March 15, 2014 , , , , , , ,

Direct to Fan


Direct to Fan

This is where all the shit’s a-poppin’ in the music industry right now.  Everybody’s jumping all over the direct to fan train and holy crap, you’d think people never sold or marketed music before direct to fan.

Before you get all frothy and race to preach the direct to fan gospel, let’s understand exactly what we’re talking about.

Starting in the middle of the 20th Century, major record labels emerged and started signing artists.  Folks like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Wham all had deals with such entities.  In return for a large advance on record sales, and a portion of the proceeds from those aforementioned sales, the record label would do things like market, promote, and manufacture the artists’ music.  Seems great, right?  Not so fast…

Many of these artists signed bad, unscrupulous deals that made the labels disproportionately wealthier than the artists.  Soon the artists couldn’t afford the upkeep on their yachts, and even worse the price of quality drugs continued to escalate[1].

With the advent of the Internet, people soon realized that they didn’t go to their local Tower Records/Sam Goody/RecordTown/Strawberries to buy it.  Instead, they could just download it online and pass along pristine, non-degenerative versions to as many people as they could connect with on  Or was it Napster?  Anyway…

At this point, the major labels got very concerned.  Up to this point they had cornered the market on distribution.  You couldn’t get that nice, quality Milli Vanilli LP, CD, or cassette without forking over some cash to the (now a distant memory) record store.

As music downloading (illegal and otherwise) became more prevalent, the record labels lost control of distribution and couldn’t stop artists from selling their own music direct to fans.  And without the need for record labels, artists didn’t have to share the proceeds of their sales anymore either.  If they sold a Cassingle[2] to a fan for $1.99, then by golly they kept the entire $1.99.

And so a golden era in music was born, downloaded, and passed around to friends.

Direct to Fan involves, and implies, that there is no middleman between you and your fan (customer).  In order for the concept to work, you have to create opportunities for access between artist and fan.

Mike Masnick summarized it brilliantly and thusly[3]:


Connect With Fans (CwF) + Reason To Buy (RtB) =

The Business Model ($$$$)


You have fans, you have stuff that they want, and you sell it to them to make money.  See, I told you Mike was brilliant and perhaps a tad more eloquent than I.

The first part of his equation, Connect with Fans/CwF, is where you’ll want to focus your time to start.  As mentioned a few chapters back, if you have nobody to talk to, there’s also no one to sell to.

Here’s a great example of connecting with fans courtesy of a fine artist you should all know and love:  Dan HL[4]:

Dan HL is a Boston based singer-songwriter who describes his music as “abrasive-folk.”  After a parting of the ways with his former band, Dan’s about to release his first album.  But at the time, he had nothing of his own – no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter account.  He was starting completely from scratch.  Lots of musicians get to this point and panic.  It’s understandable.  But if you take things logically and strategically, it’s not impossible.  Here’s how it went for Dan HL:

First thing we did was establish his goals:  in 90 days (crazy!) he was going to have his album finished.  By the time the album was done, we wanted to have his website up and populated with content as well as creating a presence on social media platforms (Facebook and Twitter).

Dan’s website came together quickly.  And since it was done before the album, we were challenged with putting up content.  He didn’t have his own tunes to add (yet), so we added a couple of rough demos (and let people know they were demos!) followed by some blog posts about songs and artists that he liked.  In this case, the bands he talked about were pretty well known.  They helped clue potential fans into his style as well as drawing a little attention on their own.

A little while later, Dan was goofing around on Facebook and replied to someone’s post with a haiku.  It was random enough, and funny enough, that people started asking him to write haikus for them.  We moved this over to his artist page and let it be known that anyone who “liked” the page could suggest a topic for Haiku Monday.  From there, we recapped the day’s best haikus over on his website. We called it “Haiku in Review.”

Soon enough, community started to build around Dan and his music.  The album was released and tour dates started to book up with less effort.  New album, shows booked, sales coming in, and all for a debut release.  The best part?  All of “Haiku Monday” was totally free:  free to create, free to participate.

At this point, you’re thinking – haikus and folk singers don’t mean much to me.  Me neither.  I prefer hip hop sonnets with rhyming couplets.  But it doesn’t matter!  What Dan did, and the lesson to walk away with, is that Haiku Monday was an amazing example of Connecting with Fans.  That 5-7-5 helps people create a relationship with Dan that brings ‘em out to gigs, sells his music, and perpetuates his career as a musician.  And that’s what you want, remember?  A career as a musician.

The second part of Mr. Masnick’s equation is “Reason to Buy (RtB).  Now that you have fans, you want to offer them reasons to buy your goods.

When we began selling this book (and thanks for buying it!), we reduced the price early on.  What was the reason to buy?  It was cheaper during the pre-sale period.  Price is often a motivating factor.

Then we got a call from the folks printing the book.  Overruns are common in printing, and there was going to be an extra 25 copies of the book created.  They were going to give them to me at no extra charge.  At first, we thought wow … how cool, free stuff!  That’s generally our first thought when we don’t have to pay for things.  But rather than indulge our own materialistic ways, we decided to find a way to connect with fans and provide a reason to buy.  Did we mention the genius of Mike Masnick yet?

Anyway, we decided that since the books were free we would donate them to local libraries.  That way the libraries got something cool, and to connect with fans, we told people that anyone who bought a printed edition of this book would be given the opportunity to have the book added to the collection of the library of their choice.  We’d even include a label that says who donated the book.

If you were trying to decide what version of the book to buy before (the $6.99 eBook or the $10.99 and up for printed editions), now you’ve got a reason to buy the printed version.  That’s not to mention the connection that ensues when there’s a dialog about where to dedicate the additional book.  It’s what cheeseball marketers refer to as a win-win.

