You've never heard of Brandon Heath, but he wants to give you his phone number. And he wants you to call him. Seriously.

Heath, a new artist with Essential Records, wants to make himself—and his music—known. So when his debut album releases this fall, he'll include his cell phone number in the liner notes. For every fan who calls and leaves a message, he'll pick one per week and return the call for some personal chat time.

Call it a brilliant idea, call it a gimmick, call it whatever you want. It's just one of many strategies—some clearly defined, many of them not—for marketing a new artist in the already crowded world of Christian music.

The industry calls it trying to "break" an artist—doing whatever it can to help a new musician or band rise above the pack, create some buzz, and, ultimately, get noticed . . . on the radio, in stores, online, on tour. Wherever. Whenever. However.

Marketing a new artist takes a combination of skill (from publicity pros and promoters), hard work (for everyone involved, but especially the artists themselves), luck (and who can lasso that?), a good story (a junkie-to-Jesus testimony doesn't hurt), networking (it's nice when a superstar is on your side), and, maybe, divine intervention (though that's sorta like saying God wants one sports team to "win" and another to "lose").

Oh, and a schtick doesn't hurt. Like including your phone number on your CD.

Heath says a friend suggested the idea.

"I took it as a joke at first," he says, "but the longer we thought about it, the cooler it sounded. I'm on the phone all day long, so how much time would one more call take, especially if I could thank someone for buying my record? Obviously that couldn't be a daily dialogue, but ...

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