Creating the perfect pitch

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Your elevator pitch is a serious element to your artist branding that will define you in the minds of your fans and potential fans

Artist branding expert Arial Hyatt

Excerpted from Music Success in Nine Weeks, A Step-By-Step Guide to Supercharging Your PR, Building Your Fan Base, and Earning More Money. This section on artist branding is reprinted with permission.

Here is a key lesson in branding yourself that can really set you up to have a major breakthrough for your musical career. What you will create here will define you in the minds of your fans and potential fans.

Two scenarios happened to inspire the writing of this:

Scenario #1: I was out at a show at the Mercury Lounge in NYC, and in between bands, I was standing at the bar talking to some friends when someone handed me a show flyer. I was taken with him immediately. I always appreciate anyone who is self-promoting because it is not easy to do and it is especially not easy at a crowded bar on a Wednesday night in downtown Manhattan. I looked down at the flyer and my heart sank. It said the following:

  • Name of artist (name is not mentioned to protect the innocent)
  • Venue (which was the Mercury, where I was)
  • Date and show time

There I was, a perfectly primed potential fan; a customer standing at a bar, out at a live music show and he lost me forever. Why? Because not one sentence was included about what genre of music this artist played, much less what his music sounded like or who he could be compared to. In short, I had no idea what this artist sounded like or what to expect from his show. And to top it off, there was no website on the flyer. On the off-chance that I had taken it home, I would never have known where to find him online.

That was an opportunity totally LOST. Unbeknownst to him, he also handed his flyer to one of the most successful entertainment attorneys I know (who was in the middle of signing six artists to record deals), an A&R executive, and one of the best booking agents in the business.

We all looked down at the flyers in our hands, shrugged, and carried on with our conversation. He had totally BLOWN it.

Scenario #2: An artist called my PR firm to talk about hiring us for a Cyber PR campaign. Two minutes into the conversation my blood was beginning to boil. It went something like this:

Ariel: “What do you sound like?”
Artist: “I sound like absolutely nothing you’ve ever heard before.”
Ariel: (annoyed and now understanding why he’s not where he wants to be as an artist) “Really? So you’ve invented a new genre of music and you don’t sound like anyone else in the history of music?”
Artist: “Yes”
Ariel: “Can you at least tell me what type of music you play?”
Artist: “It’s old school hip hop.”

OK, finally we were getting somewhere. Now, while I totally understood his point, here’s the problem with having an approach like his: People are constantly looking for a context to put things into. If you don’t provide them with one, they will move on to the next thing that their brains can actually grasp.

The critical thing that was missing in both scenarios was The Pitch.

The pitch
A pitch. Marketers call a USP (unique selling point), my friend Bob Baker calls a BIS (brand identity statement), and Laura Allen (pitch expert and founder of 15secondpitch.com) calls a 15-second pitch.

Call it what you want, this thing will change the way you market yourself and your music and give everyone a context. It is critical that you have a concise and easy-to-understand pitch that will help you shape your brand.

Your perfect pitch
Your pitch does not have to be lengthy to be effective; it just has to explain your sound and or your live show in a few words or sentences.

Here are some of my favorites from my clients to jump-start your brain:
Leftover Salmon – Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass
John Taglieri – If Vertical Horizon and Third Eye Blind got hit by Train!
Devil Doll – Jessica Rabbit meets Joan Jett

Go to this fabulous website: www.15secondpitch.com. This will help you structure and hone your pitch and it will TIME you too! Note, this site is a business pitch site, but you ARE a business and the structure that it provides is very helpful.

Write out your pitch
Write out your pitch. (Ed. note: for more details and step-by-step guided tour through this process, get Ariel’s book, details are at the end of the article). Read it out loud, standing in front of the mirror. Do you love it? If you don’t then don’t use it.

I once worked with a band that chose the term “Soul Rock” to describe their sound, and after it was published countless times, they were hating it. So make sure it’s something that you can deal with in print, over and over again, and something that you won’t get sick of.

Say it loud
Stand in front of the mirror and practice saying it. Does it feel comfortable to say it or do you feel like a dork? If you feel like you’re speaking your truth, you will absolutely know and then it is the perfect pitch for you.

Still not sure? Read it to a bunch of friends and fans and ask them to work on it with you! Don’t over think it. Keep it simple and as concise as you can.

Place your pitch
Now that you have it, you’re going to place it in the following places. What you are doing now is branding yourself.

Online Branding:
1. On your website’s homepage – yes, on the HOMEPAGE – and on as many pages as you can. Put it at the top of your bio, don’t bury it in the site).
2. On your MySpace page.
3. On your Facebook page.
4. On all social-networking sites that you use and anywhere else you have an online presence.
5. As the signature on your email correspondences, newsletters, and gig alerts.

Offline Branding:
1. On your postcards.
2. On your show flyers.
3. On your posters and anything else you have in print.

Now when you’re out somewhere and you hand someone a flyer announcing your show, you’re handing someone your brand. People will know exactly what you do and it will be effective marketing.

