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« The Song/Artist Adoption Formula - 2010 Update | Main | Rock Band Network for Dummies? »
Wednesday
Jan272010

I Fight Dragons: 1 Band, 1 Year, & 10,000 New Fans - In Defense of 1,000 True Fans - Part V

I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at NAMM last week about how to make money in the music business. Normally when I speak on panels it’s me and a few other Social Media,  Marketing, and PR peeps but this panel which was curated by Tony Van Veen of CD Baby / Discmakers was exceptional because it included an artist who is making it right now…  Brian Mazzaferri, the fearles leader of Chicago’s own I Fight Dragons had incredible insights to share about was his band is doing now to make money in the brave new world of “The old model isn’t quite totally dead yet, but the new model isn’t really proven either.”He took some time to really delve into his thoughts on the theroy and I’m delighted that he shared his insight with me and I know you will be too:

Ariel Hyatt: Do you believe that 1,000 true fans is a theory that can work?

Brian, I Fight Dragons: I will first say it’s an awesome theory and idea.  And if I had to place a bet, I’d say that in 10 or maybe even 5 years, it will be MUCH more possible.  However, I’d imagine most people reading this would like to build a music career now instead of waiting 10 years, so then I would have to say a very qualified yes, with some big conditions:
 
Condition 1: You’ve got to be a solo artist.   MAYBE a duo.  The handful of people I know who are truly making this type of model work make decent livings, but start dividing that living up 3 or more ways, and you dip below the poverty line pretty quickly.  My band has 6 people in it.

Condition 2: You’ve got to be both willing and able to do a lot of things yourself that traditional “professional” musicians don’t.  Same reason.  Managers, Producers, Booking Agents, Labels, Graphic Designers, Publicists, Studios, and Webmasters all need to get paid, and that’s above and beyond your living.  Every member you add to your team needs to eat.

For example, my band toured with mc chris this fall.  He calls this balance ‘trimming the fat.’  He runs an incredibly efficient music operation, self-managed, self-produced, self-webmastered.  The only team members he has are a booking agent and a tour manager that does the business and merch with him on tour.  But that means he has to do the rest himself.

And in the 1000 true fans model, that’s the goal!  That’s the finish line!

I would say this is the toughest realization for most people pursuing an indie music career (I know it was for me!), since I think the main reason we got into this industry was to make music, and we probably don’t have as much passion for the business end even if we have the ability.  And that’s as it should be!  If you have MORE passion for the business than the music, why do the music?  Personally, I like the idea of working with team members.  My manager, booking agent, lawyer, and social media coach are all ridiculously awesome at what they do, and working with them gives me more time to focus on music.

“If you have MORE passion for the business than the music, why do the music?” 

- Brian, I Fight Dragons


However, having a 6-person band and a large team, I’d say my band’s “True Fans” number is definitely above 10,000, which starts to become preposterous when you think about what a “True Fan” is.  Make no mistake, even 1,000 is very very hard to get to.

So, as much as people like to hate labels (especially the majors), we’ve come to the ugly truth: they’re really the only people investing the time and money it takes to build an artist up in the traditional ways.  And people like to say terrestrial radio is dead, but trust me, it’s no such thing. Radio is crazy powerful.  

Plus, the other tricky part is that a True Fan is not a possession.  It’s a relationship.  As such, it grows and changes, and people come and go as you grow, and as they grow and their lives change.  Plus the more True Fans you have, the less overall time you have for each one, which is definitely a factor for the people that are your biggest fans.  Keeping up with 1000 personal relationships is a monumental task!

 

“…a True Fan is not a possession.  It’s a relationship.  As such, it grows and changes, and people come and go as you grow, and as they grow and their lives change.”

- Brian, I Fight Dragons

 

And I suppose I’ve written an essay here, but to sum it up, I do think 1,000 true fans is possible, but currently only under very specific conditions.  However, as more and more people spend more and more time and money on the internet, this can (and likely will) change over time.


 
AH: Are you currently making a full-time living as a musician from your music?
 

