On the first version of this post, I left it up to other “thinkers” to connect the dots. That didn’t exactly go as planned, so here’s version two with more information. I plan to delete the first version soon. I saved it so people could copy over comments if they wish. Everyone’s comments helped me to create this version; I think there’s a blogging strategy that comes out of this.
Food or the lead singer’s sweaty t-shirt. I’ll take the shirt…
Jake Halpern writes in the Wall Street Journal (Oct. 4th, 2007 “Britney Spears, Breaking News”) that our need to stargaze [celebrities] may be primal. Halpren goes on to point out a study done at the Center For Cognitive Science at Duke University that shows that monkeys will choose to view images of other dominant monkeys instead of eating…if given the choice.
This reminds me of the influence that celebrity has over consumer decision-making when it comes to music. Songs don’t sound better and artists don’t get sexier when their songs make it to radio, but that doesn’t stop the average consumer from getting hot and hormonal, or standing in long lines without food, or buying tickets instead of…food, for any artist that’s in heavy rotation on pop radio.
The more momentum toward becoming a celebrity, the more “dominant” an artist appears, the higher the level of commitment any artist obtains from fans. Sadly enough, the opposite seems to be true. Momentum toward becoming a celebrity (or not) is like virtual Viagra; it generates ups and downs for every artist.
It seems to me, that record labels are experts at exploiting the (primal) need, the desire and the want in fans to connect to artists that have momentum toward becoming celebrities, and that perhaps every artist should consider consciously creating a Momentum-Toward-Celebrity strategy as part of his/her marketing plan.
What is a Momentum-Toward-Celebrity Strategy?
I’ve been selling and marketing things for twenty years. A Momentum-Toward-Celebrity Strategy is something I never considered until I began observing, learning and practicing the art of marketing music. In fact, I wish someone had sat me down and said “look forget about what think you know about marketing, you need to make sure you have a Momentum-Toward-Celebrity strategy that begins on day one. Cars and computers don’t become celebrities, but artists do. People get passionate about people that demonstrate momentum”.
Here’s what I think: a Momentum-Toward-Celebrity strategy is:
- First, it’s simply acknowledging that you need momentum toward becoming some sort of a celebrity to maximize your promotion efforts on every level; no matter how big or small your budget or fan pool is.
- Second, it’s the conscious act of communicating momentum.
- Third, it’s planning beyond next month. I believe you need to plan now, and then work like hell to accomplish the things you plan to communicate as momentum over the next 12 to 14 months.
- Fourth, your slips into reverse momentum should be minimal (frequency) and barely measurable (the occurrences).
Momentum-Toward-Celebrity - The Things People Measure
There are a thousand little things that I could point to, that you could do and then report as momentum. However, for this post, I am going to list some general/broad ideas for you to think about.
- Find known people from the industry that fans can Google and/or recognize. Simply ask these people to advise you, and if you can list them and their short bios on your blog.
- Are you playing the same songs, at the same places you were playing at last year? Continually upgrade the places you play at and the music you perform.
- Find cool sponsors to support you, even if it’s in the smallest way possible. Appearing as though your financial support is growing is part of demonstrating momentum.
- Constantly upgrade. Some people are natural recruiters, they know how to attract and convince people to help them CONTINUALLY upgrade everything about their presentation, including their music.
- Obtain reportable momentum data from every site possible. (Important: Read next section on Song Quality.)
NOTE: Those of you that are great at constantly upgrading everything and everyone around you, have to be skilled at keeping everyone happy, especially when you don’t have cash. There are ways of doing this with integrity, and there are ways of doing this without leaving the people that supported you out in the cold. Email me if you need advice in this area.
Momentum-Toward-Celebrity and Song Quality
The way pop music is marketed today, you may get the impression that momentum toward celebrity is more important than the quality of your music.
The circle diagram on the left represents what happens today. Song quality is the inner circle and the core, and everything outside of the core represents all of the other activity that adds up to success. Although song quality is proportionately smaller, it’s still the core and a necessary component to success.
The circle diagram on the right with the larger song quality core represents what I believe the near future will look like. Song quality will be the single most important factor that drives your momentum toward celebrity status.
What’s the difference between today and tomorrow? Social networks built around music, recommendation engines and data analysis (of iTunes data for example) will make it extremely difficult to fake momentum. Decisions will not be driven by a couple of guys working at a record label. Decisions will be based upon the data that demonstrates your momentum. Consumers will act upon this data, record labels will act upon this data, and programming directors at radio stations will act upon this data. In addition, every bit of data you acquire, such as a win on OurStage or numerous recommendations on Aime Street, become your reportable (and observable) momentum.
Communicating Your Momentum-Toward-Celebrity
First and foremost, start a blog. Websites were cool in 2004. A blogsite is the way to go now. Learn about RSS and use your blog to communicate your momentum. Feeds from your blog can be reposted on Facebook and MySpace and on other social networks. For advice on how to report momentum to the press, I will recommend Ariel Hyatt or Bob Baker, both are also Music Think Tank authors. Also, Justin Boland (AudibleHype) and Julian Moore (Frontend) are bloggers and artists that think about communicating momentum and gorilla marketing every day.
Does Momentum-Toward-Celebrity Matter to 1,000 Fans?
Different people have different ideas of what celebrity means. Furthermore, everyone evaluates momentum differently. What seems like great progress to some, may seem like old news to others. If you are pursuing a small group of loyal and dedicated fans, I want to ask you this question: if a small pond is all you need, do you ever want to appear as a shrinking fish in the little pond? I agree that your music may become timeless to your true fans, and that your lack of celebrity status may never matter again, but what if you are just starting out, isn’t momentum toward celebrity still important to establishing true fans? Pleases be mindful of the importance I assigned to song quality when answering this question in a comment.
Commenting on Momentum-Toward-Celebrity
I would love to hear from people that have more experience at marketing music than I do. I have given a name (Momentum-Toward-Celebrity) to, and perhaps oversimplified a component of artist/music marketing that deserves more attention from someone that has a list of success stories that they can point to. If you have more ideas/examples on achieving the appearance of momentum toward celebrity, please leave them in a comment.