Bands Should Review Other Bands Like Authors Review Authors…

Posted February 11, 2010 by davehuffman4jakobfreely
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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.


twitter:  @davemhuffman


STOP Astroturfing. Create REAL Fans with REAL Content.

Posted February 9, 2010 by davehuffman4jakobfreely
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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…


Twitter:  @davemhuffman


Posted February 4, 2010 by davehuffman4jakobfreely
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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

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. 


tweet:  @davemhuffman

The Importance of Staying in the Game: The Story of Anvil

Posted February 2, 2010 by davehuffman4jakobfreely
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Anvil Stayed in the Game for 35 Years...

I just watched the Story of Anvil.  I’m not gonna lie, I cried a little.  Not a “sad cry” – it was mostly a therapeutic type thing.  Like what I had spent time doing the last few years wasn’t so unlike what everyone else tries to do.

Plus, it really reaffirmed a belief I’ve had for awhile.

There are lots of ways to “make it” in this business. There really are. From landing that rare elusive record deal that so many still seem to chase, to playing cover songs locally and pulling in $30K a year…there IS a middle ground with music now.

Some give themselves a time frame.  “If I don’t make it in 5 years, I’m done.” Many of us get frustrated when we hit a wall and see no fan growth and we feel like giving up.

For me though, success in this industry has always boiled down to longevity.

What?  Not skill?

Nope.  I can name a ton of guys that could smoke my ass on guitar/vocally/songwriting.  Yet, I made a living and they didn’t.  Why?  They gave up.  For whatever reason – they just gave up.

If you look at most truly successful indie bands with a strong roots following – most took at least 10 years to get where they are.

Even the guy playing 5 nights a week locally.  I betcha he’s been at it for awhile as well.

Check this video out real quick.  It’s short.  Note:  You really can’t see the crowd until the end.  Just listen for them singing along.

That took me the better part of 6 years in the same project to pull off.

Why did I show you that video?  I’ll actually reveal the answer to that in #1 below 😉

Because every year since I decided to make a living as a musician, there was some point where I decided to quit.  Some point where I felt like “success” wasn’t coming fast enough.  And that is a dangerous place to be because you get desperate.

I had a buddy recently call me to chat and manager he talked to had told him to spend $15,000 on a radio campaign.  And my friend was seriously thinking about doing it!  And yes, I’ve been there…so I’m not judging.  But he was getting desperate and impatient.


Listen, you are in for a long ride.  I’m telling you.  Very few people in this industry make it to the top in their respective careers without going the long haul.

And the people who do make it with little effort are flimsy and ill-prepared.  They aren’t hardened by the miles on the road.  The nights of hecklers and getting paid nothing.  The nights where you drive 8 hours to play for an empty bar and then the bartender even goes in the back during the set.

THAT SH*T MAKES YOU WHO YOU ARE.  Embrace it.  Keep your head down and move up the hill.

Here are some tricks you could try:

1.  Challenge Yourself Constantly

That venue in the video above holds 1,200-1,500 people.  We, along with 2 other bands, put about 800 in the place.  We knew we could not sell that place out or even come close. But we gave it a shot.  And you know what?  We felt pretty damn good about that 800 – it actually came during a period of “stagnation” for us and helped push us on through mentally.

2.  Keep Things Fresh

Ever done an acoustic tour?  If you are a solo act, have you ever performed with a band?  How about doing your own version of a local storytellers show? Thrown your own festival?

If you are in this for the long haul you are going to need to keep it interesting for YOU as well as the fans.  Yes, just playing music every night is fun enough – but come talk to me after you’ve played 175 shows in one year of the same old stuff.  I bet you’ll feel like mixing it up then.

3.  Break From Touring

Maybe you don’t need to do this.  I sure wish I did though.  I burnt myself out many times playing 20-25 shows a month with zero breaks in between.  I wrote a blog post on releasing steady content – and I think touring is kind of the same.  Especially now in the age of digital when you can stay in touch with and engage your friends/fans just by uploading a Youtube video or commenting on their pages.

