Archive for the ‘Your Fans’ category

How to Have A Pre-Internet Mentality

November 15, 2010

It’s Grassrootsy’s 200th entry! Pretty exciting even though it doesn’t really mean anything (per-se).

Today I thought I’d refer to a funny comment Hugh MacLeod posted on his twitter account a few week’s back…

“Wondering how the hell anyone could’ve been successful, pre-internet…  ” –@gaping void

Have you ever thought that? I’ve actually thought about this alot. What would we do? How would we communicate with people?  Truth is, the internet could be a digitized version of the old days if wewant it to be…and it wouldn’t be a bad thing.  And if we did take that approach, we might even be more successful in our musical pursuits. Here’s more on that.

1. Think Locally. Back in the day, every neighborhood had its own butchery, milkman, bakery and post office. What if the internet could be like that. What if you had a close-knit community of folks that you correspond with on a regular basis?  What if you could go to these folks for anything – like splitting shows, cross promotion, getting new gig leads, and more. Treat the internet like your neighborhood. No, I’m not trying to limit you, but make an effort to create an online community that mimics reality.  Play your shows. After the show connect with the audience online, strengthen that connection. Use the internet to foster the connections your already have and to build things slowly and steadily.

2. Start Small, Go Big. You’re thinking waaaay too hard. Just because the internet holds the potential for you to reach millions of people, doesn’t mean you should go and do that. I have a very strong feeling that all the big companies like Fed Ex, Subway, Starbucks, (etc) didn’t start big. The founders likely opened one location in a city or town, saw it do well, and then decided to open a few more…and so on and so forth.  Any strong, successful, long-lasting company will first work to build a strong foundation with what it has before expanding. Work to build a strong foundation with what you have before you try to conquer what you don’t.

3. Don’t Ever Forget the Importance of Word-of-Mouth. It was the highest compliment back then and it’s still the highest compliment today.  Independent music existed long before the internet. But how did people share information? Word of mouth, of course! When you make your fans top priority, they will share you with their friends. They will bring their friends to shows, and they will support what you’re doing. And this is the beauty of the internet. Word-of-mouth exponentially increases when the internet is involved. It’s an old-school concept in a new format.

By the way, MacLeod is the author of a book called “Ignore Everybody”.  Its a pretty incredible wake-up call to anyone who’s been sitting on their creativity but wants desperately to use it.  Here are some blogs we wrote referencing the book a few months back..

Subscribe to Grassrootsy

3 Big Mistakes That Artists Make

November 8, 2010

The below suggestions have probably appeared on Grassrootsy in various posts, but last week I thought I’d loosely keep tabs on artist emails and FB messages and tweets  just to see what people are still doing these days.  Here are a few…

1. Falling off the map
What!?  Who are you?  Oh…I almost forgot because I haven’t heard from you in 3 months!  This might be a pet peeve of mine.  Don’t send your fans an email every 3 months and expect them to remember who you are. In the age of over-saturation, you’ll have a much greater shelf-life if you communicate too often as opposed to not enough. Falling off the map after having a successful run is like going 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. Granted, everyone needs a break at some point. But occasionally touch base with your fans to remind them you still exist. See: Setting the Record Straight: Reminding People You Still Exist for more thoughts on the matter.

2. Launch a website with nothing on it.
This is aonther personal pet peeve of mine.  If you want people to be interested in your music, don’t send them a Facebook invite to your band’s page if there’s no music on it. Duh. And don’t send people a link to your new website if it’s completely blank. What is it you want them to see when they get there?

This is also equivalent to inviting your friends to an event via Facebook. Let’s say you want your friends to come see you and “John Doe” perform at club “XYZ”.  Make sure the Facebook invite has links to both your websites.  That way, folks can actually check out your music and make an informed decision about attending the show. An informed fan is an involved one. People will eat the information you give them so make sure you give them something worth digesting. See: Perception is Reality for more on this.

