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April 2, 2014

Introduction to the Web Edition

A while back, we released “The Analysis of Hype” in a print and eBook edition.  It quickly sold out, and became something of a sensation.  With brutal honesty, and a heavy dose of candor, we walked musicians through the first steps to a music career.  It was ad free, bullshit free, and heavy on tactical steps.

So scroll on down the page and start reading.  We hope it’s helpful!

–Team D.I.-Why


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March 24, 2014

Dedication & Preface

Dedication

This book is dedicated to anyone who has ever had the balls to be a musician.  It’s a career path where most people fail, work ridiculously long hours, and rarely know what it’s like to have a consistent paycheck.

For those that choose to be a musician, it’s usually the best and easiest decision they’ve ever made.

 

Preface

“By being natural and sincere, one often can create revolutions without having sought them.”

 –Christian Dior


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March 23, 2014

Introduction

Introduction

There are all kinds of books telling you everything you need to know.  When you’ve run out of books, there are websites.  If you’re too lazy to read what’s on the websites, you can watch YouTube videos.  Too time consuming to watch videos?  Don’t worry – there’re people tweeting advice to you.  And if you can’t learn everything in 140 characters, give up now!

For every person “destined” to be a musician, there’s a company or product trying to convince you that they can make you a star.  So many artists, desperate for a foothold in the industry, believe them!  Thus millions of careers are born and killed in the same credit card billing cycle.

A while back, I worked for one of the leading direct-to-fan platforms in the biz, and I heard the same complaint over and over:  “I signed up with you guys and you haven’t sold ANY of my music.” It didn’t matter that the company never promised to make people rich and famous and never promised to actually sell a single track.  The company sells a tool;  how you use it is what determines sales and success.  But in the musician’s mind, it’s got to be their fault.  Who else could it be?

I’m writing this book specifically for those people.  These are the “musicians” who feel they are destined to be famous.  Somehow, they feel that the right break is going to launch them into the stratosphere, and soon they’ll be throwing their iPhones at their personal assistants when they bring them an overly dry cappuccino.

There, but for a dream …

These are also the people who are the quickest at coming up with excuses as to why their dreams remain unfulfilled.  The one commonality amongst all of them:  it’s never their fault.  Always somebody else.

I worked with a fairly well-known musician. He came to me because he “needed social media.”   My first step was to clearly outline what social media was, what pieces could be managed by me, and what the client would need to do on their own.  The instant response was “oh no, I don’t actually want to do anything – that’s why I’m paying you!”

Clearly the concept of social media eluded him – even though he “needed” it!   More on social media later…

The first lesson for today’s musicians is “don’t suck.”  You won’t fool anybody by over-marketing shitty music to the masses, and you can stop right there if you think I’m being at all witty and sarcastic.  The marketing braintrust pushing Justin Bieber on an unsuspecting/undeserving world are brilliant.  They are expert marketers who know exactly what they’re doing.  It shows with every paternity suit, Ferrari purchase, and TMZ exclusive.

Want more proof?  How many Justin Bieber songs can you actually name/sing/hum?  I’m guessing none.  Maybe one or two tops.  But I bet you know all kinds of fun details about his life, right?   Score one for marketing!

If any of the preceding logic upsets you – please stop reading now.  You’ll likely find the rest of this book insulting.

For everyone else, this book is designed to be tactical, strategic, and direct.  I despise books/lessons that speak in vague generalities and never actually offer any real advice.  The kind of people that say “don’t suck” are the ones that probably can’t take you too much further with advice of their own.

I’m not trying to sell you on my, or anyone else’s, services.  Instead, the goal is to create a solid foundation for your own future musical growth.

Ultimately, the only musicians that will survive are the smart ones.  If this book makes you smarter, then I’ve done my part.

 

–Scott Feldman & D.I.-Why

November 2011

 


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March 22, 2014 , , , , , ,

What is Marketing?

What is Marketing, Anyway?

 

Sometimes the best advice is also the hardest to follow.  In the music industry, stupidity is one of your biggest adversaries.  There’s always gonna be someone smarter than you with better ideas.  The big difference is how your great music will get into the hearts and hands of the general public. This is precisely where most musicians give up and lead lives of quiet desperation.

Marketing isn’t about selling music.  And marketing isn’t some abstract haziness that you’re not allowed to understand.  It’s also not defined by how much money you spend or who you hire.  But it’s specifically what got you to buy an iPhone, sign up for a Topspin account, or wait in line at 4 AM for some Black Friday special.

Marketing is the analysis of hype.   Think about it…

When I lecture at colleges, I explain marketing like this:  Any idiot can throw a party, have lots of people show up, and deem it successful marketing. That’s hype — but that’s not marketing.

The difference between me and the idiot is I know who’s at that party, which paths got them there, how I can re-connect with them after the party, and I can identify which parts of the party were more attractive to people.  And finally, I can take all of that info and help you with your next party – which will undoubtedly be better than the one before it.  That’s marketing.

See where this is going?

Free music is the same thing.  In the music world, everybody’s telling you to give your music away; music should be free.  But they’re wrong!  Music should never be just “given away.”  This is like letting the non-marketing guy throw your party.

