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Taking the Online Offline

With the plethora of powerful social networks and music discovery tools, it is increasingly tempting to spend all of your band’s marketing time online. After all, online marketing:

  • is relatively easy
  • is relatively cheap (often free)
  • provides immediate gratification and feedback
  • is easily measurable
  • is not bound by time or geography
  • can be done in your PJs at home

A few years ago it seemed hard to convince most musicians that they needed to have an online presence. Getting online was an issue about discovery - expanding a band’s musical reach beyond their geoegraphical boundaries.

Now that MySpace is ubiquitous, it is getting hard to convince musicians that they need to maintain their offline presence as well. In fact, offline is still the most important area. Online tools are getting VERY good at breaking down the barriers to music and people discovery. This is great and opens the door to a whole new world of possibilties. However, the same tools seem to be equally bad at creating context around those discoveries. At some point, the sheer mass of possibilites begin to bleed together until they are indistinguishable on some level. For a music consumer to take the next step beyond just ‘liking a song’, they need some kind of context for that music. Context - stories, memories, experiences, relationships - is what allows fans to ‘emotionally own’ a band.

Despite all the powerful advantages to online marketing, they can never substitute fully for the power of the offline. Offline experiences create context, create authentic relationships, and basically satisfy our inherent human social needs. It’s a deceptively simple point, but one that can’t be ignored.

I think this is the perspective all of us involved in the music business need to keep in mind going forward: Offline relationships are still the most powerful tool we have; online tools should be used to the extent that they can enhance the offline experience of our fans.


Andrew Goodrich is currently studying business and music industry at Loyola University New Orleans. He’s an aspiring music business entrepreneur, casual musician and photographer, and an avid supporter of artists.

He has interned at Alan Ett Creative Group and 20th Century Fox’s Newman Scoring Stage and Post Production Department. In the future, he hopes to find himself where film and music meet.

He currently resides under the roof of Artists House Music as a video editor and regular contributor to the Artists House Music blog.

Reader Comments (5)

You know, I see the word "context" getting bandied about recently in articles like this one, with absolutely no explanation of what the word actually means in this, uh, context. Until I get a solid definition and maybe some examples, all I see is a buzzword getting thrown around.

December 31 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Landrum

I agree that the emotional connection offline (especially for musicians) is really important -- live shows and engaging their fans on a one-to-one level. It's why there are so many artists hesitant to wrangle the online sector -- they sell more CDs at shows, they meet more people, and flyers at a local club can impact the most people in their community. I do think, though, that there's a lot of room to create strong, genuine, and emotional relationships online for musicians as well -- there's just not enough organization, special attention, and tailored places for these musicians to grow these relationships.

It's something we're trying to tackle at Grown Folks Music -- the artists and fans we're catering to (classic hip hop, soul, R&B, etc) are making their true connections and success offline because there's not a lot available online that fulfills that emotional connection they want from music.

December 31 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

I don't mean to be snarky, but the word "context" is commonly used (i.e. not a buzzword) and pretty easily definable. I don't use it (nor have many other writers) outside of its normal usage. My definition for context is the same as any common dictionary: " the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc."

I also defined it within the article indirectly as "stories, memories, experiences, and relationships" that are connected to a song/album/band.

I think Grown Folks is on exactly the right track. It's not that online tools aren't incredibly helpful, but that they can't fully replace the kind of experiences that happen offline. I've become a fan of many artists online, but I typically only become a FANatic once I have seen them play live, or have had the fortunate opportunity to talk/interact with that artist.

January 2 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Goodrich

Andrew -- thanks for this great post. I agree with you that it's much easier and often richer to make this emotional connection offline, but it's also tangible in other ways too -- think of all the music we love from films, for instance, which creates similar emotional bonds. I think it's possible to reconcile the online and offline, though, instead of trying to make them compete. At the root of it is good music -- a live, breathing connection is a great way to fall in love, but a good discussion with more fans (online even) can stimulate a growing love for the music and craft of a new artist as well. Especially in cases where artists are committed to truly connecting with their online audiences; I know a hip hop artist who writes weekly emails to his mailing list (in letter form, not marketing gimmick form) and uses the online newsletter to invite them to offline events. He just had a contest where someone who became a fan online was invited (along with 20 other people) to the recording session of his new album. Talk about bringing online and offline together!

I know that was long-winded...I wrote more about my thoughts in a new post at GFM. Again, great food for thought....thanks for this post!

January 3 | Registered CommenterMaggie

@Andrew: That's okay, I was being snarky. Just consider two things: 1) the word "context" is itself generally difficult to define using only words (it usually takes an example, at least it does with me and most people I know), and 2) articles like those on this site tend to lean a little too much on that single word to make their entire point. I think that's a dangerous combination.

January 3 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Landrum

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