Bands are getting more and more enterprising and are increasingly seeing the value of giving their early releases away free of charge. Anyone who’s spent any time reading this blog will know that I approve. Every week I get sent, or stumble across, free releases from independent bands, and I try and make time to listen to, and in some cases review, as many of these as possible. However, often what I’m sent is a link to a page that contains a bunch of links to individual MP3’s. In theory this is fine, MP3’s are what I want as that’s the way that I generally consume music.
The problem is, when presented to me as a list of individual MP3′s, they’re a pain in the arse. I now have to download each track individually, hunt around my hard drive for them to import them into iTunes, then on to my iPod, in the process of which I often loose some. I’ve got limited time to devote to this, my hobby, and I’d rather spend my time listening to the music rather than trying to get the damn things onto my iPod! Once they’re there I often find, sin of ALL sins, the ID3 tags aren’t set properly so I can’t even find the bloody tracks! Grrr! It’s at this point I often give up. Life’s too short.
If you’re going to give your music away free, and reap the potential rewards of free distribution, you need to make it as easy as possible for folks to get a hold of and consume the stuff. Most listeners have a LOT less patience than me, and will simply move on when presented with a page of MP3 links. These are your potential fans, and loosing them at this early stage is just plain idiocy. Here’s a few tips:
(Please tattoo this one on the inside of your eyelids so that you don’t forget)POPULATE THE ID3 DATA!!! I can’t emphasize this more. Put the correct data in the correct fields, correctly spelt. Populate the album field (even if it’s just to say ‘EP’), genre, year the lot. Make sure it’s consistently spelled and formatted across all files. If you don’t know how to do this then find out, or give up. Here’s a tutorial to get you started.
Put all your tracks in a single compressed file with a file name that is human readable and includes band name and album title. No funny file types, zip is fine. If you have it, include high quality album cover and image of the band, and even some sort of introductory preamble which includes URL’s for your Myspace, website etc.
Upload this file to as many places as you can – Mediafire, Rapidshare, Bittorrent, your own website. If the facility is available, include links to your Myspace so people can listen to it before they download.
Now, I actually don’t particularly advise this route if you’re in the business of promoting your album. There are plenty of tools out there to help you distribute and promote your music digitally. Bandcamp, for example, provides a media player so people can hear the music before downloading, as well as a ‘pay what you like’ function – OK, so most folks will pay nothing, but at least you have a chance of making some cash. Soundcloud has some excellent social/promotional functions (you’ll notice that I have a Soundcloud dropbox so that artists can send me tracks). Don’t limit yourself, the internet is a goldmine of (often free) promotional tools. Make it easy for people to hear your music and give it the chance to be loved!
You can not have fail to notice that Myspace is in terminal decline. Barely an update in a year, it has become largely redundant as a social platform as the ubiquitous Facebook outstrips them on every level. And everyone hates it! It’s cluttered with ugly, heavy designs and the music player is flakier than an dandruff ridden scalp. But as a promotional platform for musicians it’s still #1 right? Well not so according to a recent article on paidContent.org which suggests that Myspace is losing the music promotion battle to Google owned online video giant YouTube.
A high-level examination of the top-ten most-played songs makes the shift abundantly clear. During the same period, the ten most-played music videos on YouTube racked 57.3 million views, while the top ten on MySpace Music generated 7.5 million.
OK, so YouTube is a better medium for the big players to reach their audience (if you were looking to hear the latest Metallica track, would you really start with Myspace?), but what about unsigned/independent/underground bands and musicians, is Myspace still a safe bet for them?
The competition in the market is rife, with various new websites that are beating Myspace at their own game and in a more forward thinking, agile and, most importantly, band/consumer friendly way. Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Nimbit all have their own take on social music promotion and streaming. Variously offering full digital download ecommerce, more advanced and portable/embedded streaming, extensive social functions and fresh, flexible layouts. However, for the moment at least, Myspace has something that the rest of the pack (YouTube excepting) don’t have – ubiquity.