Let people pay for your music – with money, with an email address, with a “like” or a “share”, but let them pay with something!  If you give something away and get nothing back, you’re not doing it right!  Any marketing guy will tell you that collecting information is mission critical.   That information is what allows you to tell Johnny how much you appreciate his purchase, and invite him to buy your new album a year from now – when he might’ve forgotten you.  Hey, it happens.

Here’s an example that I love – and one that’s easily repeatable for any musician:  Give away one track per album/EP/collection.

OK, maybe that’s not the epiphany you were hoping for, but are you doing it?   When you have one track per release available, you force the consumer to make a decision about which release looks the most interesting.  You also allow them to see the growth/evolution of your career:  “On my first album, I was all about guitar.  But by album 17, it’s all zither, baby!”

Also – if you give away just one track, or just one from a new project, you run the risk of alienating a potential audience unaware of a particular aspect of your musicianship.   You’ll also lose an additional indicator of which tracks are most popular.

Presumably you’re using a system that requires an email address in order to get a free download.  This system will track the email addresses, but it will also let you see which tracks are downloaded most often.

You might think your ukelele tribute to Radiohead is what everybody wants to hear, but shockingly they’re mostly interested in your EP from 2 years ago.  Who knew?  Well, now you do!  And your marketing guy is the reason…

Remember, it’s all about being smart.  Solid and consistent marketing is the smartest way to ensure future success.  It’s not something you do for an hour on Mondays or only when you’re on a summer tour.


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March 21, 2014 , , ,

War is Hell. Prepare Accordingly

War is Hell.

Prepare Accordingly.

 

Livingston Taylor often tells his students, “In the classroom you’re my student.  Outside the classroom, you’re my enemy.”  While somewhat harsh, he’s being completely honest.   If you’re a musician, and he’s a musician, you’re competing for fans.

The Beatles were your heroes – now they’re the enemy!   It’s enough to make you wish you’d studied harder in high school, right?

OK – maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s true.  When you decide to become a professional musician, suddenly your music and marketing need to be not just enough to validate your efforts, but they need to make someone choose you over the other guy.  And yeah, that other guy can be the Beatles.

Standing out and rising above the competition is the work of marketing.  Again, we’re not going to give you the tired adage of “don’t suck,” but you’re gonna need to start thinking about a whole bunch of things above and beyond “just” the music.

First things first, do you have music?  It’s hard to be a musician without it.  When you try to book gigs for your band, the first thing they usually ask for is … music!  Shocking, I know.   You’d be surprised how many bands wither on the vine simply ‘cuz they’ve got nothing recorded but still try to market and promote themselves.

Think about what you’re recording.  If you’re heading into the studio to record your debut effort, nobody expects you to already have an album.  But you could have some demos, or maybe a previous band’s project that spotlights your abilities.   There’s enough technology in your iPhone to record a decent quality audio demo and an HD video.  Scary, but true.

Now assuming you’ve got some music, it’s time to have a goal.   This doesn’t have to be some multi-leveled super sophisticated statement of purpose, but it should get you through 3-months, 6-months, and a year or two.  When you can create and attain specific goals, there’s a feeling of progress and success that’s unstoppable.   That’s not to say you should lowball your goals to make them easy to meet, but you shouldn’t expect to sell a million records in 8 months either.

I once fired a client (and yes, smart consultants know when to do such things!), because he knew how he wanted to treat his fans.  He would often say things like “when I’m a star, I’ll talk to every fan.  I won’t let anyone feel like they don’t know me.”  While that’s great sentiment, it doesn’t help you when it takes you two weeks to deliver a two paragraph blog post for your new website.   Again, setting clear goals helps roadmap what needs to be done, who’s going to do it, and when it should be done.  You’ve got to be able to see the forest for the dive bars.

Goals should be realistic and tied to the amount of effort you legitimately expect to put in.   For example, if you plan to launch a website in two months time, then you should probably expect to have music ahead of the launch.

And yeah, you’ll need a little bit of money.  Not thousands of dollars, but at least enough to allow yourself to capitalize on opportunities that arise and create the bare bones (online) foundation.

The following image offers a timeline that represents a basic attempt at wrapping your heads around the pacing and protocol of where your real-world goals line up with what you’re going to be dealing with online to make them happen.

 

BookTable

While every item on the table is important, it’s worth drawing special attention to Month 4 where you’ll measure and evaluate everything you’ve done to date.

One of the main issues with any new business (or band!) is that without constant forward momentum you feel like there’s no success.  More bluntly, if we’re not growing, we’re not succeeding.

While that’s true to a certain extent, you need to stop and make sure that everything works and has the potential to lead to the success you crave.  It can’t be “hurray – the website’s done, let’s go look at Facebook now.”  In Month 4 you’re giving extra special attention to your sales, your combined analytics data, and your own thoughts on what’s working well.  It’s likely you’re looking at these things anyway, but often it takes a month (post-launch) to get a reasonably solid set of numbers to use as reference.

Also – this table represents a calendar that works for a lot of people.  Any individual piece may stretch or contract depending on the unique specialness that represents your band.


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March 20, 2014 , , ,

Money, Money, Money?

Money, Money, Money?

 

Here’s where dreams come crashing down.  This is when you’ll hear “oh man, see, I could be wicked famous if I only had the cash.”  Come on, you’ve thought it before, right?