Music Success in Nine weeksAriel Hyatt founded Ariel Publicity and Cyber PR 12 years ago and her firm has worked with over 1,000 musicians and bands of all genres. The Ariel Publicity mission states that all artists deserve to be heard and there is a place for artists of every level to receive exposure. Go to www.arielpublicity.com to learn more and sign up for Sound Advice, Ariel Publicity’s bi-monthly e-zine for musicians and entrepreneurs who want marketing, promotion, and PR tips for navigating the new music business.

Ariel’s book, Music Success in Nine weeks, is designed to supercharge your PR, help you connect to a broader fan base, and make you more money! Initially designed as a step-by-step program for my clients Ariel realized this is exactly the information that all artists could benefit from. Buy your copy today at http://cyberprbook.com/.

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29 thoughts on “Creating the perfect pitch

  1. FOR THE NOVICE SINGER

    There are Two Tips my instructors have always said about singing that I pass along in Churches we are working with:

    1. When one is reaching for a lower note/tone think a little lower than you are going to and you will be right on, most of the time. 

    2. When one is reaching for a higher note/tone think a little higher than you are going to and you will be right on , most of the time.

    HOW TO DETECT IF ONE IS OUT OF PITCH?

    If you listen to instruments when they are out of pitch you can hear this, almost like, vibrato effect going on until they are in sync with each other in pitch.  

    In voice it becomes distorted somewhat and the term used is called 
    dissonance.

    TRAINING THE EAR TO ACTUALLY HEAR

    You can play a tone and practicing matching the tone you are playing.  Practice going out of pitch on pupose so you can hear the difference and the effects it gives. 

    The best way is to work on such things are Practicing Scales with a well-tuned piano.  If you are not able to play piano well enough find someone who is to help you or check into some of the Community Colleges for a Class Voice course where such exercises are done at the beginning of ever class. [Most of the time these classes are more affordable than anywhere else.]

    OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT

    A Good Vocal Coach will tell you that when you sing you are to use the same muscles you use when you laugh (lower muscles) in the Diaphram [ Diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, belly breathing or deep breathing is breathing that is done by contracting the diaphragm, a muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and stomach cavity. Air enters the lungs and the belly expands during this type of breathing. – Wikipedia ]

    NOTE:  Men will have more problems with this due to earlier in age trying to stick out their chests in a manly way and breath in that sense that women will.

    TAKING SOME CLASSES WILL GET YOU ON YOUR WAY

    I would say take some classes for about six months should get you well on your way and suggest if one is not financially of means to consider taking these classes at the local Community College.  

    Take note that there are many who claim to be “Vocal Coaches,” but are impostors; this, too, is a another reason to take classes at your local Community College.  

    ARROGANCE TEACHING DOES NOT BELONG IN A CLASS

    Know that if a teacher is rude or arrogant that is a sign of insecurity and drop the course and ask for your money back.  

    A great teacher will be able to work with you without being rude.  I say this for there are Colleges who teach differently to those who teach and use a method of teaching where they are hard on people and for some, maybe that works.  HOWEVER, I never liked that approach in Teaching and have found that the best way to teach is to find they way the students mind understands and teach in his/her learning language.

    Charles of “Higher Call”
    c/o A “Higher Call” To Artists
    Promoting & Encouraging Christ & Christians In The Arts – Since 1996

  2. I normally refrain from commenting on these – but I feel it’s important. The advise in this article is not entirely great. A 15 second pitch is extremely important, and context is necessary – but – people actually need to know what the hell you are talking about. Polyethnic Cajun Slamgrass, while very colorful, barely makes sense. Polyethnic Cajun would be better. Point of picking on one example is that flowery language is confusing, not convincing. Easy formula: Adjective Genre Theme. Uplifting Rock about the changes we go through in life. Live Instrument Hip Hop with sci-fi based content. Whatever.

    I also warn about being too comparative. Never lead anything with I sound like these other people. If someone asks, have an answer prepared. People do need context, B

  3. I was taking 3 minutes…Thanks for such good advice! We play a lot of biker venues [KathyJo covers Janis Joplin and blues/rock covers from that era] and I was taking to long decribing our origionals….I’ll get your book to see what other gold I can mine.”For your Bluzification!”

  4. Excellent advice. I used to describe my stuff as “new age easy listening disco rap” but that only applied to one song, so I’ve switched to “progressive psychedelic rap,” which is about as close as I can get with just three words.

  5. Great info! Much food for thought,Thanx! By the way, I sing Gospel. Smooth Gospel with R&B flavor, a touch of soul,and mind melting lyrics. I sound like Al Green,Larry Graham,Jerry Butler,and Frankie Beverly in the same body. Hear me at( cdbaby.com/cd/jesseojohnson)

  6. This is great information!!
    I suggest that this article be taken very seriously as it is right on target. I have had many people hand me flyers that just didn’t say anything to catch and hold my attention. Needless to say I have yet seen any of their shows.

  7. As a solo artist and songwriter it’s easy to forget (or avoid) the necessity of self- promotion. Thanks for taking the time to make some very helpful observations.