4.  Be Realistic When Defining Success

No, I’m not telling you to sell yourself short.  You can still shoot for the stars.  But keep that as an “un-official” goal.  Instead just make a goal to “make a living playing music.” Before you know it, you’ll have accomplished that one.  And it will push you forward to hit the next milestone.

Whatever you do just hang in there.  Again, I will argue with the best of them that the biggest factor in bands not “making it” is that they gave up too early.

Not because they weren’t “good enough.”  They just quit because it’s a really hard thing to do.

Embrace the struggle.  Follow your gut.  And have a ton of fun.  Worse case scenario:  You’ll have a TON of great stories to tell one of these days.


tweet:  @davemhuffman

Local Band Wars: Unite Your Fanbase, Light a Fire in the Scene

Posted January 29, 2010 by davehuffman4jakobfreely
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A local radio station picked up on this band feud and made this header for the station website

I think the headline says it all.

Hip-hop has been doing this for years.  And aside from it getting ugly from time to time, it really generates a TON of interest in the feuding artists and the scene in which they reside.

Why can’t other styles of music do this? Welp, they can.  And they are.  At least a couple that I know in Columbus, OH are – the George Elliot Underground and Chelsea Automatic.

Don’t get your panties in a bunch, I’m not suggesting to go out and pick fights with other bands. We’re all hypocrites, but I’m not that much of one.  I’m about lifting up the entire scene and promoting each other.  Promote the other guy more than yourself.

That’s what a friendly band feud does.  The only trick is to keep it “friendly.”

As the rumor goes, GEU and Chelsea Automatic were hanging out one night and tossing around some ideas over a few beers.  Without too much thought as to what the result would be, someone suggested a band war.

The trick was to use it as show promotion to promote a bill where both bands were playing.

The next day they started posting insults on each other’s Facebook pages, each time linking to the other’s page so all the fans on both sides could see it:

“Chelsea Automatic takes their vitamins and drinks their milk.  George Elliot Underground eats wieners.”

“Via GEU:  The four d@uche bags on the Jersey Shore could write better songs than Chelsea Automatic.”

Can you start to picture what happens next?

1.  Fans unite to support their band

2.  Noise is made in the scene

3.  Content is generated in the form of videos, pictures, fan shirts (Team George/Team Chelsea).

4.  Content goes viral

5.  Local media picks it up

In this case a local radio station picked it up and created a page on their website where fans could vote and show their support and experienced over 400 votes in 24 hours.

Here, think of it like this:  The 50 Cent and Kanye feud to sell more albums.  Same deal here, but on a local level.

The key to success is building the “feud” around an event with both bands in attendance.  Whether it be a co-album release, co-billed show, festival, etc.

Do this:

  • Buddy up with another local band.
  • Book a show together to have something to build the feud around (3 months out or so)
  • About a month before the show start leaving messages like the ones above on each other’s pages, websites, etc.
  • Pick up the frequency of the content as the event draws nearer.  Use videos and pictures.  Old school wrestling promos are perfect.  People can share them and spread the message.
  • Creating a micro-site for the war.  Install a voting poll option.  Look at this page:
  • Once the war starts to pick up steam, reach out to your local media contacts/bloggers/twitterers.
  • Play the show

A little sidenote:  I actually work for  I got an email from our P.D. stating that he ran into the feud online and thought it was hilarious and he wanted us to cover it.  So, I’m not making this up.

The scene needs ignited every so often or it will never grow.  And I mean the ENTIRE scene.  You don’t necessarily have to stage band fights – get creative and try something different.

But whatever you do – lift others up around you.  You’ll be amazed how much further you go than if you stick to yourself.


tweety tweet:  @davemhuffman

Don’t Forget About Your EMAIL List.