2. No email address?
Yea, you probably have one but if you don’t put it on your website, no one would ever know!  Have you noticed that you can’t  send messages to the administrator of a Facebook Page. Annoying. So if you don’t have your email address in the “Info” section (or better yet, in the information box on the home page), how can anyone reach you? Some things aren’t meant for the Facebook wall.

And, believe it or not, folks still use MySpace to check out new artists.  But at this point, you should know you can’t email someone on MySpace unless you have an account…and people aren’t really creating MS accounts these days.  SO if you don’t have your email address in a very visible location, you’re potentially missing out on bookings…etc.

Even worse is having a website with no email address on the contact page. Contact forms are great, but an email address will travel further, faster.

***Subscribe to Grassrootsy

Starting a Music Series

October 25, 2010

Have you ever wanted to start a music series – a Coffeehouse series up the street from your house, a regular singer-songwriter night residency with your favorite venue, or maybe a ticketed house show that’s known for quality music, good food and company? Fall is a really good time to do this. I recently had a friend email me for suggestions about starting a series and here are some things that came to mind…

It’s a good change of pace
Picking one thing and doing it well is a really great idea. Maybe the idea of booking X number of shows in X number of places exhausts you. If you think about it, doing one show at the same place is much easier and will definitely help you build a solid fanbase. It might limit you to a geographical area, but it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to focus on this approach and take the occasional show elsewhere whenever its offered.

Don’t do it too often
Once a month. If you want to do a show well, give yourself time to promote, host, rest, and then do it all over again. A monthly series will stick in people’s minds. Every 2 months is a bit too infrequent and every week will wear you out. Some things don’t take much preparation (i.e. weekly open mic…etc) but to do a show and really do it well, you need time, strategy, and rest so you don’t burnout. note: also remember that location has alot to do with how heavily you’ll have to promote. Maybe you could get away with a show ever two weeks if you’re at a central location with alot of walk-ins.

First time is a charm
Promote that first show like your life depends on it. Do it up so big and get the biggest turnout you can. If the first one is a success it will do all the work for all shows to follow. A good first show means people will come back. It means people will tell others. It means people will make Facebook comments about how much they enjoyed the first one and can’t wait for the next one.  I’m convinced that the key to the success of a music series is the very first installment and the maintenance of that vibe…which leads us to the next point.

Establish the vibe and stick with it
Pick a good name for the music series.  Make sure the space you’re hosting the show matches the type of vibe you want your event to give off.  Pick the most important aspect of your series and never change it. This is what will keep your core audience coming back.

The wonderful thing about hosting a music series is that you can bring in so many different artists over the life of the series, you can make yourself the resident musician (if you wish), and you can build a fanbase for the series and for yourself. Its like killing two birds with one stone.

A GOOD SHOW MAKES YOU, YOUR AUDIENCE, AND YOUR VENUE HAPPY.

***Subscribe to Grassrootsy

An Interview with Yours Truly

October 6, 2010

Yours Truly (L-R Eric Downs, Justin Portis, DJ Huggy)

Grassrootsy has gotten into the habit of interviewing singer/songwriters. Sorry guys! We forgot that there are bands out there reading this blog!  So I’m excited to share Yours Truly with everyone. They’re a fairly young power-pop-rock band based out of Pittsburgh, PA and they sound great!  I’ve got ears to prove it!

I ran into YT’s drummer, Eric Downs, at a show earlier this year and have since engaged in several great promotion-related conversations. I love a good idea!  After his comment on last week’s “Should I Avoid Shows that Require me to sell Advance Tickets?“, I asked Eric if he’d like to answer a few questions.  Read the below carefully because its good!

1. YT is fairly young. What’s the story on how you came together? Yours Truly actually formed as the result of a mutual contact, a contact you and some Pittsburgh readers may know, Gene Stovall.  Gene’s been playing around the city for a long time, and at the time that we met (my junior year at Pitt), he was trying to put together a band to play re-made covers.  This is where I met Huggy, who had been playing with Gene for some time.  We gigged in, and occasionally out of Pittsburgh, for a while.  One night, Gene got us a gig in Erie, PA, and Justin, YT’s leader singer and guitar player, happened to be in town from NYC.  Gene asked Justin to join the gig, and Justin and I carpooled up to Erie together.  During the two hour ride, he and I discussed everything we thought about music: our likes, our dislikes, our hopes, and our nightmares.  By the time we arrived and set foot at the venue, Yours Truly had been formed, with the unknowing DJ Huggy enlisted on bass.

