This site is a blog for musicians and music industry people. It is a free educational resource and it is also the way I advertise my music consulting services. I am an entertainment professional with deep roots in the music industry. Throughout my music career I have been a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager, a reality show producer, a bass player and the head of a digital record label.
Posts Tagged ‘Music marketing’
Last week, the British Phonographic Institute (BPI) prepared to sue a pirate proxy service. Also, a collection of music industry stats pointed to exactly how the music industry is evolving. And media writer Sharmin Kent examined why creating a real community will be critical to rebuilding the music industry.
BPI vs. the Pirate Party
Britain’s music industry trade association the BPI announced it is making moves to sue the Pirate Party UK for providing access to The Pirate Bay, which was banned by the High Court in April. The Pirate Party extends across a number of European countries and is opposed to entities that prevent information from being exchanged freely via the Internet. The group created a proxy late last spring that bypasses the government’s ban; almost immediately, this website became one of the 150 most-frequented sites in the region.
A music industry representative told the BBC that the BPI has tried to settle with the Pirate Party outside the courtroom without success. The organization asked the Pirates to shut down the proxy website, but was met with threats. Pirate Party head Loz Kaye said the group will not acquiesce: ““It is clear that we are facing a significant threat, and we will have to fight it. And fight it well, not just for the sake of the Pirate Party, but because of the principles at stake. I have always believed that it is not just enough to have principles, you need to act on them too, even if it gets difficult … I joined the Pirate Party because I passionately believe these are political issues. For every new person who starts to ask questions about digital rights, that’s a win. For every new person who stands up and gets involved, that’s a victory,”
Kaye added, “Geoff Taylor of the BPI has written to me to say we should expect a letter from their solicitors.” Kaye also told TorrentFreak that the Party is fully prepared for an expensive fight in court.
However, Kaye shared with TorrentFreak that there was still no legal paperwork: “As of Saturday [December 10], if paperwork has been filed then we are unaware of it. If the BPI chose to file a lawsuit then we will deal with it as we become aware of it. We would have thought they would have preferred to talk to us first, but it is their choice as to what they do.”
Kaye and the Pirate Party also highlighted the damage that can be done by government website blocks: “Blocks now seem to have been used against services like Promo Bay, with the BPI being given significant power on deciding what they think should and shouldn’t be blocked. I would add that up until last week we had not been contacted by any party to ask us to take it down.”
Despite threats to fight against the proxy being taken down, the Pirate Party lacks the funds to engage in a lengthy court battle. It runs through donations from the public and is also currently engaged in a fundraiser to deal with this potential legal issue. The BPI is funded in part by major music labels.
“13 Interesting Stats about the Music Industry”
The website Pigeons & Planes outlined the 13 most fascinating effects of the music industry’s on-going and rapid evolution this past week. The stats below paint a realistic – and surprisingly optimistic – picture of the current music business and where it is headed.
#1: Streaming plays beat out radio spins 132 to 1 in 2011. Radio has not been rendered completely powerless, as it still helps break superstar artists, but it has weakened significantly as a music delivery method. In 2011, radio spins hit 158 million, whereas streaming plays were 21 billion. The numbers don’t tell the whole story in and of themselves, but they do point to the fact that the streaming music is still growing rapidly and companies like Shazam could soon be capable of taking over.
#2: Justin Bieber’s YouTube play count > the population of China and India put together. The population of China and India together is 2.6 billion. Justin Bieber’s VEVO account has earned 3,169,095,027 views. Adding the number of collaborative videos between Bieber and artists like Chris Brown, etc., the number is closer to 4 billion. This number is also 4/7 of the earth’s current population.
#3: Digital music revenue will top $8 billion worldwide in 2012. Despite grim pictures painted of the declining music industry, digital music sales and options for listening and distributing music online have experienced rapid and steady growth over the past five years. Projected digital sales for 2012 are $8.6 billion, with $5 billion of that coming directly from the U.S. Strategy Analytics reported, “Streaming revenues will increase 40 percent in 2012 – to $1.1 billion – whilst download revenues will increase by 8.5 percent to $3.9 billion … Therefore, streaming services will take over as the leading revenue growth engine for the music industry in 2012 …”
#4: The cast of Glee has been on the Billboard Hot 100 more times than any other artist. The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Elvis, James Brown, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Frank Sinatra, the Rolling Stones, Lil Wayne are some of the artists that have most frequently charted on Billboard. However, none can match the charting power of the cast of Glee.
#5: The four major labels are responsible for 88% of album sales. In June, Nielsen announced that Sony, Universal, Warner and EMI still accounted for almost 88% of album sales. Thus, the “old school” industry is still in control of sales, despite all the new methods that have emerged for listening to music.
#6: Spotify is responsible for streaming 1,500 years-worth of music. While artists may not be seeing significant revenue from this outlet yet, there is no questioning that Spotify has exploded and will continue to grow.
#7: VEVO has paid $200 million in royalties to artists since 2009. This means it has paid brought more royalties to artists than any other music video service. Of course, the entirety of the payments may not have gone to artists yet (some go partially to labels, etc. or may still be stuck in the SoundExchange distribution system), but it still represents additional income.
#8: U2’s 360° Tour raked in $736 million. Starting in 2009, this two-year tour brought in $200 million more than the Rolling Stones’ giant A Bigger Bang Tour.
#9: Rihanna’s Man Down cost $1 million. The cost for producers, studio time, radio and publicity on Rihanna’s latest album really added up. Marketing was a huge percentage of this amount. However, Man Down shows how expensive and unwieldy it can be for major labels to try to “guarantee” a hit record. It also shows what these labels are willing to do in order to ensure their continued success.
#10: The entertainment industry has spent more than $1 billion on lobbying since 1996. Major corporations within the music, film and television industries spend millions trying to come up with fair policies for artists, listeners and employees. The RIAA alone has spent $30 million on lobbying since 2007.
#11: Clear channel will have $10.1 billion-worth of debt by 2016. Half of Clear Channel’s revenue comes from the over 800 domestic radio stations and 5,800 syndicated affiliates. Clear Channel’s performance could pick up naturally if it embraces partnerships with digital radio and other music services.
#12: Physical full album sales in 2012 will be lower than they have ever been in the past 18 years. However, physical copies still make up half of all albums sold. These figures point to the fact that technology has made singles easier to sell.
#13 Vinyl sales are growing. Despite the decline of CD sales, vinyl has become more and more popular during the past six years. 3.2 million records were sold in 2012, a 16.2% increase over last year.
Community and the Music Industry
An article written by media writer and music industry analyst Sharmin Kent “New Marketing Songbook: How the Music Industry is Building Community” explored the different ways the music business has been rebuilt around the idea of community, and the many existing channels that will continue to bring artists, fans and other music industry players closer together.
Last week, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich publicly gave Spotify his blessing by offering up the entire Metallica catalog and reconciled with Napster co-creator Sean Parker. He admitted that the original battle was not about money, rather “just about control.”
