Blog Challenge – Weeks 4 and 5: Web 2.0, Newsletter, and the Bete Noire

The Bete Noire. Everybody has one.

For the Music Success in Nine Weeks blog challenge, I’m rolling weeks 4 (Web 2.0) and 5 (Newsletter List, Emailing List, and “who are your fans?” (called out from the chapter for my own nefarious reasons)) into one post. I have fallen a little behind in the blogging of my music success exploits due to my travails with my producer over the last few weeks – which are still ongoing – and aim to catch up to the rest of the field in the time honoured tradition of taking a shortcut 🙂

You’re probably wondering, Dude, what’s with the evil eyes at the top of the post!? Before I get into the whys and wherefores of my “Bete Noire“, I’ll regale you with my Chapter 4: Web 2.0 adventures.

In a very high level summary, the essence of “Web 2.0” is living, interactive content, as opposed to static, “storefront looking” content. This made sense to me as soon as I read it – particularly the idea of Web 1.0’s ideology being static and brochure-like. Ariel spoke of the resistance some musicians had felt to Web 2.0 and its new paradigm of multiple, dynamic, and interactive sites and these thoughts came to mind and got me on board immediately:

  • What’s the point of having a dynamic, hyper-linked, searchable, response-ready platform – The Web – if you’re just going to treat it like a sheaf of paper and post a brochure of your product/brand? Boooo!!!
  • A dynamic, interactive platform is ideal for music, as music – the gigs, the sharing of albums, the tea room discussions of merit and relevance – is all about involvement. Yayyyy!!!

So with very little persuasion from Ariel, I augmented my official site – beautifully authored and webmastered by the wonderful Lady April Tree – with the following:

  • Twitter – Yes, as it did with Ariel, the idea made me angry initially (140 characters of “what are you doing?” Doesn’t the world have enough inane chatter about meaningless minutiae?) but I very quickly changed my tune (pun intended (I rarely make a pun that I didn’t intend ;-P)) It’s ideal for “bulletins” and sharing links, and its hashtag and trending features make it easy to search for – and draw attention to – particular points of interest.
  • YouTube – As my producer pointed out fo me in discussion last week, people in the Web 2.0 era like to see what they’re listening to, particularly as so much listening is done online. Plus, it really breaks down the barrier between content creation and content dissemination. Observe – the band’s official video clip to Couldn’t This Be posted minutes after the final film grade was done, and – from the sublime to the ridiculous – me deadlifting 440lb, showing the things I get up to when I don’t have a guitar in my hands.
  • Myspace – I don’t tend to “water” this part of the garden as much as I should – and I know from the comments I’ve read that many of you are with me on this one – because the interface is so damn horrible! Maybe it’s just me, but I find it really difficult to work with. It was, however, my first foray into online-ism for my music, as it may have been for many musicians reading this, so for that I thank them 🙂
  • Flickr – Another thing for which I’m indebted to the Lady April Tree – she being the band photographer as well as the web author, she set the site up and posts to it  – ah – well, more regularly than I do, let’s put it that way! (Another thing Ariel speaks about is the importance of delegation – yep, agree with that one wholeheartedly!)
  • This Blog. Gawd, like I need *another* avenue/excuse to talk about myself! No Br’er Fox, please don’t throw me in the briar patch!!

 

Chapter 5: Newsletter List, Mailing List, who are your fans?

This is the point at which, climbing the Wave 3 Mountain, I see the remains of my Wave 2 base camp, where, nine or so weeks ago, I spent a night or two, miserable, cold. and depressed, before striking camp and backing down the mountain to do something else, leaving behind a drafted newsletter and a minimal list of email addresses.

This is because any question involving my fan base is my Bete Noire.

Why is this? Isn’t every musician all about the fans?

Well, the problem for me isn’t the fans – it’s the lack of them. And turning that lack into a healthy abundance – let alone the career sustaining “1000 true fans” – is a problem that, to me, is the gigantic huge elephant in the room every time someone – manager, agent, blogger, industry expert, even, dare I say it, the MSI9W program – gets past empowering us budding musos with the ideas of self promotion and the tools to start doing so, and talks about the next step – building something from nothing. This elephant is in the room with me, every article I read telling me that the ‘net is the great democratic leveler for music, that radio and record labels don’t control the streams of distribution and creativity any more:

  How do you place yourself in front of people who haven’t heard you before? Who want to hear from you?