2. You’re the drummer huh? Grassrootsy often talks about how important it is for bands to split up the roles of their bandmates. What are each of your “roles” or do you find that you carry the responsibility to keep things runing? I think the roles in our band are funny.  Justin and Huggy have much more experience in the music business than I do, and their specialties are songwriting and production/engineering respectively.  That basically leaves me with everything else, haha, and it’s funny because these are things I’ve never even considered undertaking before.  Things like managing, booking, finance, graphic design, merchandise, marketing, social networking, and more.  With the exception of personally using Facebook, I had absolutely NO experience doing ANY of these things upon entering the band.  However, what I think drove me to jump in and learn how to do these things was hunger.  I truly believed (and and even moreso strongly believe today) in our product, and so I was willing to put in the time to research what it means to be a band manager, how to professionally book a venue, how to use software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create merchandise, how to copyright music, how to create and manage an e-mail list, how to develop a working expense system, and the list goes on.  And it’s not like I didn’t fail at most – no – all of these things, but it’s like the Wright Brothers trying to fly a plane – all the failures are what make the success so sweet, but it’s the hunger to succeed that fuels you through the failures.

3. You’ve dropped a few of your novel ideas to me via email and in Grassrootsy comments (they’re always great). What has been your most original idea to date (if you want to share it)? Why has/did it work?  Haha, I will say that I have had a few tasty morsels cook up in my head over time – many I’m quite proud of.  If anyone is interested in these, I’d be happy to chat about it, but the most original idea I’ve had has got to be “What’s Mine Is Yours.”  This is going to be a long answer (so if you don’t want to hear some blowhard ramble on for a few minutes, skip this section):

“What’s Mine Is Yours” was an idea for an event I had had that was centered around one thing and one thing only:  everyone else.  This idea spawned shortly after reading a short e-book written by Derek Sivers; something about “survival guide” in the title or something (you’d think I’d remember the name if it had this much of an impact on me, haha!).  Anyhow, in the e-book, Sivers outlines many useful points, but the one that stood out to me the most is that “to be a successful musician, everyone else comes first,” or something to that effect.  What this means is that, by whatever means necessary, the interests of the fans, the promoter, the venue, the other bands, the door man, the sound man, the merch producer, ANYONE with whom you do business must come first.  Think about it.  Who buys the CDs and t-shirts that pay your bills?  Your fans.  Who makes you sound good (or bad, ha)?  The sound man.  Who pays you a (fair) settlement at the end of the night and considers inviting you back?  The promoter/venue.  And this goes on.  My perception of so many bands out there is that, “I think my music is good, so if I hold a show, I’m sure people will come and they’ll love the music because it’s so good so they’ll buy all my stuff and since I sound so good, the venue will have me back,” and I’m thinking, are you serious??  The sad reality of the music scene in it’s entirety is that it’s hard to find people who care.  Why should people get off of their warm couches to come stand around in a smokey bar for 3 hours, leaving at the end of the night with a stench and a thinner wallet?  The venue probably sees 10-15 bands a week – why should they care about yours?  Again, the questions go on.  What I began to do is try to start answering these questions.

