apartment (preferably in Philadelphia), if only to house her ever-growing collection of books. She received a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MA in English from George Mason. She's still waiting for someone to write a song about her life so she can just quote the lyrics for her author bios. Catch up with her on Twitter , LinkedIn, or reneedecoskey.com.

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