The Art of Using Words to Sell Music…

Comments: 22

I’m not going to beat around the bush… Making it in the music business is hard.

We sell a very cheap product, which is expensive to produce and manufacture, and our market is inundated with competition. Moreover, the product we sell (music) does not overtly solve any clear or specific problem and therefore the old problem/solution marketing tricks don’t work for us.

It’s a tough business…

But I don’t think any of us signed up to be musicians because we thought it was an easy way to get rich. We became musicians because we felt “the calling”. At some point in our lives some aspect of music made us think to ourselves… that is what I want to do with my life!

At some point a little further down that track we asked ourselves, ok… how exactly am I going to be able to make a living doing this?

It used to be fairly straight forward: Record, perform, sell music from shows, rinse and repeat. Hoping all the while, that some record executive would take notice and give you a million dollars to sign with their label. While that still does happen from time to time, that’s just not the way it works anymore.

The bad news first: Record Labels can’t afford to develop artists anymore. If you’re not already attracting millions of fans on your own, or you’re not 16 years old and attached to a Grammy winning producer, most record labels just can’t afford to take the chance and invest in your career. And when they do, the money is not what it used to be. Moreover, streaming has killed the “curiosity sale” and for many independent artists, revenue has plummeted.

Now the good news: On the positive side of things, the internet has (to a large extent), decentralized the music industry. The major label distribution channels as well as mainstream radio, just doesn’t matter like it used to. Anyone with good music and some drive, now has access to the market. If you employ smart direct to fan marketing strategies anyone can make a living as a musician.

It’s really not that complicated… Instead of the old “If you build it they will come” strategies, today’s successful independent artists need simply:

  1. Drive traffic.
  2. Turn that traffic into a mailing list and/or social media following (usually by giving away a little free music to new subscribers).
  3. Build an authentic relationship with your subscribers.
  4. Ask your subscribers to spend a bit of money with you from time to time on music, tickets, and merch.
  5. Your income will be in direct proportion to the size of your list.


So why does it seem so hard and why doesn’t this work for everyone?

The reality is that there are a lot of little nuances behind each one of those steps outlines above. Get something wrong and it can throw everything off. If your marketing is not completely optimized it can be VERY difficult to make paid advertising profitable (remember… cheap product, small profit margins, competitive market). And it’s very hard to scale your fan base up to where it needs to be without advertising.

So… success with direct to fan marketing means that every step in the process really needs to be on target. If your ads are not performing well, subscribers will be too expensive. If subscribers are too expensive then you won’t profit on your sales. Every single aspect of your marketing needs to be “optimized”.

Successfully optimizing a campaign boils down to one, not-very-sexy word, that few musicians really understand…

That word is “COPYWRITING”.

Copywriting is a term that gets thrown around a lot in marketing circles. It often gets confused with writing product descriptions, brochures, or traditional advertisements. Those are forms of copywriting as well, but the kind of copywriting we marketers refer to is the art of using words to motivate people to take action. Aka, “direct response copywriting”.

It’s all about the “Fan Journey”…

To visualize how copywriting can help you build your fan base and sell more music, start by imagining a total stranger who has never heard of you on one end of an arc. On the other end of that arc you have a raving fan who shares your music with others and regularly spends money on your music, merchandise, and tickets to your shows.

But people don’t just go from total stranger to true fan in a single click. There are many steps in between those two points.

The key 7 steps on the true fan journey include…

  1. Awareness (prospect sees a post about your music).
  2. Interest (prospect identifies with the sound and experience that you claim your music offers and becomes intrigued.
  3. Engagement (prospect listens to your music, comments on blog post, engages with you on social media).
  4. Purchase (prospect makes their first small purchase or – if streaming your music – ads your music to a playlist).
  5. Becomes fan (prospect gets value from their purchase).
  6. Becomes true fan (your fan becomes a true fan and continues to support your creative endeavors by making additional purchases).
  7. Endorsement (fan shares your music with others).

Occasionally a person will complete this arc all on their own. But there is much that can be done to influence the masses to take this “fan journey” each and every day.

…this is where COPYWRITING comes in.

By mastering the art of using words to motivate people you can pique the interest of strangers, build relationships with fans, and convince people to spend money with you and help support your career.

