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Monthly Archives: November 2010

In a report from NYU’s Stern Business School, researchers found that you could seriously affect CD sales by being mentioned in a blog. 40 blog mentions could increase sales by as much as 3 times, and 250 mentions could achieve 6 times the expected sales. Wow. Of course, it can’t just be Fred’s blog which is only read by his Mum and her cat.

A small provisio is that these mentions must be before your album is released. Is that significant? It seems to be. Sounds absolutely trivial doesn’t it, but stop a moment and think about it. How many independent artists can wait, or afford to wait 4 months before releasing their work. Because that is what it means. If you work with a Publicist, they will normally insist that you let them have the finished product (not a demo) 3-4 months ahead of the release date. That seems an awfully long lead time when you want to see some revenue

Having read the NYU paper, I’m now including approaching blogs too as part of the marketing mix. It is probably too late to get them to review the album now (although I won’t be shy in asking), but building those blog relationships will be really useful for the next album release. This PR task is much more personal, so whilst I might entrust it to an Intern, I wouldn’t hand it to a Publicist. Business is about building relationships over a period of time, which is why the longer you stay in business the more likely you are to remain in business.

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Publicity: Information that concerns a person, group, event, or product and that is disseminated through various media to attract public notice.

I’ve been working on publicity for Aaron’s album, american [fever] dream, for about 5 months. The publicity being sought is album reviews and interviews in traditional press (magazines), and new media (ezines, blogs, internet radio and podcasts). The campaign has two purposes: firstly to publicise the new album, and secondly to continue to build Aaron’s profile.

A number of music magazines are monthly, bi-monthly and even quarterly. They plan several issues ahead, so a bi-monthly or quarterly could easily take 6 months to publish your review. New media is instant, isn’t it? Well, no. They too can take the same time scales to publish. Having said that, Red Hot Velvet reviewed the album and published within a week.

The normal route to publicity is to hire a Publicist. You are looking for someone who fits your genre. That way you are going to lever their established contacts and target the most receptive audience. Outsourcing your publicity to a Publicist can cost between a few hundred to several thousand dollars a month. Some will work on a fixed price basis for a particular project, e.g. X dollars to contact Y Reviewers. Note that is not X dollars for Y reviews, publicity doesn’t work that way.

I have worked in outsourcing from both sides. The most difficult aspect of any outsource relationship is managing expectations. It is the client’s job to say what they want, and it is the outsources’ role to make sure that the client’s expectation are achievable, realistic and most importantly, fit within the budget. Getting something in writing is a must for both parties – it is a great conflict resolution tool. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, just a simple document with a time line and bullet points. Make sure the document deals with handling of expenses, so you are not surprised by implementation costs such as mailing, photocopying and printing.

Agree appraisal points and how they will be communicated. This can be done with a quick email, phone call, or face-to-face meeting. Attaching a payment schedule to these appraisal points is a great technique to focus your supplier’s mind. Be absolutely sure what is expected of you so you can deliver your side of the project. Do not underestimate the work involved in managing this relationship from both sides. I was once invited in by a difficult client to review our recent project. He refused to pay until the project was completed. It was only when I pulled out the 18 page proposal, which he had signed off on, that he sheepishly agreed that what he was asking for had never been part of the project deliverable.

You could do all the work yourself, but it will be a slow grind. I like to take some of these tasks on myself just so I know what they entail. Before engaging with a Publicist try contacting 20 of your target magazines/ezines/blogs. You’ll get a real feel for what is involved which will make managing the campaign and interacting with the Publicist much easier. And who knows, you may even manage a few reviews of your own.

This week’s focus is Aaron’s website. It is so easy to put up a site and then ignore it. In business nothing should be beyond reproach. A lot of time has gone into Aaron’s website. Of course, it is perfect! There couldn’t possibly be anything that needed changing . . . Learning to monitor your thought process and emotions, being aware or present is an interesting journey. The voice in my head was looking for reasons to avoid this task against an indignant swell of emotion. I got over it when I noticed that while tracks from Aaron’s latest album, “american [fever] dream”, start to play automatically, there is nothing else that quickly says who he is, and why you would want to delve deeper into the content.

Build it and they will come. Not so when there is so much to choose from on the World Wide Web. It doesn’t matter if you are Aaron English, Musician, or Joe Bloggs, Purveyor of Fine Things, how do you attract traffic to your website? And then, how do you persuade it to stay a while and check you out? These are two fundamental questions you are going to have to ask. Attracting traffic in the first place is a big topic and I am going to revisit that question in another blog.