For a lot of people, money is the root of every problem in their lives.  Not having enough cash causes enormous stress and wrecks the decision making process for more than just your music.

The best way to avoid either requiring or spending lots of cash is to be smart.  That’s not to say you can achieve all of your goals without dropping a few bucks in the process, but be prepared for it and plan accordingly.   Assuming you have music, your first goal should be finding some fans.

Your biggest enemy as a musician is anonymity.  If nobody knows you exist, they can’t buy your music, come to your shows, or get excited about your new release.  Fortunately, your fans are worth money!   Every email address and Facebook fan has value.  They’re interested in you, and probably befriended you because they want you to succeed.  In less superlative terms, they’re your revenue stream!

Taking that into consideration, alongside some realistic hard and opportunity costs for doing business, I’m putting forth the proposition that you need $10,000 to start a band.[1]

You’re thinking that’s ridiculous.  You can barely pay the rent, and now you’ve got to come up with $10k to get a band off the ground?!?

Before you scoff and stop reading, you might already have the $10k!  Consider the following table, fill in the numbers for your band, and see where you come out:

Relax.  Take a deep breath.  In with the good air, out with the bad air.   That’s better.  OK, we can keep going…

bookimage2

 

There’s no agreed upon value for a Twitter follower.  This is an average of multiple amounts/estimates. 
[1] http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2011/11/new-study-says-average-facebook-fan-is-worth-956.html
[2] http://www.allspammedup.com/2011/08/how-much-is-your-email-address-worth/

This isn’t an automatic solution for starting your band.  However, it’s an easy, direct way to evaluate where you’re at relative to building a foundation for your musical endeavors.  All the money in the world, spent on lavish recording sessions, doesn’t amount to squat if you’ve got nobody to share it with when you’re done.

If you hit the $10,000 mark, it’s safe (though never guaranteed!) to assume that you can approach this group once with a new project and generate $10,000 worth of return.  As you see the valuation of each platform, you’ll notice that while it’s easier to build followers on Twitter, their “per fan” value is fairly low.  Alternately, people aren’t always motivated to do something based upon a Tweet.

The classic example is Amanda Palmer selling $19,000 worth of t-shirts in 10 hours via Twitter.[2]  Excluding her incredible sense of humor and marketing abilities, it’s not quite as magical as it sounds.  Amanda had 30,000 followers on Twitter.  Each fan (on average) had to purchase $1.58 worth of product for her to sell $19,000 in merch. [3]

Selling that amount is amazing, no arguments here, but when you have a devoted fan base, it’s not overly crazy to ask them to spend $1.58 on something cool and personal from you.  The excitement of the opportunity generated a solid ROI (Return on Investment).  More on ROI soon…

As of Winter 2011, Amanda has 531,400 followers.   A similar idea could have a potential ROI of $839,612.  ($1.58 x 531,400).  Not bad for 10 hours of work, right?   Ultimately though, what makes this happen is being creative.  There’s no substitute for hard work and creativity, no matter which platform you use.  Your fans are smart and savvy.  Don’t expect them to buy a shitty product or idea.

Some things though you’ll have to pay for. Regardless of what you’ll be spending the money on, it’s nice to know that you have it there, ready to go.  Being able to “pull the trigger” on a project is exciting – just be careful.  Having the money doesn’t automatically start a clock on how fast you can spend it.  Shop around, get competive bids, and never be afraid to negotiate with people.  You’ll never get the discount you didn’t ask for.

As mentioned earlier, there are countless companies and consultants willing to take your cash.  Many of ‘em will make some very persuasive arguments and lofty promises. Remember:   you’re only interested in paying for results – not promises.  For whatever money you spend, what are you actually getting?    If you’re still not convinced or confident, get everything in writing. This way, when that marketing guy promises you’ll have 25,000 Facebook fans by next week, you’ll be able to get your money back.  Or you’ll have a stack of new fans.  Win win?

 


[1] We’re not talking about the cost of gear, travel, and rehearsal space.  This is just for marketing.  Don’t panic …

[3] In reality, she sold $25 t-shirts to 200 fans through Twitter that night yielding $5,000.  Re-capping the event on her blog yielded further sales along with some other creative online activities.


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March 19, 2014 , , , ,

Sponsor Me

begging

Sponsor Me:  Real Word Cash Strategies that Don’t (Just) Involve Begging

You’ve managed to pull it together and gotten an album in the can.  Taking my (expert!) advice, you’ve got a stack of fans, friends, and followers eagerly awaiting your music.  It feels good, doesn’t it?

Before we discuss ways to finance your musical endeavors, let’s back up a step and look at ROI.  Hopefully these aren’t letters that frighten or confuse you.

ROI stands for “Return on Investment” and it’s often coupled with its friend COA (Cost of Acquisition).   These two terms keep investors and marketers up at night; they represent the basis and justification for every decision made.  And now, they’re going to be two of your best friends.  Bring ‘em to parties, and buy ‘em a beer.  Generally speaking, ROI and COA prefer to drink PBR.  Makes acronymic sense, doesn’t it?