B, IFD: Yes.  Admittedly it’s pretty damn humble, but I hope it will grow :)


AH: How many years did it take you from day j-o-b to part time job to F/T Musician?

B, IFD: Well, I started in music in early 2007.  For the most part I’ve worked part time from then until late 2009, making just enough to stay alive while spending every waking moment on music.  Also, I should say that my first few projects were huge learning experiences that went nowhere, and my current band didn’t really launch until early 2009.


AH: Can you give us a breakdown percentage wise of the following:

B, IFD: I don’t have exact %, but I’ll try and say how we do:

A. CD Sales?

We’ve sold a little over 4,000 physical copies of our debut EP, almost entirely at live shows. This is our biggest source of income at live shows.

B. Subscription Site?
 None.  All of our subscription-type content (email-list) is 100% free

C. Live Shows?
Because we’ve continued to try and play larger venues and to tour, we usually make very little money from guarantee / door, and instead make it mostly from CD sales with a little bit from t-shirts

D. Merchandise?
T-shirts.  They’re awesome and they sell at live shows (and a little bit online), but they’re EXPENSIVE.  Especially if you want to make them decent quality and you don’t have the budget to order very many at once.  We also do really well selling sweatbands and wristbands.

E. Other? Please name what the other categories might be.
I think Other is very very important.  Making limited-edition, very high-value stuff is awesome.  We sold 100 Lifetime Membership USB drives for $100 each (lifetime admission to any IFD show, free digital content for life), and that was a huge $10,000 boon for us.

Also, digital downloads are very important too.  We’ve sold around 10,000 tracks online through iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, etc.


AH: If possible (I know you may not want to share this information), can you share the amount of money you have grossed in the last 12 months, broken down by months correlating with market, and promotional, and touring efforts?

B, IFD: We do have some data on this, but it’s scattered around (I need to get it together).  Honestly we only started about 12 months ago, so it’s not very much data, and I’m not ready to share it quite yet :P


AH: How many die hard fans, fans that will buy everything and anything from you, would you imagine that you have?

B, IFD: That’s a tough question.  I’d guess between 500-1000.  It really depends on what you mean, since I think there’s a sliding scale, not all True Fans are created equal (although they are all created awesome), and a lot of them come and go depending on what’s going on in their lives.


AH:How long did it take you to build up this many fans?

B, IFD: It’s been about a year.


AH:  Do you have a strategy with long-term and short-term goals in place to get to 1,000 true fans or for any future looking aspects of your music career? If so, can you share these goals?

B, IFD: Well, to be honest, right now we’re talking with labels about releasing our full length.  If we released our full-length on a major label, it would go to radio, and we would tour to support it.  I’d say my biggest goal is to continue to try and bring awesome fan interaction and social media stuff to a larger scale, and to see what other awesome things we can do artistically that people will enjoy.


AH: Have you ever made money from social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, or Ustream? Can you please tell us exactly how and correlate them?

B, IFD: Not directly.  Those are great ways for people to discover us, and for us to interact with fans, but we generally try to keep those channels about interaction and not about sales.


AH: Has your connection to the podcasting and online world, and your popularity with podcasters helped you to earn more money?

B, IFD:  Indirectly, yes.  I wouldn’t say we’re incredibly popular with podcasters, but those that have been our champions (Hipster Please, Mothpod, GeekDad, The Nerdy Show, and more) have been invaluable in helping us spread the word. 

 

AH: What are your next steps to continue to help yourself move forward in your own career?

B, IFD: For us, the next big step is finalizing how we’re going to release our debut full-length album, and how we can bring the social media and crazy new ideas we’ve used so far to work on a wider scale.


AH: If you could give a band or artist any type of advice on how to start in social media, what would you advise them to do?

B, IFD: Starting is a tough thing.  I’d say know your audience, and join the conversation.  Use Twitter especially to join in conversations that are already happening.


AH: If you had $500 to spend on marketing and promotion, how would you spend that money?