Reasons to Buy tend to exist primarily during the album release release cycle.  For those discussions, kindly refer back to Chapter Four:  Sponsor Me:  Real Word Cash Strategies that Don’t (Just) Involve Begging.

That being said, it makes sense to continually provide enticing reasons to buy at all times.  Why limit yourself to only selling product when you have a new disc coming out?   Additionally, you’re playing Peoria for the first time, so people there are going to start checking you out.  Have something unique and compelling when they get to your site!   Again, the more reasons to buy you offer, the more opportunities you have for sales.

Starting way back, Pearl Jam sold a limited quantity of amazingly cool posters for each city they toured in.  An exclusive “Boston” poster only sold in Boston, a totally different one for NYC, and so on.  They became ultra collectible and they were usually sold out within minutes of the doors opening for the show.  Dedicated fans showed up early, were provided with a quality product with a compelling Reason to Buy, and the band likely made a solid profit.

This may go without saying, but as you create these reasons to buy, make sure you actually make money on them.  In other words, if you’re selling your new release for $6.99, but the actual cost to create the product was $10.00, then you’re losing money with every sale.  It’s understandable to want a compelling price point, but don’t set yourself up to fail.  The result of the equation, done correctly, is where you start to see your bank balance growing.

Here’s the part of this chapter that might raise the hackles of a few people.  Going in, readers need to understand first off that we have no reason to recommend one company over another, and nobody sponsored the writing of this book, this chapter, or anything like that.  In fact, we take pride in the fact that we’ve never gone out of our way to screw anybody over in the industry.  We shall now discuss the multiple direct to fan service platforms available.

Before you try and decide which company/products to go with, you need to first have a plan of attack.  For example, if you’re only interested in selling digital music on iTunes, then you don’t need to spend money on a Topspin account.  But if you’re working to build a community around your music – a legion of fans hanging on your every word, then it might be worth looking toward companies like ReverbNation.

Some might be surprised to hear this, but the team at D.I.-Why are big fans of ReverbNation and Jango.   For the most part, your friends and family are the worst critics of your music.  If they love you, and care about you, they’re not going to tell you if something sucks.   “That’s great, dear” will destroy your career if it’s the only guidance you’re getting.

Jango allows artists to upload music and tag it according to similar artists.  Your new music is Madonna-esque?  Great – it’ll get played and recommended to folks that like Madonna.  You pay for the number of plays you get, and you’ll collect demographic/analytics as things move along.  Prices are reasonable and within the scale of any indie artist.  Using the stats the provide on their website[5], a $30 investment yields on average 30-50 fans.  COA per fan would be $0.60 – $1.00.  Not bad.  But let’s not assume these people are fans.  Jango is more about focus group style marketing.

Have you ever been accosted by a focus group marketer at your local mall?  They’re the ones that usually start with “Can I pay you $5 to take a 10 minute survey on movies coming out this Fall?”  They walk you into what was formerly a Spencer Gifts or Chess King[6] and ask you questions about actors, film clips, and what influences you.  There are all kinds of stories about how focus groups and test markets preferred one movie ending over another and thus the history of cinema was changed forever.[7]

Jango can be influential in the same way – without the tedious questions and inane film clips.  A bunch of people you don’t know or have influence over are going to sign on to listen to music.  Your stuff comes up, they have an opportunity to critique it, and you get the benefit of their feedback.  At last check, Jango averages around 2-3 million visitors per month, so odds are their audience is bigger than yours – and less likely to include your cousin Herbert and Aunt Gertrude.  Isn’t that nice, dear?

ReverbNation does all kinds of things.  In fact, it’s difficult to keep track of everything they do.  For emerging talent looking to dip their toe in the waters, ReverbNation seems to consistently be their first stop.  Basic features are free, but you can up the monthly subscription to include things ranging from digital distribution (to places like iTunes) to email distribution and storefronts for your website.

There’s an advantage to the “all-in-one” style opportunity that ReverbNation represents – specifically everything you need is in one place, easy to manage, easy to update, easy to get results from.  In the case of ReverbNation, and based upon client feedback, we’re hesitant to recommend their “upgrade” products.  Our experiences with ReverbNation is that their products are difficult to integrate, limited in customization opportunities, and often seem amateurish in presentation.  We also found their interface to be slow and somewhat confusing.

However, similar to Jango, we have no hesitation recommending ReverbNation as a first stop and test market for your music.

Moving on, there’s Topspin.  To paraphrase a D.I.-Why client, “this shit is serious.”  The folks at Topspin got (and continue to get…) a ridiculous amount of buzz which centers equally around their success as a platform but also the hip/cool factor which seems to precede every discussion they’re part of.   We saw a credible industry blog reference the fact that the CEO changed hairstyles.[8]  We blame the Kardashians for this – regardless of any actual proof of involvement or interaction.

Here’s the deal with Topspin – like ReverbNation they provide tons of useful marketing tools and platforms.  Artists at all levels of success can benefit from using Topspin.  Unfortunately, getting the most out of a Topspin account often requires a huge amount of effort or hiring a marketing company to help you get going.  For that, naturally, we recommend D.I.-Why.

The beauty of Topspin lies in its ability to pull data from just about everything it does.  If you’re selling something, they’ve got stats.  You’ve got their streaming audio player on your website?  Here are those stats.  The list goes on and on.  As we’ve discussed, collecting data is your main mission with marketing.  The more info you collect, the more informed your decision making process becomes, and hopefully you’re making better decisions and watching your career grow.

We worked with a client who relied on us to set up a storefront on their website.  Their budget was somewhat limited, and we thought they’d get more bang for their buck with Topspin.

As we were setting things up, and building their store, the team at D.I.-Why couldn’t figure out how to enable sales of single tracks alongside those of the entire album.  It seemed bizarre to us that you couldn’t just click a “sell singles for this price” type button and enable the option.  In the iTunes world, we wanted the 99-cent singles lined up and ready to go.  In fact, it was a specific request of the artist to sell singles from their website.