ROI is a basic indicator of how much money you’re putting out in relation to what’s coming back.  For example, if you spend $100 to make your new EP, and you sell $500 worth of music, then the ROI on your EP is $400.  Simple stuff, right?   Not so fast.

In marketing land, there’s a lot of non-financial investment.  Time leads that list.  If you spend thousands of hours in the studio to release a single, you better hope to get a lot of return on it.  If not, you might want to rethink the entire endeavor.   Again, this may seem obvious to you, but let me tell you a story …

I once worked with a client who shall remain nameless for fear of litigation.  This client spent nearly a decade writing and recording his/her debut album.  Quitting their day job to focus exclusively on the project, I was brought on board to get the project to the endzone – finished product, website, online sales, etc.[1]

This is something I’ve done countless times for clients at all levels of success.  It’s a huge undertaking, a lot of work, and one of the most excruciating parts of the entire album release cycle.

But we’re discussing ROI.  And this is precisely where the client started losing site of the goalpost.  I learned that there were previous designs and designers, and that this process had taken years to evolve to this (currently unfinished) point.  Red flags shot up.  How much was being placed into this project financially and emotionally?  What did we realistically expect to achieve?

The artist in question had zero desire to tour, and because of format, widespread radio play wasn’t a slam dunk.  Above and beyond all of this was the fact that his/her main means of promotion, success, and primary measure of ROI was his/her online presence.

As we’re trying to quantify the investment, is it fair to place all the ROI eggs into the online basket?  Of course not.  When you’re thinking of ROI, first make sure that you’ve got multiple avenues of return.  For the purposes of this book, we’re looking purely at online marketing.  But with this particular artist, the over reliance on one facet of all marketing and promotional activities is a certain recipe for disaster – especially with an investment that can be measured not in months, but years!

Then there’s our other pal, COA.  Cost of Acquisition is something that’s discussed in boardrooms around the world.  Ultimately it’s the number arrived at when you figure out how much you’re spending to achieve one positive result for a particular target.   Assume that your goal is getting more followers on Twitter.  You spend $1,000 on a campaign that brings in 100 new Twitter followers.  Your COA per fan is $10.  A smart marketer should know what a reasonable COA is relative to the goal you’re trying to meet.  If not, find a new marketing guy.

A while back, I worked with an amazing band.  Without a doubt, they had incredible music, a massively engaging live show, and a dedicated fanbase.  They started turning down certain gigs because the time and expense to do the show wasn’t worth the money they’d get paid to perform.

Lesson:  The COA for new fans at these venues wasn’t justified.  In turn, they directed the efforts in different directions where the return on investment was stronger.  With more money to place in specific baskets, they yielded a better ROI for their activities.  Later on we reached out to those earlier areas through various marketing activities and built demand.  This way the COA was much lower and a reasonable ROI could be achieved by playing in those markets.  Now it made sense to perform in these alternate venues.   Sometimes though, it’s all about getting cash in the bank.  For that, folks are turning to artistfunding sites.

The big industry buzz is all around sites like Kickstarter and PledgeMusic.  They create a platform for fans to sponsor and support your projects.  These represent a great opportunity for fan engagement, but there’re lots of potential pitfalls that artists fall into.

Before thinking “great, my fans will pay for me to make this album,” dial it down a step or two.  Previously you were told you need $10,000 to get a band off the (online) ground.  Here’s where that comes into play.

First things first, you go through the effort to set up the campaign, and it’s awesome.  But who’re you gonna tell?  You need to have some audience to soak up your message before even thinking about something like this.  Otherwise the tree’s falling in the woods, but nobody care$.  That’s exactly why the $10,000 table is so crucial.  Now that you’ve got something to talk about and someone to talk to, you’re set up for success!

Speaking of success, set the bar low.  When I started working in email marketing, I was told that a acceptable success rate is 2%.  Email 1,000 people and having 20 of ‘em open the email was cause for celebration.  Personally, I always felt that “2% success” is rather oxymoronic, but that’s for another time.

The point is if you need to raise $5,000, and you’ve got 20,000 people to talk to, a 2% success rate means that 400 (2% of 20,000) people need to sponsor the $5,000 at an average rate of $12.50 per person.   That’s not entirely ridiculous.  But if you were trying to raise $50,000, there might be problems.

If you’ve had any previous experience with releasing music or running artistfunding campaigns, then you’re a step ahead of things.  Presumably you’ve captured the data and done the analysis to know what worked, what didn’t, and what to avoid the next time around.  If not, be prepared to do a lot of learning and adapting very quickly!

To start, have you accurately calculated how much you need to raise?  Platforms like Kickstarter will only fund your project if you reach 100% of your goal.   The lesson:  don’t be greedy.  Your fans want to fund the project, not your “business” trip to Paris.

Now, here’s the hardest part.  Keep in mind that your fans are not some multi-headed ATM card that you withdraw cash from every time you decide to record a new album.  If you go to the well too many times, they’ll stop helping you.  How successful could you be if you constantly need them to record new music?  And each time you make a withdrawal from the Bank of Fan, you need to provide ROI for them.  What do they get in return for handing you their hard earned cash?

