Bob Baker's Indie Music Promotion Blog

Music marketing ideas for DIY artists, managers, promoters and music biz pros


April 30, 2007

Are You Spreadable?

In my "New Rules of Internet Music Marketing" workshops, I've talked about the importance of thinking outside your own personal web site as fans/consumers become more empowered. Here's an excerpt from Henry Jenkins' blog that clarifies this point:


C3 research associate Joshua Green and I have begun exploring what we call "spreadable media." Our core argument is that we are moving from an era when stickiness was the highest virtue because the goal of pull media was to attract consumers to your site and hold them there as long as possible, not unlike, say, a roach hotel.

Instead, we argue that in the era of convergence culture, media producers need to develop spreadable media. Spreadable content is designed to be circulated by grassroots intermediaries who pass it along to their friends or circulate it through larger communities (whether a fandom or a brand tribe). It is through this process of spreading that the content gains greater resonance in the culture, taking on new meanings, finding new audiences, attracting new markets, and generating new values.

In a world of spreadable media, we are going to see more and more media producers openly embrace fan practices, encouraging us to take media in our own hands, and do our part to insure the long-term viability of media we like.

Indeed, our new mantra is that if it doesn't spread, it's dead.

So, how can you make yourself and your music -- along with your lyrics, themes, attitude, visuals and vibe -- more spread-worthy? And who can you connect with who will help you spread them?

(Thanks to Nancy Baym and her Online Fandom blog for the link to Henry Jenkins.)

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 11:28 AM   0 comments


April 27, 2007

Hits Suffer, Niches Bloom

Music Week in the UK reported some revealing stats about music sales in the first three months of 2007:

MW's detailed study of quarter one trading patterns indicates that, while sales of the Top 200 sellers plummeted year-on-year by more than 20%, the rest of the market dropped by little more than 3%. It indicates that, as the top titles suffer the biggest falls in a clearly tough market, sales are being spread out more widely across a greater number of titles.

This is a fascinating trend. The top 200 albums sold 21.1% fewer copies than they did during the first quarter of 2006. But when you take the top 200 albums out of the equation, the rest of the sales list was down just 3.3%.

And here's the coolest part:

Furthermore, OCC data indicates that, despite the generally poor state of the artist albums market, sales of the 5,001st to 9,999th best-selling artist albums in Q1 2007 increased 11.8% year-on-year.

That's right. Sales of music further down the chart -- where more obscure artists and indie acts reside -- actually grew!

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:05 AM   0 comments


April 24, 2007

Two Keys to Music Success

A few years ago, I started delivered this mantra on indie music success:

If you want to make your musical life simple and effective, concentrate on these two things:

1) Write, record and perform great music -- something amazing and unexpected. Nothing will advance your career like a killer song.

2) Focus on starting and maintaining relationships with a growing number of fans. Without people who rave about you and spend money on your music, you have no tangible career.

I was glad to see that Bob Lefsetz, in his own way, echoed my advice on his blog a few days ago:

Imagination. That's why the Ramones were so great. In an era when we had classical virtuosos on stage in capes (yes, you Rick Wakeman), this band of boroughmen all donned leather jackets and made two-minute ditties, in some cases with the stupidest lyrics of all time. It was kind of like abstract expressionism ... ANYBODY could do it, but nobody else could THINK of it!



That's what kept rock and roll alive. The constant innovation. The unexpected. Alice Cooper beheading himself on stage. David Bowie on the cover of his album as a dog. The artists were testing the limits, they were LEADING the company, they weren't being towed around town on leashes by execs who couldn't play a note.

That's how you break through. By surprising, by CONFOUNDING the public. By making people stop and think, not bump their asses as you try to convince us you're bringing sexy back when no one believes it ever went away.

And after you create your music, you don't sell it with stunts. Stunts are how you get the old wave media to pay attention. A stunt is Lonelygirl15. Heard anything about HER lately?