Being the pre-eminent destination to ‘check out’ new bands is not something to be sniffed at. Heard of this great band Coffinworm and want to find out what they sound like? Do you go looking for their website? No, you simply type in to Google ‘Coffinworm myspace’ and go check them out there. Every band has one – Myspace is like the Yellow Pages of bands. Even if you weren’t specifically looking for Coffinworm’s Myspace, or any other band, their Myspace is usually the first Google listing you see. The Myspace domain carries a lot of weight, and even though the profile pages are pretty dodgy from an SEO perspective, they tend to rank quickly and highly, usually above the band’s own website. It will take literally years for the competitors to build up that level of Google love.
So bands, as much as you may despise Myspace, and are charmed by Bandcamp’s swanky (and in reality far superior) features, it’s not time to bail on Myspace just yet. However, you can’t spread your promotional effort across Myspace and all the other new players, and neither should you. From a search perspective, centring all your web activity around a single base is absolutely essential lest you should spread your SEO love too thinly. My advice is to attempt a smooth and steady transition to another service, while still keeping your Myspace pretty fresh. Gradually move your SEO focus over to the new profile and centre your promotional activity there only when that starts to rank in the search engine results at a similar level to your Myspace. You’re probably going to have to do this at some point, so why not start now.
Bands just starting out should look at what other bands in their genre are doing. If there is a particularly strong presence on Myspace, then it may be safer to stick with that, but if there’s a real buzz elsewhere then centre your activity there but fire up a Myspace and shove a few tracks on there, as folks will still go looking there and the web presence is generally helpful.
And as for YouTube? Unless you have a promo video, then you’re looking at having to post your tracks with an album cover or some band pics, which is fine, but really you’re shoehorning. Currently, although convenient, it’s not really tailored for the job. YouTube is a really helpful promotional platform, but bands should centre their activity around a site with more focus on doing just that as you’ll soon find YouTube very limiting.
Myspace no longer suits either the bands or the fans, who are voting with their feet, but its death will be slow and painful. It may be that one or more of these rival websites has a trick up its sleeve, or perhaps some well employed venture capital, that will propel it into the general consciousness, until then hedge your bets folks.
There’s been a lot of banter about the relevance of album artwork in the digital age across the metal blogsphere (starting on Metalsucks, then moving to Invisible Oranges). The conversation has generally centered around whether the fans want/need/appreciate album artwork anymore. Many folks don’t buy CD’s or vinyl any more, and those that do often just rip the music for their iPod and file the hard copy away without paying much attention to the packaging or artwork. There are of course others who view an album as a package – 10 or so songs made to be together, with cover artwork, sleeve notes, lyrics etc. – and consume as a whole.
However, in many ways, whether the music buying public want, or feel that they need artwork or not is somewhat beside the point. The fact is, aside from the artistic concerns, artwork has a very practical purpose, which means it’s unlikely to disappear any time soon.
It’s unlikely that bands are going to stop releasing songs in ‘collections’. It makes financial sense to record multiple songs in one session, not to mention that extra cost it would take to promote and market 1 song at a time. Whether you call it an EP, Album or twozzlefangler, this collection will need to be identiified by a ‘label’ – the title – so that people can identify it. But from a marketing and promotional perspective this is simply not enough. This is, after all (wether you like it or not) a product, and products need to be distinct and easily recognisable. Imagine if all that was on every washing powder box was the brand name – no logo, design, mascot, product picture, gimmick - how would you identify one from the next? How would you remember which one was recommended to you, Washomatic or Cleanomatic? Branding professionals have known about differentiators for decades, and the music industry is no different. So bands often have logos, so that people can easily pick them out and identify with them. This is our fist visual cue. But that doesn’t do a very good job of differentiating one album from the next – enter the album artwork.