OK, that wasn’t pretty. Thanks for indulging me. Every muso who read that just said to him or herself, “Suck it up princess, and do something about it! I am!”

Alright, one last thing – Let me put it another, brutal way. How many of your favoured artists, the ones of whom you might call yourself a “true fan” did you become aware of through your own research – through blogs, iLikes, related searches and such – and how many via promotional media – radio/TV/advertising/Film placement? And if “through friends,” how did they become aware of the artist? How much time do you spend just “looking” for new music that you didn’t hear about through one of the aforementioned channels? And if you found an artist you liked, did you buy a substantial amount of their merch?

I’m done now – I promise – just had to get that off my chest, for every venue owner who’s said, “I’ll give you a gig if you can sell 40 tickets,” filling the venue with my friends and few fans who pay their money, buy the venue’s grog, and increase MY fan base by not one person.

Sorry – venting is like vomiting – you think you’re finally done, and another wave hits you.

It’s pretty obvious that I’m not yet in a position, as chapter 5 asks, to talk about who my fans are, and what they want from me. The “friends, friends of friends, and family” base has been worked pretty hard already – I didn’t need MSI9W to do that – and the great unknown mass out there, the mass that may or may not like my music – I’m fine with that, I’d just like the chance for them to hear me and decide – seem beyond the reach of any efforts I could make to reach them that doesn’t seem transparently grasping (eg engaging with blogs I’d like to be reviewed on, hoping I’ll hook them into talking about me without sounding like that’s exactly what I want.) I can imagine them thinking, “ANYONE can tell me they deserve a review – if you deserve one, wouldn’t I have heard of you somewhere other than from you?”

All of the above – if you’re still with me – means that I guess I’m not ready for week 5 yet (though weeks 6 and 7 appear more promising – maybe I’ll yet take the opportunity to “change the rules as I go” and do them first?)

So I’m very positive about the potential of the brave new wide web world 🙂 – but a little down about the translation to results. I promised to follow the MSI9W program better in wave 3 than 2 0 – and I will – but I also promised myself to tell the truth in my blogs – as ugly and warty as that truth is sometimes.

Maybe I just need to leave it a couple of days and come back with a fresh perspective.

This is not procrastination.

Not this time, anyway 🙂

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The Essential Role of a Producer – In the Studio with Charles Fisher

Producers are Musical Visionaries

I take a figurative and literal detour with this post from the Music Success in Nine Weeks Blog Challenge, as I have done for the last two weeks in my musical activities, to talk about Producers, and how and why they’re relevant to me as a self-supporting independent musician, and might be to you too.

Whilst the idea of any intensive course – especially the Blog challenge – is to fast track an endeavour through intensive, unbroken focus, you can change – author and mentor Ariel Hyatt says – the rules of the game as you go. I therefore had to break my focus on the challenge for a fortnight to take the opportunity afforded by the realisation of one of my goals from week 1 – the availability of the first cab off the rank on my wish list, producer Charles Fisher, who has been responsible for realising the full potential of the songs of Savage Garden, Moving Pictures, 1927, and a host of other bands whose hits were all over the radio when I was growing up. So when I called Charles about a song I’d sent him and he said “I really like this song, let’s do something,” I thought I’d better fit him into my schedule 🙂

Why a producer: For those of us used to DIY demos at home, and conversant with the massive advances in resources and quality of gear available to home studios nowadays, the idea of external studio time is an unnecessary expense, and the idea of a producer possibly falls into the same bucket. There is a great deal of control and autonomy afforded by having a studio set up at home, and with decent gear and a bit of research and practice, a musician can get a song from concept to release quality with no assistance and without leaving the bedroom, so why not just self produce?