Now you've just got to put your stuff up on the Web, and wait for people to find it. Oh, service music blogs, and provide your friends/family/fans with free MP3s and other goodies, but you've got to let the public do the marketing. It's cheaper, and if you gain momentum, it LASTS!

Read his entire blog post here.

Your to-do list just got a lot smaller. Every day it should only have two items on it (see my list above). And every day, you should do those two things. Tomorrow, do them again. And the day after that ...

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:31 AM   3 comments


April 18, 2007

The Zimmers: Oldest Rock Band in the World

Here's another example of the power of cover songs: The Zimmers and their rendition of The Who's "My Generation":



More info on this video from the clip's YouTube page: Lead singer Alf is 90 - it's quite something when he sings "I hope I die before I get old." And he's not the oldest - there are 99- and 100-year-olds in the band!

The Zimmers will be featured in a BBC TV documentary to be aired in May 2007. Documentary-maker Tim Samuels has been all over Britain recruiting isolated and lonely old people - those who can't leave their flats or who are stuck in rubbish care homes.

The finale of the show is this group of old people coming together to stick it back to the society that's cast them aside - by forming a rock troupe and trying to storm into the pop charts.

The group even has a MySpace page at www.myspace.com/thezimmersband. Crazy.

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 1:48 PM   2 comments


April 16, 2007

Viral Music Video Buzz: Use This

There are all sorts of ways to create a YouTube-era music video worth talking about. You can do a one-take dance on treadmills or sing about your junk in a box. But one of the newest ways to gain attention is to do a unique cover version of a popular song.



Exhibit A is Alanis Morissette's "My Humps" video, which just surpassed 5 million views on YouTube. It's a slow, plaintive spoof of the Black Eyed Peas' silly "My Humps" track. Who knew that a cover song would catapult Alanis back into the public eye?

Another great example of music video buzz is Matt Weddle's awesome acoustic cover of "Hey Ya" by Outkast. This video has about 395,000 YouTube views. Matt is a member of the band Obadiah Parker, and both he and his band have benefited greatly from the "Hey Ya" exposure.

Yes, I know you probably focus on original music and are most interested in gaining wider exposure for the sounds you create. That's great. But don't overlook the possibility of recording a popular cover song that you put your own original spin on. When the cover gets attention, your name and the other music you produce gets a free ride along with it.

-Bob

P.S. For more advice on producing low-cost, buzz-worthy video content, check out my report How to Use Video to Promote Your Music Online.
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posted by Bob Baker @ 9:17 AM   1 comments


April 13, 2007

Earning Attention: It's All About Context

For years I've been wanting to write about the role of context in musical success and recognition. Example: Several years ago, Kelly Clarkson could have sung at a karaoke bar in Texas and few people would have noticed. Put her on an American Idol production stage, team her with pro songwriters and producers, get her some airplay and ... boom! She's a sought-after superstar.

She had loads of talent either way. But it wasn't recognized until she was presented in the optimum context. This idea was driven home recently when violinist Joshua Bell played in a Washington, D.C. subway.



Bell is an internationally renowned virtuoso, considered by many to be one of the most gifted musicians in the world. The Washington Post asked him to conduct an experiment. Writer Gene Weingarten was given the task of investigating what would happen if a gifted musician played in a D.C. subway during morning rush hour.

How would commuters respond? Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked to predict what would happen. He guessed that, over a 45-minute period, a small crowd would gather and that Bell would earn $150 in tips.

The results: Seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.

Again, it's all about context. Here's Bell quoted in Weingarten's article:

"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cell phone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change." This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.

"When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I'm already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don't like me? What if they resent my presence ..."

Context creates expectations in the audience, it can add or subtract confidence in the musician, it colors everything about the musical experience.

Read the entire article here. And remind yourself of this principle next time you have a less than stellar gig. Most importantly, do everything you can to create the context that's best for you and your audience.