B, IFD: Just marketing and promotion?  I guess Facebook Ads are the only specific ‘marketing’ money we spend.  I’d say a lot of the money we spend to make and distribute free content is arguably marketing money though. 


AH: How do you use analytics to your advantage? What are your measurable online results, and how do your measures help you with your music career?

B, IFD:  Analytics are definitely important to know if things are working or not.  We use Constant Contact, so I see how many people open each of our emails and who clicks on what.  That’s very very valuable.
 


AH: On a scale of 1 to 10, would you say you share a lot (a 10) or are you guarded in what you exposure on social media sites about yourself and your personal life?


B, IFD: Probably 7.  We try to share a lot of ourselves, but we try not to make people uncomfortable.


AH: What would you say to a fellow musician, that thinks that Twitter is just sharing “eating a tuna sandwich”  and is stupid?

B, IFD: Um, “you’re stupid.”?  Learn about something before you dismiss it.


AH: And – is there anything I missed you want to say?

B, IFD: I guess I would say that it’s a fascinating endeavor.  My last big concern about the 1,000 true fans model is longevity.  Most of the people using it work through the internet, and everything on the internet has an exponentially shorter shelf-life than it’s Real Life corollary.  

I just think there’s very little data right now on how long an internet music career can last.  Most traditional music careers, even people with a hit record, are lucky to last more than a decade, and so traditional music business literature says to make as much as you can while you’re hot and save it up for when your career’s over.  

What’s the new model for that?  Is the expectation that an internet music career is longer than a traditional one?  I suppose one could argue that, but it’s a tough sell for me.  The internet is fickle, and tastes change.  I guess we’ll see the truth of that as time goes on too.  

Sorry to be the ultimate downer!  I’ve been wrestling with a lot of these issues myself lately, and these are my latest thoughts.

“For the record, I’m incredibly positive about music in general, I just guess I think we’re in a weird spot right now where the old model doesn’t work like it used to, but the new model isn’t powerful enough to take over yet, so there’s upsides and downsides to each one.  I suppose my biggest goal is to combine them both :)… I don’t think I’m the ultimate authority, this is just where I stand at the moment.

Hang with I Fight Dragons:

http://www.ifightdragons.com/

@ifightdragons

http://www.myspace.com/ifightdragons

Reader Comments (35)

To reply to 'is there anything i missed you want to say' at the end of this post;

What you are going through here is the Hype Cycle. Your using new technoligies at the beginning of the band's life, you have peaked and now your on the trough of disillusionment, don't worry it's all up from here!

You have been making your fingerprint on the internet now for a year you say with this band, well that's how long SEO takes to really kick in and give you an advantage over other bands and similar competition regarding keywords, website content, backlinks etc You will see new figures and basically receive free marketing from search engines.

There is probably alot going on behind the scenes you may not understand, or even know about but it sounds as though your year plan is working.

Another good read at MTT :]

January 27 | Registered CommenterMartinT

@ Martin

I am asking the following question (in the form of a statement) because I don't know the answer (as opposed to being prickly):

I really don't believe (due to ignorance perhaps) how SEO, keyword strategies and back-linking could truly help a band. I mean what are the keywords that could possibly 1) move up organically, and 2) make a difference to a music fan?

Terms like "free music" are not going to work. I guess if the band is into something like "monkey dung" you could "win" organically on that. What am I missing? "Sounds like Dave Matthews" perhaps? "Rock bands in Boston"?

If one uses the free keyword tool or runs an adwords account, you can see that there's probably not a lot of keyword traffic on most of the keywords that one would ever hope of "winning" within the battle to rank organically.

Given how humans discover songs and artists, it seems to me (once again - this is out of ignorance) that expending energy on SEO (for an artist or for music) is not worth the time invested. I just don't see people using Google to randomly find songs or artists that are into "monkey dung" (for example). There are far more efficient mechanisms to find what you are into - when it comes to music.

Help me out here...

