James A. Richards has been involved in entertainment — and marketing — for more than 20 years, having put together publications like Applause, a local entertainment-trade mag. But his latest venture concentrates on musicians ... and addresses a problem he's witnessed for too long.
"I co-produced a couple of music festivals, and that's when it hit home to me that this was such a big problem," Richards explains. "I learned that almost no one in music, from local music on up, has any formal training in marketing, advertising, PR. And since then, I've come to realize there's a certain amount of intimidation involved among music artists."
Richards' experience lies on both sides of the arts-marketing equation — he once ran an event-listing website and gathered information from artists, which is where it first hit him that musicians were often lacking in marketing knowledge.
His new book, Marketing 101, is aimed at remedying that situation.
Marketing 101 is a 44-page booklet that could teach a thing or two to musicians at any level; Richards, who's lived in Pittsburgh for 25 years, drew from his personal experience to write it, and by and large, he hits the nail on the head.
What's the most important takeaway for an artist wanting to learn about self-promotion?
"Writing copy," says Richards. "Almost everything involving media and publicity involves the written word — especially in this Internet age. And I think this is part of the intimidation: thinking that it takes a lot of training to write copy. But not really — a lot of it is what we learned in high school English class."
While the booklet is thin, it's rich with information, and Richards, though working from the perspective of just one writer, is experienced enough to act as a good coach. The book may be self-published, and may feature some stock-art people on the cover, but don't discount it: Richards can teach us all a thing or two.
"I'd encourage as many acts as possible to buy it," he says. "Not so much for my sake — I won't make that much money off of it — but for their sake."
And for your favorite music journalist's sake as well.