Filtering by Tag: artist

Turning Fickle Fans into Friends

Just got off the weekly skype call with one of our artists – Drastic Jo – she has a release scheduled for November 13 and we’re busy developing the direct to fan marketing plan.

Typically one of the most important parts of such a plan is the acquisition stage – this is where you set up the digital platform in order to reap as many email addresses, Twitter followers, Facebook and MySpace friends as possible. Figures show that the more people you have on your “lists’ the more dough you make.

However, over recent months there has been a lot of discussion around the importance of developing a deeper relationship between the artist and their existing fans. Having been out and about this week, it was interesting to hear one established management firm state that “Fans suck – it’s all about Friends” – and he wasn’t talking about the digital ones.

With the exploding number of bands and tracks now being marketed to the same audience – an artist not only has to grow new fans and convert them to friends, she has to look after her existing friends in order not to lose them to a competing artist.

Current Direct to Fan marketing is still based around a traditional release date – it makes sense on many different levels; having a specific event and a date allows both artist and fan to focus on each other at the same time. How then does the artist engage the fan and deepen that relationship outside the period of a specific release?

There’s a longer post brewing here – but here’s the short version.

Up until recently the people behind the music were strange mysterious creatures – beings that had this amazing ability to create stuff that changed our lives and made us feel. We assumed that ‘cos we liked their music we would like them – prior to the last decade the only exposure we had to artists were either on stage or through corporate controlled media channels.

They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder - though we had their music in our heads every day – the artists themselves were distant figures and we loved them. Compare that to nowadays: bands are encouraged to Twitter their every move – it’s hard to distinguish between your favorite artist and your favorite social media douche.

As the dust settles on the new music marketing revolution one thing is clear – artist’s lives are no more interesting than yours – and considerably less interesting than your immediate friends. If absence made the heart grow fonder then familiarity clearly breeds contempt – just ask John Mayer.

The only reason I am interested in an artist is because they create music – or in Jo’s case not just music but killer art as well. Once I’m beyond the initial rush of having complete access to who they are, the only time I want them to push out to me is when they have something new.

We think artists and bands need to think about how they release their music. We think a combination of specific release date combined with a monthly release of individual tracks allows for dedicated acquisition planning as well as looking after and deepening the relationship with existing fans.

Things have changed – no shit – but things are changing faster than the experts can write about it. A fan will move onto the next new thing – the next free download – the next photo opp or scandal. A friend will stay with you, will open your email, will come to a show and bring a friend. If your marketing plan purely deals with getting fans, you might want to hang on to your day job.

Photo Credit: The Explosion in the Alchemist’s Laboratory, Justus Gustav van Bentum - Chemical Heritage Foundation, Flickr

Marketing New Music Artists

A couple of stories have popped up this week that has me reaching for my keyboard – the one with letters not notes.   Alex commented about Suzanne Vega’s move to Direct to Fan Marketing and DMN noted that Sade just moved half a million units, going gold in her first week.

Now I love both of these artists – The Queen & The Soldier & Your Love Is King are up there on my top 50 songs of all time (well – for this week anyway) – but there is a HUGE difference between these two legends and a new artist – say like Jody Schneider – who is just starting out.

Suzanne Vega and Sade had years of label development, marketing and promotion in order to establish a fan base.  Their music was introduced to the world decades ago in a record industry that looks nothing like the current music business.  The scarcity model makes huge sense if you’re Prince or Bowie or the above two artists, but at the beginning of your career the only person who notices that you’re not producing is your Mom.

As the music business becomes more and more tech dependant with artists getting involved in website design, digital audio, tweets and blog posts - let’s not forget the lessons of the last 10 years of online business.  Just because the big guys are set up in a certain way doesn’t mean you have to emulate them, in fact oftentimes adopting the same strategy can be detrimental. 

The beauty of the web and of being your own boss is that you can change your approach fairly quickly, you can use different strategies to reflect where you are in your career,  change the layout of your website, try different approaches to marketing and distribution.  Unlike traditional bricks and mortar businesses you don’t need a mason every time you want to change how you express yourself.

So – I’m stoked for Sade that a 10 year break from releasing music resulted in her existing fans picking up half a million copies, but – if you’re an Indie artist and you haven’t broken yet – I’d advise against this strategy.  If you want to keep quiet for the next decade – you go for it – the challenge of connecting to people who might dig your masterpiece will still be here waiting for you on your return.  