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

@ Martin,

I do realize one could "game" Google to SEO their way to a bit of substantial traffic. However, once the play button is pressed, the bounce rate is going to be over 90% (possibly even prior to pressing the play button). So once again, I don't see the ROI on attempting to execute an SEO strategy for songs / artists.

It would be great to have someone with expertise on this write a post about it.

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

No professional -- or at least, honest and ethical -- SEO consultant is going to sell you on a magical system that just takes roots and runs itself. There are models that do that, like Mahalo's "black hat" strategies or like Ning's infamous "double viral loop" but those aren't music websites, those are a whole different animal.

I've consulted on tons of music projects now and the artists are the deciding factor. You can hand a structurally identical setup to three different artists and nobody's going to be getting results on autopilot. Martin, their system worked because they worked it, I think it's almost bizarre to write them off as the beneficiaries of some miracle algorithm they can't even understand.

Also, any professional SEO is going to tell you that the source of your traffic is extremely important. You need to pre-screen/pre-load your marketing funnel, or it won't matter how much you scale up traffic, you're still going to have a conversion rate too low to justify the expenses. These guys really (really, really, really) took the time to identify and understand the people who were responding best. That's why they're getting the results they do -- humans investing time into creative interaction with their own data. You can't just build a machine to do it for you.

Unless you have a parent in the business, of course.

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Also, for any artists reading this:

SEO is something you spend money on after you're making money with your music. In other words, once all the other, more important shit is working, then you look into hiring an SEO consultant to improve the results you are already getting.

I have a million colleagues eager to tell you otherwise, but they just want your money. (I do, too, I'd just rather not have to interact with you in order to take it, hence my parallel career in economics.)

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Great article.
I always appreciate Ariel's contributions.
The one piece of data that's missing for me is how many shows did they play in one year? they talked about the number of fans developed, and the number of diehard fans, and sales of lifetime usbs. I get that some of this comes from social media, but I'd like to know the # and range of live shows, even audience sizes.

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterMark Cool

@Mark Cool

Hey Mark - just wanted to answer your question: we played about 70 shows, about 10 big Chicago ones, 15 small one-offs, and a 45 date US tour in the fall with mc chris.

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Mazzaferri

Plus, the other tricky part is that a True Fan is not a possession. It’s a relationship. As such, it grows and changes, and people come and go as you grow, and as they grow and their lives change. Plus the more True Fans you have, the less overall time you have for each one, which is definitely a factor for the people that are your biggest fans. Keeping up with 1000 personal relationships is a monumental task!

This is so relevant to the discussion and I think it needs to be addressed both within music and within the larger social marketing conversation.

Relationships don't scale up past a certain point. You can't respond and converse with everyone personally after you have lots of fans.

And I've seen it at a smaller level, both in music and in sports. The musician or athlete in the beginning has a core group of people who get a lot of attention. As the musician/athlete becomes more successful, that group widens and many of the original fans don't get that same attention anymore. It can actually be painful to feel pushed aside just at the point when you think you'll be part of that original group to stay close to the musician/athlete all the way to the top.

It's a fact of life. Once a person has more time commitments, many relationships suffer or get pushed aside. One way people compensate, if they want that close access to talent, is to then go out and find other rising stars to promote. You can see that cycle a lot in music blogs. After a band becomes popular enough, the original supporters have moved on to someone else.

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

HI Mark!

I'm going to ask Brian to share the amount of shows the band played in 2008!

Thanks, Ariel

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

Ariel - I think he already did (comment above)..

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

@ Suzanne

There is a great effective way to keep up with your fans and their desires. Of course social media is one way, however, it is difficult to ask your fans specific questions and then analyze the responses. Reading every email response when you send out 1,000 or more emails is unrealistic. There is a tool called the Ask Database where you can survey an email list and then analyze the responses from all different angles. Then you can try to meet your fans where they are at instead of guessing.

Ask Database

You don't want to use this tool unless you have a substantial email list and you just can't keep up with the responses.