After a few hours of head-scratching, forum searching, and FAQ reading, we broke down and asked the folks at Topspin what was going on.  At this point we were being to question ourselves, and that’s a dangerous sign.

It turns out the option we were looking for doesn’t exist.  While you could manually create individual product along side each album, you can imagine how long it would take to set up each album if you had to repeat the process 10 or 11 times to accommodate the number of tracks on an album.

Topspin went on to explain that their payment structure[9] takes 15% of sales plus 2.2% in processing feed per sale.  In addition, they charge a  30 cents transaction fee per sale.  As such, if you sold a 99 cent single, your net profit (money after all fees are taken out) is 53 cents.  That’s nearly half the cost of the single!  They went on to explain that it makes more sense to sell entire albums – there’s bigger margin so that the associated feels don’t amount to as high a percentage of your overall profit. Still though, if your business model involves selling lots of singles, Topspin just isn’t the right solution for you — at least, not for the sales functionality.

Our favorite part of Topspin, above and beyond their data collection abilities, is the way their platform handles assets.  It takes a little getting used to, but when you add content to Topspin, each individual piece (each image, each track, each merch item) is treated separately.  So technically, you’re not actually selling an album;  you’re selling a digital package which contains a bunch of tracks and maybe a PDF or JPG with your cover art and liner notes.

Again, it takes some time to get used to this way of dealing with product, but its inherent versatility lets you do all kinds of awesome things.  In particular, you can bundle any items together in just about any way you want.  Maybe you want to bundle your new album with a t-shirt?  No problem.  Maybe you want to sell the third track off of each album you’ve released on the third day of every month?  Again, no problem.  If you know what you’re doing, it takes all of 15 minutes to set this stuff up.

Another cool Topspin feature is that while you can use their “on board” Spinshop tool for designing your store, they readily offer links to every item you’ve decided to sell.  Those links can sit behind any image you want allowing you to create a totally custom store on your website.  Design things as cool, funky, crazy, or creatively as you want.  Just make sure you link the right product to the right image, and you’re good to go.

They do a whole host of other cool things (mobile-enhanced ticketing, special fan clubs, etc.).  For bands that are anticipating growth, or already have a solid fanbase, you can accomplish great things with Topspin.

Before you think we’ve sold our soul to Topspin and would recommend them to anyone with a credit card and a guitar, just stop.  That’s not the case.  We discussed Bandcamp briefly before, and they’re an excellent solution for the musicians.  Their stuff is exceedingly simple to setup and use, and they’ve got a pretty nifty way of letting you sell physical and digital products.  In addition, for those not savvy with code or willing to spend the time/money/effort creating a website and associated store, you can pretty much do it all for free with Bandcamp.  The list of features they include with a free account is staggering, and would leave the average (or not-so-average) artist with no need to look elsewhere.  They’ve also got some of the best web copy and demo videos we’ve ever seen.  Seriously, who writes their stuff?  We’re impressed.

As mentioned earlier, the downfall of Bandcamp lies in its lack of embeddable store-bility.  Your Bandcamp page/store/profile lives exclusively with Bandcamp and can’t be seamlessly integrated into your website.  There are some design-able ways to work around this, but it’s still gonna wreak a reasonable bit of havoc on your analytics.

One other small complaint with Bandcamp is that it’s very easy to tell when someone’s using it.  While there are a lot of customizable options, Bandcamp pages tend to all look somewhat the same.  The fonts/layout/widgets all have a certain element that tells you “this guy’s using Bandcamp.”  While this may not matter for some artists, those that want everything to “match their vision” may want to consider Topspin.

The oldest platform on the block is Nimbit[10].  What started as a way for artists to “build websites and sell online” without knowing code progressed over the years to becoming a solid direct to fan platform.  In terms of usability, functionality, and pricing they fall squarely between Bandcamp and Topspin.

The attraction of Nimbit is ease-of-use at a level that while not as fully featured as Topspin offers a platform that most artists can operate with ease.  Nimbit offers a full complement of tools that let you setup an album, sell it on your website, and promote to the masses about what you’re up to.  From inside your Nimbit account, you can accomplish multiple goals ranging from creating storefronts to creating and distributing emails, and scheduling/posting to Facebook and Twitter.

Nimbit spent a lot of time recently promoting their Facebook storefront.  It’s quite easy to integrate into a Facebook band/artist page, and provides the necessary promotional and sales tools you’d want.

Interestingly, Nimbit offers digital distribution to iTunes, Amazon, eMusic, and others as part of a paid Nimbit subscription.  They don’t restrict the number of products you can sell through those 3rd parties and they don’t take any commission on those sales.  If you’ve got a growing catalog, it’s worth considering Nimbit, if nothing else, just for that capability.  We’d strongly recommend artists compare rates at Tunecore alongside those of Nimbit.

Nimbit seems to be the ideal solution for a middle class of musicians looking for a solid array of options at a reasonable price.  Much like Bandcamp though, you can tell instantly if an artist is using Nimbit.  Their storefronts are limited in customization.  The more advanced features that come with Topspin aren’t available on Nimbit, but at the same time you don’t have to consider hiring an expert to set up your Nimbit account.   Additionally, Nimbit charges a flat 20% commission on sales unlike Topspin – no transaction fees, bandwith fees, etc.  If you’re using Nimbit to sell music, you’ll know exactly how much you’re earning without having to do any advanced math.

There are lots of other companies working in the direct to fan space, but there’s enough to suit any musician with the ones we’ve described.  If you’re upset that your company wasn’t included, well, we’re sorry.   But we can still be friends, right?

