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Going Mobile – The Future Of Marketing For Musicians

Many experts say that the #1 way we will all communicate within the next 3-4 years will be thorough our mobile devices. It is no secret that the United States is far behind Europe and Asia in ease of use and advance technologies in the mobile realm but it is never too early to begin looking at a mobile strategy.

With that said I will be exploring how musicians can fully utilize using mobile technologies throughout 2009 but here is a primer. I saw Helen Keegan present in Reykjavik at the You Are In Control conference at Iceland Airwaves 2008 and I was wowed by her presentation.

Helen is a mobile marketing, advertising and media specialist working with a range of clients from media owners to brands and agencies to mobile technology companies. She has been working in mobile marketing for more than 8 years.

I asked her a few questions via email and she was generous enough to answer them for us here:

How Can Musicians Effectively Use Mobile For Marketing?
7 Questions For Helen Keegan of Beep Marketing

Using mobile phones is now integral to our lives. Artists should be thinking about who their audience is and how to build it—whatever ways are relevant. And that has to include mobile today. Young audiences in particular are technology agnostic and want instant gratification and will use the nearest device or service available to them whether that’s their phone, their laptop, the TV, their iPod, their PSP, whatever.

1. Where is a good place to start for artists just beginning to think about a mobile strategy?

The artist should probably start by using their mobile phone to create and capture content themselves—short video footage, podcasts, moblogging, photographs, Twittering etc. All this can be done instantly and cheaply from a mobile phone and helps the audience get to the real essence of the artist—they feel they’re getting beyond the branding and the manufactured image. Music is about soul after all isn’t it so being able to share what you’re really thinking and doing would seem to make sense to me.

2. How often should artists communicate via mobile platforms once they have one set up?

There is no fixed answer to this. It’s about building a community and having a conversation with members of your community and allowing your community to chat to each other. What I would say is that if you’re using SMS, then make sure you have permission, make it easy to opt out at any time, make sure it’s free (or very cheap or sponsored) and don’t overdo it. Think about how much you might tolerate. Also think about what messages those individuals might be getting at that time—Friday night at 6 PM is probably not a good time to promote stuff when a lot of people are organizing their weekend. Similarly, if you have a teen audience then waking them up with a text message at 7 AM on a Sunday morning might not always go down well. We’re talking about real people here and real conversations not just push alerts about gigs and releases.

3. What’s the easiest way for an artist to build a mobile list?

It’s not about building a list; that’s too simplistic. It’s about building a fanbase and community and allowing those people access to you via mobile and vice versa. Permission is a given when using a communication method. Spam is in the eye of the beholder and even if it’s legal, people won’t tolerate it - fans or not. Personal information can be collected in a variety of ways - text in promotions at gigs, fill in leaflets with your information, capture it on websites or mobile websites - all the usual methods. But make sure you have the tick box to opt in and make it easy to opt-out (by replying STOP to a text message for example).

4. What’s the easiest way for artists to deliver MP3s to fans via mobile?

Helen suggested we ask Steve Lawson who coincidentally also writes for Music Think Tank and he generously provided the answer:

The MP3s to fans thing is an interesting one - the easiest way if you don’t want to make your audience pay for them would be to do an MP3 blog with wordpress, add the Mippin plug-in, and just post the links in blog posts - most mobile phones will just ask where you want to save the file when clicked on…

If you want to charge for it, life gets a little more difficult. I had a conversation recently with the former head of Paypal mobile - there’s a joke name for a division. He left after paypal failed to do anything sensible for mobile at all, despite him organising meetings with the top dogs at Nokia for them… He did say there is some code that can be used, so I’m going to get onto him, find out what it is, and as soon as I do, I’ll post it on music think tank! But at the moment, it’s pretty tough to do.

The big problem is that most of the online sales apps is that the front end is flash driven, and virtually no mobile handsets can handle flash… iPhone users can obviously use iTunes… I’ve no idea what the deal is with getting ones music onto the Nokia music store. I’ve had emails from the head of Nokia music, so will ask him as soon as I can!

This is an answer that seems it will unfold as time goes on….

Helen also comments:
Research tells us that young people are sideloading more tracks than their downloading from their phones. That means they’re downloading tracks to their laptops and transferring the files across to their iPods, phones, whatever. So what I would say is that DRM is a no-no otherwise you’re not able to share the track between devices.

5. I know ringtones have experienced a decline in popularity. Should artists still make their music available as ringtones? If so, what’s the easiest way for them to do that?

Yes, ringtones are still important—short snippets of a track available in the various mobile formats would make sense. There’s plenty software available on the Internet to allow for you to do that cheaply or free.

6. I know you are a twitter evangelist, just like me. Are there any tips on how musicians can use Twitter to create group mobile communication?

I love twitter and for me the most important things are authenticity and joining in. Be yourself and engage with other Twitterers. If Stephen Fry and Richard Branson can do it, then so can an artist!

7. Do you have any parting mobile advice you’d like to give a band or an artist looking to learn more?

Yes, check out Paul Brindley’s MusicAlly and read David Jennings’ book Net, Blogs ’n Rock ’n Roll. And get yourself into blogs and google alerts to keep track of what’s happening in mobile and music.

Reader Comments (5)

Great post Ariel! You're making me a believer!

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterChicaGOrilla

i dont promote for them (wish i did) but the band halo stereo has a massive text message list by region. they dont text more than maybe once a month, but they use it primarily to shows. me personally, everytime i get a text message it not only reminds me, but almost puts a sense of priority on the show, that i must go to it. Lots of potential if one plays their cards right.

January 19 | Unregistered Commenterjim bellizzi

Great article - I'm really trying to get handle on this and encourage my artists to get into things like Twitter and moblogging themselves....speaking of which - what's Helen's twitter id?

January 20 | Unregistered CommenterJames

I can't understand the attraction of twitter. What exactly is the point of reporting your every thought or action to friends and strangers, or in assuming they have any interest at all in your day-to-day musings? Where do people get all this free time to live out their lives on their cellphones? It reminds me of the girls in junior high who spent the entire day passing notes to each other, then went home and monopolized the family phone until midnight. And when did such dithering become an acceptable pastime for American males? I missed that.

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterPat Offender

Pat, I have to somewhat agree that I don't "get" twitter. I'm 24, not ridiculously old. And while I know some people who have used twitter, I don't know anyone who follows other people's twitters, let alone someone who looks at twitter for music info. I would honestly appreciate it if someone could explain how this works from a fan\listener perspective.

That said, I'm completely open minded that twitter might be a great tool. I just haven't seen any great examples of it in action. I did see, for instance, that Pitchfork was writing about Sonic Youth, who are currently twittering. Here are the URLs for the article, and the SY twitter account:

This, to me, is not a good example of how to reach out to fans. Then again, it might just not be a good example of how to use twitter. I would very much like to hear other's perspective on this, especially if you can go a little further in explaining the utility of twitter as it applies to music.

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

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