Loss Leaders and Flipping the Switch

LOSS LEADER:

Definition: “a pricing strategy where a product is sold for free or below its market cost to stimulate other sales.”

Loss leaders are the discount CD’s sold in Best Buy, ultimately leading to the purchase of your new TV, or the inkjet printers sold at a loss, because you can now only buy their proprietary, hyper-expensive ink cartridges for many years.

The most common example of loss leaders in music is when new artists offer music for free to “gain exposure”. The challenge, then, becomes creating a real (like, really, REALLY real) strategy on how to maximize that exposure, and ultimately drive it somewhere more costly. The marketing and sales plan of: A) uploading a track on Soundcloud, B) posting that link on Facebook/Twitter, and C) crossing your fingers, is pretty limited.

But music is different than inkjet printers, and selling creativity is different then selling a microwave, because, just as people like to know what a painter was feeling while creating a masterpiece, music consumers like to know the story behind the artists they love.

With the rise of the internet, and resulting decline of one-size-fits-all mass advertising, an artist’s story now truly unfolds online, gradually. If someone relates to the story behind a song (and not purely the song itself), they are much more likely to share that song with a friend. That is why stage two, after offering your music for free, must be to first identify and then amplify your story online.

Once you have both tons of exposure and a story people are connecting with and sharing, then you flip the switch. Flipping the switch could mean announcing your first tour, line of merch, or making those same songs that had been free now available exclusively for sale… or all of those things back to back over the course of a few months.

If you take the long road of truly developing your project, by first offering something to spark interest, then building a story, and finally flipping the switch, your odds of building a trusted brand and career skyrocket.

RELATED POSTS:

1. Fanbases Are Conversations

2. The Power of a Story

3. The True Function of Social Media

Guest Post: 8 Tips For Increasing Your Tumblr Followers and Engagement

tumblr-logoWe’re lucky to have a guest post from Nick Susi here. Nick is one of the smartest people I know, co-founder of New Torch Entertainment, and is fantastic with digital strategy and fan engagement. Enjoy:

Tumblr is a highly customizable platform that combines microblogging with social media. Through its diverse content of photos, videos, text posts and more, it is a versatile tool to use as an extension of your art and engage your audience. Here’s some tips:

1) FOLLOWING– Follow other like-minded Tumblrs, who in return, may follow you. But they will only reciprocate if your Tumblr content would be of value to them and their interests.

2) REBLOGGING – Reblogging other Tumblr content onto your own is a great way to engage with others. But don’t just reblog anything. Find content that you value and wish you posted yourself.

3) ENGAGING CONTENT – It’s not worth my time to tell you to post only photos to get the most likes and reblogs. Instead, my advice is to experiment with all content options – post text, photos, video, audio and have fun with it. Then after a few weeks, look back, see what types of posts got the biggest response, and use that information to influence your decisions about future posts. Were your photo posts more popular than audio posts? Did you get more activity on a certain day of the week or a certain time of the day? Try, analyze, adjust, repeat.

4) EXCLUSIVE CONTENT – Post content that lives exclusively on Tumblr, that your audience would not be able to find on your Website, Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere. This special content will help make your Tumblr unique, and it will give your audience a reason to follow your Tumblr when they may already be regularly checking your other platforms. Plus, Tumblr is the only platform that supports GIFs, so use the exclusivity of GIFs to your advantage in driving interest around your Tumblr.

Beyonce's Tumblr

Beyonce’s Tumblr

5) GIVEAWAYS – Whether your art is a product or a service, use Tumblr as a platform to give something away for free. Launch a promotion that requires your followers to reblog a particular post to be entered to win. But make sure the prize is worth the action of reblogging. Ask yourself, would you be excited to enter your own giveaway?

6) TAGGING – Use focused tags to make it easy for others to discover your posts through Tumblr’s search tool.

7) FACEBOOK & TWITTER – Don’t forget about your already established audiences on your other social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Post links to your Tumblr on your other social networks to kickstart driving more traffic and followers to Tumblr.

Odd Future's Tumblr

Odd Future’s Tumblr

8) GENUINE CONTENT – Above all, you should not be posting to Tumblr for the sake of posting to Tumblr. You should be building an engaged community around the core of what you do, which is your art. Tumblr, like all social media, is an extension of your craft and brand. Take a deep look at your voice, your image, the feelings you want to convey with your art. Then embody that in your posts.

