December 31, 2008

Internet Music Promotion (pt3)

So here we have it, the final part of my Berklee assignment a few weeks ago that discussed the good and bad sides of a strong internet identity, based on this article from the NY Times. In this final section we discussed how to apply the lessons learned to your own music career promotion, and I thought these would make good tips for you to follow too. Just in time for the Holidays!

Adhering to learn from this article and the example artists given, I feel revitalised in my Indie stance and very positive about the online marketing possibilities. It reinforces some of what i do already, and has helped me ‘brush up’ on how I can achieve further. I will be careful regarding the personal depth of my blogging, and try and strike the right balance between the 'exclusive' information that my fans want, and not 'ruining the aura' that an artist should have. I will aim to achieve, as Thomson described one artist's approach, "a nuanced ability to seem authentic and confessional without spilling over into a Britney Spears level of information overload".

I like the ideas that both Coulton and OK Go embraced; their 'song a week' and 'treadmill-dance video' respectively. While it would not be good practice to copy these too closely, I feel that what they do preach to me is the importance of how viral the internet can be, and it's possible subsequent explosion in fan numbers. This is something I aim to use in my career for certain, and i see it as a vital part of a low-budget musician’s armory.

Something else to take away from the article, is when Thompson states that of the artists he interviewed, "many of them also said that staying artistically “pure” now requires the mental discipline of a ninja". This kind of need for focus and discipline is something I consider myself to be currently good at, maybe even approaching a trainee ninja level, and it is something that I intend to maintain in the future.

One comment that Thompson made really hit home for me; "It seems likely that the artists who forge direct access to their fans have the best chance of figuring out what the new economics of the music business will be". I see this as ringing very true, as these artists are adapting and evolving with the music industry, and collaborating with new media entrepreneurs and technologies all the time to produce fresh, innovative ideas and business plans. Proof of this is even included later in the article, as it mentions that Coulton has set up deals without any record label contract involved, and "uses a growing array of online tools to sell music directly to fans". Various online companies offer opportunities to not just distribute the music digitally to popular online stores, but they can also store physical CDs, process credit card payments and then ship the CD out. Interaction between forward-thinking artists and companies like this shows that an online promotional route really can be a successful one for Indie artists.

This new route to success is only achievable when "the artist has the correct emotional tools"; I believe that I have, and I aim to project myself as part of the new breed of empowered independent artists (Lee Jarvis 2.0 ?), fully embracing the new wave of internet consumers and contributors, along with the opportunities that it provides.

Happy Holidays, and check back in the ’09 for more blog posts from the UK Music Jobs team :)

Lee Jarvis.

December 17, 2008

Internet Music Promotion (pt2)

Following on from last week’s post discussing the pros of internet marketing from a NY Times article by Clive Thompson, here are a few of the cons that are worth considering when you promote your music career online...

One of the drawbacks that interested me most from this article, is the fact that artists could be "ruining their own aura by blogging". I can definitely see the validity of this point - rock stars have often been 'untouchable' and the pedestal on which they perform is part of the reason that fans adore them. Remove this, and all of a sudden they are a bit less rock-n-roll and a bit more tea-n-biscuits. One interviewed band member even goes as far to say that "the intimacy of the Internet has made post-show interactions less intimate and more guarded", speaking after one comment to a fan was later quoted online and spread like wildfire. Being burnt from this interaction, he now keeps his comments muted and possible more 'banal'.

Obsessing over the numbers after a successful online campaign can drive you crazy. The belief that if 10 people commented on one record and no-one did on the follow-up means that the latter track was a failure can torture an artist. Coulton would "rack his brains trying to figure out why people loved those particular songs so much", and the pressure of trying to achieve the same numbers would "sort of ruin me for a few weeks" he says. Sticking with Coulton and his promotional peaks, his biggest spike in traffic to his Web site was after he appeared on NPR’s 'Weekend Edition Sunday', something that he thinks "proves how powerful old-fashioned media still are". He has a very good point, old-fashioned media aren't completely dead, and maybe "there’s no way to use the Internet to vault from the B-list to the A-list. If A-list celebrity status is what you are after, then you could consider this another drawback of online promotion.

A major negative is the "relentless and often boring slog of keyboarding". Coulton "hunkers down for up to six hours of nonstop and frequently exhausting communion with his virtual crowd" pretty much everyday, and I can certainly relate to that kind of commitment to maintain my online presence, without as big an established crowd (simultaneous yet smaller fan-base DJ / producer / pseudonym producer / remixer / blogger / marketing careers will easily eat up my working week). It certainly is tiresome, but a necessary evil if you will. It could be argued that this keyboarding is taking time away from the artist being creative, and possibly even eating away at their creativity itself. Many would agree that it is "precisely the sort of administrative toil that people join rock bands to avoid", which voices another well raised point in this article.