Of course, P2P file sharing has been a hotly-contested debate since the 1990s and has sparked billions of dollars-worth of lawsuits. Above all, it offered up a new business model that gave the old order the choice to either adapt or fall. And P2P networks put the control of music listening and discovery back into the hands of the fans.
More than a decade later, labels have learned to work with the Internet and its many channels, including YouTube, personal social media accounts, etc. And artists are more connected to their fans – and thus their fans’ money – than they ever have before. The Internet has created the opportunity for artists and fans to build thriving online communities and for labels to satisfy music fans more readily with massive catalogs.
It took 10 years of kicking and screaming and millions in lost revenue for record companies to finally decide to come find their audiences where they were – on the Internet and streaming music. According to Kent, Spotify in particular shows that a balance can be struck between variety and control and potentially still make money for artists and record labels.
And sharing through social media platforms – aka, sharing through interactive online communities – is what has really helped services like Spotify, Pandora and Last.fm thrive. Social networking channels have proven themselves to be as powerful as some of the online channels artists and labels once feared – ones that previously leaked tracks and other information. They create an opportunity for musicians to get feedback from fans and keep these fans happy by offering them special experiences like free merchandise, live performances and concert tickets that draw music lovers close to them.
Many marketing experts are discovering that online music services are great tools because they not only allow musicians to share their music or favorite songs, but they allow the fans of these musicians to connect with users and draw in even more listeners.
Get a custom YouTube Marketing Sampler
We will put together a single YouTube video that features your entire album, or clips of each song. YouTube is currently the number-one destination for people seeking new music, and interactive samplers like this are valuable because they give fans and potential fans one place to experience all of your new art.
How it Works:
We create custom artwork in a high-quality video that features as much of your album as you would like. Some artists choose to use 20-second samples, while others embed albums in full. The artwork features a track listing with embedded links, so fans can skip tracks simply by clicking song titles. We can also embed links to interviews or other videos.
Please Contact us for rates and additional information. Some samples are below:
Katie Hasty is the managing editor at HitFix.com, a consumer entertainment news site. She first got involved with the music business while in college at Northwestern University, where she wrote for a variety of entertainment periodicals, websites and trade publications including Stop Smiling, Venus Zine, Punk Planet and Kirkus Reviews. For five years, she worked at Billboard, where she was an online editor and columnist and also ran the “Now Hear This”/”Billboard Underground” section, which focused specifically on unsigned/independent/DIY artists. Throughout her 10-year career, Katie has held many different positions within the music industry including music supervisor, A&R consultant, music contest judge radio correspondent and concert promoter. She is also the main songwriter, singer and guitarist in the Brooklyn-based band Numbers and Letters.
I recently got to talk to Katie about the experience of being on both sides of the music business and what catches her attention as a music journalist when she is looking for artists to cover. She also shared some tips about what bands need to do in order to create a solid media presence and turn more people onto their music.
Thanks for taking the time to chat, Katie. How did you wind up in the music business?
I wrote about music and entertainment prior to joining the work force. I was a contributing writer and editor for magazines like Stop Smiling and Venus Zine while I was in college at Northwestern University. I knew I wanted to get into entertainment feature writing while I was in college, and I switched from being a magazine major to an online major during my last year. You didn’t have to specify one or the other, but I was convinced my life was going to be in magazines until I started taking HTML classes and also saw that there was more growth in the online market.
The very first job I got was also the very first job I ever applied and interviewed for, which was online editor for Billboard Radio Monitor. It had a couple different names at the time, but it was the radio arm of Billboard magazine. My interest in radio initially came from my dad, who worked in the radio industry for more than 30 years in Kansas City. And then that interest in commercial and non-commercial radio grew further while I was in college. I worked with Billboard Radio Monitor for about a year, and then I was bumped up to associate editor at Billboard.com in my second year. I was at Billboard for almost five years total. I also worked with Billboard magazine during that time, which obviously provided me with a very informative business perspective. And Billboard.com was purely geared towards the consumer side, so I was exposed to an even mix of two major parts of the industry.
About three and a half years into my time at Billboard, I started working on and running the “Now Hear This” section, which was the unsigned band section. It eventually became the “Billboard Underground” and had a whole video series attached to it. We concentrated on artists that had formed their own labels, self released their own music or found some other way of making money playing music on their own in an industry where that was becoming increasingly difficult. Because, as you know, you don’t just put out a CD and immediately make money off it.
I ran that section for about a year and a half and then transitioned out of Billboard. I worked for a few weeks for Michael Goldstone over at Mom and Pop Records as it was finding its feet and launching. I was working as an A&R consultant. I would go to shows, and he and I would sit down and talk about music. That was what I did in the interim between Billboard and HitFix. Doing that was just not something I could do long-term for Goldie, but it was gave me some really good insight, because I got to see what the process of starting a label looked like. It was eye opening to see what he was looking for along with the qualities artists need to have and what they need to do on the branding and business side before they even consider working with labels of any type.
Then, I moved onto HitFix. I got that job through an old professional cohort, Melinda Newman, who used to be the L.A. bureau chief for Billboard. She had been doing part-time work for HitFix writing about music, and they needed somebody to run the music section right away, so I joined them in 2009. I’ve moved from full-time freelancer to full-time employee as the company has grown. When I started working with them, there were five full-time employees, and now there are over two dozen.
And you’re also a musician and play in a band called Numbers and Letters.
Yes. It’s based off my songwriting, and I play guitar and sing. I’ve had the project for about five years. We put out an EP in 2008, and since then, we’ve been putting together a full-length album. Right now, we are finishing up mixes, and we have plans for a music video. We are going to see what kind of partnerships or other creative things can come from this record within the next few months. This summer, we’re going to start really pushing live shows, tours, etc. We toured in Scotland in October and have toured the Southeast, parts of the West and bigger cities in the Northeast like Boston and Portland. We’ve had little fits and starts.
Having a full-time job but being able to work from home is extremely flexible and very helpful when I have a creative project I really want to do something with. But then again, I still have a full-time job, so I still have to work for a certain number of hours in the day. I know other bands that aren’t committed to jobs or have part-time positions are often able to get out albums quicker or play more shows. But for us, it’s all about making sure it’s good timing for everyone. If I’m going to put out a full-length record and have any kind of support for it, I want it to be on my terms and done right.
I feel like my perspective has really been changed by my work at Billboard and with Goldie. Even as we speak, Spotify is blowing up, people are working more with Facebook, etc. How people hear music is changing on a daily basis, and I’m very much aware of it.
The reason I wanted to speak to you is because you are a musician and have also had experiences on the business side. You are someone who has been a gatekeeper and has insight as to why certain things get written about and others don’t. I have a lot of people who approach me and ask whether I do PR, which I don’t. A common statement they make is, “I want to be in Pitchfork.” And I’m not saying that Pitchfork is the Holy Grail, but it’s one of the bigger periodicals. In your opinion, how to press stories grow? How does a story get noticed by a periodical the size of Billboard or HitFix?
