Archive for February 2010

Light the Path for Others: An Experiment in Being Genuinely Helpful

February 26, 2010

Photo Credit: CharityWatch.org

I want you to run a little experiment, so I’m keeping this post short.

To start, pick one of these things.  Then do it:

1.  Use and share your contacts to help a friend or neighboring band secure a show out of town or at a venue they are having trouble getting into.

2.  Promote another band’s record or upcoming show on your social media sites, mailing list, or website – and link to it for people to check it out.

3.  Donate money from one of your shows to a local cause or struggling high school music program.

Repeat over the next few weeks.  Be genuine about it.  Expect NOTHING in return.

Watch what happens 😉  It’ll kind of blow you away.

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Artists: STOP Social Media Shouting

February 24, 2010

I was browsing my blog drafts and I stumbled upon the title above.  In the body of the draft, I had only typed this below:

(talk about one way un-engaging bands that only promote themselves)

What did I mean by that?  A couple of different things actually – Here is part one (notice the ALL CAPS):

CHECK OUT OUR NEW RECORD!!!  TELL ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS!!!

WE NEED MORE FANS!!  THE FIRST PERSON TO SUGGEST US TO ALL THEIR FRIENDS WINS A CD!!!

Other variations include:  Come to our show, etc.

Whether or not you believe in promoting community, you shouldn’t be doing this.  It sucks and people hate it.  And it WILL NEVER sway ANYONE to check out your music.

Part two has more to deal with the bands that only “broadcast” on these mediums.

Yep – I’m talking about the band that links up their twitter to their facebook and never checks their twitter to respond or engage with people.

I’m talking about the groups that only post things on Facebook/Twitter about THEIR band about THEIR shows.

Throw rocks at me if you want – but the guys and gals doing this aren’t even getting the half of what these mediums are about.

To the experts that may read this, I know I’m not saying anything groundbreaking here.  I’m not trying to blow anyone’s mind with this post.  But this has to be brought up repeatedly.  STOP SHOUTING AND STOP TALKING ABOUT YOURSELF.

I’m sure by now you have heard the old cocktail party analogy?  It’s kind of beat up and played out, but it is so true.  Would you go to your friends house and talk about your band all night?  Of course not, even your friends would tell you to shut up after awhile.

So don’t do it in Social Media circles either.

For every one post/tweet you send out about yourself – you should be posting at least two things about someone else. And in my opinion it should be more.

You should be taking the time to comment on things other people have posted.

The golden rule is that you should lift others up around you and by doing so they will lift you up with them.

You need to take time to engage with people more.  Retweet their stuff on twitter.  Share their stuff on facebook.  Suggest local music, local shows, etc.

Guess what will happen when you start doing this?  Your followers and fans will grow.  They will see you as someone who wants to be part of the day to day conversation.  They will be more apt to spread your message.

Plus, if you are still totally into what you will directly get out of this, think about it like this:  when you “share” something on facebook it shows up in the news feed giving people an opportunity to see you and fan you.  When you @-link someone in your status update, it shows up on their page – again, giving their crowd a chance to see you and fan you.

CAUTION:  Do Not Abuse the @ Link thing.  Too much of it CAN be annoying to people and appear “fake” just like spam.

We have come a long way in a short time with these social communities which means the way we interpret communication while we are using them has come a long way.  Conversation on these mediums mirrors real day to day conversation more than it ever has.

Here is what it boils down to for me:  Facebook and Twitter are communication tools.  Just like a telephone, email, video chat, etc.  The reason some people struggle in these mediums is that they treat them like promotional tools.

No one wants to be promoted to anymore.  As an audience we have too many choices.  We are jaded to shallow tactics and see right through them.

Just talk to people.  Promote them, be helpful, shut up and listen every once in awhile.  Then, start throwing your stuff in from time to time.

Your Second Most Important Marketing Tool: Thank You Cards

February 19, 2010

If you have been reading this blog the last month or so you have probably started to notice a theme. RELATIONSHIPS.

Why do I focus on relationships so much? Or wait, let me pose another question.

Remember when you first started playing music? Who were the only people who would come see you?

Yep, YOUR FRIENDS. And maybe a couple friends of your friends.