Whilst Prince has done alright for himself as a self producer, not every musician has the combination of skills and objectivity to  be able to get the best out of their songs. Most songs benefit from an outsider, with their fresh ears, distance from the material, and desire to get the best out of the song, no matter what the artist’s preferences and preconceptions might be. Someone to say, “This song needs a bridge.” Someone to say, “I know you have a better vocal take in you,” or alternatively, “THAT’S the one!!” Someone to say, “This song needs another guitar layer like a hole in the head – but a piano would bring those chord voicings out crystal clear.” None of which I’m ever able to recognise, let alone say to myself and act on, after tracking and mixing something which, when I’m done in my little home studio and listen on my trusty monitors, I’m always sure is the best thing I’ve ever recorded 🙂

Why Charles: Apart from his aforementioned stellar track record – most of which was achieved with bands just starting out – I’ve worked with him once before, two years ago, on Couldn’t This Be, and I know therefore that he gets the best out of me and out of my songs. It’s that simple.

By way of example – some of you may have heard of, or even be members of Taxi, an independent A&R company (they act as an intermediary between musicians and professionals looking for music, for publishing, deals, Film and TV, et cetera.) Of the submissions I’ve made, I have had three songs (self-produced demos) forwarded once each, and one song forwarded four times so far. Guess which one Charles produced 🙂

So what’s it like working with Charles – and by inference, what can you, as a musician, expect from a producer in today’s music world?

  • Expect to be asked to do things you don’t usually do. I’m a guitarist, and I’m a sucker for layer upon sumptuous layer of guitar parts and tones. I’ll sometimes use every guitar and amp in my arsenal on one song in an effort to orchestrate my arrangements, and break voicings up between parts in an effort to get my strange chords to be heard. Charles observed that my chords would be heard better on keys – electric/acoustic piano, Hammond, string arrangements. I said I don’t play keys (and we agreed that programming them sounds too stiff.) Guess what – I play keys now. And I can hear my chords. Producers are usually right about trying things 🙂

My Keyboard - no longer just a cat stand

  • Expect to do a lot of the work yourself. Good producers are two things, and deservedly so: busy and expensive. It’s valuable to both of you for them to make the observation that, for instance, a keyboard part will benefit the song. It’s a waste of everyone’s time for them to watch you for two hours while you re-learn how to play keys so you can play the song for which you wrote all the parts on guitar. So I did the keys at home, and all the fuming, swearing and bum notes happened on my time. Charles was also happy with my home studio vocal recording sound, just not the takes, so it made sense for me to redo those at home also, where I could relax, dim the lights, make ridiculous warm up sounds and chew ginger to my heart’s content.
  • Be prepared to take – and accept – suggestions. This one sounds like a no brainer, but it bears mentioning. Musicians are heavily emotionally invested in their music, and often relinquish control over it like a rottweiler relinquishes control over a postman’s leg – very reluctantly. Sometimes a producer will make suggestions that will challenge your concept of the song. You might be asked to change a line or a lyric. You may be asked to drop a part or solo that you’re absolutely in love with.  In my case, it’s the guitar orchestration thing that I had to learn to let go of. That, and the fact that we needed to use triggers/samples to get a professional enough drum sound, despite my desire to “keep it real” (we did keep some of the original drum sound I recorded.) Both decisions, once I accepted them, made the world of difference to the song – and hopefully will do to the listener, who’s not emotionally invested in the process, and doesn’t care about my collection of vintage guitars or my fixation with the drum sounds on Led Zeppelin IV. Having said that, Charles suggested some extra guitar parts I’d never have thought of, which kicked the song into overdrive in the verses and then into hyperspace in the bridge! Bottom line: if you’ve hired a producer, someone who has gold and platinum records all over their walls and maybe made some of your favourite music – listen to him/her.
  • Keep writing and demoing. Good home studio setup and skills allow good demos. A good demo allows the potential of your song to be heard when presenting it to a producer. It also allows you to understand the process of written song to finished product, and this will mean you’ll be better able to help the producer to help you. And a good song … well, no matter what you play, what your style, how you sing, how you promote yourself online, it all starts with the song. Keep writing, rewriting, road testing, and then do it all again. Make your songs as strong as possible. Even the best producer can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear 🙂

Blog Challenge – Week 3: Brand the Band – The Story of The April Tree

How does one encapsulate the impact of the Web on the way people perceive, consume, and appreciate music?

And how does one, as a musician, respond to that massive upheaval in the fan/musician relationship?