One doesn’t need to be the world’s greatest writer (in fact many successful copywriters are not), one simply needs to understand the fundamental dynamics at play and the triggers that actually motivate people. Beyond that, it’s simply a matter of testing.

As someone who has been working as a marketing consultant for over a decade, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched a total dud of a campaign get turned around by simply changing the words in a headline.

While “copywriting” may not be the sexiest of topics. It is, in my humble opinion, the single most important skill you can master if you want to learn how to sell your music (or anything for that matter) online.

One tweak of a sentence might mean a 500% increase in income. It can make that huge of a difference.

Because it’s so important, and also misunderstood, I’m going to be holding a FREE Copywriting Q & A webinar this coming Thursday, June 28th.

During the webinar I will share some of my favorite strategies for writing great copy, and answer any questions you might have about the art of using words to generate fans and sell music.

On the call we will discuss writing better ad copy, social media posts, blog posts, and emails, in a way that is natural, and doesn’t make you feel like a cheese ball. You know who you are J

Again, this free copywriting webinar will take place this coming Thursday June 28th at Noon Pacific.

To take part you need only:

  1. Click here.
  2. Enter your name and email address so I can send you the webinar login info.
  3. Go to the webinar broadcast page on Thursday the 28th.

You’ll have the ability to listen in via the web or call in via your phone.

That’s about it for today…

I’ll be honest, this is probably NOT for the average musician who is new to marketing. This is an advanced subject for musicians who really want to take their marketing to the next level.

UPDATE*** While the webinar has now concluded, I’m excited to announce that registration for the “Copywriting For Musicians Workshop” is now open. Click for more details about the program.

If you have any questions just leave them below in the comments.




  • I really enjoyed how you outlined the 7 steps to have true fans. It might seem simple at first, but I feel like so many of us worry about getting to step 4 without giving the proper attention to the ones that come before it.

    Raising awareness, particularly, is quite a challenge in itself if a musician wants to do it in a way that attracts the people that are really going to resonate with his/her message.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Thanks Henri, I’m really glad you enjoyed that. You might also take a listen to the latest episode of the Music Marketing Manifesto Podcast. It’s essentially a replay of the audio portion of my recent copywriting webinar. I go over the same concept in more detail.

      Thanks again.

  • Hey John,

    I really dig the article-The Art of Using Words to Sell Music. I was wondering, when you say-

    At some point a little further down that track we asked ourselves, ok… how exactly am I going to be able to make a living doing this?

    It used to be fairly straight forward: Record, perform, sell music from shows, rinse and repeat.

    -By sell music from shows, do you you mean sell CDs at shows we play? Or record the music we play at a show, and sell somewhere else? Thank you-Adam

  • Henrik says:

    Hi John
    Sounds really interesting and something worth diving into for our band.
    Thursday noon would be in the middle of working hours CET, right? Unfortunately, I also have a day job.
    Any options for a replay option?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Henrik,

      Totally understand that this will be an issue for many. Noon pacific just happens to be the time that allows the most time zones to be able to even possibly attend. The replay will be sent out to everyone who registers for the event.

      Hope you enjoy it.

  • Hi John
    Not sure about the timing- I live in New Zealand. Noon Pacific might mean midnight? or if its mid-day I might be stuck at there any way around this?

  • Toni Turi says:

    Hi John,

    It is an amazing coincidence that back in 2006 I began studying copywriting for other business purposes like information publishing and I spent a lot of time with the top internet marketers of that time, people that mentored me and made me understand how crucial this skill was.

    At that time I was and I am still a full time oil & gas engineer. I was introduced to music during corporate parties, believe it or not.

    Then back in 2014 I became a songwriting and musician’s part time career by chance, when people in Russia encouraged me to take up music as they heard something very special with my voice.

    Ever since that day I have never stopped and having produced 2 albums to date plus a few very successfull video clips in Vevo people began to fall in love with the music I was composing.

    It was 2 years ago when I decided to celebrate a marriage in between copywriting and music as I saw a huge potential and then i came across your site and this was a deja vu moment for me.

