Last month The Vaccines released what was claimed to be the first music video made up of pics shared via the Instagram iPhone app. Being the first carries a lot of weight when you can support that claim and, from what I can tell, that seems to be the case. It also serves as yet another example of how to draw fans together to create content that can then be professionally edited into a form that gets a big response.
The Vaccines and team put out a call for photos to use in a music video for the single “Wetsuit” a few months back.
They set up a dedicated website with the following simple instructions:
1. Download Instagr.am to your iPhone for free
2. Use it to take photos at festivals. Bands, tents, fields, mud, thrills, spills, the lot!
3. Tag them with #VACCINESVIDEO when you post. We’ll do the rest. Easy
They ended up with 2433 tagged photos leading to a video focused on fans and their environment that has received almost 700,000 views on YouTube.
While they got quite a bit of media coverage, fan comments on spots like YouTube seem to be more to the point:
“I want all these people to be my friends.”
“SUCH A COOL VIDEO I WANT TO BE IN IT!”
“I want to go back to Reading Festival so much looking at this. Summer 2011 was perfect!”
“I literally want to be friends with them and have their clothes and be there with them :|”
“basically my kind of crowd
my kind of life
my kind of music”
Sure, there are other comments, but I find the ones showing an identification between folks who wish they were there and folks who were there to be the most interesting indicators of the video being part of the process of building a cohesive, self-identified fanbase.
As Adweek’s David Kiefaber points out:
“This is one of those situations where pop culture does what anonymous fans have been doing for years — this is just a well-edited version of the sort of photo slideshow someone would put together after graduating from college.”
And that’s the beauty of the Wetsuit video. The Vaccines take an approach seen in fan-made music videos for other bands, connect it to a still fresh mobile service, get their fans involved and end up with a relatively low-budget music video that gets lots of press, a claim to being first and great fan response.
It’s an excellent example of how new tech connected to well-established practices and desires can get a great deal of mileage out of a simple idea.
When we first checked in on singer Michelle Shaprow, she was getting big in Japan while struggling with how best to maintain personal contact with her growing fanbase on Facebook. Since then she’s continued to build her Facebook following while developing business contacts facilitated by her Facebook activities and expanding her activities to other countries. She most recently signed to a worldwide publishing deal with BMG.
Michelle Shaprow - Thank you to my Facebook Friends
Though Michelle Shaprow hasn’t completely solved her dilemma regarding her desire to maintain direct, personal contact with her fans on Facebook, she has found a few solutions while also using Facebook to develop her team and establish business relationships. In fact, she now views her Facebook friends as an important part of her team.
To some degree, Michelle’s solutions to connecting with her fans via her Facebook Page and maxed out personal account is what one would expect. She now reluctantly accepts that she cannot respond to all personal messages and focuses on interacting on public posts on her wall as well as posting more general shoutouts.
However, she’s been able to maintain her personal touch as I feel she demonstrates in the above thank you message to her fans marking the latest milestone in her blossoming career, signing a publishing deal with BMG. This video is also scheduled for posting today at Music on Facebook, a nice touch given how instrumental Facebook has been as a tool for building her career to date.
Because Michelle has been focusing on international label deals, introducing her music to the world country by country with the assistance of national labels, signing a worldwide publishing deal with BMG allows that process to continue while offering her support with licensing, music placements and connections with sponsors.
Michelle has found that, due to the strength of her fanbase on Facebook and her growing international presence, she’s able to work with a major company like BMG based on proven appeal. For example, they can see that she is reaching a much broader demographic than one might expect for her music and so she is able to avoid approaches that target only populations that might seem the most obvious fit.
This flexibility has also allowed her to continue working with labels in such countries as Japan, Korea and the Netherlands to tailor her approach to each territory. These deals are being developed by her manager, Dominique Trenier, with whom she had mutual friends but who first listened to her music video on Facebook and then established direct contact. Oddly enough, the two have yet to meet face-to-face!
In addition to developing such traditional business contacts with the help of Facebook, Michelle also now considers her Facebook friends to be part of the team. For example, fans have recommended particular blogs with which she was previously unfamiliar that have been receptive to her music. Fans have also connected her to business opportunities including, for example, getting her music on radio in Botswana.