No Comments

March 14, 2014 , , , ,

Broads & Narrows



Aka Twitter & Facebook

When you talk to people you’re usually (hopefully) not constantly shouting.  And it’d be really nice if there was a context and flow to the conversation.  That’s just how life works.  Consider this example:

You:  I’m going to the Sox game tonight – great seat!!

Your Doctor:  Uh, Jim … there’s something I need to tell you.

You:  Team Jacob all the way!  Are you with me?

Your Doctor:   You’re bleeding from your eyeballs, and you haven’t got long to live.

You:  Buy my album – it’s available on my website!

There’s something to be said for broadcasting messages to the masses, but as illustrated above one-on-one conversations have their place too.  Especially in the doctor’s office.   When you start exploring Twitter and Facebook, you need to think in terms of broadcasting and narrowcasting.

Twitter is a broadcasting tool – it sends messages out to a large crowd of people and its functionality limits you to “just” the message:  140 characters.  It’s not the place for deep, hours-long conversations, and attempts to “chat” on Twitter end up somewhat stilted and confusing.  The beauty of Twitter lies in its ability for users to absorb or collect a large amount of information quickly.  In even more basic terms, it’s a snapshot of what’s going on everywhere at a given moment.

For musicians, Twitter is great for basic announcements (new show added, album release tomorrow, etc.).  It’s safe to say that a solid majority of musicians have mastered this basic level of broadcasting.  The technology is fairly simple:  Type your message, hit submit, done.

Facebook is a more evolved creature.  And it creates levels of access that help keep those interested “in” while the rest of the world has to watch from the wings.  Even the terminology displays this.  People merely follow you on Twitter, but they like you on Facebook.  Isn’t it nice to be liked?

Anyway, narrowcasting is sending a message to a smaller audience.  It can be more personal, and it’s often something that only applies to a more select group.  Facebook is a tool for narrowcasting.  Only your fans are going to see the message, and (ideally) it’s only meant for them.

Facebook allows you to converse directly with your fans and build a sense of community that leads to sales and support down the road.  They’ve already indicated that they like you, so it’s an instantly more qualified base to start from than Twitter – the broadcasting tool.

Earlier on, we discussed that you need $10k to properly market and promote an artist or band.  Here’s where that valuation comes into play.  Twitter followers have a significantly lower value because there’s a much lower investment of their time in your career.  Think of how many Tweets are tweeted that you never see.  Now consider how many Facebook posts you read/react to on a given day.  There’s more depth and attention on Facebook hence a greater value for those who like you there.  This might seem obvious to some, but it still escapes the notice of many.  If you consider how much easier it is to build followers on Twitter than on Facebook, it’s even more obvious.

So what to do with this knowledge?  For starters, you need to think about how you position your messaging.  Knowing that Twitter has a MASSIVE amount of information racing past you at any given time, are you going to try and be all subtle and sly with what you post?  And if you post a series of tweets (because it just doesn’t all fit into 140 characters), your followers probably won’t see the tweets back to back, so the message gets misinterpreted, or at best partially understood.

On Facebook, there’s less of a concern about messages getting missed or confused.  You can also include pictures/videos/links in a way that displays and conveys much more effectively.



We opened up a Twitter account for a client without realizing they had already opened one on their own.  For whatever reason (usually too much scotch or too little coffee), we didn’t close the account we created.  Without doing any design on the profile page, adding any personal info, or sending a single tweet, we were shocked at what happened.  In 72 hours, we had amassed 276 followers.  These were followers we hadn’t searched or solicited, and they were following a completely blank untouched profile that lacked any discernable or identifiable content.

This taught us something valuable:  it’s easy to get followers on Twitter.  In the early days of the platform, it was safe to say that for every two people you followed, one would follow you back.  Multiply that out and add a few thousand mouse clicks, and you can garner a pretty hefty amount of followers quickly.  Soon Twitter caught on to this and you were limited to adding 2,000 people per day.  Then they started messing with the ratio of following to followers to determine how many people you could add on a given day.  Regardless, adding followers on Twitter was more a test of how much time you could spend on the platform than any actual marketing skills.  For lots of artists, just having that huge number of followers is sufficient for them to be “successful” on Twitter.  One could argue that size matters, and in this case it’s the only thing that matters.

However, as any insecure man will tell you, success isn’t solely based on size.

When you start building a fanbase on Twitter, ideally you want to target people that’re intereted in what you’re all about.  It’s not just about the numbers.  Earlier on, we valued a fan on Facebook at $9.56 and a Twitter follower at $0.25.  Speaking in gross generalities that means one fan on Facebook equals 38.24 followers on Twitter.  So it’s fair to add a stack of Twitter followers, but do your best to qualify them somehow.

Here are a few basic ways to starting building a following on Twitter:


Fan Grabbing

You’re starting a heavy metal band similar in sound to Pantera. So you go to their Twitter profile[1] and start following their followers.  They’ve got over 65k followers, so there’s bound to be some in there that’ll dig the sounds you’re layin’ down.  Sure enough, you follow a bunch, they follow you, and a few days later you notice that you’ve got something like this:

Followers:  500

Following:  3,899

At this point it becomes obvious to the casual marketing professional[2] that you’re just fan grabbing.  It’s time to go in and start unfollowing the folks that aren’t following you.  You can do this manually inside Twitter, but there are multiple sites and programs that will speed the process along.  We’ve been using[3] with pretty happy results.  You’ll only be able to unfollow 25 per day, but there’s an upgrade for $9.99 that makes things much more agreeable.  It’s worth it, we promise.

Twitter will limit you, by the way, from unfollowing more than around 100 people at a time.  This is done, naturally, to avoid massive amounts of follows and unfollows going on all the time.  I’m sure it saves some bandwith on the Twitter side too.  Nobody wants to see that fail whale, right? 


