As I'm sure you're aware, there are a lot of musicians out there. Even in the smaller genres there will be a lot of competition for you, each musician fighting for their moment to get heard.
With all this competition, it's understandable why people could think there's no more space for them in the market. In reality though, if you approach things right, there is always space for new talent to do well for themselves.
So, how do you go about making yourself stand out from the crowd? How do you make people want to buy into you over the thousands and thousands of other musicians out there? Well, you create a Unique Selling Point my friend!
A unique selling point, USP for short, is a trait you can create to make people buy into you over your nearest competitors. If you sound the same as everyone else and dress in the same way, what's there to stop people buying into one of your alternatives over you? Erm, nothing! If however you had something really stand out about you which the others didn't have, you'd naturally move up on the list in terms of being more desirable then the competition.
Sometimes you will naturally have a USP from the beginning. You might have a really nice and original voice, or you might look different then the other people making music in your genre. You might live in a different part of the world and target an audience that doesn't usually get to hear your style of music, or you might simply have a stand out personality that shines through.
Other times though, you won't have a noticeable selling point which isn't already offered elsewhere. So what do you do when this happens? Easy, you create one!
Yes, USPs can be created. You can actually decide you want to do something that no one else is doing, and incorporate it into your marketing and music career.
While not everyone will see this as essential, I would actually argue that it's vitally important. You see, if you don't manage to make yourself stand out from the crowd, your music and music career will get overlooked far too often. How often have you heard a decent musician that has nothing wrong with them, but you don't think of them ever again because there's nothing there that you thought you couldn't get anywhere else? You may not consciously think those exact thoughts, but you don't think “I haven't heard anything like that before and really like that, I need to find out who this is so I can hear more of their stuff.”
It's not simply enough to be one of those decent ‘blend in' musicians any more, you need to offer something different in order to give yourself the best chance of success.
Now I'm not saying you need to be an eccentric musician or that you need to do stupid things to get people to notice you. That said, you do need to have something about you that will stand out, and that will also stay in their mind.
Ok, so let's say there are no naturally stand out features about your music or image as of yet. What could you do to make yourself stand out? Here are some ideas which you can implement in your career:
- Have A Distinct Sound.
One USP you could create is to consciously sound different from your competitors. Even if your voice isn't all that different from what's already out there, there are other things you can do to achieve this. For example, you can have a use a different kind of backing track than the other people that make your kind of music. You can keep it similar enough that it's still counted as being in your genre, but you can approach it from a different angle then everyone else.
Even if you don't want to drastically change the style of music you make, you can always do small things that can become your signature sound. For example, you may have it so all (or the majority of) your songs have trumpets in them, or a lot of them have a beat-boxer in the track. This will be unique to you, and something you can make a big deal of so people notice it too. This will give them a talking point, and will mean that more people will notice and go on to talk about you. This is great for word of mouth marketing.
One final thing you can do is have some kind of vocal signature. This is something that you always say or sing in your tracks, and will mean people instantly recognize it's you. For example, the singer Jason Derulo always sings his name at the beginning of his tracks in a style that's the same every time. This allows people to instantly recognize it's him, and helps him stand out from the crowd. It's such a good example of a USP, that I'm sure if he sang something else other then his name in the beginning of his tracks in the same style, people would still recognize it as being him. It's a mix of good branding and a unique selling point, and this is what you should aim for.
- Dress Differently.
Another way you can differentiate yourself from the crowd is the way you dress. Once again, there are two different ways you can go about doing this.
First of all, you can go all out and dress completely different from everyone else in your genre. This doesn't mean you have to dress in an eccentric or flamboyant manner, although you could if you wanted to, and you think it's a good image for what you're doing. You essentially want to create your own dress sense.
Your second option is to dress in a way that people have seen before, but isn't what people in your genre would usually wear. An example of this is English rapper Plan B. Instead of following the normal path a lot of rappers do, he decided to dress himself up in a old style suit and play with a band that looked like they were from out of the 80s. This stage of his career helped put him on the map, and had everyone talking about how different he was compared to everyone else at the time.
- Interact With Your Fans Differently.
