The aims of this talk are as
To help you get greater exposure and make more of an
income from your music...
To give you a number of discrete ideas that'll work
separately or together. Take what works for you and
discard the rest
To act as a straightforward introduction to the rather
large and detailed world of copywriting and
To help you apply some of the ideas used in these areas
for the benefit your creative/music business
To give you some insights from the other side of the
fence drawn from my experience as a freelance writer
who covers music from time to time
To provide lots of silly, but relevant pictures
Who is Jack and why should I care
about anything he says?
Professional Copywriter & Freelance Journalist
Unprofessional Internet Marketer
Unprofessional Sound Designer/Composer
Has been on both sides of the fence – media and
Wants to become a film composer – but is currently
trapped writing dubstep (and adverts)
Insert some achievements here. Or don’t, who cares?
‘Cos this isn’t about me – it’s about you, my
listener, and giving you the best info I can,
in the time I can!
(so I'll be going through this talk as fast as I
can, giving as much time as possible to help
you & answer questions, if you have any)
This is a metaphor for me talking really really
OK, but why should I even care
Good copywriting is about really understanding
your product (i.e yourself and your music).
And by extension, your 'value proposition' (i.e.
What you offer and why you exist in the context of
Music is about communication, so are words.
Applications from one reach over into the other.
And caring is good...
Your fans (current and potential) want to connect
with you. Music builds empathic bridges and we can
all still work on our empathy skills
Persuasively and correctly positioning your product
(i.e. you) = better commercial results
Obvious but worth a mention: Copywriting is a
compliment to, not a substitute for your music
Your music speaks for itself but good copy can help
it’s message be correctly framed and interpreted by the
right people (audience)
In this ‘attention age’ we're all publishers of
information to one extent or the other (especially as
artists and businesspeople) & for most of us, our main
medium of communication is the written word
And since I’m guessing that writing is something that
you use every day, even the slightest improvement in
your communication skills would quickly compound
“The limits of my language are the limits of my
world.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
Study hard humans
can be described as...
Right message (presentation/brand, medium of
communication) going to....
Right people (listener demographic, financial
decisionmakers) at the...
Right time (when they have money, are available to
see you, aren’t distracted by Breaking Bad, Game Of
Thrones etc) equals...
= Great Success!
Words are weapons – arm
One of the most immediate, easy to access and
powerful tools at your disposal are the words you use...
What can you do with words?
Persuade (get fans to buy stuff or do stuff that moves
along your grand plan)
Build empathy and connection with listeners (get
new fans & allies, or get existing fans to like you more)
Clearly communicate what you’re doing, why it’s
important and what you need others to do to get you
Create more intrinsically interesting or poetic(?)
ways of communicating with the world
Create a unique communicational style that is as
individually you as your music should be – making you
more memorable and enhancing your USP
Create more meaningful or entertaining dialogues
(often on social media)
Finding out what’s working and what’s not working
for your fans and allies, and how you can make use of
this information (market research?)
Recognise and reward your best fans and allies
Know what problem the customer faces or what emotional
experience they want the music to guide them through
Have you considered the following...?
Your customer (fan)
Who’s your music appeal to?
Where do you find them?
How do they emotionally experience your music? (i.e
occasions suited to Marilyn Manson may not be ones
where classical music works)
What, asides from music, do they want to spend money
Your product/you ...
The music you create – what makes it different?
What brand (image and design) do you possess? –
what makes it different?
These differences: areas to exploit and emphasize in
how you present yourself.
Same reason why cookie cutter pop bands come and go
but certain timeless trailblazers are remembered as
‘true’ artists – they did something noticeably different.
Maybe it’s being different enough to be recognisable,
but not so different as to be unrecognisable?
Or the right amount of what a lot of business types
would call ‘differentiation’?
Copywriting For Artists In A
Nutshell: Quick Tips
Things to do when communicating with your followers
and potential allies...
Write specifically to one person, not ‘your fans’ –
write for an archetype – imagine you had a fan that
you really liked and you were in a social space (i.e. The
Pub) telling them a story, face to face
Write as yourself. Don’t put on a persona.
Ask an (open) question that gets people to respond
Never give all the game away (‘click this link for more
When you’re writing, ask yourself “so, what?”
What is ‘in it’ for your reader, why should they care?
Regardless of what you’re communicating you are also
& always selling your reader on reading onto the
End each of your communications with a clear CTA
[call to action]
CTAs & Closing
Want someone to click through to a YouTube video?
ASK at the end of the message. You can ask times in
multiple in the same message but always CLOSE the
message with ‘the ask’.
This ‘action’ is the goal of the message. You’re not just
writing for the sake of having written, you’re using
words to make good things happen.