Keep at it. Like anything, it takes time.

RELATED POSTS:

1) The True Function of Social Media

2) Prioritizing the Minutia

A Few Reminders For Artists

  • Being a musician is not an excuse to be irresponsible or disorganized.
  • Music spreads through conversation and sharing.
  • The internet connects like-minded people, no matter how small the niche.
  • Managers can only work as hard as their artist.
  • The “average person” spends 40+ hours per week working.
  • You must give people a reason to listen to your music.
  • Social media is not a “necessary evil”. It is the best way to communicate with your fans.
  • Success = Preparation + Opportunity. Can you honestly say you’re preparing?
  • Do you have a story worth telling?
  • Focus on the key platforms that amplify your strengths – don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Press helps develop your story.
  • You are not entitled to paying gigs based on talent; you earn them as you build an audience.
  • Stop blaming record labels, other gatekeepers, or people who “just don’t get it”.
  • Don’t get lost somewhere in the middle; focus on the edges.
  • Fans love being acknowledged.
  • Managers are not assistants.
  • Transparent, authentic one-on-one interaction always win.
  • Real success comes from brave, painful, concentrated effort.

Why Ignoring Labels is the Best Way to Get Signed

Although the music industry is evolving, it is still hard for artists to get out of the “pick me” mindset, which has been drilled into bands’ heads through a combination of the traditional record business model and endless stories of A&R scouts signing bands in dirty bars.Crane Game

I often hear artists declare from day one that their goal is to get signed to a label. The problem with this line of thinking is that it distracts you from the unbelievably difficult task of building a fanbase and developing fantastic material. You might argue that you can do both, and that, in fact, the goal of signing to a label will only excite you further and drive you to put more effort into your work. But I wouldn’t believe you.

I believe starting a project with the goal of making the most deliberate music possible, coupled with an absolutely relentless focus on turning your supporters into a true community, is a much better use of brain-space than having phrases like “would a label want this?”  in the back of your head every step of the way.

Labels don’t sign artists that want to be signed by a label. They don’t sign artists who know in their hearts that, if only a label signed them, they could do big things. Labels sign artists who are already starting a movement and turning heads. They sign artists that are completely engrained with conviction in every song they write, every stage they step on, every mailing list email they send, and every post they make on their Facebook page.

If you take it upon yourself to start your own movement and truly create something that spreads, labels will come to you. It may seem backwards, but ignoring labels is the best way to get signed. If you begin by hoping to be validated by someone else, you’ve missed the point completely.

Pick Me

RELATED POSTS

1) Doing It Yourself vs Finding an Excuse

2) Waiting For a Billion

Data as Your Compass

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be approached by Next Big Sound about writing a guest blog piece for them. If you’re unfamiliar with NBS, they provide a valuable service to artists and managers, tracking each of your web pages and creating both real-time and weekly reports on your digital footprint. Below is the piece I wrote for them. Originally titled “The Value of Data For Artist Managers”, the concepts here apply to independent/DIY artists especially:

Data

Today, an endless sea of bands are proudly branding themselves “DIY Artists,” and are quick to talk badly of record labels or any other “gatekeeper.” However, our current musical landscape comes engrained with a dense sense of responsibility and strategy that few artists acknowledge. As a manager, this responsibility includes examining perpetual concepts like transparency, exclusivity, community, and discovery, while still prioritizing the minutia. New channels pop up every day, while merchandise, publishing, touring, and recording still need to progress. With so many moving pieces, managers often crave a single thread that can tie it all together.

Enter data.

The beauty of data for artist managers is that it serves as a strategic compass, both on and offline. It informs your day-to-day decisions, allowing you to strategically penetrate a focused goal, rather than achieving random acts of improvement.

Tour routing is a great example. Every artist can, right this second, pull up a list of the top 10 cities where their fans/listeners/viewers are located on Facebook, Soundcloud and YouTube. With these reports in front of you, you will surely begin to see patterns. These patterns should guide your routing. Although it may require a bit more effort, it sure beats saying “well, it’s a rock band, so let’s tour the South.”

But touring is just one piece of an artist’s career. Digital marketing firms use radio spin data every day. If an emerging artist, for instance, begins getting radio play in select cities, marketers garner this information and execute geo-targeted campaigns to propagate these same communities. Also, in the land of the free (download), collecting fan data is critical. As a manager, a highly populated mailing list is not just a bunch of email addresses and zip codes; it is a report telling you who and where your fans are. Website traffic, merch sales, ticketing reports, live show draw, and your quantitative social media footprint are other forms of valuable data for a manager.