About the post... I think this is great content. I love to hear the inner workings of success stories in the making. It is so important for artists to find out what is working and the strugles that go along with the proccess. Thanks for the post and thank you Ariel for the interview.

I also really appreciate Justin's comments on SEO theory and practices. That is information that you don't come across often. Thanks for that.

Tom Siegel
www.indieleap.com

January 27 | Unregistered CommenterTom Siegel

Good stuff! I think there's a lot to learn from studying what Brian and his band do. It seems to me that what they do is create meaningful connections with people and use the tools at their disposal to enhance their relationship with their fans in a way that goes beyond just racking up numbers. With all the technology that we now have access to It's easy to get carried away with trying to market in way that's fast and easy, but impersonal and ultimately meaningless.

Here's a great video of Seth Godin giving his take on social networking. I think it's very important to really get what he's saying here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0h0LlCu8Ks

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterScott James

I'm not sure who's seen this band live, who's actually listened to their tunes, and who's just commenting their music business theories on why IFD is successful.

I can tell you first hand, the appeal of IFD is in the live performance. Its a spectacle, a unique odyssey unlike any rock show I've ever seen. Who doesn't get intrigued by modified game controllers that make pop punk jams?

That said, their music doesn't translate well on record. In fact I find their tunes uninspiring and rather gimmicky. However, I can't say that I wasn't initially amazed by the way they perform. The live show easily defeats the fact that the music is sub-par.

Consider the niche market they capitalize on here: geeks, nerd rock, video game fanatics, and retro heads (check their list of blog supporters) of all ages. I'm not being condescending, just stating that this audience naturally lends itself to staying connected online. Its a great fit, and the real success behind what IFD does is presenting something radically different and THEN translating that into a deeper relationship.

This band won't sell huge amounts of records. Their sound will never be touted as the next great thing. But they would freakin' kill at a comic trade show or video game convention, and probably rake in the email addresses (true fans (?)). They present a refreshing and fun style that immediately breaks through to people, and its good to see they have the sense to capture that interest and translate it into a means for indie success.

AEMMP Rec

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterJP

I wanted to elaborate a bit on my previous comment. The bigger a band gets, the less attention each fan is likely to get. Fans joining the community after the band is already quite successful probably already know that they won't get one-on-one time until less they pay for some special access.

However, fans who were there from the beginning are aware of the changing relationship. There isn't really any kind of software to handle that. Either you get personal attention from the band or you don't.

You can probably build something into fan management that acknowledges fans as they join, perhaps giving special performances or other perks based on a seniority system (i.e., the sooner you become a designated fan, the more attention you continue to receive).

Fight Dragons has done that with the USB which gives lifetime admission to shows to those fans who bought those. The only issue I can see with that is that unless you have control over the guest list and can put 100 fans on it for every show, you could potentially have to buy tickets for that many people for each show. Because I do a lot of pro bono work for artists, I generally request to be placed on a guest list for any show for them that I want to attend, and even then there are occasionally shows where the guest list is so controlled by the venue that I can't get listed.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

@ Suzanne

Point taken. You are absolutely right. In the case of a rising star, that cycle completes itself no matter what. No software will change that. I think an artist can continue to try to do cool things for their core fans, but it will not be the same intimate relationship that existed before. Agreed.

Tom Siegel
www.indieleap.com

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterTom Siegel

Is I Fight Dragons a client of Ms. Hyatt?

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterJust Wondering

I really don't believe (due to ignorance perhaps) how SEO, keyword strategies and back-linking could truly help a band. I mean what are the keywords that could possibly 1) move up organically, and 2) make a difference to a music fan?

There are a few things i could mention;

With the band having an online presence, they will continually be amassing information, new content by themselves and their fans in the form of comments/forums etc. Even this is SEO, this is OFFPage SEO. I have many a time searched for something on Google and come up on a random bands forum... If i got there, others will too.