Death Metal art looks like this dude
At corporate level, all the elements of the album package from the songs, to the logo, to the title to the cover image, are carefully harmonised to portray a particular theme, image, tone. This is called merchandising and it’s take VERY seriously. Merchandising can make or break a record. This merchandising is taken through to marketing – adverts, PR, press kits, live show promotion and is usually reproduced to some level as part of the live show itself.
So when you get your mate to throw together some artwork for your latest EP this is what you are doing – merchandising. It means that you have a way to visually present your collection of songs, so that people can easily identify it in a shop among a bunch of other blackened deathcore CD’s, on Amazon or iTunes Store, and when flicking through the cover flow in their MP3 library. People are more likely to remember the distinctive cover design than the obscure latin album title or your unreadable BM logo.
Read my logo mofo!
It goes further than this though. Album artwork tends to be similar within genres. If you’re a Death Metal band, you probably want to be noticed by Death Metal fans. Death Metal album covers are usually striking, disturbing and immaculately painted by some some disturbed genius. Black Metal covers are usually sparse and colourless. Next time you leaf through Metal Hammer or Terrorizer take note of which adverts you notice – somehow it mysteriously aligns with your music taste…wonder why that is?
In the digital age, where visuals are everything, I’d say that album artwork is more important than ever. Whether you spent hours gazing at it (like I did with Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time artwork when I was a teenager), or merely used it as a reminder when looking for particular album, it had an impact on you, and fulfilled a vital need.
I don’t often act on (or in many cases listen to) unsolicited review requests that arrive via Myspace mail, but the one I received from Fuck the Facts caught my eye. Firstly, they actually bothered to personalise the message, secondly they offered to give out their tracks to anyone who would review (or in any way promote) them, and thirdly they mentioned that they were self releasing. I get countless grammatically dubious mails via Myspace (not to mention the ones via direct email, blog comments, etc.) that say something like “nice profile, hows trix check us out if you get a sec , if not that’s cool” (that’s a real one from a band who shall not be named) and expect me to bother spending time listening to, and reviewing their band when they can’t be bothered to even formally introduce themselves!
By chance I also saw Cosmo Lee’s review on Invisible Oranges so I decided to check them out. The music is an amusing mix of early Dillinger Escape Plan (minus the jazz/spazz) with elements of black and death metal (most notably Morbid Angel) which could broadly be described as Grindcore. A must for fans of Ted Maul and their ilk. It’s short, violent and to the point. Excellent stuff.
What’s more interesting is the way they are releasing it. They’re doing a limited run of 500 copies of the EP on vinyl, the packaging of which is hand made. Anyone who orders it gets a code to go download the the MP3′s for free. This is enterprising and very forward thinking and anyone who’s spent any time reading my overly impassioned musings on self releasing will know that I approve. It also has a real personal touch that will make the hard copies very collectable. The download mechanism is handled by a site called Bandcamp, which is totally new to me. You can stream your music and offer both free and paid downloads (including an option to off ‘pay what you want’) and well as generally promote your band. It’s an interesting service and one that I’m going to write a bit more about – watch this space.
So go give Fuck the Facts a leg up, because this this sort of behaviour should be rewarded!
Things were going just hootingly for the music industry until someone invented MP3’s and spoilt the party. This advent was a veritable boon for the music listening public for whom music became more accessible and portable. It also became cheaper (or, in many cases free) and they weren’t tied to buying albums any more – they could choose which tracks to buy off an album leaving vast volumes of unwanted filler behind. This left the music industry, used to cleaning up by selling full, physical albums at exorbitant prices, somewhat out of pocket. The music industry has bleated, encrypted and litigated its way though the intervening decade before finally deciding to apply a bit of ‘creative’ thinking to the situation. “If they want files for these computer contraption thingies” they say, “let’s give them files”.
