The new digital landscape has caused an apparent tsunami in the music industry. With the rather constant barrage of reports and claims indicating that digital music downloads (both legal and illegal) are financially bringing down the industry, one might assume that digital technology is the enemy. Although a pessimistic attitude is somewhat appropriate for those businesses tied to their old-world models of manufacturing and distribution, the opposite is true for those willing to embrace digital technology and marketing for their music business. In the same way that digital music for artists has allowed for selling to more fans than previously possible with selling CDs alone, digital marketing provides opportunities and solutions to reach more potential fans than the artist could by merely connecting with people at music venues. Internet marketing, specifically social media marketing, allows an artist to target not only the local scene, but a truly international base of fans.
The New Music Ecosystem
Bas Grasmayer posted an article on Hypebot.com entitled The Ecosystem Approach: Introducing Non-Linear Music Marketing for the Digital Age. He talks about how the Internet and digital mediums have brought a new non-linear ecosystem to the world of music marketing. This means that the interaction among a group of consumers plays a larger role today in music business. The direct connections and control of the music industry now take a back-seat to the driving force of community influence.
Today, retention or keeping fans requires “stimulating the non-linear communication.” In the new ecosystem, you must facilitate consumers or fans building relationships with each other. Your product will still be the central point of the activity, but the customers interacting among themselves will propel and cause viral marketing for your product. Grasmayer explains it with a party analogy:
Treat every listener as a guest to your house party. If you don’t introduce them to others, you’ll be the center of attention all the time, but you can’t talk to everyone at the same time, so people are likely to get bored and leave. The key to a successful party is connecting the strangers, so they can have fun together. You’re still the center of the ecosystem, but you’re not the only person to communicate to. The communication becomes non-linear!
Besides the interpersonal communication among the fan base, you must also personally build a direct connection with each consumer or fan using such tools as social media networking. When you connect with fans and give them a reason to buy, you will ultimately make money. Nurture the connection by being authentic and consistent, always being able to admit when things go wrong and fixing the issues.
Finally, listen to the ecosystem. Make sure your marketing plans are fluid and evolve according to the feedback from your digital community of fans and customers. This could be called social media optimization. The key to success is giving people what they want.
Engage with Purpose
Brian Solis, globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in new media and author of the book Engage!, was recently interviewed on the subject of engaging with a purpose. He states that no matter the business or size, “every company should start with learning.” This ties back into listening to the ecosystem. One must intentionally monitor the conversations and activities of the community to know how to effectively engage that community. Solis states: “Social media didn’t invent conversations and opinions, but it allows us to have access to what people think and share—right now.”
The interviewer asked the question: “How much time should a company allocate to social media engagement?” Solis says, “The answer lies in what you see and also the position you want to take in social.” The time spent correlates to the success of the marketing. In other words, it takes a “significant commitment” to have productive efforts. Solis suggests testing with pilot programs and evaluating the outcomes as you go.
If you are like me, you’ll discover that social networks can become a black hole on your time. To avoid the time-sucking properties of social media, set goals and objectives. This is really where engaging with purpose comes into play. Know your purpose and develop a plan. By sticking to the plan and engaging your fans with a purpose, you will find yourself not only spending the right amount of time on your efforts, but find each connection supporting your overall goals.
You’re probably saying, “That’s all great in theory, but what about a practical application?” Luckily I’ve been involved professionally in web development and marketing since 1996. Part of my focus over the years has been in developing artist-to-fan relationships using the Internet. Here are some practical solutions that I’ve implemented with success using social media marketing:
Although probably not the main source of discovery of new fans, the website for an artist or band is the foundation for an Internet marketing strategy. At the recent SXSW Music Conference, a panel discussion was held on the topic, You’ve Built a Social Network, Now What? Here was the main theme: “The artist web site is critical to a band’s success in the world of social networking. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace – proliferate in number, grow audiences, and some even eventually die off.”
One never knows what social media tools will exist in the future. So it is imperative that your website become the center of your marketing efforts as a familiar, stable home that fans can return to. That’s why Paul Sinclair of Atlantic Records says that an artist’s website is the first component they work on when developing a social media strategy. According to Michael Fiebach, digital marketing strategist and artist manager at Famehouse, “Bands are simply ‘renting their fans to social networks’ if they do not build their own web site.”
I believe that Myspace is still a viable resource for music marketing. When searching for a band or artist on Google, Myspace Music profiles rank at the top of the search results. It many times is still the best place to find and stream the music of an artist or band for free. There are some teenage sub-cultures that are very active on Myspace, even more than on other networks such as Facebook. If your music is of a genre associated with one of these sects, then Myspace is potentially the perfect solution for attracting new fans.
When building your Myspace Music profile, be sure to include the names of similar bands and describe your musical style. This serves as a list of keywords that help with the discovery of your profile in search results.
When building your fan base, stay away from services that claim to add friends or fans to your list. Many of these so-called fans will actually be fake profiles or even real people who you will never be able to convert into a true fan. Start by adding a small number of fans from similar artists that realistically would appreciate your music. Connect or engage with that group to solicit feedback concerning your music, profile, and marketing efforts. This is similar to the pilot program that Brian Solis speaks of. Use the gained knowledge to decide on continuing your efforts with the same types of users or whether to look at other types of users for connecting.
To be truly successful, a band or artist must use Facebook as a tool. Create a Facebook Page as an artist or band. Do not use a personal profile. Once your Page has acquired 25 fans, you will be able to use a custom Facebook URL. You will also want to set up a custom landing page instead the default wall for your Page. Non-fans visiting your Page will initially see the landing page you specify. I use iLike to create this landing page, but I have seen several others that use ReverbNation for theirs.
I have found that the most successful way to build a fan base on Facebook is with Facebook Ads. You can target these text-based ads at users who have indicated they like a particular artist or band that is similar to you. Because you only pay-per-click, you can gain great exposure with the impressions.
I ran a Facebook Ad campaign for a music artist Page. I spent a total of $99.96. The ad received a total of 497,804 impressions. That’s about 2% of a penny for each impression. Those impressions resulted in 321 clicks. That’s about 31 cents per click. Of those clicks, 191 people actually clicked the Like button and decided to become a “fan” of the Page. That means it cost about 52 cents to gain a new fan. If only 1 in 10 decides to become a customer and buy a digital album on iTunes at a price of $9.90, the artist would actually make a profit. This is because an artist receives roughly 70% of the iTunes revenue and the one buying customer came at a cost of roughly $5.23.
Last.fm and PureVolume
Place your focus on your website, Myspace profile, and Facebook Page. Only if you find extra time, look at the additional music networking sites of Last.fm and PureVolume. I’ve used both as part of my marketing strategy, using some of the same principles suggested for Myspace. Last.fm also has advertising campaigns called Powerplay that allow you to target Internet radio listeners with guaranteed plays of your music.
Engage with HootSuite
To make the most use of your time and effectively engage with your fan base, use a social media tool such as HootSuite. This application allows you to simultaneously post status updates across social networks such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. These status updates are not the engagement, but offer opportunities for engagement. HootSuite allows for following both the public and private conversations on your social network profiles and allows for you to interact. Use this to your full advantage to quickly engage your fans across social platforms.
Later this month, we will take a look at some case studies of music businesses and artists that are successfully using social media and integrating social media into their marketing efforts. Until then, go forth learning, testing, and engaging.