Though she expects to eventually sign a U.S. label deal, she is biding her time and working from a position of strength enabled, in part, through Facebook. She also recognizes that one day she will have to find a helper for some of her Facebook activities but such a person will need to be closely aligned with Michelle’s philosophy of music and life to become a solid part of the team.
Though some elements of Michelle Shaprow’s use of Facebook are similar to previous success stories, other aspects seem rather unique and serve as a strong reminder that social media-facilitated success can take many forms. Given that good things come in threes, I imagine we’ll be doing a future followup regarding Ms. Shaprow bringing it all back home to the States.
Article originally appeared on Hypebot (http://www.hypebot.com) and was written by Clyde Smith.
This past spring I polled a number of music blogger friends and gathered the results in “How to Avoid Pissing Off Music Bloggers (and Several Other Handy Tips for Artists).” I think it was a pretty good article and the feedback it received suggests that it was helpful to a lot of people. But there’s a lot to the process of music promotion — from a music blogger’s perspective, at least — that the article didn’t cover. Frankly I left out a number of particulars because I didn’t want to come off as too condemning, brash or caustic in my criticism of other people’s poor practices. Lord knows I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my own life…
Originally I had the idea to play off of Ben Stein’s tongue-in-cheek book about how to ensure that you stay as miserable as possible for the rest of your life, How to Ruin Your Life, but after I had scribbled down no fewer than a couple dozen issues I take with how people market music online, I momentarily gave up. (As it turns out, I’m no Ben Stein…) No matter how good it might feel to straight-up rip on other people who who are terrible at what they do, many who profit from being a nuisance under the guise of legitimate promotion, I realized that my personal emotions were getting the better of me and I was saying some things that I wasn’t entirely committed to in the spirit of “setting the record straight,” or whatever. It’s not my plan to be mean spirited here, and trust me: this is the toned-down version.
This week I’m hoping to have a few articles readied that will close out a chapter of whatever this website has become, each dealing with a different aspect of what this whole music blogging thing has come to entail. For the past six and a half years the daily process of being bombarded by people trying to push music on me has steadily become the most irritating aspect of the blogging process (something which practically every music blogger I’m friends with will attest to), and one that will sadly continue on long after I’ve given up on blogging. Much of listening to new music now has become a task no different than checking Facebook or Twitter: combing through band-spam isn’t nearly as rewarding a task as it might appear to the non-music blogger. Even so, I’m still hoping that this doesn’t translate as me spitting in the face of the very industry that helped me actually become a music blogger. Without emails from bands and the select few record label reps and marketing jockeys who I befriended in my first year as a blogger, I likely wouldn’t have continued on. Also, in reality, they come with the territory: I’ve been able to avoid having to have a real job for a few years because of this silly little blog and it’s kind of ridiculous that I’ve allowed this one small aspect of the process to wear on me. Sour grapes is all… Also, since 2005 I’ve had the good luck of learning a lot about the marketing process and the industry of music because of these interactions, and from time to time I was even introduced to some really, really good music that I would have otherwise never heard. But for every good email there are hundreds of duds that I’m confident exist in this world for no other purpose than to annoy me and waste my time. If you’re looking to gain some helpful insight into how avoid making some easy mistakes as you market your music online I’d suggest checking that first article out, but if you’re looking for a little bit more, here are a few of the major problems I take issue with these days, which are just a few of the many ways to fail at promoting music online.
So, you’ve found an email address? Perhaps you traded contact lists with another artist, blindly harvested information from sites indexed by The Hype Machine or were passed down contact information an employee who previously had your job. One of the biggest mistakes you can make, however, is to assume that simply because you have an email address, that you should use it.
The quickest way to find yourself on the bad-side of an email recipient is to send them something that they have no interest in. Think about how you feel when you receive a “FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: FWD: This will make your day!” email from a relative who you only interact with at Christmas time… now multiply that by about 100, and that’s what the average music blogger deals with on a daily basis. Only instead of receiving photos of adorable puppies and double-rainbows, they’re emails packed with puffed up bios, questionable mystery-attachments and music that usually isn’t worth a damn. Fact of the matter is that if you utilize that send-it-to-everyone-and-see-what-sticks method, you might not be asshole, but you’re kind of acting like one. What’s that you say, you like music? Then I’m sure you’ll be interested in this:
For fans of REAL music…
One of the problems with this is that even if you’re careful, considerate, and you do the legwork to find outlets that are appropriate for your music, you’re in the minority, and your email is likely to be clumped in with the daily wave of incoming spam. Unless you’ve already had successful communication with the recipient, there’s a good chance that whatever it is you’re sending to them will likely be greeted with as much excitement as a LinkedIn invitation.