Several groups are developing new rich music media file formats that hope to take the act of listening to music into the multimedia age (apparently it didn’t arrive there yet). The resulting formats are, somewhat predictably, predominantly based around full albums. The music industry wants us to buy albums. Albums, they say, are meant to be listened to as a whole. Well that may be true if you’re Mastodon, but considerably less so if you’re Peter André. Reading between the lines of the industry rhetoric it’s clear the bottom line is the order of the day – albums are a lot more profitable. Each of these attempts to recreate the experience of an album in digital format and enrich it further with other extras. So the ‘race’ is on to become the next ubiquitous file format. There are 3 contenders in this valhallan battle. Here I’ll cover each separately.
The iTunes LP
Being the only format already to make it market (launched August 2009) would seem to give them a head start on the pack. However, this evidently hasn’t translated into a resounding success, which is perhaps a sign of the music buying public’s nonchalance regarding such a format, but more likely to be related to the fact that the music industry has something else on the burner and are thus not wasting time releasing on iTunes LP’s. Which bring me on to…
Dubbed CMX (Connected Media Experience – snappy eh?) the music industry’s apparoach to this concept was to club together and throw a bunch of their ill-gotten cash at it. Originally scheduled to launch around the same time as the iTunes LP, presumably to cut them off at the pass, this has now been delayed until ‘quarter 2 2010’. We don’t know the precise details but we do know just enough to say that it is conceptually virtually the same as the iTunes LP, however, already there are obvious flaws that hobble it out of the starting blocks. Firstly, it’s Flash based, so it won’t play on an iPod, and initially probably not on any portable media player. Given the ubiquity of the last decades must have electronic accessory it’s hard to see how CMX can catch on. Secondly, it looks likely that the music will only be playable as part of the CMX file. Which means that it won’t function in iTunes, and you can’t put them on your MP3 player either!
This is still speculation given that the details of CMX have yet to be released. However, given that Apple are unlikely to support this format, and the music industry will not be quick to forsake a format that they’ve poured a load of cash into we would seem to be at a stalemate. But there is a 3rd way…
The new kid on the block it may be, but MusicDNA was created by one of the very arch-criminals responsible for this bloody mess in the first place – Karlheinz Brandenburg co-creator of the MP3. Unlike the iTunes LP and CMX, MusicDNA isn’t merely a repackaging of the digital file format into an album like experience, it has a whiff of the future about it. You see MusicDNA has smarts. It carries a bunch of metadata as per the MPEG-7 standard which carry information on stuff like tempo, instrumentation, mood as well as all the usual stuff, all captured at the point of encoding. This will allow applications like iTunes and services like Pandora and Last.fm to create weird, wonderful, and most importantly, powerful ways to recommend and playlist stuff for you. Also, the MusicDNA file is alive. It contains dynamic components that update when the file is opened. This will allow artists to include stuff like tour dates and blog posts that would always be up to date. You can copy (read pirate) MusicDNA files, and they will play just fine, however this dynamic content will no longer function, a feature which the makers say will help guard against piracy. I’m not so sure.
MusicDNA comes with a plethora of applications to encode and run, as well as the facilities for developers to build their own applications to make use of all its magical features (like iPhone and Facebook apps). It’s also MP3 backwards compatible which means it should play on anything that will play MP3′s (although I’ll believe this when I see it). Although the format made it to market (well, it’s not quite in the wild yet, but has ‘launched’) before the tardy CMX format it currently has no backing from the major labels (although a couple of independent labels are on board) and is unlikely to get it until CMX is abandoned or fails. So, short of a sudden upswell of public demand, MusicDNA would seem to be at a bit of handicap.
