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.  They can wobble.  They won’t fall down, but they may not do everything you want them to either.

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 and 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 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.

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My Arsenal