To organize massive amounts of thoughts into some kind of consistent mass, Twitter uses hashtags (#).  You’ll see a tweet like this:

We’re psyched to see Chicken Gods of Death tonight #heavymetal

Now anyone that’s interested in tweets about heavy metal can search that trending topic, and presto – there you are!  Assuming you’re still creating that Pantera-esque band, you can now find a bunch of potential new fans by following anyone posting with the #heavymetal hashtag.

The Cool Kids

It’s nice to know people.  For everyone that ever said “I know a guy” and got you upgraded to front row seats, you know what we mean.  Twitter can be the same way.  Getting the stamp of approval from others often equates to validation of your success.  Since this is Twitter, folks aren’t going to sniff out credentials, but if their friend says you’re cool, they’ll probably be inclined to believe them.

Look amongst your real life friends/colleagues, see who’s got a decent following on Twitter and ask ‘em for a few tweets on your behalf.  Similarly, if there are artists you admire, telling them so isn’t a bad idea.  You tweet to them, their followers might just follow you.  It happens, really!


A tactic we particularly like is working within a particular region.  If you’re starting a band in Boston, search out on Twitter for relevant Boston-based Twitter-ers – fans, critics, clubs, etc.  We recommend Flockoo[4] for this.

Be there now – most of the time

One of the best ways to be successful with Twitter is to actually use it.  As dumb as that may sound initially, there’s no equal to a live tweeting person.  Engagement with people leads to activity.  Activity leads to follows.  Follows lead to increased attention and interest.  And all of that, ideally, can lead to more fans and more cash in your pocket.

We know – you’re busy and The Man won’t let you sit around all day on Twitter.  Without totally ignoring what we just said, we can also recommend services that allow you to pre-schedule Tweets.  Some email providers and direct to fan platforms offer this service, but we’ve been using Later Bro[5] (for free!) quite happily for a while now.  It’s super simple, and very much to the point.  You type in a tweet and can either send it now, or schedule it for later delivery.  That’s really all there is to it.

In an ideal scenario, you can pre-schedule a stack of tweets about topics that’re “static.”  In other words, don’t post the outcome of next week’s NFL playoffs, but it’s probably safe to schedule tweets regarding your upcoming gigs.

Here at D.I.-Why, we pre-schedule a few days of tweets around static topics, but we also sit live on Twitter for varied periods each day.  That way we can contribute to whatever’s “in the moment” but we’ve also got stuff that we know will post regardless.

One more time, please?

Unless you’re a dedicated follower of someone on Twitter, or a total marketing geek (like us), we don’t know of too many people that will go back to re-read old tweets.  You’ll see what’s happening when you’re actually online, but once it goes by … it’s gone.  Don’t look back, it’ll only bring back sad memories.  Besides, you can do better than him.

But we digress …

The point to all this is that if you’ve got something worth saying once (our next gig is …), it’s probably worth repeating a few more times throughout the day.  We explain it thusly:

If you’re standing beside the highway and cars are whizzing by, how many of those cars will you remember in any detail after 5 or 10 minutes? 

Shrinkage sucks

Twitter gives you the option to shrink URLs.  This is good if you’re linking to a YouTube video which has a long, random URL string that doesn’t make much “English” sense.  But if you’re linking to your own website, or something significant that folks should remember, better to become an excellent editor than to shrink that (important) URL.

For this book, we created a whole website at  If you bought the book online, you clicked that link at least once.  Much of our Twitter campaign for the book was to tweet out quotes alongside links to the book’s website.  Seeing the domain is far more powerful and memorable than something generic.  Don’t believe us, well which can you remember more easily:  (or) ?  In marketing, you’re always working to create a lasting memory that someone can act on – links aren’t that memorable, and it helps explain why people will pay crazy amounts of money to get certain web domains.


Facebook is (right now, in 2011) very cool.  We add the parenthetical just in case something else comes along to revolutionize the way we stalk former boyfriends and girlfriends, remember when someone’s birthday is, and remind people that you hate your job.

Remember, for a while in the early 21st Century, we all raced to get on Friendster.  Then we dumped Friendster like a drunk prom date, and got all up inside MySpace.  Now it’s Facebook, but in a couple years it can move on again.  That’s life.

For now though, Facebook is dominant, and so musicians find ways to benefit.  Let’s get through a few of the basics first.

Personal vs Artist Profiles

D.I.-Why gets this question all the time:  musicians call and they’re all flummoxed because they can’t seem to get their storefront to show up on their Facebook page.

There are two different types of profiles available to you on Facebook.  The one most people have is “personal.”  It’s for any regular person who exists solely as a person.  If you’re also a business/musician/public entity, then you want that type of profile.  For our purposes, we’ll refer to these as artist pages.

The easiest way to tell the difference is how you add one to your list of friends/likes.  If you choose “Add Friend” then you’re adding a real person as a real friend.  If you choose “Like” then it’s an artist page.

Once artists understand this, we get a second call:  How do I move all these people from my personal profile to my artist page?  The short answer is, well, it’s not that easy.  All the effort you spent getting them to your personal profile now has to be re-spent getting them to jump over to the artist page.   The smartest way to do this is to incentivize the move.  Have exclusive content that’s only available on the artist page.  Be even more accessible to fans on your artist page – and promote that fact.  Have a “Q&A” session on the artist page.

If you’re setting up a storefront on your artist page, you have the option (with most direct to fan platforms) to have special pricing only on Facebook.  We recommend promoting a special sale for all fans on your artist page.  Add some special content, or a unique merch item, and watch fans start to jump.

There’s one special piece of data that Facebook does the most conclusive job of providing:  user demographics.  Your artist page will have a link to “Insights.”  These insights offer stats on everything from activity on your page to where your fans are to a breakdown by age and/or gender.   Here’s what we’re talking about:


In this case, the band has slightly more female fans and we can see that roughly 45% of their fans (on Facebook) are between the ages of 18 and 24. Since Google Analytics can’t tell you who’s looking at your website (relative to age/gender), your Facebook insights are a crucial piece of your marketing mix.