If you’ve ever watched any PBS special during pledge week, you’ll see what I mean.  Typically you receive some low cost, mass produced souvenir in return for donating $250.  Maybe others aren’t as cynical as I am, but I find it insulting that my $250 donation only merits a hemp tote bag.   I could buy that same bag for $12 outside any Phish concert in America.[2]

I know it’s about supporting PBS, but at a basic level it still feels like a bad exchange.  $250 does not equate to the bag even if you add in extra episodes of “Downton Abbey” and “Ask This Old House.”  Think of any lame “My friend went to Florida and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” souvenir you’ve ever received.

Your campaigns should offer something exciting and exclusive to warrant the support of your fans.  Remember, if all goes well, they’re going to pay for you to make an album that will result in money for you.  You’re making money off of their money.   If that’s not reason enough to ban the “tote bag mentality,” I don’t know what is.

Here are a few easy suggestions for cool sponsorship opportunities to get your brains going:

Not available to the general public

  • Exclusive meet-and-greet opportunities
  • Pre-Show/Private “Sponsors Only” performances
  • Exclusive/custom merch items

Bundled Goods

  • Sponsor and receive my upcoming release and any previously released recordings
  • Receive the new disc and a ticket to the CD Release party!

Access Opportunities

  • I’ll record a cover song of your choice and send you an mp3!
  • I’ll record a track/part on your upcoming release
  • Open for us at our next gig!
  • We’ll cook you breakfast!

[1] As of this writing (Winter 2011), the deadline got extended yet again from October 2010 to March 2011 to February 2012.


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March 18, 2014 , , , ,

My Arsenal

My Arsenal

Ever heard the story of the 3-legged table?  It’s really pretty and wonderful, but without that fourth leg it just can’t stand up on its own.  In a way, your online marketing efforts are exactly the same.

There’s a tendency in the music industry to jump on board the newest, coolest bandwagon as fast as you can.  Admittedly, this type of craziness can pay off for select early adopters.  Those folks can market/mine/exploit something steps ahead of everybody else and flee before the scene gets totally played out.  As an example, does Turntable.FM have the staying power of Facebook?

For the most part though, bands follow the example of other bands and jump on bandwagons with fervor.  While bands jumped all over sites like PureVolume.com and MySpace.com a few years ago, they’re just not active there anymore.  And if they are, it’s with a limited presence that has virtually no effect on overall success.   Now it’s Facebook and Twitter and YouTube.

The point is that if you’re trying to maintain a presence/profile on 17 different sites, you’re bound to drop the ball somewhere.  Most bands have day jobs and commitments and just don’t have the time to deal with everything that having 17 locations to update requires.

The solution to all this:  Don’t do it!  That’s right, you heard me, don’t do it.  Don’t set up more work for yourself than you’re able to manage.  My career started in radio as a producer.  And when asked if I could do anything, my answer (without hesitation!) was YES!   At some point, you reach overload, and for me that point came fairly quickly.  My bosses realized that I’d say yes to anything, and their strategy was to see just how far I could be overloaded before I snapped.  The lesson I learned fast was that there’s a diminishing point of return when you pick up that extra bunch of somethings.  While you’ll get more done (and sleep much less!), the overall quality of your efforts suffers exponentially.

Your fans would rather see quality output from you in a few spaces than half-assed, corner cutting stuff in more places.  If it’s not meaningful, it’s not useful.  Think quality, not quantity.   When quality suffers, fans stop paying attention.

This starts the discussion of what tools you need to have in your (online marketing) arsenal.  The first lesson is to only work with what you can handle.   You may have the budget to hire people to work on pieces of this for you, but be aware that you’re still in charge.  You’ll need to manage the people you hire and make sure that they work in a manner that matches your voice, goals, and needs.   Are you a good manager?  If not, well, find a manager.  While they may have greater expertise, you need to balance that with your experience and knowledge of your fans.  A good marketer should come to your shows, meet the band, and be familiar with what’s being marketed. If it’s just “PayPal me some cash and I’ll get started,” then look elsewhere.

Taking things back to your goals, you’ll need a way to present your content, promote your content, and (presumably) sell your content.    As you decide on which platforms to use, ask yourself if it effectively meets any of these criteria, and if not – don’t waste your time!

Similarly, the tools you’ll be using come with add-on features and enhancements.  They’re usually pitched thusly:  “For an additional $9.99/month, you’ll be able to climb mountains, make love to beautiful women, and add a gazillion followers to your whatever account.”

It often seems too good to be true.  Odds are, it probably is.  But these companies will tell you that it worked for Artist X – usually someone you’ve never heard of.

Any program that can add eyeballs, followers, or activity to your band’s overall presence is likely using some type of robo-feed.  It will massively follow anyone with the term “music” in their profile.  Or it’ll auto-add anyone within 50 miles of your ZIP code.  In doing so, you’re spamming people.  Did you hear that?  You’re spamming.  And as much as you hate it when you get that email trying to sell you v1agra, you’re essentially doing the exact same thing.  Don’t do that.

These little $9.99/month type add-ons are all over the place.  They can also start out as “Free for 30 days” or “Free up to 100 followers.”  That’s not to say they’re all bad or wrong, but if you’re trying to keep to budget, make sure you’re aware of what you’re doing, what you’re getting in return, and how you’re going to budget for all that promised “success.”  End rant.

Here are the tools you’ll want to start with initially (and in order).  For our purposes here, we’re assuming you’ve already got music and neither it nor you suck.