Six years ago there weren’t that many people willing to send bloggers email, so of course it was easier to get noticed, but there were also fewer blogs out there to consider for your campaign. If you have 400 blogs in your radar, it’s easier to assess which are right for what it is that you’re trying to promote. When there are 4,000 this becomes damn-near impossible. Yet simply because other people make a habit of sending out blanket solicitations that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consideryour audience. Some will argue that they get the same number of replies and blog posts based on this method as they do when they take far more time and focus their aim. Don’t be mistaken though: successful spam-artists are still spam-artists.
Overlook Account Management
You’ve done it! You’ve trudged through every last blog indexed by The Hype Machine & Elbo.ws, you’ve collaborated with other artists & publicists, you’ve combed through blog directories until the dead of night, and you’ve finally gathered the ultimate physical & digital contact list. Now it’s as easy as BCC-ing them all on your next email blast and you’re off to the races. But what happens if contact information changes or the recipient simply does not want to be on your mailing list? You’re actively working address that, right?
Allow me to give you an example of what I’m talking about by publicly doing whoever is in charge of EMI’s mailouts a solid…
Merry Christmas, jackass
When I graduated from college in 2006 I moved back in with my parents while I worked to pay off my student loans. But as time went on I became more financially stable and moved out on my own, and during that time I also happened to transfer the blog to its own domain from a Blogspot. Yet here we are, over five years later and I STILL receive mail at my parents’ house, addressed to me from EMI, which even cites the old Blogspot URL (which I don’t even have own anymore, actually) on the address label. To make matters worse, the contents of these packages are typically promotional copies of albums (so my parents can’t even bring what they receive to a used record store) by such unappetizing artists as Dean Martin. So, not only has EMI failed to update their contact records in five years, but they’re targeting the wrong people with their mailings, and are ultimately paying postage (and the cost of a bubble mailer, someone to stuff envelopes, yada yada yada) to send glorified landfill fodder. And you wonder why major labels are dying?! Sure, it’s fun to pick on the big guys, but this is a problem that practically everyone promoting music is guilty of in some fashion.
Even if you don’t concern yourself with physical mailings (which you shouldn’t!) how often are you updating your contact information? Another example: Over its lifetime, including various contributor email addresses and the central contact account, there have been over a dozen email addresses associated with Culture Bully. Over time things changed though, and in part due to contributors coming and going around 10 email addresses have been deactivated. So as to not miss out in the event that a long-lost-love (they don’t exist) wants to get in touch with me (which will never happen) however, I have a “catch-all” set up so that firstname.lastname@example.org will be forwarded to the one single email address that I use. What happens when you don’t update your records? I receive upwards of a dozen emails from you every time you send a single email blast. This, to me at least, is as annoying as receiving an email twice, however, because both show that you don’t bother with account maintenance.
Additionally, if you don’t offer recipients a one-click method for unsubscribing from your emails, you’re potentially doing yourself some serious harm. Many senders will add a blurb explaining that if you no longer wish to receive such messages, you can email email@example.com and will be removed. But what if the music blogger goes ahead and does that, and you can’t figure out what email address it is that they’re requesting you to remove because your contact list is 2000 addresses deep and you haven’t updated in three years? Countless times I’ve sent in removal requests only to get a response saying something like, “I’m sorry, but I can’t find your email address on my list.” Know why? In part because of that catch-all. And because you BCC’d your email, I can’t tell which of the dozen-plus expired email addresses you’re still using.
Further, it’s not a blogger’s responsibility to update your records for you. So please think twice before sending out “contact information update” requests, asking us to fill in our information for you (especially when everything you need is usually right there on our websites!). Between assuming interest and maintaining current contact info, this is where 99% of publicists and artists fail before recipients have even taken a moment to actually, you know, listen to a single second of music.