So what?  Well, let’s say your planning to tour.  If a bulk of your fans are under 21 that should influence your choice of venues.  And what about merch?  If Facebook tells you that 75% of your fans are ladies, then doesn’t it make sense to create stuff that appeals specifically to women?

Much like Google Analytics, Facebook’s insights will also tell you which posts are more popular and effective.


How many users clicked on your post?  That’s what “engaged users” tracks.  It’s easy to figure out what’s working and what’s not.  Remember, when someone “likes” your artist page, or leaves a comment on it, that creates a message that all of their friends can see.  Virality indicates how many people have created their own post based upon the one they read on your page.  High virality numbers lead to greater exposure and added opportunities to Connect with Fans to whom you can provide Reasons to Buy and help you perpetuate a music career.

[2] Usually the ones who spend hours workng from Starbucks while only ordering a $2 cuppa coffee.

No Comments

March 13, 2014 , ,




It’s pretty amazing how much content is on YouTube.  Over 150 million visits per month to the site.  This shows that all the stuff you thought nobody else but you remembered —that “lost” TMNT episode, every music video you could imagine— someone else remembers it too and wants you to see it.

In the pre-Facebook era, if you wanted to hear a band’s music, you probably went to their MySpace page.  In particular, indie musicians flocked to MySpace in its heyday.  These days, the kiddies are just searching the group name or song title on YouTube, and odds are they’ll find exactly what they want.

Today, Google owns the world.  And conveniently they own Google Analytics and YouTube.  For musicians, this will rock your world.  If you post a cool video to your YouTube page, there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll see some conversion[1] to your website.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s discuss what makes for an interesting video.  There’s a few ways to accomplish this without requiring you to spend thousands of dollars and hiring a production team.

First off, have an idea about what it is you want to do.  It can be as basic as a vlog (video blog post), or as big as a full scale music video.  Either way, knowing what you want to accomplish going in saves infinite frustration.  Make an outline – or even a basic script/guide.

Team D.I.-Why are huge Apple nerds, and with good reason.  Most of what you need to create quality audio/video comes standard with every MacBookPro and iPhone.  We’re guessing there are some Android phones and PCs that can do that too, but seriously and for realz, Apple rocks.  With the built in iCam, included iMovie, and a little iMagination (sorry, couldn’t resist), you can be the next YouTube sensation.

So you’ve got some video content, and you need to do something with it.  Setting up your own channel (page) on YouTube is pretty damn simple.

  1. Create a YouTube account – keep the account name as close to your artist/band name as possible.
  2. Set up your channel with a color scheme/design that matches your website
  3. Upload content to your page.

Seriously.  It’s that easy.  From there, you can get all creative and fancy, but for now, we’re just getting started.  If you’ve got easy access to the design files for your website, it’s simple to upload a matching background to your YouTube channel.  Wow, branding!

About a year and a half ago, we worked with a band to create a fundraising video.  They were gonna hit the road, and wisely, they didn’t want to lose money in the process.  With nothing more than a MBP, digital camera, and creativity, they created a video that was heartfelt, funny as hell, and effective.[2]  The entire production was composed, produced, and completed over a weekend and for a total cost of about $50 – in beer and wigs.

From that video and accompanying website, Facebook, and Twitter promotion, the tour was accomplished at a profit.  Not a huge profit, but nobody lost money either.

When you’re starting a band, and you’re trying to come up with content for a website without actually having finished your disc, recording a acoustic demo is a nice easy way to show what you’re up to without going nuts on the budget and time.  Turn on the webcam, pick up your guitar, and just go for it.  We recommend proper lighting as well as picking the spinach out from between your teeth before starting.

YouTube also gives you the option of adding captions and annotations to your video.  This added “commentary” can include information you want people to know about you, your music, your next gig, or whatever.

Here’s an example:


YouTube makes it easy to time/sequence the captions and annotations so they fit inside the action.  When done properly, it’s very cool.  Done badly, it can look totally amateur, so take your time with this.

On its own, YouTube provides very similar (looking and functioning) analytics to what you’ll already have inside Google Analytics.  The difference is that they’ll give you some added info about where people are watching your video.

We reposted an interview one of us did with Blink 182 from 2004.  Here’s a snippet of those analytics:


While not earth shattering in terms of the number of views we got, it was very interesting to see that 83% of viewers were male.  It’s also interesting to note that while this video was also posted on our website, a solid majority of the views came from YouTube.  We can then take this info and compare it with what Google Analytics tells us.



In this case, YouTube drove a whopping total of 4 hits to  While not thrilling, it definitely helps us figure out where to direct our focus.  In other words, we’re not going to bank our success on converting traffic from YouTube to

Yet again, the point to be made is that the analytics are what helps you figure out what to do.  We had an intern once who swore by posting stuff to YouTube and watching the flood gates open.  I asked him if he had proof of concept – specifically analytics that validated his concept.

He didn’t.

Sure enough, when we dug a little deeper, it just wasn’t there.  Creating unique video content can take some time to do.  If you’re going to invest a concerted amount of time/effort, make sure you’re getting something back in return.  And make sure you can prove it!

Another strategy for YouTube is to “favorite” videos you like and create a channel that along with helping promote your band directly (with your own unique content) but also by helping clarify your band’s brand/image with content that defines your likes, dislikes, and sound.  It can also help draw some traffic to your channel.  When D.I.-Why posted that Blink 182 video, we got a lot of attention from Blink fans.  Odds are, they wouldn’t have found us otherwise.

[1] Conversion – moving website interest from one destination to another.  Ex.  “I saw you on WooTube, and now I’m on your website!”