Posted January 26, 2010 by davehuffman4jakobfreely
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I’m not going to get all blow-hardy in this one.  I just wanted to remind you that EMAIL is still the king of online communication.  Well, maybe “communication” is too broad of a word, but a study by eMarketer shows that it is still the king of content sharing and conversion.

Check this out.

Look at that.  Email still blows the rest of them out of the water.

What does that mean? It means you need to dust off your mailing list and start taking it seriously again.  It means you need to work on your headline writing so you can actually get a good open rate (between 20%-30%).  It means you need to have a good delivery system so you can get creative with the design and insertion of content.

Anyways – I said I’d keep it short, so here’s what you do.

1.  Get a good email management system.  One that can keep track of and sort email addresses by city, state, name, gender, etc.  Also one that makes it easy to create nice looking newsletters.

2.  Focus on getting people to sign up and make it easy for them. DO NOT BE PUSHY ABOUT IT.  Just make sure it is available to them.  It also helps to have someone walk around the club during your performance politely asking attendees to sign up.  If you have a sign up widget at your site, DO NOT MAKE PEOPLE JUMP THROUGH TOO MANY HOOPS TO SIGN UP.  Email should be the only “required” piece of info.  Make the rest of the socio/demographic info optional.

3.  Back up your list. Export your list to a disc, jump drive, or whatever.  Just make sure you have a copy in case the interwebz decides to go up in flames one day.  Ok, I guess you wouldn’t need email then, but you know what I mean.  If your Fanbridge account goes ka-blewey and you have 3,000 emails stored only there, you’re screwed.

4.  Write Better Headlines.  You’ll be working on this for the rest of your life, but the point is that you realize the fact that you need to work on it.  Any old shouting email headline won’t work.  We’ll go deeper into that later, but for now check out this Copyblogger post on How to Write Headlines that Work.  While you’re at it – sign up to receive update for their blog.

5.  Size, or uh Length Matters. Most say length of the email matters in that if it’s too long, people get bored.  I partially agree with this.  I say a long email is okay from time to time so long as you tell a nice story and the content is relevant.  That said – you can’t overload people with content or they’ll just get paralyzed by it and shut down.  So just play it safe and keep it short and sweet.  And remember – YOU ONLY GET THE FIRST TWO SENTENCES TO GRAB THEIR ATTENTION AND KEEP THEMSo say what you mean and get to the point early.

6.  Use Sparingly. Send your email blasts no more than 2 times a month.  One of them should be a market specific email based around the city you are playing in that month and the other should be an overall “Update” with some added value stuff in it like new photos, videos, free music, etc.  Experiment with this though.  I would use it more frequently around big events like our festival or a cd release.  Again though – every email had an angle.  I didn’t just send emails to say “C’mon!  Come to the Show!” People HATE that sh*t.

Anyways – those are some of the basics.  Just use the Golden Rule when delivering email, make it easy for people, add value to the relationship, and you’ll be ok.

Shoot me an email if you have questions and want to go further:


Let’s tweet, tweet:  @davemhuffman

How to Make Money on the Road (Hint: Don’t Spend Any)

Posted January 23, 2010 by davehuffman4jakobfreely
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Me in the kitchen of a venue: I always found a way to eat for free (almost always).

All too often I hear guys complain about never making any money on the road.  All the while, in the same sentence, I’ll hear them mention hotel rooms, allotting money for eating out, drinks, etc.

What?!  So, you’re complaining about “not making money,” but you’re spending it all?

I know, I know…it’s hard not to spend it.  Especially when you go on a two week run.  I’m not totally innocent.  I would splurge from time to time and get a room or go buy a nice meal somewhere.  Sometimes you have to splurge for the sake of sanity.

For the most part though, you have to keep that money in your pocket.  And, for the most part, you won’t be making much to begin with.