If I were the target of this promotion, what would get my lazy butt off my couch to come out to a show?  Again, more often than not, the music is not enough.  What else can I do?  Well, I figured that people generally like free stuff, so I started to brainstorm on what kind of free stuff I could give away.  I started digging around my house and realized I had an old PS2, a TV, and a season of Family Guy I didn’t use anymore, so I gathered them up, continued looking, and instructed the band members from my band and the others on the bill to begin assembling stuff of the like.  Originally, I had wanted to find a business or two to sponsor the event and buy giveaways prizes in return for advertisement, but I couldn’t find one, so I drafted a business proposition and delivered that along with our band’s business card and a flyer to the show to EACH and EVERY business on the South Side (where the event was taking place) bar none.  I let the businesses know that by donating coupons for their goods, they’d be gaining advertisement to a demographic who would be letting out of a show around 10 PM and would be hungry after standing around for a few hours.  Of course, any employees of these business that wanted to attend got free tickets, too.  I got three businesses (Carson St. Deli, Primati Brothers, and Blue Grotto) to donate gift certificates.

When people started to file into the show, they received a small piece of paper, informing them that our goal for the night was to have nearly every person in the audience leave with something in their hand that we gave them for free.  It informed them that there would be four awesome bands playing that night, and that each band would have an e-mail list set up at their merch table.  Each time you sign up on a band’s e-mail list, you get a raffle ticket, so, 4 bands = a total of 4 possible raffle tickets.  We would draw for the raffle at the end of the night (as to prevent “show-up-for-my-friend’s-band-and-then-leave syndrome”).

All of this translates into a winning situation for literally all parties involved.  The audience gets to see an awesome show, but then on top of that, most of them receive a free item (most of the time of notable value) ranging from a TV to a t-shirt to a pre-lit christmas tree to gift certificates to local South Side businesses, etc.  When they take that prize home, even if it just sits on a shelf, every time they see it, they’ll have a visual reminder saying, “oh yeah, I got that Sega Genesis + 6 games from that awesome show I went to!”.  The venue gets a packed house (we aimed for 150, we got 147 in the Smiling Moose!), so both the venue and the bands get a nice chunk of change and the venue is more likely to host the event again.  The bands get a huge influx into their e-mail lists (so valuable), and they get to get rid of a bunch of stuff they don’t want anymore. Plus they have a big audience to which they can sell merch!

Ok, whew!  What a freakin’ mouthful!  Anyhow, again, this all stemmed from thinking of everyone else first.

4. As a young band, what is a hard lesson you’ve had to learn? Pick your gigs well.  If you don’t do your homework (what day?  what time?  in what order will you be playing?  what other major shows are taking place that night that will take attendees from you?  what’s the settlement?  mainly, WHY WILL THIS SHOW BE WORTH IT?), you’ll screw yourself and waste your time.  Sure, when you’re starting out, take what you can get, but as you grow, only play in your primary/home market once every 2-3 months, and make them huge shows…no…huge EVENTS (use a theme or something to make the night something BIGGER than just 4 bands playing) that you can plan for and work on ahead of time, using smaller, out-of-town shows to promote.  Finally, most people don’t care about going to see new local music.  Give them more of a reason to come.  “What’s in it for ME if I come to your show?”

5. Here’s the question Grassrootsy asks all of its interviewees: What do you think is the single most important thing an artist should do to promote themselves better? Haha, again, think about it from everyone else’s perspective.  Why should someone come to your show rather than eating microwaved pierogies in their underwear while watching House reruns?  Why should a venue/promoter book you?  What’s in it for them?  If you were someone to whom a band/artist was beckoning for attendance, what would make you come?  What wouldn’t?

Also, make it easy for them to continue to support you.  A popular promotion Yours Truly does on all of its show is offering 50% off of any one merchandise item if an audience member bring their ticket stub from the last show.  They walk out with your merch, they came to another show (and maybe they brought a friend!), so big deal if you sell your shirt for no profit?  The 5 bucks you lost is worth it for a more devoted fan, which, again, is the most valuable thing you can have.

Yours Truly Online:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/yourstrulyband
Myspace: www.myspace.com/hearyourstruly
Twitterwww.twitter.com/yourstrulyband
YouTubewww.youtube.com/bandyourstruly

Learning Your Listeners

September 20, 2010

The saying goes like this: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again. Occasionally, when I’m at a show, or shortly after a show, I notice how various audience members respond to my merchandise table.  Here’s what I’ve observed…

Type A Listener
This individual likes what they hear. They buy the album immediately, sign the email list and pick up a card so they can go out of their way and check out your website when they get home. Type A is excited and fully committed to supporting you from the start. They’re the person who will tweet about you from their phone the instant they hear your music. They’ll share you with their friends, and come regularly to your shows. They’ll buy your album for friends and attend a few shows each year.