The question is, does the world really need a rich, album based file format? Albums are more and more becoming the bastion of hardcore fans, music lovers/collectors and audiophiles. In all cases, owning a physical copy of the album is usually the order of the day. In the latter two, audio quality is a key concern, something that none of these formats tackle. Barring the spaceage extras that accompany MusicDNA, all these extras are already available, usually offered as a DVD, with premium copies of the physical equivalents, so immediacy is all they’ve really got going for them. It’s difficult to see this becoming a Betamax vs. VHS or HD DVD vs. Blue Ray style standoff – all those formats offered features not previously available. MusicDNA is the only format with the differentiators to make it a viable alternative to the ubiquitous MP3 (and indeed AAC), but are these value adds really enough to sway the hardcore as well as change the general record buying public’s buying habits? It seems unlikely.
In addition to this, there are signs that the MP3 itself could soon become obsolete as vast numbers of music consumers are moving to increasingly mobile streaming services like (music industry sponsored) Spotify.
The final nail in these foetus’s coffins is the fact that these files will almost certainly be charged at a premium. Given that the music buying public are hard pressed to pay anything for their music, it seems a stretch to expect them to fork out more. When you add to that the fact that, due to the extra effort and expense (not to mention expertise) involved in producing these formats, smaller record labels and self releasers will unlikely bother, these formats would seem to be a lost cause.
In the end, all this talk of recreating the album experience is somewhat moot. It’s unlikely that CD’s and vinyl are likely become obsolete any time soon and simply recreating this experience in digital form is fulfilling a need that doesn’t exist for anyone other than the record labels. Albums have a place in the future of music consumption, but it’s not the form that the music takes that is going to evolve, it’s very way we discover and experience music. I’ll tackle this in subsequent articles.
Whilst recovering from the festive indulgent customary at this time of year I happened to find myself watching the 3rd installment of the Ice Age franchise which we bought as a Christmas present for my kid. The film itself is reasonably diverting which is nice, because I’ll be forced to endure it many many more times. More interesting than this animated child fodder is the fact that distributor has chosen to include a digital copy of the film on the DVD and are openly encouraging folk to stick it on their laptop and iPod to enjoy on the go. Now you may remember that this is precisely the sort of behaviour I have been suggesting for the music industry. It makes some sense to include either a digital copy with the CD/Vinyl or a promo code to download it for free – after all, the vast majority of buyers will simply rip the CD before they even listen to it. The latter option seems like a terrific opportunity for further cross sell and upsell as the download site would be crammed with advertising. Bands could even withhold hidden tracks or downloadable extras to incentivise fans to download rather than rip it.
I’ll be interested to see whether a) this becomes common practice for film and TV distribution and b) whether the (infuriatingly retarded) music industry will take the cue and start doing the same. We can only hope.
I was in the unenviable situation this past week of not having a copy of the new Baroness album. This sort of situation is not usually a big issue, but this particular time it left me in an existential quandary that lead me to yet more pondering on the nature of music retail.
You see, I want the physical copy. Specifically I want the CD. This CD would immediately be ripped directly to MP3 and unceremoniously injected onto my iPod. But having a physical copy is still important to me. I place a certain value in this, not least with a band like Baroness who have such delightful artwork.
So having not had the forethought to pre-order and finding the HMV cupboard predictably bare I was left either having to wait a couple of days for a copy from Amazon, listening to it on Myspace, downloading from iTunes or ‘borrowing’ a copy from one of those lovely fire-sharing sites. Now, I don’t want to pay twice, and I simply cannot wait. Myspace isn’t an option as I need it on my iPod so I can listen on the go. Spotify is potentially an option, but I’ll have to use my iPhone for that, and the battery only last 73 seconds, and I need that for the making/taking calls. So I’m left with the prospect of having to ‘borrow’ it for a few days while ordering off the web. What sort of a situation is this to find myself in in the digital age?
What would be really handy is if someone would sell the CD online and then give me the MP3’s to be getting on with while I wait. I don’t want to be charged extra for this, I’ve already paid for the music. However, decoupling the music from the physical product has some interesting theoretical consequences. Let’s deconstruct this situation a little.