Not all of your messages are written with the goal of
getting people to do stuff, but many can/should be.
Idea 1: Positioning
Do you know who you are and where you are in relation
to the rest of the musical marketplace (do you know
what you’re selling and who’s buying)?
When we're trying to sell a product, first we've got
to get clear on
What exactly the product is
Who it appeals to
Where it is (who it's competing with)
Why it’s great/different
Positioning Continued: Your
Making the product right for the people you want to
sell for, or finding the right people for what you’ve
AKA stuff that the commercial music industry takes to
often ridiculous extremes
So, have you considered...?
Your personal ‘look’ and graphic/site design - is it
consistent? (I am clearly not a stylist)
Your tone of voice - does fit with your identity? – how
you speak and type (Friendly? Angry? Sartorial?
Madonna: Has reinvented her personal brand
repeatedly in attempt to stay on top of the charts.
Seems to have worked for successive generations of
music listeners and various pop styles?
I’m not a personal branding expert or a fan so I can’t
say all that much more...
Do you reckon it worked?
Self descriptions and building that
Real fans buy into the product (you) wholesale, not
just the music you create.
That means that they buy into your style, personality,
lifestyle and everything else!
So, give them more to connect with.
Consider: how are you communicating and
connecting at current?
(I’ve got an exercise at the end that can help you
determine your personal brand.)
IDEA 2: Grab ‘Em By The Eyes
TRAUMATIC WORD POWERRRRRRRRRRR=
Powerful words (for a powerful message)
Powerful narrative structure
A) Use Ballsy Headlines
Headlines that convert, headlines that don't and why
you should care
Anything where you have to grab people’s attention in
the first few lines (read – almost all communications)
can be counted as a headline
Don’t reinvent the wheel. Swipefiles can help.
Shortcuts To Great Headlines
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline
copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the
Swipefile: A bunch of headlines that have already
been proven to work
(I’ll give you a link to one I’ve put together at the
end of our talk)
Basically headlines I stole from people who stole from
people who stole from people...
Wait... wasn’t that Picasso?
Also a good headline....
Grabs attention from line one and leads from here
Informs reader concisely - does not rant and waste
Directs reader to an action (such as selling them on
reading the rest of the content) -> YOU DO THIS
WITH EVERY LINE YOU WRITE
Uses powerful, timeless words (list will be provided
at the end)
Uses timeless structure (often comes modified from a
Headline formula = Number &/or Trigger word +
Adjective + Keyword + Promise ~ Jeff Goins
E.g: “13 fantastic ways to overeat sweet potatoes
and still feel great about yourself!”
Basically doesn’t do any of those things.
Actually this one might be good ->
B) Use words powerfully and
“Walls of Text” =
The power of words is in how they
work upon human feelings
Consider what feelings you’re trying to
(there are many more)
#1 Powerrrrrr Word Of All Time= “You”
A lot of this is your discretion, there’s no regulatory
body for the efficacy of words
(But there are many lists of particularly powerful
available online – I’ll make one available if you
DESTROY ALL WEASEL WORDS
Weasel words are linguistic cowardice.
Often used to lie and deceive with inference and stand on
At best they’re not specific enough and at worst they’re
Use them too much and you sound like a slimy advert or an
uninformative/crap wikipedia article.
Up to 50% off! (everything from 0-50% is “up to 50%”)
People say that... (what people?)
As everybody knows... (do they really?)
C) Use Narrative Structure &
Humans love stories so tell stories
Bridge paragraphs so that the copy flows.
“And, speaking of sweet potatoes...”
You can start sentences with questions that you answer
“What’s the band been upto for the last 3 weeks?”
Or with words/phrases such as “so”,
Or you can use single line paragraphs for emphasis
The point is to make it read like you’re talking to somebody
and ‘mixing it up a bit’
Also stay away from abstraction, it kills empathy most of
BIG IDEA: USE LESS WORDS
(good) “Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and
99 percent elimination.”
~ Louise Brooks
IDEA 3: Media Empathy:
Communicating with journalists,
Some insights from personal experience of what it's like
to be a music blogger/writer and work with musicians
and musical PRs.
AKA What musicians and music PRs often do well
What music media wants to get:
Churnalism: Sad, but if you have a story that already
wrote itself = happy lazy time starved writers [see our
point later on press releases]
Rights cleared images: So they know they can use
A story that’s actually not boring AKA ‘THE
HOOK’: Oh, you released a new album – why should I
care? What’s ‘the hook?’ always ask yourself that
Viral/ LCD stuff: funny, sexy, useful (FHM holy triad)
+ anything with cats or celebrities or boobs etc.