When you get written up on Pitchfork or by any of the bigger magazines or blogs, the results you see from that exposure vary. It may not add up to much, although it is helpful when you want a good pull quote to have accolades from certain websites or writers. The results could just depend on the day or what picks up and runs and feels viral. That has to do with who you choose as a publicist, for starters. I think there are a lot of publicists out there who base their experience on the fact that they have an impressive number of clients. But what they actually generate for those clients what you need to look at. If a publicist has 200 clients but can’t get them any traction, the publicist is making money but the artist is not.
So, part of making stories grow is getting a publicist that has a good roster and can commit to whatever your publicity cycle is, whether you want to generate excitement about an album pre release in a short period of time like two months or you want to accomplish that in three months, six months or nine months including a tour. That could end up costing a lot of money. But if your publicist has a good voice and a good rapport with writers and has people working under them or with them that are courteous and can answer questions and hit people back quickly, this can be critical.
Successful exposure starts with the publicist and the personalities you choose to work with. When it comes to getting the attention of a journalist, I know I first look at which publicists have the best roster. Then going from there, I look to see if there is a compelling story and if you can hear that story in the music and really connect the dots. I also look for emails with really succinct subject lines that find a unique but clear way to say, “Here’s the reason you’ll listen to this artist.” That reason could be, “This artist sounds like so and so, and I know you like so and so,” “This artist opened for another well-known artist,” or “This artist worked with this really important music video director.” No matter what, it has to be more interesting than, “This artist has worked really hard, and we think their songs are good.” I don’t think there’s any artist out there that won’t tell that story about themselves. I want to see a unique angle and something I haven’t seen already – something that I know people will be excited about when they hear it.
As an artist, you want to make yourself stand out. That can’t be reiterated enough.
When you were doing the “Now Hear This” section of Billboard, you were dealing with people who were really under the radar. How can artists get your attention when they can’t afford a publicist, besides just having great music?
I look at fan response. MySpace numbers obviously haven’t mattered for a long time. But you can see people’s responses to a band on Facebook and the kind of enthusiasm they generate. And this applies to artists that have publicists and those that don’t and artists that have legal representation and publishers but no other deal in place. It’s easy to pull up the fan response. Facebook is a good example of a place where you can get an immediate response. Whenever a band puts something out, you can immediately see the kind of impression they’re making.
It also has to do with pace makers outside of labels. If an artist’s music has gotten placement without having a traditional model, that means a lot. Joe Purdy and Skybox are both good examples of that. There are a lot of bands who don’t have the need for a label because they’ve been able to generate enthusiasm outside of the realm of just putting out records.
The “Now Hear This” section was always a really unique section, because it was geared specifically towards unsigned artists in a business-oriented magazine. Bands that read that section and were familiar with Billboard in general would send me really specific pitches. These pitches would be geared towards this column or towards my specific tastes and interests.
So, clearly someone who has done their homework on you and the periodical that pitched you with a reason why you might find their story compelling would get your attention.
Exactly. If your aim is Pitchfork or specific blogs that you personally read and enjoy, cater your pitch or your subject line or what you’re sending specifically towards that publication. Working at HitFix, I know I am working for one of many general consumer interest entertainment online magazines, so I don’t expect a love letter. But I do expect bands to know they shouldn’t just say, “Why don’t you do a full feature on me?” We are a news site. If you want a feature, we’re going to need some media to run along with it. There are assets that are important to me. I rarely have an hour and a half in my busy day to write up 900 words on a band I think is amazing, with no media. I’m going to need assets like an MP3 or a SoundCloud – something I can grab onto and run with.
Asset management is really important. If you’re an artist and send me a zip file full of your assets, and I’ve never heard of you, I’m not going to take time to download and put that into my iTunes to listen to it. Just send me a link to a few MP3s that I can stream. If I want the record, you need to give me an easy way to listen to it. Don’t send me the whole record in the attachment of your first email. That’s not the way I want to listen to music.
I still get tons of mailers from publicists, and I listen to about 95% of the ones I get. While I was at Billboard, I got about 100 CDs per week. Now it’s more like 30 a week. With MP3s, I’m much more prone to listening to a stream on a SoundCloud or a Facebook page than I am to download an MP3 from an email, wait for that to download and then load it into iTunes. I don’t necessarily want to give part of my hard drive to a band I don’t know. Streaming music is quick and to the point. If your music is so good, give it to me up front.
Some publicists spend more time making sure their signature is tricked out and their press page is looking awesome than they spend sending me an MP3 or a stream of their artist’s tunes: “Will you write about this artist? We didn’t include a link to their music, but, hey – they’re really well liked.”
All of us are busy. We want a tight pitch, a pitch that is specific to our site and the assets up front.
When people come to me and say, right off the bat, “I want to get written up in Rolling Stone/Billboard/Pitchfork,” I usually say they should start with more entry-level blogs to get pull quotes and then work their way up. And I might be wrong. Is there a snowball effect?
Absolutely. People at Pitchfork and other major periodicals and sites are taste makers in their space. It’s their job to stay informed. And they do sometimes pull artists out of thin air. I think it’s easier to pitch the small sites, not because they have nothing better to do, but because they might have specific interest in your particular type of music. When you start small, there is a stronger possibility you will have an intimate interaction with the actual blogger him/herself. And it’s also easier to get that contact information. A lot of bigger websites that don’t run the emails of the editors themselves – HitFix included.
And, like you said earlier, Pitchfork isn’t the Holy Grail, but it can help determine the difference between a Kanye West and a band that is totally unsigned and just has a lot of buzz. People started writing about Lana Del Rey last summer, and then there was just a groundswell; very organic enthusiasm grew. If a few websites start screaming about an artist that they like, the bigger websites are going to pay attention.
From your perspective as a performing musician, is there anything you’ve learned about playing around a major city like New York and putting together tours that you wish you’d known when you first started?
I’ve been a performing musician and a professional music writer at the same time for the past five years, and I know you can often get silence from the other end, whether you’re not getting the turnout you want at a show or aren’t getting someone to email you back. But you shouldn’t take that too personally. Silence on the other end does not mean rejection. Having a lower turnout than expected does not mean people don’t like you.
As a critic, a writer and a music fan, there’s just so much out there and so much saturation, especially in the New York market. There are 20,000 people screaming for your attention. And just because things are tough here doesn’t mean that your creation has been rejected. It’s about plugging away at your craft, being persistent and having total faith in the material.
You should also be aware of the saturation. In New York and other large markets, you have to keep a level head and keep moderated expectations because of that saturation. I was recently watching that new NBC show Smash. Everyone who wants to move to New York and perform on Broadway has to know it’s going to be hard as hell, and it’s the same with the music market here. I and a lot of other New York City-based artists could go and move to a small city in the U.S. or even overseas and be a superstar in that city. It’s going to be a lot harder in a bigger city, and you’re going to be surrounded by a lot more pressure to succeed.
It’s about making what you have as good as it can be – making sure that every song, every performance and every bit of press is you and the very best version of you. Because there are a lot of labels, fans and people who love music enough to call, “Bullshit” on something that is not worth their time. In New York, L.A. or Austin, just being okay isn’t going to fly. For example, you might have great songs but no presence. You just have to work a little bit harder.