1) The keywords to move up organically are not going to be 'free music', that is a very narrow view. There may be a fair few people searching this term but the competition is huge! That's what im on about, find the least competition for say 'free music from band'. My point is to digress around the obvious keywords and think about the 500million people on the internet. Then win the starving crowd of say thousands a year searching particular terms which websites just have not covered yet...

ONPage SEO though which is where you will start your surge is a bit different. It's simple, if i was in a band from Leeds, UK. I would arrange 20 words or so for the base of the website and use them on particular pages. These would go along the lines of; 'Leeds, band, uk, yorkshire, experimental, funk, rock, etc etc'

Terms like "free music" are not going to work. I guess if the band is into something like "monkey dung" you could "win" organically on that. What am I missing? "Sounds like Dave Matthews" perhaps? "Rock bands in Boston"?

If one uses the free keyword tool or runs an adwords account, you can see that there's probably not a lot of keyword traffic on most of the keywords that one would ever hope of "winning" within the battle to rank organically.

But with a years worth of work ONPage and OFFPage SEO strategies will win these keywords which could result in new fans. I don't see SEO as spreading yourself too thin either as it's slightly different to communicating with them personally.

Given how humans discover songs and artists, it seems to me (once again - this is out of ignorance) that expending energy on SEO (for an artist or for music) is not worth the time invested. I just don't see people using Google to randomly find songs or artists that are into "monkey dung" (for example). There are far more efficient mechanisms to find what you are into - when it comes to music.

First of all, i did not mention Google... I mentioned Search Engine Optimization which can fit in any website bracket really which has a search function.

What if i put up two video's of the same thing on youtube.. Of which i have done a few times but on other subjects ie. Electric Motorbikes. Then i key worded the video's differently? There would without a doubt be different outcomes to amount of people who have viewed said videos.

Something said on MTT alot is the tools of the world wide web are there to be used. What im trying is the tools as well as other usual business practices, which SEO is now one off and seeing where it goes. So far with a few websites i have tested, im seeing positive reults, not huge numbers but i am not marketing them the same i would a band....

There is a formula for SEO and Services/Tools to be combined. SEO is your first port of call regarding e-Marketing. It's the simplest way to online market and it can also be the most time consuming/demanding, all depends on how you go about it?!

I appreciate the questioning Bruce, if i have strayed i would gladly reiterate with other words.

@Justin Bolan - I have never charged for SEO, i know i believe in it differntly as to those who do it as a profession. SEO can be taken on by regular joe bloggs, here is an example.

You run a website with a blog, you therefore need to make blog posts with catchy topics or atleast half interesting subjects spoken about. What if you brainstormed your heading and re arranged it with different words. You can do this with a few minutes of thought and a quick keyword search tool. The end result is that over a year that one blog post written one way could have got 10 people to visit the site organically, the other blog post could have got 17...

This is exactly what MTT is aiming for here! If we are to find a suitable path, we must try everything that has been tried before within music/business/online and then jumble it up and try again

This is only one teeny weeny part of it.

January 28 | Registered CommenterMartinT

@ Martin. Thanks for your reply. Very well constructed. My take away: why not if you can do it simply and effectively (17 is always better than 10).

I would love to see someone write a simple and open post about this subject. You and Justin collaborating perhaps.

Cheers,

Bruce

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterBruce Warila

I do actually have a big "SEO for Artists" posts about 2/3 drafted up. Sitting on a lot of material for the new Audible Hype design.

Although I'm slightly further up the professional evolutionary ladder than Martin, I'm ignorant, too. I've certainly never worked for, say, Topspin level clients. There's definitely someone much better informed than me I'd like to interview about this, I just haven't found them yet. Any suggestions = awesome and appreciated.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

Justin / Bruce never mind a post on this matter, i am currently a 1/4 of the way through an interactive guide website for musicians regarding the tools of the internet and how to promote/market yourself for free. It's very indepth, been working on it for nearly 9months but it will be here end of March, beginning of April.