These are questions far too complex for one as easily distracted as I am – which is why I’m so pleased this marvellous book explains it so superlatively – but as a musician, when launching my music upon the world, I still needed to begin my online campaign somewhere. This blog’s subject is the story of that beginning, starting with a tree.

Anyone can set up a webpage – personal, facebook, myspace – and have a web presence in any one (preferably more!) of a multitude of places. Anyone can type words on those pages. How does one make a visual impression that’s immediately and unmistakeably that of the band?

The answer (for me at least) is branding.

Any mass awareness campaign for anything – product, person, event – benefits greatly from an easily recognisable graphic. The usual commercial suspects come to mind – Nike’s swoosh, McDonald’s’ arches, Apple’s apple. These symbols are unique, easily recognisable, transcend language and geography, and allow people to define their own relation to the brand (whether they like what it stands for or not :-))

That same level of recognition applies to far more band symbols than I realised before I looked into it; perhaps far more than you realise also. Just look at the following:

Recognise these punks?

Even if you’re not sure of these, you’re likely to have seen them, and their fans would immediately associate these with Bad Religion, Black Flag, The Ramones, and  the Dead Kennedys.

Punk not your thing? How about these:

Not quite “The Usual Suspects” …

Strange Bedfellows these icons may be, but regardless, these are immediately recognisable to most pop music fans as Van Halen, Jamiroquai, Prince, and Hoobastank.

Not yet convinced of the brand power of a logo for a band? Here’s the piece de resistance of band logos:

So THERE!

If it’s good enough for a band as big as the Stones turns its logo into posters, a massive stage prop, and (I’ve seen somewhere) a couch,  and uses it to promote recognition and awareness, it’s good enough for me 🙂

So. I had the band name – “The April Tree.” I liked it, and so did most people who I queried who knew me and the band’s music. And I love trees – climbing them, looking at them, lying under them, watching them grow. So I started with a tree – in my case, a baobab tree – incredibly long-lived, capable of storing huge amounts of water and mythologised as the “Tree of Life” :

The original “April Tree” baobab

Then, I had the idea of having all sorts of images in the tree, random things which were somehow significant to me, but not too much of a theme; things that people could look at and look into and maybe find patterns or themes of their own:

 

How great would it be to end every day like this?

Sam, the Moral Compass for The Muppet Show ...

What's a tree without some birds in it?

The SR71 Blackbird. As a kid, my favourite plane. Unarmed coz it was just too damn fast to ever be shot down.

These, plus other images, were carefully cut out and photoshopped by my own resident graphic expert, the Lady April Tree (aka LdJDesign) into the tree, which she then vectorised (so it could be scaled smoothly to any size – critical for posters!)

Finally, she solved that other branding conundrum, “what font really represents my brand/music?” by making a font out of my crappy chicken scratching and using that for the band name.

The result will be familiar to you from any of The April Tree’s web sites, avatars, gravatars, and images as the final logo you see here:

Posters, EP covers, business cards, and websites one and all now had a common theme.

A wonderful image for the band, and for anyone who doesn’t quite feel captivated by the image of these three likely looking lads 🙂

Two, Hank and Wool. The Sunnyboys.

Blog Challenge – Weeks 1 and 2 Revisited: Goals and Pitch

There’s a wonderful saying – “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” Thinking it was familiar for more than just its frequency of use in the discourse of folks around me, I tracked it down and found it was a lyric in John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy.”

 From being a song lyric, it’s become a saying which, to my mind, seems to be exhorting us to live in the “now” and appreciate the moment.

For me, it was, partly at least, the excuse I referred to for many a year to not write down goals, and worse yet, to pat myself on the back for, you know, getting out there and living life rather than writing down the life I wanted to live.

 I know. Shame On Me.

Last time I had a crack at the Blog Challenge, and blogged about my intentions and exploits, I did manage to break out of this little mental drama and set pen to paper on the first two chapters’ activities – “Getting Mentally Prepared – Goal Setting” and “Perfect Pitch” (not to be confused with the musician’s definition of Perfect Pitch – an enviable attribute, and one which can be learned – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!)

