Posts Tagged ‘fan base’

Music is Hard!

November 28, 2011

...and also, apparently, an album title!

It would be wonderful if music was logical: talented artists were famous and had enough support to make a living, they could release their songs and their audience could easily find them, booking shows was just a matter of calling up and setting a date.

Unfortunately, the whole process is whack.  The internet has made it so that a talented artist can independently record, release, and market their music for absolutely no money (assuming they borrow microphones and steal software) but there’s a piece missing: how does the audience find you?

Fans used to find music through radio, or through variety television.  It was centralized…and although regions might vary on who or what they play it was pretty likely that if you had a hit in Austin, Texas on a major network you’d find your way onto the sets of people around the world.

Just to get on that major network you’d probably need to be signed to a label, or have a close contact who could sell you to the music directors…but once you were there the competition was limited…the world is your limit…sky your oyster!

Now where does a musician go to reach fans?  Some people go to YouTube, but how do you sift through the junk to find the gold?  Some browse music sites like last.fm or artist pages on MySpace, but again…are you willing to sit through 10,000 artists to find one that suits your tastes?

There are blogs…there is satellite radio…

In the end, the best promotion is word of mouth, a friend passing a link through Twitter after they find an amazing artist they never heard of.

An artist they stumbled over.

Sometimes, I wonder how many thousands of dollars are spent on various promotional tools, but in the end a band reached its audience because someone accidentally found the song.

What’s the solution?  There isn’t one…yet.  Finding fans with connections, fans that fell in love with your art, is the best bet.  It’s something that money can’t buy (though you may have to subsidize their services after they’ve fallen in love with you.)  There is something I can say from experience though:

If you have to pay someone to love your music then they aren’t going to put very much effort into spreading the word.  In the end, they’ll provide the service you’ve paid but not the passion you need.  Some companies take as many cheques as they can, to the point that they have five or six artists in each genre competing against each other for attention.  That isn’t the way to reach your fans (much like buying Facebook ‘Likes’ or YouTube views)

What you should be looking for is a dedicated fan base, and have ‘them’ spread the word.  If that fan base includes one or two professionals with contacts in the industry, BONUS!  If they truly love your music, they’ll find a way to tell their friends.

Music is hard!  In the good ol’ days you impress two or three people (a producer, a manager, a label exec) then you’re in!  Today…you need to impress two or three hundred people…and even then, it may not be a guarantee.

Conclusion: music is about love, and you have to love what you’re doing.  If you do, then someone else out there will love what you’re doing as well…and slowly but surely, over time, you might build up a base that can support you through your career.

Nothing comes easy for a few bucks…you get what you pay for, and a passionate fan…they’re priceless.

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I’m Impressed, TV on the Radio!

June 23, 2011

Considering your name is made up of two ‘old fashioned’ media, you’re pretty forward thinking.

Some people are stuck in the old world of ‘make an album, choose a single, get it on the radio, people will buy your album, and then you tour.’

TV on the Radio have a different approach:

Why not release your ENTIRE album, before it’s on the shelves, as a video.

I don’t mean a video for each song…well, I DO mean that, but remember the cool stuff Michael Jackson and his sister Janet would do, where videos were a long format?  Rhythm Nation 1814 was a movie made up of individual songs from her album, and those sequences also acted as videos for the singles when they were released.  That’s kind of what TV on the Radio is doing here…except it’s more like…

…the entire album…is a video!

When it comes to creative ways to get your songs out there, this is by far the most creative I’ve seen in awhile.  Most people consume their music on YouTube now.  This is the first time I’ve heard of an entire album being made into a long form video and put online, for free!

Sparklehorse (my favourite band) made a video for each song from the album ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ including one by my favourite filmmaker Guy Maddin for the title track.  Now…if only he’d released them somewhere other than the Sundance Channel…maybe someone would have seen them.

Kudos go out to TV on the Radio for their unique way to reach the fanbase and hopefully grab some new fans along the way!