As our fanbases grow, why do we get away from this? Why are we drawn to this concept of blindly blasting our music to as many ears as possible?

Why do we “Pray and Spray” with our press releases HOPING that the local mag will pick up on it?

Enough questions Dave.

Yea, well I’m in a philosophical mood.

Ok, I’ll work towards my point.

I’m kind of a Bob Baker groupie from back in the day. Bob is a publisher himself and used to run a local mag in St. Louis. One of the most important things I learned from him was to send people thank you notes.

This is even more important now than it was 3 years ago, when I started doing it.  Why?

Because everything is so digital now that it makes it too easy just to send an email, tweet, or a facebook message.

Wanna stand out from the crowd and show you really care?  How about a hand written note? Yes, HAND WRITTEN.

Here do this:

1. Visit a site like JakPrints.com or iPrint.com and order postcards (Not affiliate links)

2. Put your band’s logo/web address/etc. on it as the design

3. Leave one side blank

4. Order a TON of them

5. You can use them as a “thank you.” You can use them as a follow up note. You can use them as another great way to touch somebody (get your mind out of the gutter, yea mine went there for a sec.).

It’s all about the touches, man.  “The 10 Touches” to be exact.  If you want to set aside all this relationship mumbo-jumbo and go at it from a  strict marketing perspective – factor these postcards as a “touch tools”.

I’m sounding all pervy now, but you get the point.

Local or out of town radio station book you to come on air?  Send them a thank you note. Alternative mag review your record?  Send the journalist a thank you note with a certificate for a burrito.

Time to stop acting like these people owe you something.

If thank you cards are the second most important marketing tool, then what is the first?  YOUR MUSIC.  Obvious right?  Then why do so many still insist on spending less time writing and more time looking for that magic answer to new fans?

The magic answer is a great song.  Then a genuine “thank you” to the people who choose to stop and listen.

A few weeks ago I wrote a little about this in a blog about sending press releases.

Content Quality Doesn’t Matter, Worry About the Context

February 16, 2010

My brother stuck in perfection paralysis

Ok – yea quality does matter some, but here is what I mean:

Don’t spend all day and night trying to get that video of you guys in the studio looking like it was put together by James Cameron.

Just record the damn thing, edit accordingly, and get it up on your site.

And I’m not just talking about with videos.  Same goes with blogs and yes, even your music.  Bruce Springsteen recorded one of the most heart wrenching albums of all time on a four track recorder (Nebraska).  By all accounts, the quality of the record is horrible, but the songs are placed in the right context – so you don’t really pay attention to the quality.

YOU END UP PAYING ATTENTION TO THE STORY.

That is part of what is so beautiful about working hard to build this totally indie career.  Because you are constantly adding value to the relationship with your fans, you start to build this amazing amount of trust with them.  They start to genuinely care about you as a person.  So in the end, they only really care about your story.

That said, I’m not saying you should forget about producing great looking and sounding stuff.  I’m just trying to push you past getting stuck in perfection paralysis.

You know those guys that are still working on their record almost 3 years later?  Perfection Paralysis.

Or how about when your lead singer is on his 10th vocal take?  Perfection Paralysis.

I promise you, that 10th vocal take isn’t going to be better than the 2nd.  That extra hour you spend editing video isn’t going to cause your video to go viral.

If you are satisfied with the story the content tells, get the stuff out there and let it breath.

Bands Should Review Other Bands Like Authors Review Authors…

February 11, 2010

Sort of a clumsy headline, but think about that. Authors LOVE to get their name and quote on the back of a new title.

Why don’t more bands do this?

Think for a second if you got 10 of the best bands in the state to review your album for their fans. And not only a review – but take a page out of the Seth Godin Linchpin promotional campaign and do video reviews/interviews with other bands and artists.

Think about all the direct access to thousands of real music lovers you would have in a matter of days.

There are studies abound that prove the worth of an initiative like this.  A recent one by Edelman, says that trust in referrals from “friends” is down to 25% from 45%Meaning – people are starting to get back to trusting the experts.

Who are the music experts?  YOU.  The people who play and write the music.

Whether you know it or not, people look to you for your taste in music.  So join up with a group of bands and review/suggest each other’s records to your respective fans.