Type B Listener
This person likes what they hear and will likely stick around for your whole show. But Type B isn’t sold out on your music…at least not yet. It’s important to realize that you will almost have more Type Bs than Type As in your audience. Type B will sign your newsletter and will probably do so without you asking because they want to keep tabs on what you’re up to. They’ll go to your show, not because they need a fix of your music, but because it’s conveniently in their neighborhood. Make sure you get Type B’s email b/c even if they don’t buy your album, they will show interest in your music on special occasions (CD Release/major show) , and consider buying your album when you have a sale (maybe a Christmas discount).

Type C Listener
This person isn’t particularly interested in your tunes, but might just pick up your business card off the table at the very most.  In other words, because they don’t have your music, and haven’t given you their contact information (for your newsletter), it’s completely in their hands to stay abreast on your career.  They don’t hae any regular reminders, so your engagement with them will be slim-to-none.

***Subscribe to Grassrootsy

What Do You Think About Facebook Friend Swapping?

August 30, 2010

Tiffany Thompson

THE ARTIST: Tiffany Thompson (Washington, DC)
THE QUESTION: So I had this idea the other day about a possible way to broaden my online friend/fan base. What if two artists, for example me and you, gave each other permission to go through and friend all of the other person’s friends on Facebook. I know this is kinda looked down upon in the Facebook music world…especially when you do it without telling the other person. But it seemed like it might be a good way to get our music out to new listeners.

For example, say I have a music friend named James Smith. With his permission, I could add his friends and with the friend request send a message like : “Hi! I am a friend of James Smith and we are sharing our music with each other’s Facebook friends. Thought you might like to check out my music: www.tiffanythompsonmusic.com. Thanks! ”  Something like that?

What do you think? Be honest!

THE ANSWER: Welk I personally am not so hot on the idea. I actually tried this once with someone else. I went and added a bunch of his friends with a similar brief message.  Some people responded and some did not. But I’ve noticed that those people who did respond have not kept themselves in tune with my music. They don’t respond to comments, status updates, or participate in any of my FB conversations like my other fans. Their interest was high in the beginning but died almost immediately. So the way I see it, you have two ways to earn fans….

  1. Make friends to market – this would be the route we’ve just discussed. You’re basically adding these people so you can “advertise to them”. People don’t want to be spammed and they don’t want to be used for what you can get out of them.
  2. Earn friends, earn fans – this requires doing what you do without the intention of selling something. Go to the show, play music, earn people’s ears, and tell them to find you online if they like what they’ve heard. If someone goes out of their way to find you online, you can be sure they’ll be a longtime fan.

***Subscribe to Grassrootsy


Mailing Lists & Social Networking

June 28, 2010

Think of Your Mailing List as a Gateway Drug. If you’ve read Grassrootsy for any amount of time, you know we stress the importance of having a mailing list at your shows. Well, given the rise of Facebook and Twitter among musicians, your mailing might not be the most important way to communicate with your fans anymore (I can’t believe i just said that)!   However a newsletter IS still the best way of opening the door to more direct communication with your fans. Here’s what you do:

  1. Pass your newsletter around the room at your show
  2. Within a day or two, email everyone who subscribed, welcoming them to the list
  3. In your “Welcome” newsletter, make sure you include prominent links to your Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and any other social network
  4. Emphasize the fact that fans can best stay in touch with you and your schedule when they follow you on FB or twitter

I’ve personally noticed that while the number of people reading my newsletters has statistically gone down, I’m communicating with fans more often and more directly via Facebook and twitter.

 

To see some past thoughts on the mailing list, see:

 

***Subscribe to Grassrootsy