While there's an increasing number of musicians that do interact with their fan base effectively, there are still of lot of people that don't. While it's possible to still have a lucrative music career without always communicating with your fans personally, doing so can be a good USP in itself, especially if you do it in a stand out way.
Let's say all the other people that sound similar to you aren't the best at interacting with their fans. They may send out a couple of social messages to them, but they don't reply to any of them or take it any further then that. At gigs they don't make a effort to talk to people afterward, and act like their show ends once they have finished performing.
What's very important to remember, is people want to feel like they're part of something bigger. By getting them involved more in your music career, you can help them fulfill this need. By doing things like replying to their social messages, announcing after the show that they can come up and talk to you, and even creating a special online area just for your fans, you can really get people on board with your music career and have them become die hard followers. Surprisingly few people do this, so take advantage and make your fans feel like a real part of your career.
- Be The Best In Your Genre.
OK, here's one final USP I have in mind for you. This one isn't as easy to achieve as the rest, as it's not always in your control. That said, by being the best musician in your genre (or at least one of the best), this in itself is a USP. Think about it; to actually be able to claim you're one of the best in the music style you make, that is something that will get people listening and pique their curiosity.
The only question though, is how are you going to make sure you're the best? After all, being the best in a musical genre is a subjective matter…
Like I said, this isn't always possible. Sometimes there will simply be people that are overall better then you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't practice and learn your craft really well, hopefully you will eventually reach a level where you're regarded as one of the top few in your market.
If you don't reach that level however, there are other ways around this. Let's say you're not the overall best in your genre, but you have a really stand out voice. A voice that is strong enough or unique enough to get people to take notice. USE THIS AS YOUR USP. Other people may have a better image and / or fan interaction, but play to your strong points and highlight this to people. Market yourself as “The voice of *Genre*”.
Another option is to narrow down what you're trying to be the best in. Instead of trying to be the best country singer in the world, why not be the best country singer in Mississippi? Or even the best country singer in your town, and use that loyal home grown fan base to spread the word about you and push you to new heights.
This can also work in terms of the genre you're aiming to be the best in. Maybe don't aim to be the best rock singer out there; instead aim to be the best in a sub-genre like industrial rock music or medieval folk rock. Furthermore, you could even create your own sub-genre if you like, and be the pioneer of this new sound. That will definitely have you standing out from the crowd.
Being the best isn't always easy, but as you can see, there are ways around that which you can use to create your unique selling point…
As you can see, it's possible for anyone to have a USP. Because of this, if it's something that will help you stand out from the crowd and give you a greater chance of success, there's no reason why you shouldn't find or create yours. Think about what your USP can be, and work on making yourself stand out.
Promoting Your USP
OK, so there's no reason to have a unique selling point if no one knows that what you offer is unique to you. It's like a bank offering a savings rate twice as high as all the other banks. If they simply let people know this, their business would pick up as a lot more people would go to them for their great rate. If they don't advertise this fact however, people will continue to use alternative banks that are promoting themselves more effectively. After all, how would the customer know to go to this new bank if they don't make the benefits clear?
With that said, when you have your USP sorted out, you need to let people know about it.
Sometimes, your USP will be obvious for people to see. For example, if your dress code is drastically different from the norm, people will notice this. You could always talk about it to emphasize it even more, but that's not 100% essential.
Other times however, you'll need to point it out, so people recognize that what you're doing IS different and IS a big deal. How do you do this? Well while there are a few ways, the best is to straight out say it. So if you're at a show and have a trumpet player who's a part of all your tracks, why not ask the crowd to give a round of applause to your trumpet man (Or woman)? Tell them the player's a regular feature in your songs, and that they really makes things that bit more soulful (Or another word you want people to describe your music as). This will put the idea in people's head that you sound that bit better because the addition of the trumpet player, and will have people remembering you for doing something different.
A unique SELLING point is called so because it's something different you use when you're trying to sell an idea to people. In this case, you're selling the idea of you. Make sure it's clear why you're different from the others. If it's not instantly clear, be straight forward and let people know why you're unique. Just be sure not to sound big headed or boastful while you're doing so.