I spent many of my earlier years as a Christian worship leader and songwriter. Knowing what I know now about marketing fills me with regret a lot more than it probably should! Here are 5 worship leader marketing mistakes I made:
1. Not consistently blogging.
This might seem basic, but keeping a regular blog more equates to building community AND a resume. I never signed with a label (doubt I’d have ever been signed) but even if I was, a blog would have allowed me to do those two things better.
Disclaimer: I’ve got to differentiate between being a worship leader and the typical musical performer. I’m saying all this in context of ministry; that my main call was to add value to churches and people through music. But some of the marketing principles apply because the expression (music) was similar. I always considered myself a worship leader first and a musician a far second.
So yeah, I had a website. Problem is no one went to it because there was never any new content. They only went when I released a new album (which happened like once every two years) or saw me live (which didn’t happen often…see point #2). I relied solely on social media to get word out. The problem is the lack of permanence with social media. My “brand” was a collection of fleeting Twitter mentions and Facebook posts that people couldn’t track down if they wanted to. I had no home base.
A consistent blog would have also served as an online resume. Since I was primarily a minister through music, this was more important in my situation than “fans.” I don’t even really think I had fans, haha. The point is that an up-to-date blog would have helped me kill two birds with one stone: building community that I could add value to, and resume that would allow me to grow my community. That could have turned “cold leads” into warmer ones.
2. Not touring after an album release.
I knew I should do this, circumstances just didn’t allow it. I kick myself for it ’til this day. Every time–every time!–I put out a new album, I didn’t travel to share the music for weeks or months afterwards. An album has a short enough shelf-life as it is. Even though I had a steady audience my latter years because of the church I was working at, it wasn’t enough to REALLY get the music out there.
The work doesn’t stop when the album releases. I consistently failed to share–in person–the product I’d worked so hard to produce. That’s the #1 mistake I made when it came to recordings. I thought people would just look for my stuff as long as it sounded good or was quality material. The few that did wound up on an outdated blog (point #1).
3. Not keeping an email list.
I had an email sign up at product tables, but I never followed through. I underestimated the power of email. The main problem stemmed back to failing to blog. Why? Because I felt the only time I could contact my email list was when I wanted to sell something. That made me feel icky. But it was a vicious cycle of obscurity: without blogging, I never had anything to say that added value…so I never emailed anyone. I failed to build community with people who were genuinely interested in me.
4. Not making simple YouTube videos.
I always tried to have high production value on all my recorded music. For that, I’d never apologize. Problem is I took this attitude into everything, and it hamstrung me from sharing simple videos on YouTube which would have offset a bit more of my lack of blogging and emailing. I thought that any video I put out had to look like an A+ production. All I did was fail to get my face in front of the people already familiar with me. Obscurity was further exacerbated by not blogging, touring, or emailing. Dumb.
It also caused me to lose momentum sharing songs. As a Christian songwriter, one of the greatest honors is when other churches use your tunes in their services. If I wrote a decent song, people would have to wait a year to hear it because I HAD to have it on a recording. By then, I was sick of the song, never shared it, and lost momentum. Sharing a song on YouTube would have made the song “warm” to people so anticipation for a better recording would build. #mikefail
5. Not creating merch that utilized my other strengths.
I don’t mean Mike Kim t-shirts. I wouldn’t have even bought one, unless they were the “7’4″ asian worship leader who has sarcasm and wit like a 90′s comedian” t-shirt that my friend Joel Klampert would have designed. Now that would be different!
What I mean is that I failed to capitalize on my other talents that could have reinforced my brand. Besides helping the financial bottom line, it would have given more opportunities to add value to others. I loved to write articles, teach, and network. But I never made a concerted effort to roll that out in an intentional way.
An Ultimately Squandered Audience.
In marketing they say you need to emphasize what makes you different to stand out. I wasn’t showy (other than my guitar) or someone who had tons of stage presence, so I never thought I had anything unique. (I can hear my friends saying, “Uh…you play a white Elvis guitar and are 8′ tall).
I estimate that between 2007-2011 I was onstage in front of tens of thousands of unique viewers (not even counting the same church people week-to-week). Doing what I do now as a speaker, I’d kill for that kind of exposure. Some of the places I went were very large or influential.
My regret is that I didn’t have the chance to add value to more people because I didn’t do these simple things. It’s not an issue of money or fame, it’s an issue of maximum effectiveness. If you’re in this line of work…do the opposite of everything I listed!
If you actually want to see or hear any of my [old] music, go here: mikekim.tv/music.
Question: What aspects of marketing do you struggle with as a musician?
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