Here are some easy things you could try when you come across a local group or record you like:

1.  Ask to get together with them for a video interview.  Do a local version of an “Artist on Artist” show.  Upload it to Youtube and distribute via your social sites to your respective fan bases – be sure to plug your band and site in case the vid takes off and goes viral.

2.  Do a Q&A type interview for your band blog.  You’ve seen them in the local e-zines before.

3.  Start a Local Scene Podcast.  Upload it to iTunes, etc.  Also – media outlets have already started looking to the everyman content producer for show content.  It isn’t out of the question for a local radio station to pick up on your podcast and schedule it to run every day or week.

4.  Record a quick video of you talking about the band’s record.  It is kind of imperative that you don’t pull a “reverse spam” technique and just start plugging every record in town just to get your name out there.  And remember – this should be a “suggestion” to your fanbase more than a record review.  You are telling your “fans” about a great new local band that you like.

5.  Play shows with the bands you plug. This is really powerful, I’m serious.  I have seen and been a part of some HUGE local shows where bands have TRULY pooled their fanbases.  And by “truly” I mean that all the fans were genuine fans of each band.  All the fans stuck around for the duration of the show.

Listen.  You know all those cool shows you saw growing up?  All the shows highlighting artists and bands in the light you wanted to see them in?  Everything from performance to backstage interviews, etc.?

You have the power to do that yourself now.

We are the broadcasters of the world now.  We are the radios.  We are the televisions.  It used to be decided for us by mass media outlets who was good and who was worth listening to.  NOT ANYMORE.

Now YOU decide.

With the click of a button you can send off a video interview that could possibly be seen by thousands and result in albums sold for your buddy, bringing you one step closer to a tighter more relevant scene.

Think of it like this:  Through Twitter, Ashton Kutcher can directly send news to more people than CNN.

Take advantage of that, please?

p.s.  The video “Linchpin” link above is from David Meerman Scott’s Web Ink Now site.  I’ll talk more about this in another post – but start following some of the new marketing experts.  They will give you a ton of ideas.  Scott, in particular has massive amounts of free material.

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twitter:  @davemhuffman

STOP Astroturfing. Create REAL Fans with REAL Content.

February 9, 2010

Quickly defined, “Astroturfing” is creating “fake buzz” about your band or product.  This has always existed in one form or another.  Take for example the stories of record execs visiting local record stores to buy up all the product in an effort to make it appear as if their act moved a ton of records.

When forums first came about, bands would create alternate ID’s to go in and talk up their music in an attempt to stir up some buzz.

It’s fake. Just like Astro-turf It has no roots.  Just like Astroturf.  So it is easily removed and replaced with something else.

Lately, I’ve been seeing some businesses use this approach. I’ve also been running into bands that still use this approach, and it has been mainly taking place on Facebook.

Tell me if this looks familiar:

“Get all of your friends to post how much they like our band and leave it as your status update for an hour!”

Look, I’m no guru or anything. I don’t claim to be an expert…ok, maybe I do claim to be an “expert”.  😉

But don’t you think it is much more organically powerful to create REAL content that people can share to spread your message?

That’s a rhetorical question.  IT IS MORE POWERFUL.

Here is what I mean by real content

1.  Videos of you performing acoustic cover songs or originals and posting to Youtube/Vimeo so your fans can easily embed and share.  Videos of you on the road, backstage, soundcheck, doing comedy skits.  Check out Guster’s Joe’s Place Webisodes for a perfect example.  Jakob Freely (my band) did some of these while recording our last full length.  Click Here to view that one.

2.  Blogs, blogs, and more blogs:  I started blogging in 2004.  By 2005, it was the most popular page on my website.  I told REAL stories from my life and the road.  It gave “fans” more access to me and when I saw them at shows, it gave us an opportunity to talk about things other than music and build a stronger relationship in the process.

3.  Demo & Live Recordings:  Aside from a Flip type video camera of some sort, the best investment you can make in your bands web content strategy is a ZOOM Handy Recorder.  Record demos, shows, rehearsals.  Put them all up on your website for free download.  I can’t stress this enough and I am BLOWN AWAY when people resist.  People will still buy your music…stop resisting giving some of it away.  BE GENEROUS.  It will come back to you ten fold.