  1. Website
  2. Google Analytics account
  3. Facebook band page
  4. YouTube account
  5. Twitter account
  6. Sales/marketing platform (a/k/a Direct to Fan Platfrom)
  7. Email marketing platform (possibly part of #6 …)

That’s it.  And as a bonus, number’s 2-5 are free!  Number 6 has the option to be free as well.  You’ll be tackling these items in order from 1 through 6, so that’s how they’ll be discussed here.

This is where the rubber meets the road along with other assorted metaphors for future growth and success.


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March 17, 2014 , , , , , ,

Your Website

Your Website

 

In the olden days, you used to hang a shingle outside your place of business – “Doc Baker, MD.”  This clued the world in that a) you were a doctor and 2) you could visit Dr. Baker for all your medical needs.  The message was conveyed effectively all for the cost of some paint and a shingle.   Mind you this was 1864, and there was no Internet, computers, or mass acceptance of indoor plumbing.

Today, your website is ultimately the same thing.  You’ve got a site, therefore you’re open for business.   You are now searchable, findable, and able to be judged.

The judgment call being made is one that’s either good (I like this band), bad (You suck!), or profitable (I must buy their music!).  It’s also, and most obviously, a tool for growth and development. Since the Internet is widely available everywhere outside of Red China, a carefully constructed website has the potential to show up in a LOT of places.  And you have the ultimate control over which places it appears.  But first things first …

Domain & Hosting

Choose a domain that’s easily connected to your band and easy to remember.  If your band name is “Pippy and the Poopsicles,” then get as close to that as possible.  For example:

poopsicles.com GOOD!
pippyandthepoopsicles.com GOOD!
thepippyandthepoopsiclesband.com NOT SO GOOD
pippypoopsiclebandonline.com

NOT GOOD EITHER

poopsicleswithpippyband.com NOT GONNA FLY

 

See what we mean?  The closer you are to your actual bandname (or less!) is ideal.  Less confusion in how to find you leads to more people being able to find you!  Shocking logic, I know.

Your domain will cost you anywhere from $5-$10 per year.  There’s a bunch of places you can get ‘em.  Our recommendation is to purchase web hosting the same place your purchase your domain.  One place instead of two means one less thing to forget a year down the road when you need to worry about re-registering stuff.

The second piece of building a website is the aforementioned web hosting.  This is where the content of your site lives.  It’s the storage space in the clouds that your URL/domain points to.

Web hosting is big business, and there’s a LOT of companies that offer it for a variety of prices.  On average, you should look for a company that charges under $10/month.  If you expect your website to do MASSIVE amounts of traffic (think Rolling Stones, CNN, most porn sites…), then it’s likely you’d want to spend more.  But let’s think realistically, ok?  You can always upgrade stuff later.

Here’s a short list of companies[1] that you might want to consider (in order of preference):

  • Bluehost.com ($85 per year, superior customer service, includes your domain!)
  • GoDaddy.com ($4-7 per month, plus domain)
  • Network Solutions ($4-8 per month)

Once you’ve got a domain and hosting, it’s time to think about putting a website together.

This is where you have the option to spend a LOT of money, or very little money.  There are a whole slew of “build your own website” type companies out there.  If you’ve got a decent eye for design, and you’re not all that fussy, it’s possible to come up with some decent results.  These companies will charge you an inflated cost (usually around $25/month) that includes hosting and the ability to create and update your website easily.  Seems perfect, right?

Not so fast.  These companies offer an all-in-one solution that’s the absolute middle of the road in terms of design and functionality.   In addition, the technology that allows you to build and update your own site wreaks havoc upon search rankings and SEO type activities.  The all-in-one approach is definitely appealing, and it’s a very fast path to putting up a website, but you can definitely do better with a bit of time (and yes, money…) invested.

CMS

For starters, we’re recommending you use a CMS (Content Management System) known as WordPress.  This is the thing you’ll login to for site updates.  It’s kind of like the robust bastard child of Gmail and Microsoft Word.  It’s free (a bonus!) and there are thousands of developers writing plugins and widgets (more on this later) for WordPress.  Most of the hosting packages you’ll sign up for can install WordPress in about 1-2 clicks on your hosting.  When that happens, boom, you’ve got a website.  There’s no design, and nothing really on it, but hey – it’s a site!  Congratulations!  You deserve a beer …

Sitemap

Now comes the time when you decide what’s going on to your website.  This is where a lot of bands make critical mistakes.

Think of the next sentence as your web development mantra:

“I’m building a website for what my fans want to see – not for what I want them to see.” 

This is the single biggest mistake musicians make with websites.  They want to display a ferocious amount of coolness.  They want every inside joke, obscure reference, and studio outtake to be prominently displayed.  They want a treasure trails of clicks and links to make people hunt for special content – ‘cuz that’s wicked cool, right?  No.  It’s not.

Here’s the thing: Fans are coming to your website primarily for information.  They want to know about your band, when your next gig is, listen to a track, maybe even buy something.  If you distract them from that path, you’re likely to lose them.  When you read a restaurant menu, they put all the salads together, and all the appetizers, etc.  If they mixed it all up, wouldn’t you get annoyed?   What if the folks at Home Depot sent you to Aisle 7 for that belt sander you needed?  Then you get to Aisle 7 and they say “oh, you really want Aisle 12.”  Aisle 12 becomes Aisle 6, and it’s not there.  At what point do you give up and just shop elsewhere?

