If you’re Niche, you’re Blessed

Was talking with a friend of mine who is a musician. He has a new CD coming out, and he’s looking to promote it. (I’ll let you know more when he’s ready to unveil.)

Lee Harvey Oswald Band

We discussed the various platforms open to him to promote his new stuff – iTunes, commercial beds, befriending DJs… and the more I thought about it, the more I thought how tough it is promoting a product in a glutted market.

It’s the same with any product where you’re trying to gain mass appeal. How do you be something for absolutely everyone? The answer: You don’t. You concentrate on the niche you’re in. The people interested in what you specialize in will be very interested in what makes you different. As long as your niche is large enough to sustain you, and you can keep that core audience happy, you win.

Think of all the bands trying to sell “music.” There are literally millions of bands out there trying to become famous on their own these days. Just go to MySpace and you’ll see what I mean: Uncounted profile pages with poor HTML and a media player that instantly blasts you with their latest “hit.” And these are just the yahoos. There are more with skilled marketing behind them, some even with label support… and of course none of this in any way reflects the music itself. My buddy’s stuff is actually very good, but he is competing in a field where everyone thinks their stuff is very good.

When there are that many people selling the same thing, with the only difference being aesthetic, how do you get people to hear you before they’ve decided to shut you out?

In my opinion, it’s by distinguishing what makes your music different. When you let people know from the get-go that you do “synthpop,” you’re going to turn away a lot of metal heads very quickly. Which made me think the metal guys have it really hard, because it’s hard to be the next Manowar when you’re surrounded by the other 600 Manowars too.

In short, if you’re part of the smaller crowd, you have an easier time getting to new customers. There’s a smaller pool, but because they’re not messaged to as often or as aggressively, they’re more open.

Think about if every magazine sold itself as just a “magazine.” Why not? There are millions of magazines sold every year, suggesting millions of people willing to buy them. So as long as they’re just buying magazines, why not write ad copy like:

“Buy Ladies Home Journal – It’s a Magazine!”
“If you’re looking for a magazine, Playboy certainly is one!”
“Check out this month’s High Times – it’s several articles, printed on paper, and bound with staples!”

This would be flat out stupid, because each magazine appeals to a specific audience. They aren’t trying to capitalize on the overall magazine-buying “market,” they’re appealing to those people interested in their specific content. Magazines, music, electronics, light bulbs – anything that’s marketed needs to know what their market segment needs. And I don’t know how likely anyone is to create a product that can appeal to every one. Claritas’ PRISM list has 67 different segments – if you know a way to appeal to each and everyone one, you’re  a better man than I, Gunga Din. (That, or you’re Coca-Cola.)

Trying to get the entire world to buy your product would be brilliant – but is it likely to happen? When you appeal to the lowest common denominator, don’t you also leave out all sorts of details about what makes you different and special?

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