But on the other hand, I think the difficulty of getting heard here is why people, myself included, enjoy the energy around here. I like the energy of people who are making creative works and succeeding. That is a reminder that there is a possibility for my work to be accepted and to be passed on to other people by fans who love Americana, alt-country or folk music. It’s about finding an audience in a huge population. They’re there. You just have to find them.
To learn more about Katie Hasty and the music writing work she does, visit the HitFix.com website.
Welcome back from the 4th of July weekend, everyone.
The following article is a guest post by Julia L. Rogers. Julia has been helping me behind the scenes at MusicianCoaching.com for quite some time now. She is a classically-trained musician, a published author and a contributing music writer at Bitch magazine. Julia plays out regularly in New York City in various original projects and writes about business strategy, social media and emerging technology for corporate clients ranging from AOL Small Business to American Express.
Part of being a DIY artist is marketing yourself like an entrepreneur or small business owner: You’re presenting the brand of “You, Inc.,” comprised of all the unique things about your music and you as an artist. And while putting some tracks up on social media platforms like Facebook and Myspace or on your own website is an important part of your larger portfolio of marketing tactics, you can’t just leave it at that and hope that someone will eventually stumble across you.
A very important part of your PR campaign as a DIY artist is presenting yourself well to blogs, podcasts, online music communities, music websites and magazines. It’s a given that if you’re at the stage where you’re ready to approach the press about your music, you should have at least two things: a professional-sounding collection of your songs – whether that is in the form of an LP or a full-length album – that represents you at your best; tangible proof that you are playing whenever and wherever possible, working hard at providing an engaging experience for your fan base – who essentially act as your paying “clients,” buying albums and coming to your shows – and to turn new people onto your music. Assuming you have both those things going for you, what comes next?
In the Digital Age, where almost everything you need to know about your brand can live conveniently online, a lot revolves around email. A well-crafted email can land you and your band more free advertising than you could ever afford (which is incredibly important, especially if you really are paving the road of your music career entirely by yourself). However, a bad one will end up in the “Deleted Items” folder, often before even one note of one song hits a single ear.
You don’t necessarily have to be a highly-trained writer or even a great natural marketer to put together an attention-getting email; neither of these skills is typically the #1 strength of most musicians. But if you’re serious about making music your career, you do have to approach the media thoughtfully and professionally and think like a business owner whenever you’re presenting yourself and your music. The following are five tips to think about before (long before!) you hit “send” on that next email.
#1: Have a clear grasp on your story. You love your music and you think people should hear it. But you have to think of yourself like any other company or brand: In order to get people to tune into you, you must have a good handle on your story and mission statement as an artist and be able to persuade potential fans with very short attention spans why they should love your music too. “I’ve been passionate about music ever since I was five and I like to write songs” or “I grew up watching MTV and know my music is better than what I’ve seen on there” isn’t going to cut it; these statements encapsulate an almost immeasurable number of artists or ”musicians’ brands” out there.
Instead, think about which unique qualities sets the story of how you came into music apart from the story of every other person that has ever played music. Perhaps you were raised by circus performers who were hip hop fans, which led you to develop an interest in learning how to play the accordion and writing clown-themed raps (though don’t worry — you probably don’t have to be quite that “different” to stand out!). Even if you are just a guitar-driven indie rock band or a traditional singer/songwriter, think about the personal experiences that have led you to pursue music and how that comes through in what you do. Then write that story out … in no more than three sentences. People with the power to write about and recommend your music to others often get hundreds of emails daily, and they will tune out if you don’t get to the point quickly. If they want to know more, they will ask. After you write down your short story – in the business/entrepreneurial world, they call it your “elevator pitch” – repeat it over and over to yourself, so you can rattle it off when someone asks you and relay it in every email you send to someone you think should be listening to your music, along with a direct link to some songs.
#2: Keep it local. When you’re deciding which media outlets to contact about your music, start with those that write about musicians and events that are located near you. If you’re at the beginning of your career – and especially if you’re at a point where you’re just starting to see a few more people than your four closest friends and your mom regularly at your shows – you need to focus on getting attention in your home city/local area. In the beginning, reaching out to people that can actually come out to see you play, understand where you come from and interact with you personally is an important part of establishing personal relationships with current and future fans. And the closer they feel to you, the more likely they will be to recommend you to friends and the more often all of them will want to download/buy your music, buy your t-shirts or come to see you perform.
#3: Do focused research. As a DIY artist, there’s nothing that can waste your precious PR time – or suck more time away from your top priority, which is writing and playing great music – more than blindly sending out “listen to my music” emails to every person on the planet who listens to music. Still, a lot of bands do just that, thinking that indiscriminately casting a wide net will increase the odds that someone will respond. Think of it this way – if you didn’t own a house, would you like to get repeated, unsolicited emails about homeowners’ insurance? If you front a country band and you randomly email bloggers that write exclusively about heavy metal bands or someone that runs a steampunk zine begging them to listen to your music, you’re essentially committing the same crime of irrelevancy, and you could even be building a bad reputation for yourself as a thoughtless spammer.
Thanks to Google, it’s quick and painless to search for the media outlets that regularly talk about the exact type of music you play and to find the people that might even actually be excited to hear from you, which can up the rate of positive response to your emails significantly. Along those same lines, know which type of outlet you’re emailing before you send so you can set realistic expectations about the response you might get. A blog, a newspaper and a magazine all take very different approaches when it comes to writing about and talking to artists. Also, before you start to send emails, make a list of sources. You can add to and subtract from that list as you go along.
#4: Send personalized emails. Once you’ve made a list of media outlets to email – even if that list is long – resist the temptation to send a form letter. Take the time to craft each email separately and include a few personalized details you’ve learned through your research about the person/publication/source in question. If you are sticking to the “short and sweet” rule of emailing, this level of detail shouldn’t take too long to add, and it will show the person on the other end that you’re legitimately interested in their feedback and are serious about your career.
Secondly, the community of journalists and bloggers that write about music tend to know each other, especially if they write for the same publication or about the same types of music. This means they talk to each other about the music – and any communication – they receive from artists. If you send the exact email to ten different people, you risk, at best, depersonalizing the professional relationship you could have had with a journalist or blogger that could’ve potentially helped you connect with a huge number of new fans. At worst, the people you email will spread a negative word about you to those in their network, which will likely decrease your chances of getting written up elsewhere.
#5: Don’t send more than two emails. Along the same lines as “keep it short and sweet,” when you’re trying to get people to write and talk about your music, limit yourself to two emails: an email with links and a follow-up email, sent at a later date. That’s it. Period. As previously mentioned, people writing about music hear from a lot of artists on a daily basis. And the best journalists and bloggers – those that truly care about what they do and have a legitimate love of music – are going to actually take the time to thoughtfully read and listen to almost every email and music link they get. You’re not going to get a “yes” or “no” right away, so you need to be patient. At best you can expect to get a quick “Thanks for sending this! I’ll listen to it within [insert specific time frame here] and get back to you.” If that happens, wait the amount of time the person specified and then send a quick follow-up a few days after that time has expired. If you get no response to your initial email – which, frankly, quite often happens – wait at least a week and then send a follow up. In either case, if you don’t hear back after your second email, end it there and move on.