    New album release “Forgiven”

  8. Good advice, Ariel! I perform and have recorded a CD which appeals to a rather specialized audience. My fans understand what my “brand” is all about, although the general public sometimes does not. I describe myself as performing “old-time music and traditional ballads,” and specify that I “sing and play banjo, guitar and concertina”. I put this info on my website (www.alanfriendmusic.com), fliers and business cards so that people know exactly my style of music. Being so specific helps my promotion efforts a great deal.
    Thanks for your thoughtful suggestions.
    Alan

  9. Great points! Some of the basics but forgotten all too often.

    My favorite:
    Ariel: “What do you sound like?”
    Artist: “I sound like absolutely nothing you’ve ever heard before.”

    Producers hear this all the time as well. Always met with a *sigh* 🙂

    Thanks!

    Damon Cisneros

  10. REDNECK ROCK!!!
    HELLO ARIEL, I AM BERNIE FAULKNER. YOUR COMMENTS ARE RIGHT ON!!..I HAVE DEVELOPED SEVERAL ACTS, BILLY RAY CYRUS, TROY GENTRY,AND MORE…THE ONES WHO RISE TO THE TOP HAVE A CLEAR VISION OF WHO THEY ARE AND WHAT THEY WANT TO ACCOMPLISH.
    WALK ,TALK ,ACT AND THINK AND YOU WILL BECOME…
    I AM WORKING WITH A NEW ACT “DUSTN BRADLEY”.
    WE JUST FINISHED RECORDING 4 GREAT SONGS IN NASHVILLE..
    IT’S REDNECK ROCK!!!!!!!! THANKS BERNIE

  11. That was important info for the indies.’ You have to know who you are before others can even imagine. I tell people all the time; I am Alternative, Inspirational, Out and Proud Hip Hop. And proud of it. Then before it is over, I look them in the eye and say……………’RapSpire UR Area!’
    Samples @ cdbaby.com/cd/souljasoulja

  12. Thanks for a great article! It’s always best to hear proven formulas and methods that work. Marketing and promotion is really important especially if you’re trying to do it yourself. Thanks for the enlightenment!

    Trent Brooks

  13. Great article,you’d think those would know to put such information on bio’s,flyers,etc but it shows the lack of marketing knowledge that most definitely needs to provided ti pursue one’s interest in any artist.thank you for helping that little extra that I needed. Aloha, hec deez.

  14. As an artist I’ve traveled to many places and i’ve dealt with many different independent labels, I have performed on stages from Calfornia to Baltimore, Md. I have had the priveledge of being the opening act for alot of major names in the industry. One thing that I have found out is that it’s not easy to cross over from unknown to well known, there are alot of fraudulent people in the industry today as we know it, that creates a barrier and a wall that makes it nearly impossible for a artist to get a genuine deal. Everyone claims to know somebody that knows somebody and all you have to do is lace their pockets with money and they’ll allow you to meet and mingle with the so-called big wigs of the music industry. It’s not fair to artists who genuinely market,promote, and invest everything they have into their careers just to find a bunch of dead ends. What I would like to do is create a successful bridge for artists and entrepreneurs alike to meet with the actual criteria it takes to become a well known artist, entertainer, etc. Most people don’t know what to do or where to go to get to the next level of success. There are countless books and tutorials on how to make it in the industry but none of them give you actual connections, alot of the listings for A&R’s and managers are outdated or just plain wrong numbers, you send emails but get no responses so where do you go from there? If there is someone out there who’s really listening let me know. Alarcon Tha Don……Album: The Only Begotten Son

    1. Alarcon, I’d say that a good place to start would be to improve your own ability to give more value to more people. If you’re in tune with what your audience wants, and you consistently over-deliver, then you’ll have more leverage to catapult you to a higher level.

      If your focus is on getting other people to lift you up, then you’re probably neglecting the very things that would draw those people to you. If your focus is on giving more value to the people who are already in front of you, then you’ll have more people in front of you. If you can increase your audience and your profits on your own then you’ll be far more likely to get other people to want to invest in your business (band).

      The connections that you’re looking for won’t do you much good until you’re ready for them. If and when you’re ready for them they’ll appear.

  15. Thanks Ariel for a wonderful article. It gave me such great information on how to get results. I’ve put your recommendations to the test and they have already generated sales. My sincere thanks.

    Rob Attinello

  16. Excellent article!
    I recently had the honor of having former Warner Bros./Reprise Artist Developer Linda Baker take me under her wing and mentor me in the music business. It doesn’t matter how great your chops are, if you don’t have the promo stuff down pat, you’re going nowhere. I’ve been focusing my attention on marketing and targeting audiences that are specific to my genre of music, and I’m suddenly getting busy. Listen to the ad executives, and those that are involved in marketing.
    I also learned to let go of control over all aspects of my musical career that don’t involve me playing my fiddle, and slowly have formed a great team that can take care of all the periphials. This frees me up to continue to write, and research music for my audiences.
    Peace to you

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