21 Questions to ask an artist before working with them

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Audience

Artists (typically) have the most intimate knowledge of their fan base since they perform to them, meet them out and talk to them online. Getting an idea of the audience from the artist should provide more details than social listening exercises can. Here you can identify audience bases adjacent to the core to target for growth.

  1. Who is someone that doesn’t listen to your music who you think should?
    (Identifies potential audience opportunities. Also, shows the areas they are already thinking of so you can identify overlooked audience opportunities)

Positioning

Understand the market space the artist occupies and if there is a need to change for the upcoming album cycle.

  1. Who is your dream support slot? (both for artist to support and acts to support them)
    (Shows where they see themselves both sonically and culturally)
  2. Once this is out, how do you want people to describe the project in a tweet?
    (Get them talking about how they want to be seen, which may be different to how they described themselves to someone at a dinner party. Having them stick to a tweet encourages brevity — less waffle, just the point)
  3. What’s your ideal press headline 12 months from now? In which publication? Why?
    (Gives direction of the cultural conversations they wish to be a part of, as well as the value of press in their mind)

Goals

Here you need to dig for where point A is, the place you’re starting from and where point B is, which will inform the strategy of getting there.

  1. What do you think you need to do to hit those goals?
    (Get them talking about marketing techniques and other artist campaigns to know their familiarity/interest in marketing and where you share knowledge)

Strengths

Identify their strengths and make them stronger throughout the campaign to expedite their development.

  1. What is the one thing that would make your contemporaries nervous?
    (Dig for what makes the artist special to identify their competitive edge)
  2. What is one thing you’re not getting credit for that you absolutely should?
    (Dig for new narrative angles — things that make the artist special that hasn’t been told yet)

Weaknesses

Dig around for areas that the artist is uninterested in, annoyed by, or sensitive to. Then you can take those things off their plate and provide solutions for some of their biggest problems.

  1. What keeps you up at night?
    (Problems you can address head-on. Also, areas of their personality and business you’ll want to be sensitive of when working together)
  2. Why do people NOT listen to your music?
    (Uncover internal issues holding the artist back. Rule out audience segments)

Product

The most important piece of the equation — the music! Get a detailed description of the album you’re working on as well as any other music-related plans in the works.

  1. Who makes up the existing team? I.e.: photographers, video directors, social media managers, paid media specialists, stylists, hair and makeup.
    (Identify gaps that need filling)

Appetite for marketing & expected involvement from the artist

“Marketing” means different things to different people. For some, it’s running digital and social ads but for others, it’s social media and community management, content creation, sales, press and radio plugging, or creative development.

  1. What do you think I/we will solve for you?
    (Shows their current expectations of you/your team so you know you need to deliver this plus more)
  2. What is the approval process for creative?
    (Shows how hands on the artist will be throughout the ideas and creative concepting and who on the team is trusted to get stuff done)

Partnerships

Get an idea of potential partnerships by understanding what the brands and categories the artist genuinely cares about. If you’re working with a sneaker collector that’s great info to have to pitch apparel brands.

  1. What social issues are you most passionate about?
    (Identify charitable contribution opportunities)

Music marketing consultant. Downtown Records & Big Spaceship alumni. Writes about music, strategy and feels at Deep Cuts http://bit.ly/2yphFYx