As you think about the process of sending emails to the press about your unique artist brand, think about the last time you heard a music journalist say, “I love this new band I’ve never heard of. All they had to do was send me a link to a free download of their album, and I was sold!” Likely, you can’t, because that’s probably never happened. The truth is, most bloggers and music journalists have little to no direct interest in helping you and your band reach the next level; they’re looking for good music that their loyal readers will like. In order to get the attention of music journalists and get the word out about your music, you need to provide compelling reasons for music lovers to listen and fall in love with you. And if you can create that magnetic pull to your “creative products” (your music!) through all your marketing tactics, you will continue to add to your roster of “loyal customers” (your fans!).
To learn more about Julia Rogers, you can also follow her on Twitter.
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Sarah Weiss is the marketing and promotions guru for The Bowery Presents, a live music company that owns and operates five venues in the New York City/Tri-State area, including Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Terminal 5, Music Hall of Williamsburg and the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ. The company also co-promotes a variety of shows for several other large New York City venues, including Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.
I recently spoke with Sarah about how she got started in the music business and what her role as a marketing and promotions executive at a live music organization entails. She also shared some advice for musicians looking to market their shows and achieve longevity in the music business.
Thanks for taking some time to talk to me. How did you get into the music business?
When I was at NYU, the first thing I signed up to do was the join the Program Board. I had friends at other schools that had told me about it, and I thought it would be a really fun thing to do. Through that, I got an internship at Irving Plaza, which turned into a job. And that job led me to working at the company that is now called Live Nation. I was working for the club and comedy booking department there. Then I did a brief stint in D.C. working for Clear Channel – it was still called Clear Channel there – out of the Nissan Pavilion (Now called Jiffy Lube Live). I eventually went back to New York to be with The Bowery Presents, where I started as one of the talent buyers and then decided I wanted to switch to marketing as the company grew.
Can you tell me what your job at The Bowery Presents entails?
I do a lot of the media planning for the New York shows, mostly Terminal 5 events because that venue is pretty large. But I also work a lot with Webster Hall. And when we have shows at some of the larger theaters, I help with coordinating the event marketing with the artists’ teams and getting the right promotional tools in place as well as the ad spends. I help them find the best way to reach all their fans.
And you do all the marketing for shows at Mercury too?
I work with Mercury Lounge and Bowery to some degree. But both venues are so well established that they tend to run themselves. With the tools we have in place, I don’t have to do too much extra promotion around there. But sometimes I have to do some radio promotion tasks if they radio stations have jumped on board with an artist early in their career.
I want to talk a little bit about what bands that are at a stage in their careers where they have little to no radio and promotional support should be doing. As someone who did booking and came up through the system, your expertise is career wide and spans beyond simply marketing and promotion. What are things that artists can do as they are just developing to make working with the marketing department or the promoter or the club owner easier and make sure fans come to their shows?
I think the easiest and simplest thing is to have a website and at least one social networking page. People are still going to Myspace for music, and it’s good to have information up there – or wherever you choose to house our information – including some tracks and some concert dates. And also, make sure whatever you have is as current as possible.
The other thing that’s really key is that if you have photos and bios you’ve put together for yourself, make sure you send them over to whoever put the show together for you, so the information for the show is current with what’s going on with your band. It’s only a few pieces, but the more correct and up-to-date the information is, the better it serves you, and the more you will attract the attention of someone who is really familiar with the venue and used to seeing good bands there. So they will go to the venue to see a band, even if they don’t know the band, because they know the venue typically has good shows. They’ll also look at the Myspace page and say, “I like the headlining band, but maybe I’ll get to that show early.”
Are those tasks often neglected by artists?
That’s what I’ve found. It’s kind of amazing. We definitely use a lot of our interns’ time going through artists’ websites and pages and seeing nothing about the show on these pages. We often have to say, “Hey, we’ve had your show announced for a long time on our site. Can you do the same on your site?”
You’d think that would be very obvious.
It should be. But it’s something that is time consuming, and not every artist or band has devoted someone to be on top of that all the time.
If you are an artist and you get something booked with a new promoter – say, you guys – should you reach out to those people and request a list of press contacts? What are some other offline things artists can do?
That’s definitely a great thing to do. If the venue isn’t doing their own press solicitations for you, most of them will have their own contacts for the artists to set up some interviews or previews or something to get exposed. There are so many media outlets. New York City is great, because there are so many media outlets that a lot of times they’re covering everything from the smallest band to the biggest band; everyone can get a little love out there. Most other cities and most other venues also have resources to help you, or they will do the solicitation themselves. If the artist is willing to put in the time to actually give an interview or do something else significant, it’s worth it.
Have you run across anything in the last couple years that was unique – in terms of a band finding a unique way to promote a show – that you would recommend to other artists?
The first couple times I really saw people doing some interesting stuff they used social networking. And I think social networking is still really cool. The key thing is figuring out the difference between berating your fans and providing teasers and other information to keep them hanging on with bated breath and interested in what you’re going to do next. And it can always be something that can be a little different and unique to each artist. There’s not necessarily a pattern or a template you can use, but there are definitely ways artists have used social media to really get people to pay attention to what they’re doing. There are ways to use it and have your fans be continuously energized about what’s going on. They’ll want to spend more time following what you’re doing.
So, one last question. You’ve had about a 15-year career in the music business. In your opinion, what has separated the artists that have succeeded and built sustainable businesses for themselves from the ones that fell by the wayside?
I wish there was a simple answer to that. Some people have managed to maintain amazingly sustainable careers, despite following what I think is an odd business model or being really disorganized. Definitely one of the things I think keeps artists going for the longest is a strong live show. It’s something that even if the album is bad, people will say, “You know what? I still really love seeing them in concert. And I know they’ll play all these other songs that I really like.” It’s like when bands first do a live album, and it’s a small thing. But then they come back and do a 35th Anniversary version, and it’s much bigger. Fans will say, “I’m going to check that out. That’s where I fell in love with this guy.” I think the live show is the place where more longevity can exist.
To learn more about Sarah Weiss and the live shows she markets and promotes, please visit The Bowery Presents website.
Matt Howe is the Manager of Business Development and Music Content at the rapidly-growing video site UStream. He got his feet wet in the music business right out of college, working for a small London-based independent label called Adventure Records, working with the former head of Virgin Records in the UK. Matt then moved on and worked in the International Department at EMI Music for two years as a coordinator and junior project manager, where he worked with major artists such as Coldplay, Robbie Williams and Radiohead. While working on Coldplay’s X&Y record through EMI, he established a close relationship with Capitol Records team, and was asked to move to L.A. in 2005 to become marketing manager.
He eventually made his way back to EMI Music, this time in Santa Monica, CA, where he took a position as Director of Strategic Marketing and Business Development to help the company transform the way they managed their internal communication systems about artist releases, licensing, selling and managing the A&R staff. He moved back to the UK in 2009 and worked as an independent consultant for EMI out of its Kensington offices, where he worked on some international releases for several bands, including 30 Seconds to Mars and Alice in Chains. He was offered his current UStream position through a Myspace friend that was running its business development department and wanted an experienced head of music content.