RCRDLBL

It used to be that you only listened to one kind of music – your whole identity was wrapped up in a couple of bands that would shape your clothes, your hair who you hung out with and who you made out with. 

From what I can tell – this is all pretty much in the past.  With terrestrial radio being nothing but Prozac for the masses – people are getting their music from satellite or the internet; when you control who you listen to, the choices are endless.

Over on music2work2 I have been actively listening to beat makers – I'm looking to incorporate more beats into the music and there is no better way to do this than listening to different artists.  The site that I use for this is RCRDLBL.  To quote from their about page:

RCRD LBL is an online record label releasing exclusive and completely free music from emerging and established artists. In addition to our in-house label, the RCRD LBL network includes a curated roster of independent record labels offering free MP3 downloads and multimedia content in blog format.

Which sounds groovy and all – but in reality it means that every day I get an email from them with one, sometimes two tracks which I can listen to and if I like – download.  The music is predominately dance, hip hop, club music with the odd Indie band thrown in for fun – if I dig the track I can add the band to my RCRD LBL and download the Free MP3. They also make it super easy to embed the track on your site - which is something I really like and is why you're currently grooving to Whatevr u Want right now!

As a music delivery service it’s great and I love the write ups about the artist – although they often seem to be pulled from the artist’ bio page.  What I don’t like about the site is how long it takes to log in – it takes for-freakin-ever.  Also the layout of the site is really blocky and chunky – kind of like they did a wireframe and then forgot to actually take it to the next level.

Still – at the end of the day this is about the music and if you’re interested in new beats I can thoroughly recommend RCRDLBL.

*** Last week to enter the #FREECHAOS competition and win a free website and hosting for a year ***

Marketing for Musicians & Fans

Forget the artists for the moment – forget about what the DJ wants, what the band or their manger wants and let’s focus in on you – the fan – the customer.  What do you want?  It’s great to get a hand written note from your favorite player – maybe a signed T-shirt or a retweet from the lead singer but what if they were so busy interacting with their fans, with you, that they didn’t have time for music?   What if you demand so much of their time that their next album sucks? Let's not allow the fans to kill the music

We all know there has been a huge change in the Music business over the last decade – it’s not just about music – this affects any business where the product can be digitized and replicated for zero cost.  Everything changes – production changes, distribution changes and marketing sure as hell changes.  I’m currently studying at the Berklee College of Music: Online Music Marketing with TopSpin and it is fascinating.

The core discussion is centered on Direct to Fan marketing; we know you all love an acronym so we’ll refer to it as DTF marketing from here on.  DTF marketing is brilliant – it means you don’t have to pander to anybody else, no dealing with coke addled label reps or bigger picture politics – you can do whatever you want.  You can release your album – call it a ridiculous name and stick candy covered elves on the front and the only people you need to answer to are your fans.  It all sounds utopian doesn’t it?

Except there’s a problem; what if you don’t have a lot of fans?  What if you weren’t “broken” by the existing label system and you’re sitting in front of your laptop wondering who to email next?

The concept being pushed by the TopSpin team is that of the Middle Class musician – basically in the old days (like 2 years ago!) you either made it - i.e. signed with a label, got your album funded and got promoted through the system (and even then it was unlikely that you would actually “make it”) or you didn’t make it – i.e. you didn’t get signed, didn’t get to make your album and didn’t get hot groupie sex.

The middle class musician falls somewhere in between the two extremes – you might not become the next John Mayer or Death Cab, but you do get your album made and can quite probably make a living from having a couple of thousand fans – if you’re a sole artist.  However – the minute you start to scale – the minute you have 5 members in the band you need more fans and without access to label cash and label established marketing channels – how the hell do you get them?

The answer is through hard bloody work, one fan at a time, making real relationships with your audience, answering their emails, responding to their tweets, viewing their videos and listening to their mashups.  By becoming accessible you deepen the bond between band and fan and when you have something new – the fan will talk about it and share it with their friends – the marketing of your music spreads organically through the fan base – your fans are your marketing – not the radio station.