(Also, I’m not kidding about the single-click opt-out button. Here’s why it’s probably more vital than you think it is: Because companies like Google offer a single-click opt-out button of their own which is called the spam button. Think I’m kidding? You’d be surprised how many bloggers use it to help ensure that unwanted emails sent from strangers don’t become a nuisance.)
Of all the how-to-market-to-bloggers tutorials I’ve read over the years, one of the most consistent inclusions is some sort of mention of how you should “personalize” emails so that they leave a better impression on the recipient. Every last one of these tutorials is correct: you should personalize emails. However, this doesn’t mean slipping the email recipient’s name into a template that you’re sending to hundreds of people. It means actually personalizing emails.
Anyone can add a name to a subject line or email body, and if you think that you’re on top of things by differentiating yourself as such: how poorly, poorly mistaken you are. Not only are email programs capable of doing this for people now, but if you are entering information yourself, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you screw up and call someone the wrong name, address the wrong blog in the body, or pull-off some other easily avoidable copy & paste boner. (I’ve done it myself when emailing five family members, imagine how prone to mistakes this method is when emailing hundreds of blogs with thousands of contributors…)
During this past spring’s blogger survey, when I was asking for general feedback, I received this message from Tiana Feng ofRide the Tempo: “Generally, if you spelt my name wrong in an e-mail it would automatically end up in junk.” Can you imagine how many emails Tiana gets for Tina? But people get this wrong EVERY DAY with simple things, like, y’know: blog names. If you’re emailing XXX@culturebully.com, how much sense does it make to address the recipient as Analog Giant, let alone Culture Buddy? Aside from suggesting that we now have some sort of implied friendship, you’ve just shown how little the email means to you. But that’s not even the worst part of this “personalized email” fallacy.
Also acceptable: Culture Billy, Culture Belly & Couture Bully.
I don’t read many music-related emails, but if I had to guess how many mistake “personalize” for “pander” I’d have to put it at somewhere around 25%. “I’m a big fan of the site.” “Such a great blog!” “I read it every day.” (All of which still introduce mass-mailings sent to dozens if not hundreds of recipients.) Numerous times I’ve talked to other bloggers about this and the conclusion that we’ve all come to is that if even half of the people who say they loved our blogs even visited them, our traffic/Twitter follower/Facebook Like statistics would be through the roof. Yes, it takes a long time to actually send individual emails to individual people, but before you mock the idea of doing so, consider what you’re asking for in return. How long do you think it might take someone to listen to one of your songs, let alone an EP or full-length album. From there, how long might it take them to email you back to get updates on what you’re currently working on (tour info, new material, etc.)? Then there’s the actual process of posting something on their blog. This could be as simple as slapping a music video online (which takes, what, a minute?), or as detailed as writing an artist profile or album review. Granted, this is a fairly rare occurrence, but sometimes it takes days (not 24/7, obviously, but…) to compile information, allow sounds to simmer, and create something worthwhile to put online. And you can’t be bothered to get Tiana’s name correct when entering it into your copy & paste email template?
In this situation “personalized” means giving a damn. After all, that’s what you’re asking us to do, isn’t it?
This one’s fairly quick and to the point: If a music blogger/journalist/whatever takes the time to write something worthwhile about your music (let’s say an article about a music video that you’ve just released on YouTube), then why not direct readers to the article rather than directly to the YouTube page? You still get your YouTube view, plus you’re showing a bit of goodwill in the process. The same could be said for occasions when articles include links to your tracks via Bandcamp or Soundcloud embeds: If the very assets you’re trying to promote are every bit as visible and functional on an article that someone devoted time to creating, why not direct your fans to their page instead of the Bandcamp or Soundcloud bases? Doing so might seem basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many artists/publicists miss these opportunities to promote their own work. If you want to build lasting relationships, show that you care about the time people are spending on putting your name out there. It literally costs you seconds and there’s so much that can be gained from it.
As amusing as the above tweet might be, I cannot stress enough how important its message is. These words come from Wil Loesel, who began his “media career in 2000 with SFX/Clear Channel Entertainment as a client liaison” and now runs the Culture VI Experience blog. This remains one of my favorite tweets because of its direct contradiction to what countless workshops, publicists and music marketing 2.0 websites will tell you. And it’s true.