For this i will be publishing a handful of posts regarding the topic of the website as well as some other personal things i would like to get across of which will sit nicely in MTT's databses for all to read.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

Thats me forgot to log in :]

Also i'm just on about Youtube and search engines optimization for websites, there are many strategies with many tools. One i believe is a biggee is Truveo video service. It holds more information for said video and in turn you get better optimization for the mere fact you have more words/info related to it.

That's what part of my website is, holding actual services/tools in lists with strategies anchored on to each site added by anyone[wiki esq]. Sites in their relative category lists can be voted up or down depending on how useful, but so too can the strategies/ideas that people have put in to fruition with each service/tool.

January 28 | Registered CommenterMartinT

Anybody know of any bands that are getting significant and sustained amounts of useful search engine traffic directly to their site from visitors who aren't already looking for them by name?

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterScott James

I've never done anything with SEO for bands because I couldn't come up with much in meaningful search terms. Generally people are looking for specific artists rather than searching for broader categories.

What does seem to work quite well, however, is to cover some famous or popular songs on YouTube and also upload your own. The cover song technique really does seem to expose artists to potential new fans.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

You must first employ such strategies/ideas to reap any of it's rewards, little or small...

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMartinT

You must first employ such strategies/ideas to reap any of it's rewards, little or small...

Give me some good examples of search terms that would drive meaningful traffic to a band's website. And by that, I mean, what search terms would capture a potential fan, a booking agent, or a media person?

I work with a lot of Colorado musicians. I've thought about using location-based terms, but I don't think anyone goes looking for band websites based on that. I do include accolades in band bios, so if someone is looking for "best of" it will turn up, but I don't think people seek out bands because of it.

In bios I do include relevant information about music, genre, etc., So if someone is actually looking for an artist based on that, it will turn up. But I don't think it happens much.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

I will post an open post on this sometime soon as i have just deleted a few paragraphs after sorting out my notes, but here is my final summary of it all before that post. You have to remember, if people search for it and it is not marketed [SEO] then they are not going to find it! So this is not how you go about it, that comes at a later date with more time spent on this write up. It's some real life examples i would employ if my band were not in the midst of a re structure.

Apply Your Experience
What you know, have done, are attached to
Then make it your own

SEO for bands doesnt really sit within location based keywords or descriptive keywords but more, here are some examples

1Your band is on a soundtrack, the song is on at an epic point some people hopefully are captivated. What i'm going to do as that band with that song is SEO that movie's soundtrack, SEO the movie itself, SEO the song and SEO the lyrics and for anything related to that movie to do with music. You then may have people coming for a lyric and they will find you, or searching for that soundtrack for a christmas present, they might find you.

2Even an action a band goes through, i snap a string at a gig thus i write about it and this too will help. Blog = Success..

3Someone remixes one of my songs, i make them, the artist as well as the song and a few more things mine via content, correct keywords.

4Lyrics from every single one of your songs, give them a page. Make the title the track of the song and then make verse's chorus's the headings, this is all SEO. This point has two benefactors, the lyrics on the website you own may be similar to some one else's you may not know this but if they see 'Lyrics' in the title bar they will head your way.

5Festival i have just played at, even if it was the smallest tent there i can SEO along with all the other bands and given that festivals repeat every year im bound to receive plenty of organic viewers.

It is kinda backwards how people search on the internet for music compared to anything else. We have to be creative with this.

Of course it's not the ONLY thing you do for your band but it's definately something to work with.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterMartin Toole

Well, then I probably already do that. I prepare lists of venues and festivals and put those on a booking page. I include in a bio whenever a song is used in a film or TV.

Since I am usually not the website designer, my efforts usually center around visible text, not invisible stuff.

But that is good to point out to artists. I have been accused of including too much (generally it's other musicians who tell my musicians there are too many quotes and accolades), so I can at least now point out these provide more opportunities for a page to turn up in a search.

Also, I haven't seen the value of lyrics pages until recently. But then I read that a major music supervisor has been known to find songs doing searches of lyrics. So now I tell artists who want to do music licensing that developing lyrics pages might be worthwhile for them.

