Be Safe, Be Sorry

That's the title of Marcia Yudkin's weekly email newsletter.  Marcia is a fantastic copywriter.  I've been a subscriber for several years.  This latest email is one of many reasons why.  Marcia wrote, “With ‘me too' marketing, you spend the same to get your message out as for a more distinctive idea.  Yet you enjoy a smaller impact.”

She's right, of course.  The idea she writes about is nothing new among marketers.  Seth Godin regularly preaches about the Purple Cow, meaning “create something remarkable”, not safe.  The only way to stand out in the world is to do something amazing.

That rings home to me because Not Every Day Is St. Patrick's Day is not anything new.  There are a few new songs which I am quite happy about.  There are a few new arrangements, which I also like.  But I repeat a lot of songs from the Brobdingnagian Bards album Songs of Ireland, and I'm also following the “me too” marketing plan that Marcia talks about.  Well, sort of…

My plan started in 1999.  I found a cassette of Irish Drinking Songs at Half-Price Books in Austin.  It was recorded live by some unknown band on a generic label.  It's a fantastic 26 minute album with twenty fun Irish drinking songs.  My entire marketing approach was built around how I found that album and how they sold it to me.

Incidentally, the album is now the #1 album sold on iTunes for the search phrase “Irish drinking songs”.

That said, the marketing plan doesn't really work for me (much) any more.  Yes, my St Pats CD was in part designed for that same purpose.  Not entirely though.  It was also designed for my Irish Song Lyrics website and for another companion CD for my Irish Drinking Songs for Cat Lovers series (coming soon).

Yet the CD release of Not Every Day Is St. Patrick's Day was a tremendous success.  “Nancy Whiskey” is now my biggest selling single on Amazon.  The album is fighting with Firefly Drinking Songs and Don't Go Drinking With Hobbits for my top-selling album.  It sounds fantastic.  It's fun, and it's totally traditional.

I don't know if that means anything to you, but what I've learned about marketing over the years is exactly what Marcia Yudkin said, “Be Safe, Be Sorry”.  Maybe it's because I had a bigger mission.  Or maybe I just did a good job on the album.  Who knows.

What I do know is that I didn't entirely expect for the CD to sell great.  I thought it might be more like a vanity albums (like Heart's Ease).  Yet, I knew by recording traditional cover songs that the album would sell well through iTunes.  Right now, it's exceeding expectations because people seem to love the album AND it's selling well on iTunes.

What I've learned is that original songs usually do better.  My original ballads, fun filks, or even original covers are typically my most-popular songs.  Songs like “Close Your Eyes”, “Don't Go Drinking With Hobbits”, or any of my cat songs.

Which leads me to the next question.  Where do I go from here?

What's Next, Safe or Sorry?

I know it's too soon to start to really start promoting a new album.  But I thought I'd give you a heads up on albums I am working on.

The one I'm looking forward to for the same reason as the St Pat's CD is Scottish Songs of Drinking & Rebellion.  I've talked about this CD on and off for a couple years now.  The goal of the album is much like Not Every Day Is St. Patrick's Day.  It's designed to offer more Celtic song lyrics and hopefully create a decent residual income from digital sales.  That said, I don't know if I will promote it quite the same way or not.  Once I finish the album, I'll decide.  But with some of my favorite songs on it… We'll see.

The other solo CD I hope to finish this year will be an album of fun filk and folk songs.  It'll be in the same vein as Kilted For Her Pleasure and What Color Is Your Dragon with songs like “The Smial or the Tree”, “Doctor of Gallifrey”, “La La La (Geek-Style)”, “Bring Me Home” (studio version), plus a couple cover songs.  It's looking like a great album and I've recorded enough of these songs that I should be able to release it this summer.

The Brobdingnagian Bards will release a CD some time this year.  I was hoping it would be done in the Spring, but it's looking like a summer release too, especially since we haven't been able to release the remixed version of Memories of Middle Earth yet.  The new Bards album will feature “Zombie Love Song” and a bunch of songs that we used to perform yet never released on an album.  Some of my favorites are “Busy Doin' Nothing” and “I Will Not Sing Along”.  However, the full track list will come later.

This past weekend, my good friend Jamie Haeuser came to stay with us and visit her Goddaughter.  Jamie is also my partner with Gunns & Drums.  We jammed together and created a list of songs we plan to release for our debut album.  Jamie has recorded on a number of albums, but this would be our first album together.  It will feature songs like “Men of New Basin Canal”, “Who's Gonna Shoe”, “Molly Malone”, “Ais Vis Lo Lop”, and our signature song “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” (from where the band name comes).  We hope to start recording in March, though I'd bet it is not completed until this Fall.

Also this Fall, I will release my Celtic Christmas compilation CD entitled Keep the Celtic in Christmas.  This album will feature many of my favorite Celtic Christmas songs by a variety of indie Celtic musicians.

Those are the main albums I'm working on, but there are still a lot of smaller projects that I hope to release as well, including Celtic Songs Companion (featuring the original songs parodied on Whiskers in the Jar), Best Irish Drinking Songs (a compilation CD by the Irish & Celtic Music Podcast featuring some of my favorite drinking songs from my different albums), and A Tribute to Love (remastered and re-released under a new title by Ichabod Zeuss).

As you can see, I have a lot of album work planned for the year.   I don't really know if these albums are “safe” or “sorry”.  Right now, I'm a bit too close.  But they should help with my continued musical existence for a wee bit longer at the very least.

Marc Gunn, The Celfather