Basic web theory dictates that an average user clicks up to 3 times to locate content.  More than that, and they’re bound to give up or go elsewhere.  So when you’re putting together a sitemap (where content lives on your website), how deep or obscure would you like your content to be?

Before you start building your masterpiece, sit down with pen and paper and outline a rough sitemap for your new website.  Think like a fan.  Odds are you’ll come up with something that looks like this:

ABOUT (THE BAND)

  • Member Bio #1
  • Member Bio #2
  • Member Bio #3

NEWS (BLOG)

  • Blog Post #1
  • Blog Post #2
  • Blog Post #3

MEDIA

  • Audio Player
  • Video Player
  • Photo Galleries

SHOWS

  • Gig calendar, links to ticket purchase

STORE

  • Storefront for purchases

CONTACT

  • Get in touch with us…

You’ll also want to include a few other things:  social media links (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube).

If this was all you came up with, odds are you’d actually have a decent, well organized website.  I’ve worked with artists who want to get super fancy and creative with naming things, categorizing pages, and so on.  All that happens is you run the risk of confusing the folks trying to find you and your stuff.  What you’re up to right now is “news” and not “the haps.”  While it may not reflect your style, it takes a split second for someone to switch from looking at your website to reading TMZ.

Design & Development

A few paragraphs ago, we discussed using WordPress.  One of the blissful parts of using WordPress is that the design of your site is completely separate from the content.  This means two key things:

  1. You can change the design of your site 3x every hour without messing up/losing/damaging your content.
  2. While your designer is hard at work creating an awesome look for your site, you’re putting words on the pages.  Hurray for productivity!

When you’re deciding on an overall design for your website, you’ll probably want to break down and spend some cash.  The difference between amateurs and pros is all in the details.  While you may be a whiz with the crayons, and have an innate sense of style, working with a web designer makes things flow faster, easier, and with a lower incidence of headaches and/or bloodshed.

One lesson I learned early on is to equally respect not just my own limitations but also the exceptional talent of others.  This is never truer than in areas of design.

When putting your website together, figure out roughly what you want going in.  I worked with an extremely well known client that had a tight budget and a very close (2 week!) deadline.  The agreement stated that they would send along examples of sites and ideas that they liked.  From there, we could begin to cobble together a site incorporating their ideas.

Since they also requested to use WordPress, we dove right in migrating every piece of content we possibly could – all while waiting for the band to come up with some examples to model their site on.  After nearly a month of asking for design examples (remember that 2 weeks deadline?), the band instead asked for 10 design mockups so they could just pick one.  Not being part of the project as discussed, and as something that would be outside the budget and scope of our agreement, the project was lost and gone forever.[2]

Generally speaking, designers and developers prefer to work on an hourly basis.  The more you ask them to do, and the less structure/materials you provide up front, the more hours go into your project.  That’s when costs start to escalate.  When you’ve decided on a designer, get the project details in writing (or at least agreed to in email) before beginning.

Here are a few things you should consider asking for:

  1. Incorporation of current band logo/colors (unless otherwise specified)
  2. A maximum of 3 rounds of design revisions.  This avoids the “just one more thing” type of requests that designers loathe.
  3. Newsletter template designed (and coded) to match new site design.
  4. Gig poster “template” designed to match new site
  5. All fonts, design files, and work delivered on a flash drive/disc upon completion.  (Accidents happen, backups are good.)
  6. An agreed upon time frame to complete the project.
  7. Integration of (existing) storefront tools and social media applications.

The goal with each of these suggestions is to have a complete finished product when work is completed.  Be careful of designers and developers who say “oh, we can fix that after launch.”  Rarely does that actually happen.

How Much?

Speaking on behalf of designers and developers everywhere, we’d like you to spend as much money as humanly possible on your website.  The cost of upkeep on our yachts is simply astronomical!   But seriously, folks …

One of the other beauties of WordPress is that there are thousands of pre-designed, multifunctional design themes available.  In exchange for spending a little bit of money ($25-75), you can often find a theme that reflects most of what you’re looking to accomplish.   Check out sites like themeforest.net and woothemes.com for examples.

From there, it’s a matter of having tweaks and edits made to customize the final product.  For that, you’re looking for usually looking for someone with solid CSS experience.  CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) are what allows the content to remain separate from the design.  A fair majority of “tweaks” to a WordPress theme occur within the site’s CSS file.

The amount you should expect to spend on a website varies greatly.  For a “baby band” just getting started, don’t spend more than you need.  Arguably, solid results should be available for $500 – $1500.  At that level, you’re looking at basic installation of a theme with a limited number of tweaks and revisions.

For a completely custom theme, or something that’s got to be massively edited, plan on spending at least $2,500.  You’ll end up with an exceptional product, but you’ll be paying for it.  Don’t assume that you need the most expensive option every time.  Countless bands (at all levels of success) have utilized pre-designed themes very successfully.