Below are some basic ways we came home with cash:

1.  Have A Plan: In some cases you’ll be getting a guarantee.  So add those up and estimate that as your operating budget for the trip.  The shows where you receive door shouldn’t be factored into the budget.  For all you know – no one will show up and you won’t make a dime.  In fact, you might have to float the $150 fee for the sound guy.

Basically, just be prepared and anticipate costs before you leave.  Make sure everyone in the band is on the same page.  If your guitar player is expecting to get paid on this trip and the budget doesn’t allot for personal cash – you will have to have a talk with him/her.

If you are going on a 2 week run of traded out shows with no guarantees…then you’re strategy is going to be completely different.  Bottom line is:  Just have one and be ready.

2.  For Food: A loaf of bread, jar of peanut butter, some generic chef boyardee meals, and possibly a free meal at the venue if you can work it out.

After a couple days you’ll want something besides peanut butter and generic chef boyardee, so do this:  Pull into a hotel in the morning.  Have one or two guys from the band walk in, comment on the weather, talk about how well they slept last night, then raid the continental breakfast.

We lived like kings on the road because of that.

Some places lock up the breakfast now, so we may have ruined it for everyone, but you could still give it a shot.

You can also sparingly hit up the $.99 menu at Wendy’s.  Every other day or so, we would grab a small chili and a baked potato and spend less then $6 as a band.

And let me tell you – when you’ve been sparingly eating nothing but peanut butter for a few days, a chili and baked potato taste like heaven on earth.

3. For Lodging: You’ll always find and meet new friends at the show.  Stay with them and get to know them.  I’ve met some of the best friends of my life doing this.

If you’re anti-social, sleep in the van.  If you don’t have a van, sleep in the car.  We toured out of a Hyundai Sonata for over two years.  All 3 guys in the band were over 6’2″, we had  a P.A., all of our instruments, and bags.  Sleeping in that thing was hell on earth.  So don’t talk to me about “being cramped.”

There’s no excuse here with me.  Unless your drummer has really bad gas and you’re passing through Minnesota in December and you can’t keep the windows down 😉

4.  For a shower: You don’t need a shower.  Ok, yea you do.  Either steal one at your new friends house or pay $5 to take one at a truckstop.  If you’re sleeping in the car and eating peanut butter all week – you can afford a $5 shower from time to time.

5.  For Drinks:  I almost didn’t put this in here because I guess it’s not TOTALLY essential, but I love to drink so I think it deserves a spot at the table.

Look – like I said, I love to drink.  However, I rarely spent band cash on drinks.

Usually, after soundcheck, we’d find out if the bar let the band drink for free.  If so, we got our drinks.  If not, we got a round of waters and waited.

Why would we wait? Because by the 2nd set at least one person in the bar would start buying us drinks.  In most cases – we would never even have to take advantage of the free bar.

And in the cases where there was no free bar and no free drinks from the patrons, we’d seriously not drink a drop.  I’d say that happened 20% of the time or so.  If you can’t handle not drinking 20% of the time then you shouldn’t be out on the road anyways.

Just sayin’.

That’s about it.  Oh wait, one more thing:

6.  Take Care of People and They Will Take Care of You:  This is more of a long term approach, but if you plan on hitting the same circuit time and again you will eventually make some great friends along the route.  If you truly show you care about those people, they will take care of you along the way.  Remember though:  It’s a two way street. They may kind of like your music at first enough to approach you, but the real reason they latch on is because of who you are as a person.  So put your ego away and really get to know people.

Be kind and be generous and it’ll come back to you tenfold.

And now…that’s it.

This takes some REAL dedication and mental preparation on your part.  Some studies of the brain suggest that the very thing that makes you so good at as an artist is the very same thing that makes you so bad at business.  They require two totally separate sides of the brain.

So work on it.  You won’t always get it perfect.  The key is getting it right more times than not.

What are some ways you’ve saved money on the road?  Instead of sleeping in the van or car, has anyone camped along the way?


Tweet:  @davemhuffman