Yes, my handwriting really is that bad

If you can decipher my hieroglyphics – perhaps more aptly termed “chicken scratching” –  you’ll see the top goal in my Top Six Goals, and also the top goal in my Music Career Goals Next 12 Months , was to “get a producer on board” for my music, followed by two names, and the Due By date – Oct 2010. Well, a few days ago, after a couple of phone conversations, I secured the first name on my list to work with me.

One of my written lifetime goals was to “overcome the chronic knee problems I’d been suffering and get back to training optimally.” Translated, I wanted to keep lifting heavy things and get sore muscles – not sore joints!

Heavy Weights. Like Fire – Good Servant, Bad Master.
Anyone who loves training, or just moving freely, and has suffered knee pain (or any other type) knows it makes your life a misery – you feel so frustrated about not being able to enjoy what you love doing (in my case, cycling and lifting heavy things.) After several years, many physiotherapists, and manifold blind alleys and dead ends, I finally seem to have hit on the right answers to the myriad causes. My pain is getting less and I feel at least I have control over it, rather than it having control of me.
 
Lastly – for this post – I did get around to writing my Pitch. But first … I had to get over a stupid hangup about likening my music to that of other artists. Someone years ago said to me, “As a musician, don’t liken your music to anyone else – you sound like YOU.” Trouble is, no-one knows what that sounds like till you give them a cue – or a clue (I like tricky wordplay.) I finally threw off the shackles of that piece of bad advice and came up with Lush, beautiful epics for the three minute attention span. Like John Mayer with a Frayed Script. (I like puns too.) Short, simple, and feels true for me to say it.
 
What does this mean?

It means that without even having really applied myself these past few weeks, the MSI9W way has borne fruit.

It means that I think I’m on the right track, at least with goal writing stuff and pitching myself to people on my various media – flyers, website, facebook – everyone who sees these will at least know what to expect, and whether that interests them.

And whether or not that rebellious artistic ruffian John Lennon ever wrote down HIS goals, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want me misappropriating his lyrics to shore up my excuses – and I won’t be again.

Sorry John 🙂

 

 



Blog Challenge – Underachievement, Excuses and Redemption

It’s said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action and expecting different results. I see examples of it around me regularly, particularly in the gym: people who’ve been training for years, same routine failing to achieve the same purported goals. Not that such a thing has ever happened to me 🙂

OK, maybe it’s taken me a few years to achieve the perspective to recognise when a routine or exercise isn’t working and the maturity to do something about it.

So, to the blog challenge. I’m a Wave Two person coming back for Wave Three. Am I not doing the same thing and expecting different results?

Here’s some painfully honest self-reflection on why I didn’t get the most out of Wave Two, and why this time round will be different. Heard those words before from someone? Didn’t believe that person? Allow me to convince you – scratch that – allow me to convince MYSELF, and we’ll see whether we believe me.

CRAP EXCUSES – better get these out of the way first…

  1. Someone else was always on the computer.

    This PC is in use and locked by Azrael.

  2. Technical Difficulties. Today’s blog is NOT brought to you by the letter U, nor by the number 7…

    Azrael left the keyboard only after strong persuasion.

  3. I received Ariel’s wonderful book a couple of weeks after the commencement of Wave 2, and consequently felt I was playing catch up.
  4. I am easily distracted.
  5. I am exceptionally good at rationalising behaviour that prioritises my short-term interests over my long-term ones.

Um… did anyone else see the light bulb that flashed like burning magnesium just then? Better repeat that one for my own benefit – sorry folks, hope some of you are getting something out of this – “I am exceptionally good at rationalising behaviour that prioritises my short-term interests over my long-term ones.”

For instance, I cycle about 120km a week, commuting and “training” (er, mostly looking at trees.) Depending on where you sit in the cycling spectrum, that’s somewhere between an impossible and a pitiful weekly mileage 🙂 Notwithstanding, it does make me hungry for Vitamin Ch which is but a squeaky refrigerator hinge away, and anyway, I’ve earned it with all the cycling, not to mention the gym, resistance plus cardio, yay me!, and plus it’s a known mood elevator and source of antioxidants, I can just imagine the chocolate molecules racing round my insides, dutifully scavenging all my free radicals …

See what I mean.. Rationalisation, short-term (chocolate – any time, all the time) over the long-term (some semblance of physical conditioning.)