If you’re unfamiliar with using WordPress (or any other CMS), you should also budget for some one-on-one lessons on “operating” your new website.  There are plenty of books and videos available, but actually sitting down with a real, live person makes a colossal difference in your understanding and comfort level with the site.



[1] Accurate as of Fall 2011

[2] In this instance, we had an agreement with the band that ultimately had them pay for about 90% of a site that wasn’t completed.  We did the work, but they altered/ignored the agreement after a majority of the work was done.  Agreements stand to protect both parties – be careful what you agree to!


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March 16, 2014 , ,

Your New Best Friend

Your New Best Friend

Google Analytics is the bestest thing on Earth.  When you’re a marketer (if you’re reading this, you probably are…), Google Analytics is your best friend.

For those unfamiliar, Google Analytics is a program which tracks activity on your website.  Reading that back, it’s kind of like saying Jimi Hendrix was just a guitar player, or the Red Sox are just a baseball team.  Google Analytics isn’t actually “just” anything.  It’s so impressive, so important, that it may be able to save the world.

Assuming you’ve built and launched a fantastic website, it’s time to see if it’s actually working.  Google Analytics will run in the background of your website (invisible to visitors), and track activity.

Here’re a few of the key questions that Google Analytics can answer:

  • How many people are visiting my website?
  • What pages are they looking at the most?
  • Which band member is the most popular?
  • What are fans interested in?
  • How are fans finding out about the band?

The answers to any of those questions are able to propel your band forward and allow you to make informed decisions.  If you know what fans are interested in, then you can do more of it.  This is far better (and much less time consuming) than guessing.  It’s also fairly indisputable:  numbers don’t lie.

Here’s a peek inside Google Analytics:

analytics3 analytics2 analytics1

 

This is a basic overview of an artist’s website for the month of September 2011.  We can see that he had 4,724 visitors of which 3,380 were unique – meaning they hadn’t visited the site any time in the last 30 days.  Just over 63% of the visitors were new.  How’d they find you?  Here’s where it starts to get fun: 

 analytics2

In this image, we’re looking at referral traffic – visits that were directed from other sites.  We can see that Facebook sent (or “converted”) 102 fans, and that Facebook’s mobile site (fans using mobile phones/browsers) sent 9 fans.

In the month of September, we can deduce that 3% of traffic to the artist’s website came from Facebook.  We got there with this math:  102 Facebook referrals / 3,380 unique visits = 3%).

Here’s another example: 

 analytics3

If you’re thinking about touring, wouldn’t it be nice to know where your fans are?  In this example, support is very strong in the Northeast.  Not surprising, but the #10 city is Allentown, PA!  In a list of big cities, you think Chicago, NYC, Boston, etc.  Does Allentown ever make the list?  For this band, maybe it should…

You’ll also get statistics from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  But your website is all yours – nobody else is advertising on it, and nobody else has the ability to alter its content or design.  As such, it makes sense for your website to be the “official source” for information about your band.  It’s presenting you specifically how you wanted to be presented.  In terms of understanding your audience, Google Analytics (only available for your website!) will give you more information about your fans than any other platform.  The more you know about your fans, the easier it gets to provide them with the content they’re looking for.

For those of you using Bandcamp (as of Winter 2011), they do not allow you to properly embed their storefront onto your website.  Thinking about your analytics, this becomes a bit of a problem.  You end up competing with yourself.

Let’s suppose that your main goal is driving traffic to your website (so that people can learn about you, find out when your gigs are, and buy your music).  You’ve got Google Analytics running, and you know exactly how your doing relative to your goal, right?

Wrong[1].

The second they click that “store” button, they’re whisked off to the country of Bandcampia.  While your website is a proud American, your storefront still lives in its native country where (much like North Korea) certain statistics are given out and others are simply unattainable.  Information is your greatest tool.  It’s the John to your Paul and/or the Ringo that makes the whole thing work.

Years ago, I worked for a company that was moderately successful, but they didn’t know why.  No previous marketing person had ever tried to either institute or provide quality statistical measurement.     So I went through all the company’s sales going back roughly five years.  I put together a breakdown of what type of sale, the cost, time of year, and a few other industry specific provisions.  Then I sat down with the CEO and told him that I needed the reports on his sales for the last 5 years.  While he had a strong sales team, the CEO still made roughly 30% of the company’s annual sales.

He turned me down cold.  He didn’t want to share his numbers or his info because he felt it took away his competitive edge – against his own sales team!

Aside from the inherent trust/team issues this brought up, it made my report somewhat useless.  Ultimately I had 100% of the info on 70% of the data.  There was still 30% that remained in the great unknown.   Incomplete data will always yield inconclusive results.

Here’s another way to imagine it:  you’re doing something right, and thousands of people are visiting your website each month.  But somehow sales are essentially non-existant.  For all the traffic coming to your website, you’ve got no sales to show for it?

All this being said, Bandcamp does offer statistics for plays and placements on their platform, but while nice, they’re not as robust as what Google Analytics does for you.  Keeping your entire stats “collection” in one place, amounts to higher quality of results obtained. 



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Introduction to the Web Edition
Dedication & Preface
Introduction
What is Marketing?
War is Hell. Prepare Accordingly
Money, Money, Money?
Sponsor Me
My Arsenal
Your Website
Your New Best Friend