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne Lainson

Great post! I have been thinking a lot about the fate of the music biz lately. I think there are a lot of things we can capitalize on like I Fight Dragons is doing in this transitional time. I am excited to see where this industry goes in the coming years.

I Fight Dragons, you have made a fan out of me.

@jakelarson

January 28 | Unregistered CommenterJake Larson

To continue the thread derailment regarding SEO :) ...

An ancedote: for almost seven years, my site has been the among the top-ranked sites in Google for "acoustic pop." It has consistently beat out websites from major-label artists with serious PR power. I owe this to the fact that I've been blogging consistently at my website for ten years, and Google tends to favor sites with regular updating content. (Another reason not to have a "brochure" site for your artist.)

But I can attest that it has brought me almost nothing in organic search traffic, because very few people search for "acoustic pop." As Susan points out, people are far more specific about search terms. If they're looking for stuff like John Mayer, they'll search for "John Mayer" or "music like John Mayer" (which usually leads to a Last.FM page). I'm not convinced an artist is going to see huge benefits from "owning" such a set of search terms. It's likely that your website will never have enough authority to steal traffic from a bigger artist you resemble, or an aggregator like Last.FM.

Even a search for the nichiest of niches -- like say, "nerdcore" or "geekcore" -- can be dominated by Wikipedia results. Maybe a better solution would be to find out what sites actually do come up for a set of search terms, and then ensure your artist is on those sites.

I'm not saying that SEO is useless for artists, but IMO many artists waste time trying to optimize stale content instead of producing new content. It just becomes more screwing around on the web.

January 29 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

One more thing: I wanted to emphasize this passage from Google's free SEO Starter Guide:

Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site's reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.

January 29 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew

I dont have much to add here except that I am loving this tangent about SEO as I really need to get more of a grasp on the concept myself.

Thanks to everyone contributing.

Tom Siegel
www.indieleap.com

January 29 | Unregistered CommenterTom Siegel

Tom, I second that...thanks, all, been wanting to get a better understanding of SEO, and this hits the spot!

and the post was truly enlightening - its just this type of specifics that make the most difference - thanks, Ariel and IFD!

January 30 | Unregistered CommenterDg.

One of the things I think is very interesting in this story but not mentioned is that one of the secrets to making it to the 1000 true fans is getting the first 50 true fans. I believe the average individual that is a musician has ten true fans (often times made of friends & family, which puts the concept of calling them true fans in question) & though having 6 band members means you may need 6000 true fans instead of 1000, the ability to start with 60 fans (especially if they are all in the same city) is a great asset. If you play a show on a Wednesday night there's probably only about half of true fans that will have the ability to show up, so for a one man act this brings things down to 5 fans, but with the 6 band members you have 30. 5 people in a club equals a not very fun night & equals fan loss pretty much regardless of performance. With 30 people you have a greater chance for a good time (it's just the nature of the bar atmosphere). In addition I find that I (like many performers) feed off the crowd, so this is a positive feedback loop with positive effects.

I find the idea of people being willing to pay $100 for an infinite pass interesting. I can't imagine doing that for any band personally (but I'm at a point where $100 feels like a lot of money), but I do know I have some true fans with relatively unlimited amounts of money & it probably is a good idea to offer them something to spend a significant amount of money on.

I enjoy reading these articles about the 1000 True Fans concept. Because that's what it is right now, a concept and I think Brian Mazzaferri is right to say we're in a period where the old model is not completely gone and forgotten and the new model--or I should say models--are unproven, still evolving, and who knows if they'll truly help anyone that wants to have a music career.

One thing that hasn't changed for most musicians is it was always DIY getting started. Today there are much more services and people willing to get musicians to the next level. People are demanding more than mainstream music and these services are a result of that.

Brian Franke
Singer/Songwriter
www.brianfranke.com

February 10 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Franke

I Fight Dragons fans! Check out this interview with all six members exclusively from ARTISTdirect.com! http://bit.ly/9k2DY6

June 15 | Unregistered Commenterjan

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