Relevant Pitches: Either through knowing who
thinks what you’re doing is news or getting the
right media list (Gorkana, Sourcewire,
Entertainment4Media, PRWeb etc)
Exclusivity: Kinda hard but some people use it.
Friendly relationships – some of the most
successful PRs I know I'd count as nice people with
interesting things to tell me, not people pushing
products and releases.
Help A Reporter Out!
A story that was pitched uniquely to me and
mentions why I was chosen (yeah it’s time consuming
but flattery gets you (almost) everywhere. It also
Asking me what I’m working on and then seeing
if/how you can help.
People who want to help me:
People who just want to pitch me
•Engaging: it started a conversation!
What music media doesn’t want
AKA writers are grumpy and how not to make
them any grumpier
Don’t simply tweet at people with links to your songs,
this just makes them irritated and likely to pay no
attention to anything else
Don’t email people press releases without some form
of contact introducing them to who you are and
explaining why your content is relevant to them
If you’ve done it already that’s OK – but at least
establish a relationship before you send more
Don’t email them so obviously from a mailmerge (e.g.
my name is not ‘Journalist Oughton’ :/ ) – people are
people, not lists
One too many times of this and the journo might click
‘spam’ on your emails. Once that happens you are
effectively blacklisted and your emails will probably
not be read again
Also don’t be a dick on the social media.
•I won’t RT this and you can’t make me!
•I still don’t know who this person is
PR In A Tiny Nutshell: Writing A Press
Release That’s Not Crap
Press releases are fantastic if...
i. Written compellingly (designed for reader
convenience not the Pulitzer Prize)
ii. The reason for contact is clear and the content
appeals to the journo and his/her readership
iii. Sent to the right people (get the right lists and
spam indiscriminately at your peril)
(Often they’re none o these)
(there’s gonna be a link to a press release template
at the end)
The Inverted Pyramid
I’m going to shut up soon, promise
/ The Summary:
Music and words are both forms of communication
that build empathy with your audience/listener/allies.
Empathic bridges are good and allow people to feel the
emotions they’re chasing...
Every product/service can be reduced to a means to
enable good feelings...
Some songs excite you
Some songs relax you
Good copywriting allows you to better understand
your musical/commercial offering, who wants it and
how to package it so that they best ‘get it’
It helps you build empathy
Test and refine your communications/marketing as
much as possible for as long as possible.
Find out who’s listening and speak
directly to them
Ideas for next steps
Take no longer than 10 minutes to try the 5 word self
description test (when you’re in a good frame of mind)
[link to it with example will be at the end of the
Take a look over your biog and written marketing
materials now knowing what you know (provided
you got something from the talk!)
Check out some recommended resources which I'll
include at the end and consider how to use them.
Ask me stuff whilst I’m here, if you want
Tweet/email me your questions/ideas later, if you
Happy to provide more help if I can: tweet your
love, hate, questions and suggestions at
And tell me: What do/did you want to hear more
& less of?
Feedback helps me improve!
Email Jack for links to the
Press release template
Swipefile: proven headlines etc.
Powerful word list & Structuring messages
SEO Writing Checklist [for humans AND robots!]
Shortlist: Where to find music writers, journos and
Recommended further reading [copywriting,
marketing, attention economy, etc]
Now start: Do something, anything
- but remember to keep it simple!
“I don't look to jump over 7-foot bars: I look around for 1foot bars that I can step over.” ~ Warren Buffet
PS: How To (probably) Tell When A
Copywriter Is Lying
This is a bit of fun but you might find it very
useful in dealing with the world of ads
Adding a question to a statement, no matter
how impossible, is seen as an excuse to lie or
get away with stupid hyperbole
i.e Get Ripped in 2 Weeks? (probably not)
PPS: How to help determine your
brand and positioning with a few
The cool thing about not being signed to a major label
is that you should have nobody telling you what kind of
musician you're 'supposed' to be.
Thus you get to find out for yourself...
Copywriting Exercise: Self
AKA What are you ‘trying to say with your music?’
AKA It’s almost like journaling!
Find the 5 core phrases that you associate with
WHAT you are
WHO you target
HOW you do what you do
WHY you do what you do
[There’s a link to my filled out example available
if you want it]
Sometimes this helps you see what you’re doing. Other
times it doesn’t. Sometimes it helps you sharpen your
writing and sometimes it simply creates bollocks.
But it’s worth the time every now and then.
How you use it depends on the kind of self description
Ideally you want to have an ‘aha’ moment that helps
you see where you’re going, creatively or that helps you
create a wicked biog/your next concept album...
The exercise can help you find a little direction in your
But it’s likely that you’ll keep changing, so this exercise
is just a rough indicator of where you are artistically
right now, not some sort of ‘destiny solidifying’
Unless you want it to be?