But each fan demands your time – the story of Jonathon Coulton scares the hell out of me – great indie artist, started writing and posting a song a day, got some traction, grew his fan base by developing immediate online relationships with them, was super smart about his career and now probably makes around $100k a year as a truly independent artist.  So – what’s scary about that?  Well – The last I heard, Jonathon was spending 6 hours a day at his laptop maintaining the relationship with his fans which is great – but – where’s the time for music in that?  Not only that – how can he possibly scale it any bigger using the same model – surely more fans means more time online and eventually he’s going to reach a point where he can no longer maintain a deep enough relationship with his existing fans, let alone his new fans and ultimately things will slow down and then decline.

Add on top of that that if you’re a 4 piece rock band – you need 4 times as many fans as Jonathon has in order to get a decent lifestyle, which requires 4 times as much work and we haven’t even touched on upfront costs.

There has to be a middle ground – there has to be a way for the fan to feel that they’re connected with the artists and that they’re not going through some lame corporate PR house and likewise there has to be some way for the artists to wake up in the morning, smoke a doobie and pick up their instrument without worrying about the 170 emails in their inbox.

That’s the challenge and over the next few weeks, Alex and I are going to be developing our solution for this – we welcome your comments.

Image Credit:  Source Flickr Author: Amarand Agasi

One Track Mind - Music Discovery Made Easy, One Track at a Time

For the next couple of weeks in support of the #FreeChaos competition, we’re going to be writing about music sites that we dig and that offer resources to independent bands / artists / DJs.  One of my favorite sites for music blogs is: One Track Mind - music Discovery Made Easy - One Track ay a time

One Track Mind – Music Discovery Made Easy, One Song at a Time.

The idea of the Music Blog has been around many years – getting featured on Pitchfork or even The Hype Machine can do you a lot of favors – but those gates often have ”Industry” keepers – so what’s a band to do?

Well – you could of course sit down with The Hype Machine’s List of Music Blogs and contact every single one of them or – you could contact One Track Mind.  In keeping with their tag line they sure make it easy to discover new music.  Sign up for the daily email or get the track delivered to your RSS reader and every day you’ll get a song that you can stream immediately and download with a knowledgeable write up that delivers useful information about the track and the artist.

Go to the actual site and you can see that Danny (the rather accomplished site owner) grades the track on three scales: Originality, Repeat Listen Potential and Overall Verdict.  Which I initially thought was a little weird but over time has really started to make sense.  You can rate each track on a scale of 1 to 10 and of course leave a comment if you’re so inclined – and the most popular tracks are promoted to the community – genius!

Whether Danny has some Scandinavian roots I’m not sure but he sure does dig northern European bands and my music library has some great music I would never have come across – check out this track from Friska Viljor – “Wohlwill Strasse” – if it doesn’t make you want to get up and move to Stochkholm right now – then I’m a Dutchman.

Of course – couldn’t let this post go without acknowledging the hip to one of my new favorite Scottish Acts – Malcolm Middleton – check out Red Travellin Socks - the build to the final chorus push at 4:20 is one of my all time favorites. I immediately went out and bought Waxing Gibbous as a result – who says the music business is dead?

Finally – if you’re in the Denver area and are looking for a photographer – check out the amazing work from Danny’s partner – seriously good work – Nina Barry makes normal people look like Movie Stars.

Is Your Band A Business?

You’d better bloody believe it, and just like any business out there – you want it to be easy for customers – call them fans – to find you and give you money.

I’ve been in bands on and off pretty much my whole life; whether as a 6 year old dressed up as Gary Glitter (which in retrospect is just wrong!) or as a “grown up” keyboard player – there’s nothing like the dream of making it in music.  There is however a big difference between playing at it and actually living it – a huge part of that difference is how you manage your online presence.

We know that there is a growing market for easy to update websites that integrate seamlessly with social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook and that don’t require a computer science degree to use.  We also recognize that having an easy to use website doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s enough time in the day for the business owner (lead singer, drummer or keyboard player – guitar players are usually too busy screwing around with their tone!) to write and respond to blog comments, Facebook friend requests or tweets.

If at this point you’re all squeamish about looking at your music – your art – as a business than you’re reading the wrong website. Remember, to do this professionally you need people to give you money and not just once, but again and again for as long as you are making music.

We work with Bands but we also work with Realtors and Telecoms Agents – the product is different but the business relationship is always the same. If you can find the time to work your website, manage your Facebook page and keep your fans – call them customers – updated by email – you dramatically increase your chances of doing this for the rest of your life.

Want to learn more? Contact us..

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