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 10:27 AM   5 comments


April 11, 2007

The Truth About Music Industry Upheaval

Last night I read about a major battle within the music industry. New technology and changing trends were clashing with the established system. No, it wasn't about the state of music in 2007. Nor was it about 1999 or even 1984.

It was 1942.

That was the year the American Federation of Musicians (the musicians union) ordered its members to stop recording until the record companies agreed to pay them each time their music was played in jukeboxes or on the radio. It took more than two years for the biggest labels (Victor and Columbia) to fully settle so musicians could return to the studios.

Swing and big band music was on the way out and, largely because of the ban, the heyday of vocal music was about to be ushered in.

According to this page on the PBS.org web site:

"Just as the record ban began, saxophonist Charlie Parker and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie had just found their way into uncharted jazz territory. They were wowing small groups of listeners with their innovative new sound, but because of the record ban, only their collaborators and a few dedicated fans would hear the music they had created, which came to be known as bebop."

Why this history lesson?

We tend to think that whatever changes are taking place in the present moment are the biggest and most impactful ever. While it's true that change occurs at ever increasing rates, and the music shift going on today is truly dramatic, it's also important to realize that it's nothing new.

It happened with the invention of the gramophone. It happened with swing and big band. It happened with Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles. It happened with the introduction of the cassette and the CD. It happened again with the widespread use of MP3 files and iPods. It's happening right now.

And whenever these dramatic shifts happen, you'll find innovative musicians (like Parker and Gillespie) who continue to forge new paths regardless of what's happening with "the industry" at the time.

What new path are you forging?

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 9:03 AM   3 comments


April 06, 2007

One F#%@ing Awesome Interview

Have you heard of Bob Lefsetz? I've been reading his Lefsetz Letter blog regularly lately, and it's damn addicting. He's irreverent, arrogant, opinionated ... and right on the money with his music rants -- most of the time. Yep, I'm lovin' it.

His regular posts on the ever-changing music business are great, but I also recommend you check out this podcast audio interview he did with Iceberg Radio's Karen Gordon.

Warning: Lefsetz is pretty liberal with the curse words, so brace yourself. But this interview offers a rollicking overview of his anti-major label, pro-indie stance.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 3:35 PM   0 comments


April 04, 2007

New 'Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook' Edition

Good news: I just released a new revised and updated edition of the Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook -- my longtime best-selling title.



Over the last few months I've been going through the old edition and making lots of changes. The book now features four new chapters (most of them on Internet promotion) AND a brand new cover. Check out this page for complete details on the new edition (and the five bonuses that come with it).

Great news: Amazon is currently selling the new edition for just $19.77. If you want to order the book there, go for it. Just forward your Amazon email receipt to MrBuzzFactor (AT) gmail.com -- and I'll send you a link to the bonus reports and audio file.

Please use this Amazon link.

Note: If you want an autographed copy, you'll have to order through my web site at the regular price.

I'm really proud of the brand new edition of this classic book and I know that you'll love it too. Again, read all about the new Guerrilla Music Marketing Handbook here.

Thanks for your support!

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 12:53 PM   0 comments


April 03, 2007

Best Advice for New Artists

Wanna know my best advice for new artists? Well, I reveal that very thing (and more) at the end of my latest podcast. This episode features an interview I did in Halifax, Nova Scotia, during the East Coast Music Awards.

Give it a listen here.

I wonder what my best advice would be?

:-)

-Bob
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posted by Bob Baker @ 8:57 AM   0 comments


April 02, 2007

Catch Me Now on Twitter

It's the latest social media craze: Twitter, a site that describes itself as "a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM, or right here on the web."

Crazy concept. But tons of people are talking about it and using it, including me now. Check out my new Twitter page at www.twitter.com/MrBuzzFactor. Become my friend, get my updates, do that Twitter thing that you do!

Not sure what it is yet? Check out this Wikipedia page and these Google News stories.

-Bob

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posted by Bob Baker @ 5:37 PM   0 comments