A recent interview between Billboard’s Ian Rogers and Marc Geiger (former ARTISTdirect CEO, current William Morris Endeavor agent, and one of the “true bridges between the old and new music businesses”) constructed a rather familiar scene for anyone who’s followed the business of online music marketing over the past decade by suggesting that a single blog can still break a band. The single blog in reference is, of course, Pitchfork, and due to the website’s “global distribution” (opposed to print’s regional reach) Geiger explained how Pitchfork is able to cause “potent” word of mouth to spread about an act when they dish out a positive review (he also suggested that the whole of TV on the Radio’s success can be attributed to an “eight-point-something” review, for what it’s worth). For a more recent example Geiger explained how a single glowing review of a free download on the site has led to the Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye becoming so in demand that he now garners upward of $25,000 for a live performance. Nice as that may be however, it paints a rather false picture of just how much the music blogosphere — even its “major players” — might have on your act.
Brandon Griffiths, founder of music blog aggregator Elbo.ws, explained to me this past spring that his site monitors around 4,000 music blogs. That’s the number of music blogs that the site indexes, but by my estimation there have to be at least 10,000 around the world. Even that figure might be a little light. Add to that however many “legitimate” magazines and newspaper sections are focused on music, and think of whatever the total number of people around the world there are who are contributing to these outlets… what we’re left with is a lot of potential “tastemakers.” But of them, how many have truly supportive and engaged audiences to a degree that the outlet could single-handedly help elevate the profile of an artist or band given a positive review? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? How many outlets the likes of Culture Bully (in 2010 56.04% of traffic was generated by search engines, with 89.52% being new visitors… which is to say that the Real Reach is quite a bit smaller than any perceived reach) would it take, when combined together, to create the same level of buzz about your music? One hundred? Two hundred? Five hundred?
In a perfect world, even if all you do is spam recipients with the exact same un-personalized message, let’s say that the return rate (where you’re simply given a reply) from sending emails to music bloggers is somewhere from 1-3%. That means you could end up having to send out thousands of emails for any given campaign to gain a sliver of the online-coverage you’re seeking. Sure you could land a Pitchfork profile, or have an mp3 end up somewhere high on The Hype Machine’s daily popular songs chart, and hope that either causes a trickle down effect which leads dozens and dozens of other websites to post about your music, but both scenarios are relatively unlikely.
In the end though, what happens if you do miraculously get 200 blogs to talk about your music? That could mean a couple more iTunes/Bandcamp/Amazon sales, it might help swing a bit of weight in your favor when it comes to landing gigs at reputable venues, or it could even push you to landing some coverage from a major outlet, all of which would technically help push your career to the Next Level. But you have to decide how much time and effort you’re willing to spend on these what-ifs. As a musician, every minute you’re spending pushing your music to hot-and-cold bloggers, or journalists or whatever you’d like to call people who rap about music online, is one less minute you’re actually playing music. It’s one less minute that you’re actually performing, or one less minute that you’re on the phone with a promoter trying to set up your next show. Yes, you can get a publicist or a manager to handle your online “strategy,” but then you’re going deeper and deeper into your own pocket to pay to pay a premium for a process that has a laughable success rate regardless of who does the job.
Online marketing is valuable. But the point here is to underline the importance of not letting others (the Weeknd’s success, for example) influence you into thinking that it’s the only way to go: you too could demand $25,000 a show if picked up by Pitchfork; you need a publicist because if you’re not marketing online, you’re bound to fail! Ultimately you have to think to yourself, where exactly IS the money coming from (rapper)?
If you’ve read this far it’s my hope that you were able to pick up on just how much these issues have to do with personal preference and circumstance, and that they might not be issues that arise with the majority of music-heads you deal with. Having said that, you never know… if someone had a bad weekend, who knows whether they’ll be interested in opening your email on Monday. You can’t plan for these inconsistencies. And even if you do all the right things and someone still doesn’t show interest, it could be because they’re simply overwhelmed that day or that they think your music sucks: it’s impossible to know which and I don’t know how to solve that. But what I can say is that, for me personally, the issues mentioned here really do go a long way in influencing whether or not I give you my time. There are so many factors that can affect how successful you are on any given day… Write an email that’s too long? I won’t read it. Email me twice by mistake? I won’t read it. Use an introductory line that rubs me the wrong way (What’s good with you guy-bro)? I won’t read it. When it comes right down to it, most of the time email marketing a crapshoot.