Basically, what I want is the music. To accompany that music I would like a physical item. In this case it’s a CD, but it could be a record, tape, USB stick, a tuneful midget with the music memorised, whatever. In the modern age, there’s no real need to have anything actually contain the music for an individual. The vast majority of people don’t need CD’s any more than they need the bottle containing the beer, it just so happens to be one medium for transporting the stuff inside.
So the situation that we’re in is that people choose to ‘attach’ a CD to their music purchase. Or put another way, they buy a CD which comes (conveniently) with some music on it. But why are obsolete (in the practical sense) music containing objects the only choice of ‘thing’ that comes as an accompaniment to the music? Why not t-shirts, posters, books, shoes, branded luxury leather recliner etc.? The record companies have a vested interest in getting you to buy stuff from them, and especially walking-billboard/culture items like t-shirts. This way they incentivise people to buy from them (rather than ‘stealing’ the music) as well as getting that person in a purchase cycle with them – which is potentially the most valuable aspect here.
So why not offer MP3 + CD packages? (and thus solving my immediate need) But also offer MP3 + t-shirt packages, or with records or hats or hat stands or gig tickets or books or comics or all of the above in a single transaction. Why not sell t-shirts in shops with a memory stick with the music. Hell, give the actual CD away with the t-shirt, but without the cover or any fancy packaging.
People could just go to iTunes and buy the album, but why not just buy a t-shirt and get the album for ‘free’? Of course you could make more money by selling both, but don’t kid yourself on how many folks would bother buying a t-shirt once they’ve bought the music, and if you ask me, a t-shirt sale is more valuable than a music sale.
In the end I ‘borrowed’ the music and the bought the album on vinyl, which costs more than the CD that I would have otherwise bought. I’m struggling to see where Baroness lost out here….
So your adoring fan base has swarmed to your website and signed up to your mailing list. You also got a bunch of email addresses at your last gig. Before you start firing off tantalizing epistles documenting your drunken studio antics and news of your drummer’s breakup with his girlfriend (gotta keep the groupies happy, right?) let me urge you to exercise a little restraint, and think about how you intend to use your entrusting fans’ details.
When you hear big companies talking about ‘marketing campaigns’ they’re not merely referring to the latest stupid advert aimed at coercing you to buy their shit washing powder. A campaign is usually a targeted schedule of communication and grouping of themed marketing that is being enacted for a specific reason. Marketing campaigns are rarely begun with the sole directive of ‘selling more stuff’ although that is usually the ultimate goal. More likely, a high up exec noticed that they were selling well to the under 30’s, so they designed a campaign specifically aimed at selling to that demographic. Other reasons may be a new product launch, basic product awareness (perhaps of the back of poor sales versus a competitor), acquiring new customers, or selling more to existing customers. All these goals require very different campaigns and modes of communication.
You should think of your communications to your fans in a similar context. So before sending out a single email, ask yourself, ‘what is it that I’m trying to achieve?’ Perhaps you’re just about to go on tour, and you want to get people to gigs. Maybe you’re just about to release a new EP or album. You may just be interested in striking a rapport with your fans. Maybe what you want is a bigger email list. Perhaps you want to all of the above.
The next question to ask yourself is “what does success look like?” There’s little point in a campaign that achieves nothing, and understanding the specific goals you want to achieve is vital when constructing your campaign. Some possible outcomes are:
Gig ticket sales, or higher attendance
Hits to your Myspace or website
Downloads of your new track(s)
Signups to your mailing list
Album sales CD or iTunes
Beers bought for you by fans post-gig
Mentions on other sites (blogs, review sites, news sites etc.)
Ego boost, attention from ladies/guys/both etc.
It’s likely that several of the above are important to you. So state your objectives, and write them down somewhere, you’ll need to refer back to this when making decision about how to conduct your campaign – if something you’re doing doesn’t contribute to these goals, should you really be doing it?