Recently, I spoke with Matt about the explosive growth of the UStream platform in the past year and how artists can leverage it to improve relationships with their fans and strengthen their marketing plans.
What is your role at UStream?
It’s really two pronged. The first part, and the one that’s really the most intensive, is dealing with incoming inquiries from artists, labels, publishers, managers, etc. and trying to make sure we support all our premium music partners and make sure they’re set up well on the platform, that their channels are created properly, that they have all our latest product developments switched on, that the channels are skinned correctly, that we build out the Facebook applications, etc. and help them with that, and in instances help them with broadcasts when we can. That’s probably the lion’s share of work here. We’re in a very fortunate position at UStream where we’re the preeminent live streaming video service in the music space, so we get a lot of incoming calls, which is great.
On the other hand, another part of my job is more proactively going out and trying to find partners for product launches, trying to strategize internally with our product team and the rest of our business development and sales teams as well so we can find out areas we should be focusing on. Revenue is definitely going to be and has been a big focus for this year for the company. How do we turn this from a traditional ad supported internet business into something where we can actually make money, as opposed to just keep the lights on? We’re going to focus on some of the more revenue-based models and try to figure out where and how they best apply to the music space, and then communicate that through to partners and launching products around suitable partners within the music space.
Your world view must be very interesting given that live video available to the masses in that way in a broadcast kind of medium is still rather new, at least in terms of being this easily and widely available. Are you seeing anyone use this medium particularly well? Can you cite some examples of people that are really using the channel to present and market themselves successfully?
I can tell you some of the biggest broadcasts we’ve done in the video space in the last year and a half or so. I’d say Kiss is one of the most active artists in our platform in terms of streaming concerts and doing press releases and announcing dates, etc. They use the platform very well, and their management team works with us very closely. Nathan Gregory over there works with us. They get it, and when they can, and when the production is available, they use us very well. I think they still are responsible for our biggest music event to date. They streamed a concert with us from the Staple Center late 2009, and that got us two million streams live, which was pretty insane. That still stands as our biggest broadcast to date. Bon Jovi is another band that has used us a lot, and has used us to good effect. We deal mainly with the guys over at Sparkart. We’ve streamed quite a few concerts with the band, including one from Dallas in April, 2010, which got 1.5 million live streams and over a million uniques, which is again pretty huge. We also recently streamed a concert of theirs from Melbourne. We actually as a company have a pretty large Asian presence. Soft Bank, Japan invested heavily in the company early on last year, so we have a joint venture out in Japan called UStream Japan. We streamed the Bon Jovi Melbourne concert with a lot of support from the Asian office. Even when the band isn’t doing web chats or streaming concerts, the guys over at Sparkart have been pretty good at using the platform to stream concert DVDs, etc. to keep the awareness there and keep providing reasons for fans to watch the channel and watch their live content.
Even with the big brands, is consistency a factor? Are you finding that regularly broadcasting or having a regular stream of live or personal footage is helping garner a viewership?
I would say moving on from the likes of Bon Jovi, which is the biggest single event broadcast we’ve done, when you look at the urban space and urban artists like Lil Twist, Trey Songz and people like that, they’re very engaged and very regularly on our platform. Nikki Minaj and artists of that ilk seem to get it and have no problem going live regularly. They like chatting with their fans and see the value in it. Through them, people like Lil Wayne have come live as well on our platform. Getting that consistent broadcasting content is definitely a challenge. You have to give fans something worthwhile to keep coming back to. Even the most charismatic of artists is probably going to burn out their audience a little bit if they are going live once or twice a week indefinitely or chatting with fans. You want to try to keep it fresh. Those content ideas are challenging.
The production angle is a challenge as well. It’s not always easy when bands are on the road to broadcast live, streaming video. There are certain requirements such as internet capabilities, etc. that might not be readily at hand, and that we’re addressing with a variety of applications, whether they’re web-based broadcast applications or something else. We have a free piece of software you can download called UStream Producer that enables people to broadcast in pretty high quality from their webcams. And then we have a couple mobile solutions, including iPhone and Android broadcast apps as well. We’re hoping that making that technology available and putting it in the hands of our broadcasters will encourage them to go live more regularly. We’re trying to break that barrier between the technology and the medium. Someone like Twitter has done very well with that. We always have our cell phones or our iPhones in our hands, so it’s very easy for artists to update Twitter multiple times a day. But it’s not so easy to grab a video camera and go live streaming if you don’t have a suitable internet connection, or if you’re just out on the streets in New York and you see something cool you want to stream. We’ve been making a lot of strides into the mobile broadcast realm.
It would still be awkward even if you had a myfi in your pocket to walk around with a laptop and try to talk to your audience. You’re right. It doesn’t necessarily even have to be music, but can you talk to me about people who have successfully built brands by leveraging UStream? One of the people that comes to mind that first turned me onto it – although I don’t know him directly and only know his work – was Gary Vaynerchuk, who wrote a book Crush and advocated it was a great way to dominate a niche for informational products. Have you seen fine artists who did not come in having an established brand use the product with success?
That’s a really good question. To be perfectly honest, we have had examples of artists who used the product before they were household names and then subsequently broke through to the mainstream. I’d say Nikki Minaj is a good example of this. But I would in no way say their use of UStream was a contributing factor to their success necessarily.
I think it’s safe to say it was probably one of them.
As part of a broader new media strategy that these artists are employing, and a much more accessible profile to their fan base, I definitely think we fit into an important part of that. I do think when you talk about Twitter and Facebook, we all know the biggest artists out there that are updating those feeds, and they can be easily ghostwritten. But there’s no way to get in front of a video camera and replicate talking live to your fans. I definitely think there are some artists – and Nikki Minaj and also Trey Songz would be examples of that – who have used us as part of broader and more engaged policy with their fans, and then in conjunction with traditional media have broken through to the mainstream.
So, forget about music for a second, because frankly what your market is becomes less and less important, because it becomes “Can you adapt people’s strategies to a different medium?” Are there people that have used UStream who cite that as an important tool to their rise outside the music space?
Absolutely. I would say there are actually some really weird ones. We see a lot of activity in the animal channels. We had a Shiba Inu cam, where this family was basically streaming an enclosure of their Shiba Inu puppies 24/7, and it was getting significant numbers. I’d say even weirder we have what’s called the Owl Cam which is a couple in I think South Carolina that put a webcam in a bird box in their garden because these owls had been nesting and mating in this bird box for years. They stuck a webcam in there and started streaming it, and I think to date they’ve had 30 million streams of the owl cam. They’ve built a business purely from the technology platform we provided. They’ve sold merchandise and have a fan club and built a business off they technology we’ve provided.
So, a $200 webcam and a UStream channel and Café Press founded a business.