No Comments

March 12, 2014 , , ,




There’s a dark, ulterior motive to what you’re doing online.  It’s not a quest to sell music, gain fame, or even stop folks from posting obnoxious pictures of their pets.  Worse:  you’re a lead generation machine!  You’re collecting email addresses at a furious pace with every free download and merch purchase you offer.  That is the true value, and often the reward, of your online efforts.

In an age of constant distraction, people still consistently manage to check their email.  It remains the most successful way to get your message to your masses.  More than Twitter, even more than Facebook, email is where it’s at.

First things first, you’ve been collecting all this analytics data and you’re using it to make smart decisions (glad you’ve been paying attention!).  From what you’re seeing, you can deduce where your fans are, what they’re interested in, and perhaps a few other interesting facts (which songs are more popular, etc.).  Take that all into consideration as you plan your email blast.

A newsletter should include information that your FANS want to know coupled with what YOU want them to know.  For example, if your analytics dictate that fans are driven to your cover of “A Fifth of Beethoven” then you might want to mention or promote that.  Maybe you’ll want to offer an exclusive/demo/free version of the song to anyone on your mailing list.  They’ve already expressed an interest, and wow, how cool of you to offer that little something special! Remember “connecting with fans?”  This is it!

Beyond that, you’ll want to share the news – upcoming gigs, recap of former gigs, news about new recordings, whatever.  Think of it all as a delicate balance – you’re offering new goods, but you’re also using some insider intelligence to provide fans with something they’re looking for.

There’s a rumor floating around that McDonalds re-introduces the McRib when the price of pork drops to a certain level and stop selling the tasty goodness when the price of pork rises.  Publicly they re-introduce a coveted fan favorite and build demand by having McRib “only available for a limited time.”  That’s a better pitch than saying “pork’s not cheap enough to justify selling this sandwich.”  Your newsletter should be thought about in the same (oh, so delicious…) way.  Like everything else, your newsletter is a carefully composed marketing tool with opportunities to collect additional information about fan interest, prospective opportunities, and sales.  But if you market it that way, it’s just not cool or interesting.  Better for fans to think that there’s something special in the newsletter just for them!

Preparation and distribution of your newsletter is a whole ‘nutha thing.  There are a variety of companies[1] that offer very slick services that create HTML (laid out, designed, not text-only) emails for you to dazzle fans with.  They each offer pre-designed and customizable templates to work with, and you can create something that matches the branding/design of your website, include your band’s logo, and all kinds of other fun tricks.  Beyond that, these services let you upload your fan list so sending email becomes a well-tracked, simplified operation.  As a marketer, you like things like “well-tracked.”

It’s worth noting that if you’ve already signed up with some direct to fan companies, they’ll have email distribution built into their platform.   Most of these aren’t quite as sophisticated as dedicated email providers, but hey, it’s already integrated into your system, so it can be a good way to go.

Here at D.I.-Why, we use MailChimp[2].  Despite the fact that they’re not paying us for this blatant endorsement, we find them to be the simplest platform available, and they’re free for up to 2,000 emails/month!   Fanbridge runs a close second, but their free plan stops at 400 emails/month.

Let’s assume you’ve figured out what you’re going to say, and which platform you’ll be using to say it.  Now it’s time to actually design the email!

We encourage you, at this point, to un-cool yourselves.  While it’s important to be unique and special, your newsletter shouldn’t be overdesigned or cluttered up with stuff. Ultimtely, your goal is to convey information, so nothing should compete with that.  No super-jazzy multicolored backgrounds that make text impossible to read, and avoid a black background with dark gray text.

Keep newsletters brief, to the point, and clean.  Think of how companies like Apple are totally stylized and effortless in their design.  Being that simple is actually quite difficult.

When you’re putting the newsletter together, be sure to devote attention to the subject line.  Think about what the most interesting section of content is and use it as a reason for someone to actually open the email.

For example:

From: D.I.-WHY

Subject:  September Newsletter


From: D.I.-Why

Subject:  Mick Jagger, New Shows, Exclusive Tracks

It’s entirely possible that either one of those would contain identical content, but one of ‘em is enough to pique even the casual fan into taking a look.  Also, don’t lie.  We’d use that subject line if there was some connection between Mick Jagger and D.I.-Why, but if it was a total red herring[3], that’d just annoy people and you’d likely see open rate drop on your next email.

Always include links in the email:  to your website, to buy tickets for your next gig, to your Facebook page, but specifically to anywhere you want to direct attention.  Otherwise, you have to assume that whoever reads the email will remember to take those next steps on their own.  Right when they’re about to search for a link to buy your new EP, they get a phone call/text/bright shiny object that distracts them.  That opportunity is gone forever.  You should’ve made it easier for them!

Once you’ve sent an email, you’ll start generating data:  who opened your email, when they opened it, what they clicked on, and where they are.  Lots of other info will be generated as well.

Focus first on your open rate.  That’s a percentage indication of how many emails were sent vs. open.  100 sent, 25 opened, that’s a 25% open rate.  Not too shabby, but remember – there’s still 75 people that didn’t see what your wrote!

Take a look at what info was clicked on, focus on more of “that” for the next message.  If what you thought was important got ignored, it’s a great opportunity to adjust and refocus your strategy for next time.

When you send an email often influences open rates.  In the pre-smartphone age, you were presumably sitting at your desk when you checked email.  The logic progresses to assume that emails sent on Friday night or Saturdays would just get buried and ignored when you sat down next.

This isn’t quite as rampant as folks are all over their iPhones these days, but we’ve still noticed that Tuesday and Wednesday mornings are consistently better times to send emails.  Nobody is buried catching up from the weekend, and they’re not quite overloaded yet as they race out of the office on Fridays.  This varies from artist to company to band, but test it out for yourself and see what happens.

