An explanation of marketing for the arts in five minutes

Mark Schaefer
7 min readApr 24

I was recently a guest on the James Kennedy podcast and James, who fronts a UK rock band, issued a challenge. He wanted me to explain marketing to his audience of musicians in five minutes.

Cool. Challenge accepted.

I transcribed my answer on the show, and I hope it helps you (with some editing for brevity and clarity).

Describing the marketing process in five minutes or less? I don’t think I’ve ever done this before. So here we go.

Marketing is about creating customers

Number one, what is marketing?

Marketing is the process of creating a customer. Underneath that goal, there’s a lot of important activity — you have to understand what your customers like and where they are, what’s going on in their lives, and how much money they have, studying the competition … but essentially, it’s an activity centered on creating a customer. For musicians or artists, it’s creating a fan who is going to buy your work or attend your shows.

Now, there are two different kinds of marketing, and this is where a lot of people get confused.

One is direct marketing. So this would be if you go into a store and you see a coupon for Coca-Cola. They need to move more product, so they issue a coupon. They’ll sell more stuff, and it’s pretty easy to measure. You create coupons … you sell more stuff. That’s called direct marketing, or sometimes performance marketing that is tied to certain short-term sales goals.

That’s not so relevant to artists and musicians. I mean, I’m imagining you’ve probably never had a sale. You probably never said, “Hey! It’s Boxing Day. We’re going crazy. Two for one special on our music!” I mean, that’s not how it works, right?

Brand marketing for the arts

Now, here’s what does work for artists. This is the second kind of marketing, and that’s called brand marketing. So let’s go back to the Coca-Cola example. I gave a speech in Poland before the pandemic, and it was huge, with thousands of people in this audience. And I said, “when you think of Coca-Cola, what do you what do you think of?” Sort of a rhetorical question, but somebody from…

Mark Schaefer

Keynote speaker, marketing strategy consultant, Rutgers U faculty and author of 10 books including KNOWN, Marketing Rebellion, and Belonging to the Brand!