Active Fanbases

June 22, 2011

Fans at an Anberlin concert...don't know who Anberlin is? Their fans do!!

As a result of my new job I’ve started thinking a LOT more about a musician’s fans.  The music is easy – I like it, I don’t like it, I’d like it better if…  The whole style, image, shoe-wearing thing isn’t really my bag so I let other, more fashionable people deal with that stuff.  But the fans.  Those pesky fans.  They interest me the most.

I’m by no means an expert (I’d like to be an expert one day!) but I dedicate a lot of processor time (processor being my brain) to chunking through the info I see before me, I hear mentioned by friends and co-workers, and I read about to figure out what is going on in the static between an artist and their fans.  Or prospective fans.

It’s all very complicated.

You see, first there’s the whole business of getting NEW fans.  In the good old days it was easy: labels told media outlets who was the next big thing, radio played them, MTV aired them, papers talked about them, and people liked them.  I’m in no way denouncing this system, because many of these artists were talented and deserved the exposure.  But it was a machine.  Millions went into spreading the word, millions went into sending artists on crazy tours, millions went into people’s pockets (can we say PAYOLA?! Or it’s evil, modern twin, promola?!)  Nowadays…not so easy!

Then there’s the business of keeping them.  In the two years between albums (which, in modern terms, equates to the two months between singles…two months is a LONG TIME!) how do you make sure people don’t forget about you, that fans remain fanatic!

The modern music world is weird.  There are no rules!  I’ve heard ‘Wild West’ thrown around a lot, and it’s true.  Anything goes.  I don’t think I heard any songs from the last U2 album, mainly because I didn’t seek it out.  I have, however, heard ‘Friday’ by Rebecca Black dozens of times.  I’ve actually grown to love the song!

Please…keep reading…

How do you get your music TO the fans?  How do you keep them active?  What does ‘active’ mean??

Active, to me, means a fan base that stays connected.  It can also refer to fans who are excitable and passionate (like Bieber fans.)  However, I’ve seen fans  who sit, listen, and quietly enjoy who are as passionate as Beliebers.  So, for the purposes of the blog…active just means ‘A fan that follows what an artist is doing, listens to their new music, and tells their friends about it.

If you’re indie, how do you find an active fan?  This is a tough question.  Some might think that you build a database of Twitter and Facebook followers, and release the songs through those mediums, but I find that’s not for everyone.  To use me as an example (YOU SUCK, ROO) – I have 800 folks on my Facebook, and 800 folks on my Twitter, and after recently sending out a link to a YouTube vid of a performance I have, in two days, netted 50 views.  I should have at least 800, right?!  No, I should have more, because they showed all of their friends, right?!

WRONG!  My Twitter and FB friends are mostly friends, or people I know for one reason or another, NOT fans.  There’s a distinction.  As an other example, an artist I work with has almost 4000 Facebook followers, yet only encouraged 300 to join his new artist Fan Page.  That’s because the 4000 are a mix of friends, fans, and…let’s face it…people who use Facebook once every few months rather than a few times every day.

So, what’s my answer?  You’re gonna hate me…

CREATIVITY!

Come on!  You’re a musician, or an artist, or an actor, or whatever you do!  That’s creative, right?  Use that creativity and think beyond the art you’re creating…think creatively on how to get that art to the fans who may be your devotees!  How can you reach people with your music?  The internet’s reach means that you could build a fanbase in your hometown AND Alice Springs, Australia…so why hasn’t it happened yet?

And if you’re a fan…an ACTIVE fan, a listener who loves finding new music, or movies, or art, or whatever it is you like…look out for the creative approaches artists use to find you!  If someone’s on the radio or in the paper it’s because they have money.  If they aren’t on radio or in the paper, yet they somehow found your ear, they probably did something creative to get there.

I’ll touch back on the subject as I see how the creative approach to finding active fans works.  If it’s a dud…I’ll go back to the drawing board and let you know!

Do you have a creative way you’ve reached a fanbase, or otherwise have you observed a creative approach from a favourite artist?  Let me know!