    After 2 years of work with my site, the autoresponder, the sales letters and the artisitc production, I am about to launch my first campaign in facebook as I am studying the scientific advertiisng methods that successful marketers are adopting in facebook, and my old mentor is now watching me with a lot of interest my endevors, very few musicians have entered this field here in Europe, I am among the first pioneers probably.

    I will watch your webinar this Thursday hoping to brush up additional skills and move forward. Your subject is crucial, it has 90% influence on having success with music, I know this for a fact.

    This is most definetly unchartered territory at this stage for me and who knows what’s around the corner.

    See you soon


    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Toni,

      Great! I’m happy to hear that you’ll be on the webinar, but more so that you understand the importance of being able to write good copy.

      I’ll see you on the webinar. Let me know if I can ever help with anything in the meantime.

  • Andrew says:

    Hi John,

    I’m wondering about my situation in regards to your statement: “I’ll be honest, this is probably NOT for the average musician who is new to marketing. This is an advanced subject for musicians who really want to take their marketing to the next level.”

    Right now, I only have a small catalog but am currently working on building that up (hopefully, exponentially) in the near future. I know by having multiple projects – artist names, releases, etc. – marketing won’t be centralized (at least relatively until I build up releases for each project) but wanted to know if this webinar would be fitting for my circumstance.

    FYI, I implemented your MMM program the other year (and think it’s a solid strategy) but didn’t have success with it – mainly due to catalog size, etc.

    With all that said, do you think I should focus more on marketing what I have/am releasing or on building up my catalog of releases?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Andrew,

      My comment about this not being something that is not for the average musician references the fact that if you do not have any understanding of direct to fan marketing, or the concept of building a “funnel” then copywriting will probably be way over your head. A funnel is the mechanical aspect of the marketing, copywriting is what we use to make that funnel profitable. But if you are new to marketing and have not built a funnel yet, I would recommend starting with something like MMM 4.0..

      In terms of what you should focus on, my personal believe is that every musician should be getting started with building their audience the moment they have even one professionally recorded song to give away. Even if they initially limit their ad spend to a few dollars each day and run campaigns at a loss. The experience of building a fanbase and getting that feedback and interaction is invaluable. But if you really want to minimize the potential for loss (which always exists with advertising) I would wait until you at least had one album before running your first campaign, while simultaneously working on new material so you can introduce upsells and product options to your funnel.

  • Jamil Hai says:

    Thanks as always John. See you there!

  • Danny Roberts says:

    Good read, very interesting, makes total sense, ya still need disposable income for any kind of real promo, I need to hit a lottery,ha ha, with me and my guys we’re just happy we are still in it and having fun and getting played enough on the internet to kind of validate our efforts. We’re all just having fun, my producing these albums with my band is fun not too expensive, some guys play golf, I play music ,it’s just a hobby We need a Manager with deep pockets and then i’ll change my tune,ha ha . Keep up the great work, your articles i’m sure are really helping a lot of musicians wrap their head around the facts of life in the business of Music.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Danny,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. Hopefully you are able to join me on the webinar.

      To be honest, marketing really does not require disposable income beyond a few dollars each day. While it can take a little work to dial things in and make your campaigns profitable, the whole idea here is to run things at a profit. So beyond your testing round, the money you generate from sales can get dumped back into your future marketing and you are never really coming out of pocket (again, once things are dialed in and profitable). But you can start with as little as $5/day or so. Even less if needed.

      In my experience it’s better to take action yourself rather than waiting on a manager – who by the way, will very rarely come out of pocket for their artists 🙂

      Thanks again and all the best.

  • Will Black says:

    Fantastic post, John! Really hits the nail on the head of the state of successful independent music right now today in 2018.

    Would love to add that Facebook Messenger plus a 3rd party auto-responder service is working the best ever for me in acquiring new fans and keeping them re-engaged with content and sell offers.

    Invite me onto a podcast and let’s chat all about it 🙂

    Rock on, Will

    • John Oszajca says:

      Thanks Will, glad you enjoyed it. PM me and let me know more about the results you’re experiencing and maybe we can set up some kind of an interview.


  • Brian says:

    Stoked man, thanks for doing this!

  • Sarah T says:

    This was a great read John. Looking forward to the webinar!

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