If you've ever taken any class that talked about marketing even for a little bit you've probably heard of "the 4 P's of marketing" because they are one of the most basic marketing concepts that you need to understand before you move on to the more complex details, which is exactly why I'm going to explain how they apply to the music world.
The 4Ps are product, price, place, and promotion and together they make up the "marketing mix." These make up the main elements of marketing and most, if not all, of what you can control about a marketing campaign.
The product can mean the artist, a record, a song, a concert, a T-shirt, a download, a physical CD, a ring tone, access to an exclusive online portal or fan club, or any other thing you might be trying sell really. In fact, the idea of a music product has become increasingly complex over the past decade and it really could mean any number of things. Traditionally though, a product would usually either be an album or single, the artist overall, merchandise, or a tour.
It is the tangible thing or intangible experience/service you are trying to get someone to buy. However, it isn't just the physical product itself, but all of the details and development that go into it. This means designing an album cover, determining a track listing and order, choosing an artist's wardrobe and hairstyle, naming the tour and designing the set, choosing which single to release, picking a font, etc. Each of these seemingly smaller decisions come together to create a product that hopefully has one unified look, feel, and appeal to a certain market. So the font Lady Gaga uses on her album cover will be quite different from what Carrie Underwood uses and Carrie's wardrobe is very different from Beyonce's whose dress at The GRAMMYs will probably look very different from Adele's. Sure, this may seem obvious because part of it is about the personal style of that artist, but when it comes to marketing these small details also help tell the bigger picture of the product.
This seems pretty obvious. Price is what you can and do charge for the product. So, the price of the single, album, concert ticket, etc. There's usually a good amount of thought that goes into it though and, while I don't want to go into extensive economic theory right now, price isn't just based on what you feel like charging, there should be some strategy behind it. For example, a new record may be priced lower to help increase sales volume. Conversely, it could be priced higher to earn a large profit instead. An indie artist may be close enough with his fans to know that they would not buy a CD priced at more than $5 and will price his new record accordingly. As you can see, there are several different methods for setting a price, but at their core, it is a balancing act between making a decent profit and finding a price the customer would be willing to pay.
This is another area that has become increasingly complicated in the music industry over the past decade. Place means distribution and traditionally that means working with a distribution company to get your record into stores like FYE , Best Buy, and Walmart. That is still applicable in many cases, but it also means offering free downloads online and through physical download cards, selling mp3s on various sites, getting streamed through Spotify and Pandora, scoring a download of the week or featured album in Starbucks, using CD Baby or Tunecore for distribution, or any other number of ways to share and sell music. Place represents the way you get your music in front of potential fans and make it available for purchase.
Promotion has also changed a lot recently as radio listenership has gone down and the Internet has spawned countless new ways to reach fans while simultaneously taking power away from some of the traditional filters. Now, promotion can mean advertising in magazines or on the Internet, engaging on social networks, streaming concerts or holding live chats, performing on Saturday Night Live, getting a song played on traditional, Internet, or satellite radio, getting a feature on a blog, holding a flash mob, posting a video on Youtube, playing a concert in your fan's living room, running a street team, handing out stickers and flyers, trying to create a viral video, or anything else you can think of to get fans to become aware of and pay attention to your music.
Each of these four P's compliment each other to create one consistent plan and they should work together to appeal to the same audience. For instance, (I'm forewarning you these are based a bit on stereotypes so forgive me) a classical music fan might listen to Sirius XM, buy CDs of their favorite symphonies at a Barnes and Noble, and pay $14.99 while a Ke$ha fan might watch a video on YouTube from a link they saw on Facebook, download a single on iTunes, and pay $.99. Together these elements form the basis of a marketing plan and are the elements that have the most influence on its success.