All of which means that if my capricious attention span is captured by something, my overactive brain will rationalise a way to allow the nut behind the wheel of my “free will” to steer me away from sticking to the task at hand. Or fingers. Whatever. Is it any wonder I opted for pop music? I’m serious when I pitch as “Lush, beautiful epics for the three minute attention span.” That’s how I roll.

So I have to stick to this better.

I also need to overcome the:

“REAL EXCUSES”

  1. Self promotion makes me self-conscious – and I stop doing things which make me self-conscious
  2. I didn’t feel like anyone would read my blogs
  3. I didn’t feel like the steps would make any real difference to my fan base

There. My rationalisation grabbed onto these, I picked up the guitar – like always – and no one new heard anything I wrote – like always.

Same Behaviour. Same Result.

Only – I’m not insane (prepared to countenance differing opinions on the subject.) I know I need to do something different. I need to do the 9 weeks, and I need to do it properly.

And I really need to get my cat a scratching post.

Double Up: Website and Social Media for the Technophobic and Socially Inept

Dear friends, fans and faithful readers, this one’s a bit of a “behind the scenes” of how bands in general, and The April Tree in particular, is/are trying to make their/our way in the brave new world of music.

Further to the self promotion conundrum (some might say petulant tantrum) I elucidated in my  Fifteen Second Pitch blog, I move my focus to the band’s next two objectives in our promotional sojourn, as described in chapters 3 and 4 of Ariel Hyatt’s excellent Music Success in Nine Weeks.

I’ll confess to having had a head start on these activities for two reasons.

One was that I saw Ariel give a seminar in Melbourne last year which pretty much blew the doors off the preconceptions of a packed room of musicians and managers. You could literally hear the drawing of breath followed by the dropping of pennies as the musical stats, harsh realities, approach outlines, and finally action points were laid out in front of us. If you’ve read MSI9W, or are at least aware of the gist, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Two is that I happen to have an in-house web master/graphic designer partner, the wonderful LdJDesign. As well as being a trained designer, pattern maker, professional landscape architect, award-winning Photoshop wizard and designer of The April Tree logo, the good Lady April Tree is far more patient and skilled in the matters of web design than I, despite my 12 years in the IT industry as a Business Analyst (which basically means I found programming too techy/hard and was happier being translator between Business and Techies, which is like mediating between warring parties with a mutual enmity and a language barrier neither is remotely inclined to bridge.) The benefits bestowed on my music promotion by having such a resource on tap are incalculable, and give new meaning to the phrase “marrying well.”

The April Tree has therefore started this MSI9W caper with a pretty good web presence already. We have a website which loads just within Ariel’s 3.5 second maximum, we have Twitter, Facebook and Myspace, and all but Facebook are showing top of the search engine trees. Just in case you’d like to see for yourself, Let Me Google That For You …

The problem is, we’re #1 in searches, but EP sales are sluggish, our weekly residency is still a little more “underground” than we’d like, and – we have to admit – we don’t have any idea how many “real” fans we have. We’ve discovered that having >1000 friends on Myspace doesn’t necessarily translate to – well, anything. It’s not just us, either. We once shared a bill with an artist who had fifty thousand friends  on Myspace, and over five hundred thousand plays, and … well, let’s just say it appeared that they all had prior engagements that day.

So how do we translate hits to … well, Hits??

  • As Ariel says, and as outlined in the marvellous commoncraft videos she recommended, Web 2.0, and the new marketplace, is all about Two Way Conversations, and allowing people to circumvent or totally ignore the traditional marketing media to  “find the flavours they like for themselves” by listening to what each other are getting into, via blogs, comments, etc – kind of like millions of independent DJs, rather than the few radio station jockeys most cities have who are all in thrall to the scourge of some form of payola
  • Also, for fans to really take an artist to heart and support them by buying their merch and attending their gigs, they need to feel they have a relationship with the artist, not just as a consumer (“Hey – this is my site – buy my album!!”) but as a person who feels a bond with the artist which is more than just purely commercial (so the fans reading this – tweet, comment, email, carrier pigeon, talk to me, one and all… about anything. You’d be surprised at the range of things I’m happy to converse about)
  • It does also help as a band if you can satisfy the “What’s In It For Me?” urge when trying to appeal to a new fan. We’ve used the wonderful reverb nation widget on our website to capture email addresses and give fans access to a free song download. That’s right – go to our site and let us have your email – which we swear cross our heart and hope to drown in a vat of warm marmalade NEVER to spam, disclose, onsell, or otherwise violate – and we’ll give you a song of ours for your very own 🙂