With all that said, the most important “metric” is still trust. Trust, in its most genuine form, cannot be measured, and that’s what makes it so special. It cannot be bought; only nurtured. Developing trust with your fan community is critical, and can only be done through repetition and consistency. As trust develops, so does your story and your influence.

With great tools like Next Big Sound, and free insights from your social channels, it is easier than ever before to identify your fan base. Touring, radio, web and merch reports, combined with an obsessive focus on trust, consistency and community is a winning formula.

Without data, it would be easy to wander aimlessly through the evolving music industry. But with data as your guide, the entire process becomes much simpler.

RELATED POSTS:

1) DOING IT YOURSELF vs FINDING AN EXCUSE

2) MEASURE YOUR FAILURE (AND SUCCESS)

Prioritizing the Minutia

Red help buttonDetermining what, when and how to release something is often the most difficult internal process for an artist. Between singles, EPs, music videos, cover songs, websites, live videos, photos, albums, remixes and more, the options are limitless, and therefore terrifying. While releasing content consistently is critical for visibility, I would argue that the seemingly insignificant, day-to-day output (tweets, instagram photos, status updates, etc.) is just as important, if not even more so.

The reason your day-to-day actions are so valuable is that those actions are what position you in peoples’ minds. They help shape the perception of your project to the viewer/fan/audience, and that perception will serve as the foundation – and make or break – that new single you’re releasing. If your music is perceived as valuable, because you have taken the unbearably gradual process of developing trust within a focused community, then you can honestly say you’re giving it your best shot. Otherwise, you’re doing a disservice to all the people in the world waiting to delight in your art.

Think about friendship. Friendships don’t happen instantly; they gradually develop. Trust is the key element of friendship. Reputation is the same; a reputation goes hand-in-hand with trust. Your musical project is no different – it is simply a matter of enhancing a reputation and a friendship, but with a community rather than an individual. Your day-to-day actions will drive this fan relationship much more than your new video will.

If you don’t prioritize the minutia, your big release will not go as well as you’d hoped.

minutia_GMS

RELATED POSTS:

1) “The True Function of Social Media

2) “Attention vs Retention

Making the Choice: Online or Offline?

This blog post came via the “Request a Topic” tab on my blog. Below is the great message I received, followed by my response:

“I’m in a brand new band, and am really excited about what we’re doing. We’re talking to each other now, and one band member thinks we should focus solely on our internet presence, but I think we should focus on sounding amazing and playing live as much as possible. Which do you think is the better way to go?”Social-Media

In a band setting specifically, it’s always challenging to deal with varying opinions and personalities. It’s common for leadership to drown in collective conversation, as people wait for someone else to step up and give direction to the project’s aim. Conversation between band members like this is absolutely great, but problems arise when it becomes a “let’s do this or that” discussion. The answer isn’t to pick between the two, it’s to do both. And not just both, but both with a focused strategy that ensures each half fuels the other half. There are two things to learn from here.

RepetitionConsistencyFirst, your online and offline strategy must be intertwined. Once you book a gig, focus obsessively on your daily social media actions to ensure that they’re embedding the voice, look and feel of your group into a network of potential fans. Just as you develop songwriting skills by consistent writing, you develop your identity through repetition and consistency.

This process is so gradual that most get discouraged and give up. But if not, you will have a higher level of awareness, which will serve as your platform when you promote your upcoming show.

Second, I would recommend working backwards, by asking yourself big-picture questions:

  • What do we want to highlight? Which social media channel(s) will highlight this?
  • Who and where are the people who generally like our genre of music (both on and offline)?
  • What’s our budget? Are we willing to invest money into the band?
  • Who is going to be in charge of running our social media?
  • Who is going to be in charge of booking our shows?
  • What is the voice, look and feel we want to represent?
  • How can we capture our live show, and direct the people in the venue audience back online?
  • How can we capture awareness, loyalty, and trust online and direct it back to our live shows?

After answering those questions, you should have a much better picture of what you need to do. Having your on and offline actions constantly fuel eachother, all within a focused, big-picture setting, will ultimately best position you for success.

*To submit your own question, click here.

RELATED POSTS:

1) Learning From: Ghost Beach

2) Fanbases are Conversations