Frequency is your next concern.  Too many emails and fans get annoyed; too few and they forget you.  Our experience is that if you don’t have anything to say, don’t send an email.  If you’re struggling for content, you’ll likely find readers struggling to read the message.  Start with a monthly email, and if interest/engagement is strong, move to an semi-monthly (twice per month) newsletter.  Again, just make sure you have something valid and enticing to say in each message.

As your building a mailing list, be considerate of who’s actually on it.  If you’re handed a list with a thousand random email addresses, and you add those names to your list – technically you’re spamming those people with every message.  All of the major email distributors will shut you down if there are too many spam complaints coming in.  We strongly recommend using an opt-in solution – that’s where someone agrees to be on your list, then gets a confirmation email that they must click to confirm.  This will limit spam opportunities and keep your list to people that are actually interested in you.

No Comments

March 11, 2014 , ,

Don’t Be Stupid


Don’t Be Stupid

Let’s pretend that you’ve followed our advice thus far.  You’ve got a snazzy website, Facebook (artist) page, and you’ve got a whole bunch of followers on Twitter.  You’ve also posted a few sweet videos to your YouTube channel, and your newsletter is being read by thousands!

Now it’s Miller time. You’ve done your part.  The rest is up to your legion of fans.  Just sit back, crack open a cold one, and watch the magic and money come rolling in.

Not so fast, Chester.

Marketing, especially online, is all about aggregate growth.  Basically, one fan becomes two.  Two becomes four.  Four becomes eight, and so on.  You can’t just flip the switch.  You also can’t sit back passively.

The folks at Google have a secret algorithm that determines how websites show up in Google search.  It’s a combination of relevant keywords, amount of traffic to the site, user-defined preferences, and a whole bunch of other stuff they won’t tell us.  So as your website expands (‘cuz you’re blogging, adding info, gaining fans, etc.), people will ultimately be able to discover you easier.

Think of it this way.  Suppose you open a store (a real one, with a front door and no public restrooms…).  You’ve stocked the shelves with merchandise and taken out ads in the local papers.  Then you walk away.  Or at best, you visit the store once in a while.  Other than that, you’re totally hands off.

What’s gonna happen?  Your store will die.  The inventory will grow stale, out of date, or simply be gone.  As the public moves on to the next new thing, you’re left behind in the dust.

And no, your store won’t be viewed as charming and vintage.  It’ll be seen as irrelevant.

Facebook and Twitter are exactly the same.  They’re not something you can do on Mondays for an hour and not touch ‘til the following week.  That’d be stupid, and we’re telling you to not be stupid.  To reiterate: It’s not like you can eat a ton of cheeseburgers on Monday and not eat anything ‘til the following week.  We’ve tried; it doesn’t work.

Your business (and let’s face it, being a musician is akin to being CEO of your own start-up biz) requires constant care and feeding in order to grow.  How you do it is up to you – we’ve already outlined ways to pre-schedule and manage things, but the “don’t be stupid” message bears repeating over and over (and over).

Also – there’s a ton of companies that want to sell you products to automatically do something.  We saw this on a website:


Think about it for a second.  If you could just buy fans, why wouldn’t you already have a bunch?  Isn’t $57 pretty reasonable?  Earlier on we determined the “value” of a Facebook fan to be $9.56.  If you spend $57 to attract 1,000 fans, that’d be a (theoretical) profit of $9,503.  Not bad for a $57 investment.

Unfortunately, the only real success you’ll see from this (if any) is in growth numbers.  Taking this to a slight extreme, suppose you’re still in that heavy metal band.  You hire this type of company to give you a thousand new fans.  You get them (maybe), but it’s not targeted.  Now you’ve got an extra thousand followers who are going to do nothing for your band/career.  They might be country music or classical or polka fans, but the actual odds of them liking your music is fairly minimal.  And if they don’t like your music, what’re they really going to do for you?

Some might argue that just having a thousand fans on your page is a justification for other people liking you.  The theory is that you must be good if this many people like you on Facebook.  While that may work for some people, this sheep mentality doesn’t carry much weight when your goal is to actually get folks to your gigs, sell music and merch, and build a real community around your music.

So again, don’t be stupid.  If it was meant to be that easy, you’d already be flying around on your private jet as you go from arena to arena on your sold out world tour.

No Comments

March 10, 2014 , , ,

Does It Work


Does it work?

If you’ve gotten this far, we’re impressed.  But more than that, it means that something resonates with you.  Whether it’s the tips for Facebook or the general “work smart” approach, something compelled you to buy or read this book.

The process of creating “The Analysis of Hype” utilized all of the advice offered within it.  We marketed and promoted the book with all of the tools described, and we tried to (in our own minds) imagine that we were musicians with a new disc coming out.  How would we make create an impression and environment that was conducive to sales and promotion.

First things first, we calculated cost.  How much would it cost to prepare the book (both in time and money), what was the cost to get the product to the consumer (materials, shipping, etc.) and lastly, did we have something that was actually worth putting out.  To that end, we had a portion of the book available for free.  We used those free chapters to measure interest (and yes, drive sales!).

Better than that, anyone who purchases the eBook (which costs the least amount of money) actually brings more money in for us.  The eBook has zero printing, shipping, or handling costs.  It’s “virtual” merchandise and thus 100% profit.

All in all, and to date, the book hasn’t made outrageous amounts of money.  It’s made a respectable profit, but we’re not dialing the Ferrari dealership quite yet.  But, and most importantly, we didn’t lose any money in the process.  The net result is that we’re moving our “career” forward.  That’s what you want as a musician:  every step is a forward one.

We all hope that this has been a helpful experience, and if it has let us know![1]


[1] If it hasn’t, let us know too … just nicely.

No Comments

Direct to Fan
Broads & Narrows
Don’t Be Stupid
Does It Work