As we rush headlong into an ever more connected society, the preponderance of technology is increasingly inescapable. As entertainment continues to bridge gaps we’re sure to see the growth of more hybrid events anywhere that an entertainment dollar is at stake. For bands like Umphrey’s McGee that are already involved in creating interactive experiences, there will surely be no shortage of those willing to attend and participate in them.
It was June 2009 when Radiohead and TOMS shoes produced a ‘love child’ in the business side of my brain. Flying from Dublin to New York on the US leg of, what has now turned into, a house concert world tour I was reading the inspirational story of TOMS shoes when the epiphany hit me….
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.
I played keyboards on my first Broadway show a few weeks ago. For me, this is a milestone in my career and marks the achievement of a major life goal that I’ve been working toward for over 20 years. When I first decided I wanted to play keyboards on Broadway – and this will be a reoccurring theme – I had no idea where to start. There were a lot of very generous musicians who helped guide me along the way. So in an effort to pay back that kindness, and in the hopes that this might help somebody out there with similar goals, I’m going to tell you the story of how I got my gig.
In ‘Chaos We Can Stand: Attitudes Toward Technology and Their Impact on the New Digital Ecology’, a recent post on Music Think Tank, Kyle Bylin discusses the collapse of the record industry, with reference to Clay Shirky’s ideas about a new digital ecology and “cognitive surplus”.
Fundamentally, this is a transition from a situation of controlled scarcity of creative ‘product’ from a few major players to a flood of creative material as the previous barriers to entry have been demolished. As internet use replaces television watching, and freely available online tools enable learning, creativity, sharing and collaboration, people are shifting from being passive consumers to active participants and creators.
Suddenly there is a surplus of ideas, an abundance of creative content. One of the overwhelming problems faced by musicians today is the difficulty of ‘standing out’ and being heard above the noise, not drowned out by the herd.
Most - if not all - artists strive for some form of attention whether it be adulation, respect, being remembered or being talked about. It may happen as a result of a lot of work out on the road, or as the result of sheer luck, but more often than not it is the result of the fuss.
One of the classic books in this genre is Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion. It’s written by the social psychologist Robert B. Cialdini and although it dates from more than 25 years ago, the book is still relevant today. It provides insights in psychological principles that can be applied to a broad range of fields, including music.
As a musician or label-owner though, you might not have the time to immerse yourself in the psychology of persuasion. Therefore, to save you some time and to help you get acquainted with these essential principles, here are five proven psychological principles from Cialdini. Being aware of these techniques will help you with selling your music, your merchandising or tickets. Let’s get started right away with the first psychological principle!
Here’s a quick story about change that might surprise you …
Leo and Harry knew firsthand that new technology has the power it turn the status quo on its head.
They were part of an economic boom in the music industry that allowed songs to spread faster and more efficiently to more people than ever before.
The movement they were part of had the additional effect of encouraging amateur musicians to participate in music in ways they had never been able to in prior years. The wave Leo and Harry helped create affected the entire music industry.
However, within a short period of time, an even newer technology came along that disrupted everything. The stable business model these two men built and profited from began to crumble.
I. Where Salvation Lies
Upon discovering that I had relatively poor vision in the seventh grade—difficulties seeing the whiteboard and anything from afar—it was understood that I would need to get glasses. Not just any glasses though, the specific style that I wanted were those worn by the front man of the rock group Linkin Park, Chester Bennington; they were thick-framed, black glasses, and in my mind, they looked amazing—on him. As it would turn out, the glasses looked less than stellar on me and I got a completely different pair.
Back then, I was an adamant fan of Linkin Park. In desiring to align characteristics of their identity with my own, the thought of looking like Bennington and wearing his glasses seemed like a logical expression of self.
I knew all the lyrics, saw every music video, and owned all of the albums.
Members of Linkin Park were not aware of my existence—camped out on a farm in the backwoods of North Dakota—but I felt a compelling bond towards them and their music. Social scientists characterize this kind of one-sided relationship as “parasocial” in nature. I knew everything about Linkin Park, but they were not privy in the slightest way to the particulars of my life. Much of my relationship with the group slanted more towards the illusion of interaction than of actual social interaction. Mass media outlets served as intermediaries between us.
Your new album has just been released, or maybe you’ve just booked a huge show. Time to email everybody you know! Before you add your entire address book to the “To:” field of a new email, consider a few points of email list etiquette. By respecting the recipients of your mass emails, you’ll have far better results from your efforts, build stronger relationships with your fans, and build a healthy email list.
I’ve been maintaining my own email list for about seven years, and along the way have found many ways to gain, and lose, subscribers. I’ve also been added to many email lists, sometimes willingly, often not,but always tried to learn from other artists’ email newsletters.
There are numerous services available to help you maintain your email list. Some are free, others cost money depending on the size of your list and the features you want to install. Look at the bottom of the emails you get from different bands and you’ll find links to some of these services. I highly recommend you find one that suits you to make this whole process easier.
I was asked to write a guest blog on the topic of why it is important to have your own website. Well for whatever reason the blog was never posted and episode two of The Music Biz Weekly podcast reminded me that I still have this blog and that I should post it. This is a topic that I am passionate about. Let me make this clear, you must have your own website. Let me say that again… you need to have your own website.
Great social networks will come and go, and they are all important. You should be active on as many as possible. They are all great places to extend your website, extend your brand and presence. But everything should come back to your website.
Turning TV Placements Into Fan Engagement: Lessons From Mr. Robotic – In Defense of 1,000 True Fans – Episode X - Part 2
AH: How many die-hard fans would you say you have? (Meaning; fans that will buy everything and anything from you?)
Mr. R: I have about 112 that would buy anything from me. They are in a special group in my email list. The rest I know would definitely buy music.
This is great strategy! Mr. Robotic has separated his diehard fans into a special group so he can better communicate with them and they probably won’t mind extra communication since they are in his Community 1 – his Super Fans.
AH: How do you use analytics to your advantage? Do measurements help you with your career?
Mr. R: I use Google Analytics for my website. To see how many visitors I get and if I get a TV placement how many people come to my site on that day. I also use analytics on YouTube to see where the majority of people who are watching my videos live. This helps me see where my fans are to get shows in those areas.
You can’t live without it.
And you can’t live with it, either.
In the past week, if you have been trying to access the Facebook page for The 1861 Project and wonder why you keep winding up at your own homepage, I have a tale of woe for you. Bear with me here, it’s a bit of a shaggy dog story…
Two weeks ago I created a Facebook “Fan” page for The 1861 Project. Within the “page,” I added some features using a service called DamnTheRadio (DTR), which adds audio and video to a Facebook page, along with the option to lock some of the content behind the “Like” button.
If you’re a musician or in a band that’s trying to get your music out to the world, your website is a valuable marketing tool. Your website helps your fans, bloggers, and journalists find out who you are, what you sound like, and where you’re playing. It’s important that your website contains content for all types of visitors, from fans - current and potential - to booking agents and media outlets. Below are ten essential elements that every band’s website should have.
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(Updated April 6, 2015)