I’ll admit that I have digested and accepted all this info. I’m twittering, blogging, web-bing and generally sharing. I’m replying to people who take the time to comment, tweet, or respond to status updates (and appreciate all of these – really, there’s nothing like having people who are happy to talk to me because of the music my band and I make.) I’m yet to see how this will “snowball” yet, but roll with me for the next few weeks if you please and we’ll all find out together …

Give Me Fifteen Seconds and I’ll Give You the World

My favourite comedian/social commentator/savant, Bill Hicks, used to have a riff on advertising and marketing, which resonated with me particularly well as a person who by and large resents the invasion into public space, discretionary time, and mental bandwidth posed by advertising (can you imagine the existential conundrum I get into when I find myself thoroughly lost in the indulgence of Mad Men ?)

If your workplace (quick, someone’s coming – Alt-Tab, Alt-Tab!) is like mine and blocks YouTube footage, the gist of the Hicks riff – and apologies in advance, it’s going to get a little dark – is that Advertisers and Marketers ” … are Satan’s little helpers. Okay – kill yourself – seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously. No this is not a joke, you’re going, ‘there’s going to be a joke coming,’ there’s no fucking joke coming. You are Satan’s spawn filling the world with bile and garbage … ” and text just doesn’t do justice to the conviction and brilliance of his delivery, like a long black-coated sermon on the mount.

Now Hicks might be right and right-on – if there’s anything the world could do without, it’s more billboards, million-dollar-budget ads, and magazines that are basically unsolicited catalogues – but the question remains, “If you want someone to know about something, the message has to get out somehow.”

Artists in general, or the ones I’ve met anyway, seem very much aligned to Hicks’ perspective when it comes to marketing themselves – self promotion is equal to self-aggrandisement is equal to selling out. Just a breath away from this thought is the thought that there are so many artists that they, we, OK fcuk it – *I* see who seem to have attained their status through marketing and not merit – or rather, marketing on some massive financial steroids.

Financial steroids and million dollar video budgets notwithstanding, there is one bitter pill to swallow in the hype machine that is the popular music industry – that the artists have found and connected with their audience, who know what to expect from the brand, and will therefore buy their stuff. (And as heinous and unjust as this may seem to some, and whilst some massive selling stuff is just annoying crap, it is worth at least bearing in mind something Irving Berlin said to Cole Porter – “Listen kid, take my advice, never hate a song that has sold a half million copies!”)

But really, that’s what it comes down to – find and connect with your audience, and let them know what to expect from you. Hopefully, if they like you, they’ll buy your stuff … or at least download it and tell someone who’s not techno savvy enough or restricted enough by a quaint old-fashioned moral sensibility to buy it.

So in alla this – How does one market ones self, and stay true to ones self?

To me, Marketing, Self Promotion, and The Big Pitch begins and ends with telling the truth.

The truth in self marketing, as Ariel Hyatt of CyberPR says, is the 15 Second Pitch, the Brand Identity Statement (the phrase which makes my “artist” hackles raise – it sounds so corporate and “market-y” – but you’ll be able to sum up most every one of your favourite bands as such if you think about it; you should be able to do the same for you.)

It’s a little 15 second statement about the band, that feels comfortable to say – because it’s the truth.

One more thing – it helps to have a point of reference, so people, yes, know what to expect from you, as the truth can be subjective sometimes, and a little objective comparison can make it easier for everyone else to appreciate your truth.

What is mine?

“Lush, beautiful epics for the three minute attention span. Sounds like John Mayer with a Frayed Script.”

So now you know my truth, and hopefully, you know what to expect from my band.

And, lastly, I apologise; much as I’ve been told the pun is the lowest form of wit, it’s rare for me to meet one I didn’t like.