The next dimension to consider is time. There are key dates in your band’s diary that are important in this endeavour: album release date, tour dates, band t-shirts get delivered, interview/review appears in some magazine. Communications to your fans should mean something to the fans and should be delivered at the right time to be relevant to the corresponding event. If the only email you send advertising your new album release is sent 6 weeks before it’s available, then that message will be lost or forgotten. Conversely, you need to give people plenty of advance warning for gigs, but you don’t want to tell them until the tickets are actually available.
So perhaps you’ve got a new album coming out, a short tour to support this, and t-shirts with the album cover on the front being sold online and at the gigs. This calls for a well structured email campaign, as there’s quite a lot going on. Before you set down a single word of an email, write down a schedule for those events and corresponding communications to the fan base. Your campaign summary may look something like this (except with realistic dates!):
Oct 1st – Recording/mixing finishes Oct 7th – Initial teaser email send to tell the fanbase about the album
Oct 10th – t-shirts available
Oct 14th – Pressing finishes, hard copies delivered Oct 15th – 2nd email drop with album releases date and artwork, track listing and links to buy t-shirts and pre-order album
Oct 20th – Tour dates confirmed, tickets available Oct 22nd – 3rd email drop, tour dates, ticket sources, album, release date, t-shirt link
Nov 1st – Album released Nov 1st – 4th email drop with links to buy album, t-shirts, tour dates etc.
Nov 15th – 5th Email drop to remind folks who didn’t buy your. Remind about the tour
Nov 17th – tour begins
This is the campaign you will execute to. Don’t send ANY other emails. Be wary of communicating release dates early on, or until they’re absolutely committed to, otherwise you’ll have to send out an embarrassing retraction. Early teaser emails should say something like “touring before the end of the year” or “in the shops this spring”.
The emails’ design, colour scheme and construction should be consistent throughout the campaign. Also, make sure it’s obvious what to click on or where to go to get the stuff you’re advertising (these are called ‘calls to action’ in business speak).
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you could accompany this with a purely online campaign, using your website, Twitter, Myspace or whatever, to try and coerce new punters to your Fanbridge/Reverb Nation site and thus widen your audience for the big release.
Campaigns can get infinitely more complicated than this, however it’s always important not to overstate your message or saturate your audience. Always revisit your objectives and why you are communicating with your fans, and ask yourself before sending any emails “do they really care?”
That’s quite a lot to take in. I’ll leave you to digest for a while!
While I seem to have found myself in the position of giving advice to aspiring bands on how best to use and abuse these new-fangled interwebs, I’ve yet to be particularly active in these pursuits myself. So in an attempt to ‘put my money where my mouth is’, so to speak, I’ve devised The Inevitable Nose Metal Mixtape. There’s nothing particularly new about the concept – a compilation of music from new bands – and the only ‘cutting edge’ thing involved is the use of Soundcloud (more on this in a later article). I merely intend to practise what I preach, and attempt to draw some attention to unsigned metal bands that are worthy of it.
So, demand permitting, I’m going to put together a regular mixtape of (mostly) downloadable tracks, which will also stream from this site, with ‘cover notes’ including a review of the band by your’s truly and links off to the bands’ sites/Myspaces. I’ll then employ all my best CRM, SEO and PPC strategies (and whatever other corporate marketing acronyms I can find) to drive some traffic to the mixtape.
Bands wishing to appear on the mixtape just need to commit to the inclusion of a single track, read the T&C’s and follow instructions here. The selection of tracks for the mixtape assumes a level of quality (both technically and artistically) so not everyone band submitted will make it on. There will be a broad range of styles and sub-genres but it will all be at the heavier end of the rock/metal/*core scale. Reviews will represent any tracks up on Myspace as well as the track submitted.
The first mixtape will be delivered as soon as I have 10 or so tracks of sufficient quality to release. Subscribers to my newsletter will receive notification when it’s available.