It’s crazy. They’ve been getting tens of millions of streams of their owl cam, they’re selling merchandise off that. Fans of these things are some of the most rabid fans we have on the platform too. If there are technology problems or interruptions to the broadcasting, we hear about it. There are fans out there that are extremely dedicated to that channel. As we all know, the long-tail hypothesis applied to niche markets can be hugely profitable. That couple has definitely built a business purely off UStream. We actually had a company meeting at our head offices last year in San Francisco and flew them in as our guests of honor as an example of what we’re doing with not even premium content providers, but just mom and pop living in the middle of America. That’s definitely a great example.
When I work with artists’ marketing, I tell people that websites are no longer billboards, but they become the “You” news channel. Are you finding a lot of people are scheduling content mimicking what we grew up with on TV? Is it similar to, “Tune in every Tuesday at 8:00 for the Owl Chat?”
No. I think with the channels like the owl cam and Shiba Inu cams, the big draw is that they’re running all the time. These people are on 24/7, so you can tune it at any time and watch. It’s especially challenging in the music space as well to get scheduled programming far enough in advance where it can be adequately marketed to the artists’ fan base. Most of my week is reactive. We have artists small to large reaching out on a moment’s notice saying, “We’re going to go live in five hours’ time. What can we do?” And that narrows the window of them being able to do anything to market to that fan base.
Let’s talk about that conversation. If an artist comes to you and says, “We’d like to go live in a few hours. How can I market?” what do you say?
We just had the craziest one. We’ve been trying to get Kanye West on here for a while, and he was in South Korea before the launch of his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Dream album, and we got a call from him and Island Def Jam to say he’s at an airport in South Korea, his plane leaves in two hours, and he wants to get up and do a web chat and premiere his latest video. We had been trying for so long to get him on board, and no one on his side had set up a channel, so we got our VIP support guy and one of our account managers on the phone and within the matter of an hour skinned a channel together and got a live broadcast with him. But the only other avenues open to market the direct-to-fan model Kanye has are Facebook and the like. So, he blasted it out on Facebook and Twitter. But it leaves us little time to put it on our home page, which gets hundreds of thousands of uniques per day. And it gives us very little time to reach out and get people to schedule this into heir day. That’s the challenge, not just with the Kanyes, but with the other artists out there. We get developing bands from all over the world that will reach out on very short notice and say, “We’re planning to go live at X time. What can you do for us?”
I guess the question is, how would you advise an artist who gave you enough time to market an upcoming concert or broadcast?
The strongest avenues for marketing still reside with the talent. We’re a pretty heavily trafficked website at this point. We have over 100,000 uniques per day on our home page. We stream somewhere in the region of 17 million videos per month, according to our most recent figures. But we still see, when we’re promote something heavily on our home page, and to our 1.5 million followers on Twitter, if we’re doing this for an artist that doesn’t have a particularly engaged audience online, if they don’t have a particularly high number of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, then all the promotion in the world for us will not create a huge uptick in what we would expect to see. It’s when you see artists like Snoop Dog, or you see artists like The Main, who is a developing band on Warner Bros., who had a pretty active online presence. When they went on Twitter and Facebook 72 hours in advance of a show they were streaming with us, they drove a lot of traffic. The main avenues for marketing and bringing eyeballs to broadcasts still resides with the artists. It invariably means Twitter and Facebook these days. They’re the two easiest launch points to drive traffic over to our platform.
In addition as well, to talk a bit more about Facebook, what has proved very popular with all artists I’ve worked with in the music space has been our custom viewing application for Facebook, where if we’re given the Facebook URL and the UStream channel URL, we can usually within 24-48 hours build a custom Facebook viewing application that the artist can then imbed on their Facebook page. You can go to John Mayer’s Facebook page or probably Kiss’ Facebook page and see examples of those. The fan just needs to click the UStream tab, and they don’t even need to leave the Facebook application to view the broadcast. Obviously we don’t get the page views, but we get the streaming numbers. That’s proved very popular, and we’re trying to figure out more seamless ways of reaching fans and helping artists connect with their fans on those platforms.
Marcus Whitney is the CTO and Co-Founder of Moontoast, a social commerce platform that enables artists, bands and other companies to strengthen their brands and deepen their relationships with their fans. Marcus emerged from a strong technology, ecommerce and marketing background, starting out at Emma Email Marketing in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was the Director of Technology as well as a partner. Working with Moontoast since 2008, he has helped many major artists – including Taylor Swift, Reba McEntire and Rascal Flatts – build increasingly personalized connections to a growing fan base through social networking.
Marcus spoke with me about how he got involved with the music industry, the tools available through Moontoast, and the many opportunities he sees for artists in the social networking space now and in the future.
Marcus, thanks for taking the time. How did you make the transition from working in email marketing and technology, to working with Moontoast and the music industry?
I ran into some people in the music industry about two years ago. Their idea was essentially that musicians should be able to sell the ability to give lessons online without having to lug around their equipment, and just be able to use web technology to make that happen. And I thought that was a good idea. I liked the idea of using rich media and live video and enabling commerce for every person out there with some knowledge to share. That’s how we started. And then we went from there to really starting to focus in on music. This past summer we signed a partnership with Big Machine Records, which is the label home of Taylor Swift, Reba McEntire and Rascal Flatts. We worked with them on using the same premise of our technology, which is enabling rights owners or affinity-based brands to sell directly to their fans and control the margins and the merchandising options. This is becoming harder and harder to do as everyone from Amazon to Wal-Mart are becoming strong channels for consumers. But Facebook is a brand new opportunity that democratizes that, because Facebook has enabled the fan page, and the fan page is a way for people to say, “I love this particular brand.” That brand can be a musician, a celebrity, a retailer or any of those types of things. People can say, “I love this brand, and I want to hear from this brand whenever they have something they want to say through a message or status update.” It’s a fantastic channel to be able to promote opportunities for engagement and ultimately, commerce.
Does it surprise you that Facebook didn’t have some kind of commerce solution built in?
Not really. I’ve been following the Facebook platform roadmap for a long time, and they’ve been pretty consistent in saying that they really do want to be the plumbing for the social web and a platform for enablement of all sorts of innovative businesses. You think about Zynga and Farmville, and now Cityville, which has taken that over. Facebook is the enabler of all those things. And the beneficiaries are both the members of Facebook and entrepreneurs who can understand how much social media can really change the dynamics of a business.
Facebook is a fantastic channel for being able to directly engage, and now we’ve proven it can also help transact with your customer base. We’ve begun to create tools, and we basically call it “distributing social commerce,” which is the ability from one platform to have a commerce space that’s inside Facebook. But that commerce space can also go in blogs on your website or on other social networks as well. The idea is to give you one tool to drive it from but allow you to go everywhere. And then we give you meaningful analytics on what’s working and what’s not.
Can you determine from this storefront the multiple places where you can place this information and where the traffic is entering from and exiting to?
Sure. Today, we’ve released Impulse, which is simple, but pretty powerful. You can go in there and inside of 20 or 30 minutes get it set up, get your album live and put it up for sale on Facebook. And you don’t need to talk to anybody to do that. You use your existing Paypal account to get it going. What we are going to start rolling out is a suite of tools that are for the more serious online marketers and ecommerce providers that want more insight and more tools to better sell and engage their customers.
