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It began in the East, on what the merchants called the “long road.”
A spice trader was whistling and walking alone when the sound of music suddenly grabbed his attention.
Next to the road stood a beautiful woman, playing a bansuri flute.
It was hot that day, and the trader asked if she wanted some water.
“No, but I have something for you,” replied the musician.
She lowered her flute and reached into her robes, “this map will lead you to an ancient treasure.”
The merchant grabbed the map and studied it intently. His finger traced the route when suddenly a thick black liquid came out of the paper and covered his finger.
“What is this?” cried the merchant, clearly in pain.
The woman watched the spice trader struggle. And the evil black liquid crawled over his arm and body.
She continued playing her flute. And the merchant bubbled down into a puddle of goo.
And that’s the story.
You’re probably wondering: “Greg, dude, WTF does this have to do with getting my music heard?”
This Story Contains Two Important Lessons
- Never interrupt a musician during a practice session.
- Use a timeless principle to stand out and hold people’s attention.
Here’s the deal. If you want your music to get heard, this has to happen:
People need to listen and then tell their friends.
There is a proven way to do that—a timeless method you can use to get heard and, more importantly, become unforgettable.
What is it?
And if you want people to listen, and spread the word, you better start using it. In this article, I’m going to show you how.
The Psychological Effect Of Story
The human race communicates with and relates to one another through story [source].
In 500 B.C. a man named Aesop told stories. For several hundred years, people told his fables over and over by word of mouth. These were actually never written down until nearly 300 years later.
Just like The Merchant and the Musician is the difference between another boring ‘music marketing’ article and one that’s interesting, your music and story will level up your marketing and command people’s attention.
Get The Recognition You Deserve
Whether you realize this or not, most musicians have the same ‘message’.
Most musicians talk about their music. The musicians that stand out, talk about their story.
If you want to get heard, follow their example.
You have to be different (if you want to be remembered).
If you have trouble with your story, that’s okay. To get your Music Story, you might need to ask yourself some questions. Check out my Music Branding Cheatsheet, I break it down there (step #1).
How Famous Music Artists Stand Out And Get Heard
Before I show you how to get your Music Story, let’s look at some of the ways professional artists market their music with stories.
Billboard charting artist Manafest (Chris Greenwood) was our featured guest in MMP041.
During the interview, Chris talks about his label dropping him and that he almost lost everything.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Instead of taking the defeat, he told his fans what happened.
Like a mad scientist, he wrote more music than ever, using it to tell his story in new and exciting ways. Chris was determined to make them listen and understand.
They could now personally relate through their own memories and experiences.
Because of that, the Gap between this personal experience and his fans was closed.
And guess what?
He managed to get back everything the label took: his independence as a musician (and more).
If that doesn’t frost your onion I don’t know what will.
The Slants use their ethnicity and music to tell stories and promote social justice. Fighting the supreme court, and starting The Slants Foundation is all a part of that story.
It’s how they get the attention of major media, interviews and high profile gigs most music musicians only dream of.
You can read about it on the ‘Our Story’ page on The Slants’ website.
Let’s look at one final example and then I’ll tie everything together.
Macklemore went from performing on the Seattle streets to selling over 2 million + records [source], a recent article sheds light on how.
According to Macklemore, music is an “oral tradition”. He says “music is a conduit”, and that he “passes along stories.”
Think of it this way…
From you to a fan and one fan to another, there is a gap between your music and other people. If you want your music to get heard, you have to bridge that gap.
Just like Manafest and others connected with fans who then spread the word, music artists young and old find faster success by closing that Gap with stories.
And so can you.
How To Close The Story Gap And Get Heard
If you want to know exactly how to apply the Story Gap method to your own music, I’m going to give you some tips.
Every story has 3 basic parts.
Also known as a “story arc”.
In addition, you can use this and rest easy knowing you have a great story that will make people listen.
To get your Music Story, you might need to ask yourself some questions. Download my Music Branding Cheatsheet, I break it down there.
The Story Arc
As revealed in my Build Your Fanbase Like A Jedi article, a story arc moves a character from one state to another. Typically, from failure to success [source].
It’s a formula.
Alternatively, you can use put that same formula to work in your music story. Here’s how:
The 3-Part Music Story Formula
The formula is simple:
[Struggle] + [Catalyst] + [Ascension] = Music Story
Just like the “story arc”, the Music Story formula has 3 parts, and each part should be short—ideally a single sentence or a small paragraph.
Explanation Of The Three Parts
1. Define a struggle – The place you started or a battle you lost, a problem or a personal struggle.
Remember, the purpose of your Music Story is to create a dynamic interesting story. The first part is where you start, set the stage and prepare to move to the next stage.
2. Catalyst event – Explain when you started using music to better your life (a decision, “ah-ha” moment, a crossroads, etc.)
The middle part of the arc is your “Catalyst”. In it, you define the event that helped you get beyond your struggle in part 1. It’s the turning point or an “ah-ha” moment. When you started to use your music to better your own life and others.
3. Ascension – State how you use your music to continue that transformation.
The third and final part of the Music Story formula is “Ascension.” In it, you describe the positive changes that were brought about after your Catalyst event and how you’re using your music to better your own life and others. For the best Music Story, you want the “vibe” of part 3 to be the direct opposite of part 1.
Now that you know how to get your Music Story, what’s next? How do you apply it?
Where Your Music Story Fits
The easiest and best place to start is your bio.
If you want help, use one of these 3 musician bio templates. Each template includes a place for your 3 part Music Story. You can copy and paste a template and get started in about 5 minutes.
Over time, tweak your story based on how the audience responds live, online, and on social media (your mailing list, other media, your website, as you write any new music and gain new listeners, etc)
As the story connects, you’ll see the Gap start to close.
Not Sure What To Say?
If you have trouble with your story, that’s okay.
I have a saying, “to express yourself, you have to know yourself.” To get your Music Story, check out the Music Branding Cheatsheet, (Step #1) we break it down for you.
Put It All Together
Most musicians want to get heard but don’t know how to make people listen.
If you’re ready to stand out, take a cue form Macklemore, Manafest and others in the music industry.
Music + Story = Your Secret Weapon.
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