Marketing Lessons From Nashville’s Competitive Music Industry

Back in 2021, I was working for a Nashville-based digital marketing company. Nashville bars were looking for musicians and bands because a large portion of our musicians had left the city during the pandemic for more affordable housing options or until the music industry was fully back up and running. 

I took that opportunity to jump into Nashville’s downtown bar scene where it’s typically very competitive. Luckily, I knew someone who knew someone, and was able to get onto a circuit who treated their musicians relatively well and was looking for female-fronted acts for the first female-named bar downtown: Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa.

Ashley Chapman & The Strays at Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa.

In digital marketing, it’s essential to understand your audience and how to leverage your platforms. As a female drummer, singer, and band front person in a male-dominated industry playing a male-dominated instrument in a region that prefers traditional thinking, I knew I needed to find a platform that attracted the right audience who would enjoy seeing something a little different. It quickly became clear that certain demographics found the female drummer angle very off-putting — afterall, I was ‘supposed to only be singing or singing and strumming a few chords on an acoustic guitar.’ Luckily, Casa Rosa, and the other bars on this specific circuit, offered my band a platform to use our differences to our advantage. 

My time working in digital marketing offered me a map for navigating Nashville’s music industry while I had my shot, before everyone moved back, and before Nashville became NashVegas all over again. 

Here is how I leveraged and still use my experience as a marketer.

Downtown Nashville on Broadway.

A Regular Social Media Presence

A regular social media presence can be painstaking, but it’s necessary to keep others informed on your brand and everything you offer. Depending on your business and audience, it can be your most valuable tool to keep updates top of mind for your customers. 

How it works in digital marketing

In my day job as a marketer, I work with clients who have so much to offer — but they can only offer it if people know about them. Social media can reach people in many ways a website can’t, and offers a space for ever-changing updates and can show different parts of their voice and personality, like a more professional, buttoned-up voice on LinkedIn but a more playful, culture-based side on Instagram.

This concept can work across any industry.

How it works in the music industry

Constantly posting anything other than my dogs (I have a LOT of dogs) on social media makes me anxious. Afterall, with all the talent in Nashville, why would anyone care about what my band is doing?

Here’s the thing about social media and the music industry: if you’re not posting, it’s almost like the event, gig, or song release didn’t even happen. So, I reluctantly started a regular content stream on my social platforms. To my surprise, I started getting respect from colleagues because they knew where we were playing and what my band was accomplishing. 

We also use this space to gain followers. Those who enjoy our band during their trip to Nashville create the best fan base. They can see where we’re playing next or make plans to come see us next time they’re in town. It’s also increased word-of-mouth referrals, which adds to our numbers and helps support our reputation. We become part of a visitor’s experience and we’ve made friends with a lot of them along the way. This wouldn’t have been possible without a social presence. 

“Every Little Thing You Do” music video.

Diversifying How Your Brand Is Represented

Getting your name out there as much as possible is obviously a major goal of just about any company. But it doesn’t just stop there. You must also be able to capture all you do and why you’re different. Showing people why they should choose you over the competition is a lot harder than telling them to do it, but it’s also a lot more effective and can build trust with your audience, leading to long-term customers.

How it works in digital marketing

While working with clients who need digital marketing services, often, one of the major changes they need to their site is maintaining an updated, relevant content stream and diversifying how they got their brand out there. This means offering a platform that could keep up with announcements and events, as well as new services and engaging content.  

How it works in the music industry

I took this concept with me when thinking about song releases. As performers, we can easily get in the habit of posting about our shows and doing our thing. But in a competitive Nashville music industry, you want to diversify your talent and offer as much as you can. This means making music videos, releasing music, playing shows, and more.

Just like bounce rates, premium content, engagement, and various other analytics matter in digital marketing, so do song pre-saves, plays, and streaming platform followers. But instead of showing up better in Google, we show up better on Spotify playlists, expanding our overall reach to new and existing listeners. 

Users can click the pre-save option here which helps artists get more listens on Spotify, helping their chances of winding up on playlists, etc.

Great Time Management

Great time management is more than a required skill on a job post. In the case of a digital marketing agency, it can be somewhat of an art form.

How it works in digital marketing

Doing a lot of things at once is standard practice at an agency. Prepping client presentations, building strategic reports, writing or editing new content, managing freelance writers — it’s a lot, and working on a ton of projects at the same time takes multi-tasking, the ability to and stay focused, and a great support team. It’s not for everyone because it takes a certain mentality and set of skills.

How it works in the music industry

Multitasking is the name of the game in music. You have multiple things happening onstage that most people don’t even notice; in my case, it’s drumming, singing, paying attention to the audience’s reaction, making sure the other band members are keeping up, listening for issues with music equipment or the sound system, and planning about five songs ahead so we don’t lose the energy in the room.

I bring these same principles into play on stage that I’ve learned in marketing. I consider what to play to make people happy so they stay, spend money so the bar is happy, and we get hired again and again. I also use the time during the songs to decide what will keep the energy going, or raise it, while also respecting my band members’ needs and abilities. If people aren’t responding to a specific artist or song, I won’t keep pushing that theme. 

Be Yourself

The best client calls or presentations happen when clients get to professionally know their agency, and you can talk to each other like real people. In my experience, clients appreciate transparency and heart-to-heart conversations about their marketing efforts and how to actually get what they need from an agency. 

How it works in digital marketing

Working with clients in digital marketing has proven to me time and again that it’s best to be real instead of pretending to be someone you’re not. I’ve worked with very boisterous clients, clients who wanted to prove they didn’t need an agency, thoughtful clients who offered great collaborations, brilliant clients who were experts in their space but not digital marketing, and more. This just taught me there are so many layers to each company, team of people, and person. But the one thing we all have in common is that we’re human and respond to real human conversations and talent. This is why at the end of the day I know the most important thing you can offer an audience is yourself, exactly as you are. 

After all, Dolly never apologized for herself, and she’s considered a queen.

Presenting yourself exactly as you are allows you to capitalize on your unique brand. It’s what sets you apart from everyone else and shows the consumer why they should pay attention to you. Whether it’s your messaging, color schemes, appearance, vibes of the company or venue, it’s all interlinked in your brand.

“You either have to be first, best, or different.” – Loretta Lynn

How it works in the music industry

As an artist, I was reluctant to show off my brand at first because, like in any industry, I had received a lot of negativity from certain demographics of people when they saw me play drums and sing, especially depending on how I was dressed. But over time, I realized that we were getting some of these responses because we were something they hadn’t seen before, or in a while, thanks to Karen Carpenter.

Come on Down, Y’all!

At eCity, I’ve been able to work with several different types of clients, weaving all of what I’ve learned from digital marketing and now, the music industry, into our interactions and work then take it with me when I play downtown Nashville.

Next time you’re in Nashville, look around and notice the amount of branding that goes on in the downtown, check out their websites and social media, and then you’ll immediately understand how those platforms plays a role in each musician’s digital presence and career.