Having started out with the perfect website(!), I now see that there are a number of things that could be tweaked:

  • it needs a photo of Aaron right up there, so it is one of the first things a visitor sees.
  • the single, Believe, made the Top 20 on the AC Modern chart in the US last summer. We need to shout about that definitely.
  • the pitch needs work.
  • change the music player to be a MySpace widget to help track plays. This is one of those metrics that industry folk like to look at.
  • the newsletter sign up is right at the bottom of the page, and, as more Tweets and news appear on the page, the further it slips down the page.
  • I can see adding a merch page, once there is some, beyond the music.
  • a data policy statement for those signing up to newsletter.
  • a Facebook “Like” button wouldn’t go amiss, either.

My last task on the website, for now, is to understand how people are using the site and whether the changes have had any effect. You can’t manage something you can’t measure, so I have signed up the site to Google Analytics. You can easily be overwhelmed by the stats you can collect so take a moment to understand them and decide which are the important ones. There are some stats, like average time on site, that don’t add up so don’t take them too seriously. The great thing about Google Analytics is that you can generate reports to cover any period you have been using them, so you don’t need to keep taking snapshots or writing figures down. I can see Analytics taking over from the paint drying site, if I allow it.

In simple business terms, your music and artist are the product. Actually, that’s several products, but that is getting ahead of myself. Few products are so simple, succinct and self contained that they can speak for themselves. The music and artist are complex. They are individual but in a bigger framework. “Sounds like Elvis”. Everybody knows what Elvis sounds like, but before Elvis was famous, it was a pointless statement.

One of the first jobs is to identify where does Aaron’s music sit so I can communicate his sound and identity to someone without them having to hear him first. It’s called a pitch, or a strap line. My job is to create a pitch. I have revisited this exercise several times over the last few months. Ho hum. It is half-term, I can hear my daughter running around downstairs. Maybe I can round her up and we could watch the paint drying website together. . . It occurs to me that something is better than nothing. Stop trying to get it perfect, that can come later. So I borrow from Mark Newman of Progression Magazine and reword a quote from a review of Aaron’s record: “Coldplay & Elbow meet potent lyrics, eloquence and sublime melodies reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, Joseph Arthur and Perry Blake.”

Let’s see what Aaron thinks?

Apart from my lack of music industry experience, there is another hurdle to overcome. Something I forgot to mention is that Aaron is based in Seattle, and I am in Cambridge . . . England. Yes, the one that all the others are named after. Working remotely has its own challenges. You can feel very isolated and unloved at times. Aaron is filming a couple of videos to accompany the launch of the new album, “american [fever] dream”, on Venice Beach in LA. I have to trudge into town to see if that review got published in Rock’n’Reel this month. The only similarity is that it is hot and crowded.

Those of you who work remotely (telecommute) understand exactly what I mean. A team should be more than the sum of its parts and without good communication, planning and priority setting, you are just an individual working in a vacuum. Teams create strategies, assign tasks, and set common goals. Don’t underestimate the value of being able to chat face-to-face with a colleague. Knock on his office door and 10 mins later you have probably saved yourself an hour or two of email writing, and without the frustration of having to wait for a reply. Oh yes, did I mention that there is an 8 hour time difference to cope with as well.

Goal setting is essential regardless of location. Understand where you want to get to, then work out how you are going to get there. The simple bit is to get on with it. Simple it may sound, but unless you are disciplined you will wander off track really quickly. There are dishes in the sink that need washing. My tea cup is empty. Hey, look, an email on how to watch paint dry. . . My personal trick for achieving something with my day is to look at my todo list, and pick the task I am most resisting as the first thing to tackle.

One of the most difficult aspects of carrying out multiple tasks is context switching. This is a problem a lot people suffer regardless of industry. You are in phone-radio-station mindset, and then you have to switch to planning and research. Going between them takes time. Organising chunks of time to tasks is most effective, but it is so difficult not to get side tracked, especially with that paint drying website. Organise, plan and be realistic in your expectation of what you are likely to achieve with your day. That doesn’t mean you can’t shoot for the moon because it sounds unrealistic.

It’s been a tough week. We have been running a AAA radio campaign in the US. The Promoter has now finished but the CD is still in review with a number of stations. It would be wasteful not to follow them up. I have a list of stations and do the research to get Music Director names, phone numbers and most importantly their “call times”, when they will accept calls from promoters. Unfortunately, each Director has her own little window, which is great if you are following a few hundred because you will always be phoning one. But with only a dozen you may be phoning two in a day, although, as I’ve found, catching two can take several hours, if you’re lucky.