There is no Right Way of doing things, and I would hate to be in your position, either as an artist or publicist having to push music for a living, which is why I’m sorry if I’ve come off as too snarky here (again, sour grapes on my part). It’s difficult to get your name out there, and it’s only getting tougher to do with each day that passes. Truthfully, a bit of the above is questionable advice, but it still speaks to an important idea (I’m talking to artists here): Do not stop educating yourself. Of the tens of thousands of artists trying to push their music online every day, those who continue to identify new ways that they can do things better are those who are likelier to succeed. How many boneheaded “how-tos” are there like this very article identifying ways to market music in the digital era? Hundreds, if not thousands. And how many of them are weighed down by abstract ideas like “write a great subject line” or “watch your tone”? Plenty. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek the advice, just be mindful of what advice is worth taking. How many times have you seen mediocre acts land a big spot on a bunch of random blogs (hell, this blog!) and thought to yourself that you are waaaaay better than them at what you do? Then again, maybe they did something you didn’t. It’s really a matter of what you take away from seeing others succeed and how you filter the advice of others. Whatever you do, never forget: If you think you’re doing everything the Right Way and are unwilling to modify your game plan, it won’t be long before you’ll become as irrelevant as a band who still uses 30 second Real Player clips on their Angelfire website to promote their music. Good luck.
Article originally appeared on Culture Bully (http://www.culturebully.com) and was written by Chris Deline.
This is a matter that I’ve struggled with, going back and forth. Should I release full length albums in this new music era or should I be releasing singles once per month? I was leaning towards releasing a single each month for one reason: consistent fan engagement. It’s good to always have something new to talk about with your fans!
But then, I ran into a problem - a few weeks isn’t enough time to promote a song in any kind of impactful/effective way, especially when you are an independent artist. You’ve barely promoted that song before you’ve moved onto the next one. And from the fan engagement standpoint, I found many of them didn’t know I had certain songs out. For whatever reason, all of the fans don’t pay attention all of the time. So if there’s no sustained attention/focus on the promotion of a particular release, it’s hard for people to know it exists.
Another important point is that this business has always been about THE SONG. And when you have a great song, it’s just not possible to see its full potential realized (in spreading out there) when you give it only a short promotional window.
So then, the question became…how do I solve the need to have something new to engage the fans with and the need to keep promotional focus on one release in order to maximize its impact in the marketplace at large?
For one, I think releasing an album (a body of works/songs) is necessary to accomplish this. Forget that people are going to buy whatever single song they like on your album and not necessarily the whole thing. That’s going to happen in this market. The issue isn’t point of sale. The issue is promotion. I think the album is necessary for promotional purposes. With an album, I can create a longer window for gaining awareness and discovery by new fans. And, at the same time, always have something new for the current fans, but pointing them to the same release…which will also help them discover the album and dive deeper into it.
With an album, you can have something new to announce/promote to the fans and public each week, such as:
You can go on and on…there are so many creative ways when you have a collection of songs (an album) that you’re working with to promote as opposed to just having one song. The prolonged attention you put on and generate for that album is only going to raise sales and raise your profile as an artist to the public as you progress. Moving on too quickly can really hurt your progress as an artist. I remember reading an article once about Montell Jordan. They had released “This Is How We Do It” and it was a major success. But they moved too quick on promoting a new release and it didn’t work because people were still into “This Is How We Do It”. Radio was still just spinning “This Is How We Do It” (and I’m willing to bet that it was because the market was still discovering that song; hence, the demand). Not respecting the promotional window ended up hurting his career.
Each release is like a spark. So you have to take time to fan the flames and let it burn. When it starts fizzling out and you’ve run out of creative ways to prolong attention on it…then start planning the next release. You can’t have fire if all you do is make sparks, but wont fan the flames. Just a thought.
Article originally appeared on Music Thing Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Minh Chau.