Listen, or uh read:  Quality over Quantity.  Now repeat that.  QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.  You want quality fans.  This is the only way you are going to get them.  By being there for them and “rewarding” them with 24/7 access to you and your music.

Show me an artist with even 1,000 hardcore fans and I’ll show you an artist with a very meaningful and lasting career.

We can go much deeper with this, but I’ll stop here for now.  The meaning of this post was to get you to realize that “fake buzz” does nothing more than satisfy your own ego.

Create talk that has some real roots attached to it…

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Twitter:  @davemhuffman

Quickest Route to New Fans: CONNECT WITH THE CONNECTORS

February 4, 2010

Source: Voxpopdesign.com

What IS a Connector

Before I go any further, let me suggest that you read The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell; it is where all this “connector” talk is coming from as I am only going to scratch the surface.  

However, I have experienced this with my own two eyes. Gladwell’s book only confirmed to me that the people I have sought out actually have an “official” definition. 

You know that person that shows up to your shows with 10 people in tow? 

That’s a connector. 

Yea, it goes deeper than that.  But I’m not Gladwell and if I try, I will probably butcher his explanation.  Just know that connectors bring people together.  For a number of different reasons – they are up on the latest trends, they are smart, they are outgoing, or they know a lot about a lot of different things.

They are very easy to spot, if you train your eye to do so. And yea, you guessed it. They are social butterflies, have a ton of friends, and are always surrounded by a group of people. 

They do not blabber in your ear about how many people they can bring to the show.  In fact, usually they under-estimate the number.  BUT THEY ALWAYS DELIVER.  

My wife is a connector. Anytime we would have ticketed shows – she would account for almost 80% of the ticket sales by herself.  She was more of the Salesman” type.  Listed above in the image by Voxpopdesign.com

My friend Ryan is a connector as well. I played a bi-monthly gig at a bar for almost three years straight and he single-handedly filled the bar with his friends. Once he moved – everyone slowly fell off until I was down to a core group of five or so people.  He is a classic connector.  Him and his wife Molly just like to bring people together.  No Ryan & Molly = no group.

I have another friend J.T. that was a low profile connector.  He would bring at least 1 or 2 NEW people to every show and made sure they left with a cd.  J.T. was a type of “Maven” that brought people together by sharing new information and experiences.  In this case, it was my music. 

How do you spot them?  Well, when I said it was “easy” what I meant was that you just get a gut feeling and you have to trust it.  Sometimes you’ll be wrong – but eventually your gut will steer you in the right direction. 

I would: 

1.  Scan the bar during my set for the people who seemed to be the center of a group.  They’ll be the ones mostly directing conversation. 

2. TALK TO FANS – I can’t say this enough.  The more you get to know them…well, the more you’ll know about them. 

3.  Once identified, lean on them to help you promote – don’t worry, you aren’t “using them.”  Connectors LOVE to do this stuff, because at their core, they like being the “insider.”  And conversely, it’s mainly why people look to them for things in the first place. 

This is so common sense, right?  Then why do I see tons of bands still only using mass promotional tactics?  

In my last post I referred to a big venue show I did with a couple other bands that drew 800 people.  WE DID NOT HANG ONE POSTER OR SEND OUT ONE HANDBILL FOR THAT SHOW.  We just focused on our connectors.  Focused on rewarding them.  My buddy Jared Mahone actually wrote a personal hand written letter to each person, thanking them for buying tickets from him. 

Sure, hanging posters, dropping off handbills, social media interaction, and email blasts all have their place – but in all reality, these things really only account for about 20% of the crowd that will show up at the venue. 

The other 80% come from the connectors.  It’s called the 80/20 rule and it is a scientific fact.  I’m not making it up. 

It says that 20% of your following will account for 80% of your cd sales, merchandise sales, crowd brought to your show, etc. 

So find these people.  And be genuine with them.  Call them to invite them to the show.  Yes, CALL.  That is a lost art unto itself.  Do not use them only for show promotion.  First, that is a shady d*ck move and secondly they’ll smell you from a mile away if you treat them that way. 

At the core of what I’m saying is: Your friends are more important than your music.  They not only account for people showing up to see you, but in most cases they are real inspiration for your songs.  

Be good to them and they will be good to you. 

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tweet:  @davemhuffman