Sign up to our mailing list
However, for this to work, I need bands to submit themselves, so please pass this on to any bands that you think may be interested.
There was an excellent example of CRM building up to the release of Alice in Chains’ new album Black Gives Way to Blue. Here’s what they did:
Introduced some teaser videos onto the internet for the their new track thus creating buzz
Several days later they made the full video available
At roughly the same time they made the track available free online for fans once they submitted their email address
Several weeks later these fans were sent correspondence regarding the release date of their new album, plus info about merch available
Soon after they advertised that the album would by available for pre-sales, and that anyone who purchased the album on pre-sale would receive another track off of the album immediately for free
When the album was release they sent more email with details of where to get the album and more merchandising links
The buzz around Black Gives Way to Blue was immense. Before the album was released they had sold a bunch of albums and load of merch, and fans suspicious of a band returning without their revered frontman are now singing along with the new singer and material at gigs.
Make no mistake, this is exemplary music marketing – marketing of ANY kind. AIC had a hard job ahead of them, after being away for over a decade, to convince a bunch of fans already suspicious of the whole venture that they were still relevant. Well they certainly took the risk out of the situation!
This approach was clearly tailored for the needs of a massive band, but the same principles apply to any band. The 3 basic steps are:
Announce your presence
Locate your fans
Talk to them
Step 1 and 3 I’ll cover off in a later article. Here I’ll concentrate on step 2 as you need to give it a little forethought before you plough into this endeavour.
So when people turn up at your gig, or website or Myspace, you need to be ready to try and grab some information about them.
Now, I’m going to talk explicitly about email in this article. In theory, any detail you can get about your fans is useful (for example Twitter/Facebook/Myspace account, address, phone number, favourite bands, shoe size, propensity to put out) but email is still the most versatile, powerful and easy to exploit, plus pretty much everyone has an email address.
Ideally you want email address and name (first, and preferably full), but just email address is fine. There are various ways to grab this info.
At gigs. Put a sheet of paper on the merch counter to get folks to sign up for your mailing list. Consider offering an incentive for this, perhaps a free button badge, or a discount voucher for the next gig.
Folks you run into. You’re always banging on about your band to whoever will listen, at parties and stuff, right? Folks sound interested? GET THEIR EMAIL! Wake up next to that random chick who’s wearing nothing but your AC/DC socks? Decided you never want to see her again? I don’t care, GET HER EMAIL!
Collect it online. I saw a particularly good example of an unsigned band doing this recently. The most excellent prog-metalers Stone Circle announced via Twitter that they are giving away a free MP3 from their current EP, and more free stuff to come, to anyone who will sign up to their mailing list using a service called FanBridge. This site exists for the explicit purpose of collecting an managing email lists for bands. They offer a bunch of tool to manage your email campaigns and I’ll be referencing them a LOT in upcoming articles. Do go and sign-up to Stone Circle’s FanBridge list by the way – they will get signed soon and will probably stop giving away their excellent music.
So you’ve got a bunch of email addresses, what do you do with them? This I will cover in more detail in later articles, but for the moment, you need to store them somewhere. The first thing to do is transfer details collected in the real world to you computer, preferably into MS Excel (if you or your folks don’t have a copy, try Google Docs which has a free online spreadsheet) and save somewhere safe. FanBridge will let you upload lists of fan detail from Excel, so if you have an account this is a good idea.
For details collected at gigs, note the town that the gig was in as part of the details you collect. Later, when you’re telling folks about your tour, you won’t need to spam people in Brighton about your gig in Glasgow; you can create a separate email for each town or area.
Now, before you get too excited and start spamming your list with random photos of the band getting drunk, beware the evils of excessive email. If people don’t like what you send them, they’ll simply mark your email address as spam, and all further mails from your email address will be relegated to the junk mail folder. Before you send out any email at all, you need to plan your email campaign based on what you need to get out of it. This we will discuss in the next article. In the meantime, get collecting kiddies!