Having called it a 'necessary evil', it is also addicting in an empowering way. Retaining ultimate control over your career is a strong pull, and as Coulton states “I think I’m addicted to running my own show now.” This addiction could also be seen as a positive or a drawback, depending on how much you enjoy the control / dread the responsibility / what kind of day you have ;)

Finally, next week, I’ll discuss how you can apply the lessons learned by the artists in the article to your music career and develop a strong online strategy ready for success in 2009!

Lee Jarvis.

Cross-posted at UK Music Jobs

December 10, 2008

Internet Music Promotion (pt1)

There was a discussion posted over at the Berklee Online Music Marketing course the other week that really struck a chord with me (no pun intended). It resulted in a rather lengthy reply, but of some value (it earned me a good grade so I assume there's some good content here). We were asked to read this article over at the NY Times and then asked to consider all of the Internet tactics used by the artists featured and discuss what we felt to be the most positive aspects of online music promotion covered, along with the drawbacks of Internet promotion and in what ways we could you use some of these techniques to market our own music. Much of it is relevant to the advice on Music Jobs, and in part 1 here I mainly discuss the positive aspects of a strong online strategy. Enjoy...

One of the big positives of online promotion is the interaction an artist has with their fans. In the past it was rarely possible to connect with them as often or as strongly; it was mainly a passing comment or autograph at a show. Nowadays, fans think it nothing to send their idols an email or blog comment, sometimes simple but sometimes quite deep and meaningful. As Coulton realised, "his fans do not want merely to buy his music. They want to be his friend". The connection with fans can be inspiring and give an artist creative (and other) motivation. I think there is another very important positive here because, as Thompson writes, fans can be a "promotion department" for an artist. They record videos at shows and distribute them online, they re-blog and link to digital stores in order to assist record sales, they tell friends on social networking sites about upcoming concerts. Having a good relationship with fans also enables new strategies such as Coulton's "flash mob approach to touring". Playing at lesser known towns that not only have a strong local following, but are also a good mid-way point between other cities with additional fans, means that he can play one very good gig and earn well from it, rather than a possibly financially uncertain, and sometimes unrewarding long drawn-out tour schedule.

Online media may be a relatively new thing, but it has fast become the norm with the young 'Generation-Y' music consuming public. "Fans aren’t hearing about bands from MTV or magazines anymore; fame can come instead through viral word-of-mouth, when a friend forwards a Web-site address, swaps an MP3, e-mails a link to a fan blog or posts a cellphone concert video on YouTube". I feel this statement shows just how important it is to be a part of the change in the industry; fans are in online chatrooms swapping links, no longer at a record fairs swapping notes in notebooks. It really should be a key part of any artist's marketing strategy, and it has certainly created "a fresh route to creative success". Thompson writes, regarding the rapid success of Scene Asthetic on Myspace, "This sort of career arc was never previously possible. If you were a singer with only one good song, there was no way to release it independently on a global scale — and thus no way of knowing if there was a market for your talent". Myspace provided that platform, and the band embraced it. This success, although rare, is completely possible of all online artists, and a very good argument for the positives of online marketing.

Another plus of the online promotion route is the cost. Although the article doesn't directly mention the fact that the online social networks are a great free tool for hardworking newcomers, it does point out that "This is not a trend that affects A-list stars. The most famous corporate acts — Justin Timberlake, Fergie, BeyoncĂ© — are still creatures of mass marketing, carpet-bombed into popularity by expensive ad campaigns and radio airplay." As we have all learnt by now, this type of marketing approach is not viable or effective for new artists and extremely expensive.

Check back soon for part 2 and the negative impacts that you should be aware of!

Lee Jarvis.

Cross-posted at UK Music Jobs

December 05, 2008

Selling records on iTunes


I've covered a bit recently on AC/DC dropping iTunes because of Apple's requirement to sell album tracks individually and the band's belief that this is wrong. Well, assuming that you aren't a rock supergroup that can strike up a great physical distribution deal, iTunes could be on your list of download sites, and using it to sell your records, possibly through a digital distributor, could be a great way to boost your digital sales. A site that has sold over 5 billion songs cannot be ignored.

For a start, no-one makes as much......

Read the full post here:

Lee Jarvis.