So there is a suite of promotional tools coming? What will those look like?
It will be very similar to email marketing. There will be campaign tools, analytics that will help you understand the impact from someone liking or sharing a particular track or a particular item through the transactions. You’ll start to understand which post you put out drove the most traffic and ultimately the most revenue.
To simplify, we are really out to provide real ROI for social media. That’s been very difficult for people to get to. They know they need to spend money on Facebook and keep an active Twitter going, but it’s difficult for them to have rapport so they can push throughout their organization and say, “Look, here’s the bottom-line impact of us doing this.” Our value to them is that we put the transaction right there. We give them a dollar sign amount so they can say, “We put this effort in, and this was the result in terms of revenue, and this was the result in terms of engagement and growth of the fan base.”
It’s currently in application form. Do you have an approximate date by which this will live on Facebook without any apps?
The Impulse is a Facebook app. It’s deployed as an app, and the only thing you need to do to set up Impulse is a Facebook account, then a Paypal account to be able to collect the money. The admin will always be on a Moontoast domain, because we’re going to develop robust tools, and there just isn’t enough real estate inside a Facebook app area to develop the kind of tools we want. You’ll always drive it from a full browser window from the Moontoast domain, but the sales and engagement environment will always be inside Facebook, as well as inside other social networks and properties.
For somebody to buy through your platform, do they need to install your platform as well?
Yes. What happens is the entire engagement experience – meaning loading up the songs, sharing them, playing them – you’re free to do just as a Facebook member. When you make a purchase, if you have not yet added Impulse as an app, Impulse asks you to do that. The reason for that is that when you purchase the track, after you’ve made the purchase, Impulse provides you with a digital tracker so you can go access downloads of that song. It’s very similar to what you get in other ecommerce stores, where you purchase music and you get three follow-up downloads. We provide the same things as well and give you a history of your purchases.
Are you able to collect the meta data on everyone who has purchased, including their e-mail addresses, etc.?
Yes. That’s another thing about the power of Facebook. Once someone joins the Impulse app and purchases from you, you have a tremendous amount of data on that person. They’ve given you rights to access their social graph, essentially. We start to learn what other things you like, and that can provide us the opportunity to create an amazing recommendation engine, because we have a large inventory and a lot of customers.
It sounds like it’s going to be something that could be used remarkably well in conjunction with Facebook ads. Are any of the promotional tools aligned for landing tools of that kind, or can you speak on building out that toolset that’s coming or when this will live in Facebook natively?
We really want to be a great social commerce company. One important addition we’re going to make to the platform is enabling you to sell merchandise, so you won’t just be able to sell your music. You’ll also be able to sell t-shirts and other merchandise like that, and create bundles and make them time sensitive. We’re going to focus on our analytics, and we’re going to focus on integrating with other important platforms. One set of platforms that we’re focused on integrating with is social media marketing platforms. There are tons of great toolsets out there that people are already in love with and using actively to do some of the things you already mentioned. We don’t necessarily want to reinvent the wheel. We want to focus on making the greatest social commerce toolset out there, and we think part of that is having a strong integration plan for everything from email marketing to social media marketing software.
What are the primary differences between the Moontast platform, the Reverb Nation’s fan page, the iLike music tab and Root Music’s solution?
The main difference is that you can actually purchase music inside of Facebook. Here’s the deal: You use your Paypal account to set up your Moontoast Impulse account, and when someone buys a track from you, you get the money right then and there. There’s no waiting for a 30-day accrual period, and then you get a check. You get paid onsite as the purchase is made. And the entire purchasing process happens inside Facebook, so you’re not bounced off to some third-party site.
I’m sure you did a lot of research on this given your background. Do you have any idea what kind of deterrent it is for users in Facebook, as far as percentages and any kind of metrics, to have to leave the Facebook environment?
I think the data we have to date is limited. We can more readily speak to people’s willingness to buy in Facebook. We’ve had some really great success with our campaigns with Big Machine Records. In some cases we saw close to 70% of the purchases from a certain campaign came on Facebook and not elsewhere. We can tell you people are willing to purchase in Facebook and we can also tell you the best practice is to keep people on Facebook, because that’s where they’re most likely to be social and share the entire experience, everything from playing the music to the purchase of it.
I’m going to also switch gears on you a little bit. You have an ecommerce background and an email marketing background, and you’ve done exhaustive research on the established artist space. When you look at that from your point of view, with a unique vantage point on the music business, what were some of the most common mistakes you saw in the way musicians have handled ecommerce and marketing online?
I don’t necessarily want to say it in terms of being a “mistake.” But I think what I can say is that everything is moving very quickly, and conventional wisdom goes still pretty quickly. Email addresses are important. I came from an email marketing background. But what I have seen is that people with huge opportunities on Facebook are not using them. I’m really talking about from the top, down. There are artists out there that have a million Facebook fans that have said, “I like you. I want to hear from you. I want to engage with you on Facebook.” And they’re not doing it. They’re not doing it in several ways. One, they’re not themselves engaging with these fans directly, so they’re losing the opportunity to build lifetime fans. Two, they don’t accentuate their Facebook fan page with any engaging experience. No one is really going to travel there or spend any time there. Those are two really big things I see.
Some obscure things people are missing are special merchandising opportunities. If you want your fans to buy directly from you, you need to give them a reason to not buy from a channel like Amazon or iTunes. One surefire way to not do that is to offer the same exact thing that iTunes and Amazon are offering. It’s your brand, and those channels are going to have some pretty strong restrictions on how you present yourself within those channels. Why not use that to your advantage and say, “Yes, you can get this song and that song on Amazon or iTunes, but from me, you get these bonus songs and I’ll throw in a t-shirt.” It creates a unique package. And you can also say, “For the next 50 people that purchase, I’m going to sign this picture and dedicate something to you.” Why not create more specific, unique experiences for your fans that they can only get from you? That we find to be a lost opportunity. We see a lot of people just selling music and wondering why they’re not selling anything. No one wants to just buy music from you. They want to buy an experience from you.
One last question. Can you point to anybody who is doing well? Obviously Taylor Swift and Reba McEntire have new offerings that are reflective.
Big Machine I think in a lot of ways is doing it. Keep in mind, they are distributed by Universal, but they are an independent label. They’ve done amazing things with Taylor Swift, but they’ve also been able to attract great acts like Rascal Flatts. I think the reason is that they’re really innovative and willing to test and try things in search of a better business model. If you try enough stuff, you’re eventually going to find something that works. I think it’s pretty clear that they’ve done very well. I think in a lot of ways they serve as a great models for how record labels can survive in the next era of the music industry. People talk about labels being dead. I think we’re going to see some convergence between the ways labels engage the artist and managers engage the artist. There’s going to be some overlap between what labels used to do and managers used to do and some consolidation. But there are definitely opportunities to leverage this technology to grow affinity for your act. You just have to be willing to try these channels.
You can learn more about Marcus and his social platform on the MoonToast Website.