David Dufresne

Engage your fans: Communicate with F.I.R.E.



Today we have a short guest blog post courtesy of Ryan Van Etten, who has some good tips on how to communicate with your fans.  Ryan is a writer and creative media (web/music/graphic) producer with a degree in engineering. Music—he's recorded it, mixed it, mastered it, and now blogs about the technology surrounding it at VirtualMusic.TV. Find out more about Ryan at ryanve.com or follow him on Twitter: @ryanve.

Scoring emails and social network fans/friends/followers is all the rage. Bands go wrong with what they do next. They encourage me to hit "unsubscribe." It's the same tune, "buy this" or "come to this", but there's no compelling story or emotional hook. I want to be entertained, but most band emails lack inherent entertainment value. If you can't hit me in the heart, then don't expect an emotional connection. Emails, tweets, blog posts, texts, videos—I could drown in them. To retain interest and involvement, communicate with F.I.R.E.—Force, Information, Relevance, Entertainment.

F.I.R.E. Communication

Information is facts, news, or intel. Entertainment engages emotions, without which information has poor mileage. Announcements go nowhere without a story. Be vivid. People remember stories. Entertaining stories open the emotional connection. Information blended with entertainment is high-octane fuel. Relevance is the spark to a wildfire. Relevance is the reason. Force is all about time—how quickly and effectively the message spreads. Force can make or burn you. Don't drown flames with an information overload. You get more miles per gallon when you don't dilute the fuel. Be concise. (All killer no filler.)

Communication Do's and Don'ts

Do:

  • Add value (F.I.R.E.)
  • Have a hook in your first line.
  • Be yourself.
  • Be human (show emotion).
  • Speak like you would in person.
  • Make it personal.
  • Entertain/inform via story.
  • Have an opinion on a relevant topic.
  • Ask a question.
  • Have a point.
  • Have timing.
  • Be inspirational.
  • Be empathic.
  • Put yourself in their shoes.


Don't:

  • Be boring.
  • Be spam.
  • Flood the stream.
  • Announce plans that may never happen.
  • Expect fans to do actions you'd run from.
  • Crowd too many ideas into one email.
  • Randomly @ mention people on Twitter.
  • Dwell on the past, or the future.
  • Be too chaotic.
  • Be too predictable.
  • Follow the norm.
  • Neglect usability standards (fonts etc.)
  • Insult art, or other artists.
  • Ignore feedback.
  • Use ALL CAPS.


Are you heating up yet? Go on. Play with F.I.R.E.

Posted by David Dufresne on 08/31/2010 | 16 comments
David Dufresne

Google Alerts, and the “Music Success in Nine Weeks” Blog Challenge

First, one quick bit of advice:

Google Alerts can be a great way to monitor what is being said on the Web about your act or about your band.  It won’t work if your artist name is very generic (like “The Lovers”, or “Joe Smith”). But if you have a unique and original name (like “Bass Kleph”), make sure you set an alert for it (and use brackets, so it only searches for your name).

It’s also excellent for monitoring what is being said about your company, and that’s exactly how we found out that a number of our members were building sites on Bandzoogle and blogging about it, as part of Ariel Hyatt’s “Music Success in Nine Weeks” Blogging Challenge.  Latest example is Meghan Morrison who, in a recent blog post explains in details the process behind creating the header image for her site.

The Music Success in Nine Weeks program seems like an excellent series of advice on how to market your act, so please let us know in the comments if you’ve read it and how helpful it was. And definitely let us know if you’re blogging about it... before Google does ;-)

Posted by David Dufresne on 08/27/2010 | 4 comments
Chris

More news, tips, and ideas on Facebook and Twitter!

Did you know we post tips, music industry news, and examples of great member sites on Facebook and Twitter?

If you haven't already, become our Facebook friend at http://www.facebook.com/bandzoogle. If you use Twitter, follow us! http://twitter.com/bandzoogle

While you're there, click our recent post to vote for our panel at SXSW.  Getting your thumbs up will help us get a spot in the schedule.

Thanks for your support!

Posted by Chris on 08/26/2010 | 0 comments
David Dufresne

David and Chris interviewed on Hypebot, about technology and music.

Hypebot is one of our favorite blogs to keep ourselves informed and updated about all that is going on in music technology space. Recently, Chris and I had the chance to take part in an interview with Kyle Bylin, one of the main writers there. The interview is about the technology driven radical changes happening in the music industry, and how it affects musicians. Quick excerpt below, but please grab a coffee, sit down comfortably, and head over to Hypebot for Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Don’t forget to leave your comments or questions there (or here !)

Excerpt:

Hypebot: Why must artists not just be artists—aloof and solely creative nature? Why must they embrace not only new technologies, but the techniques of online promotion and participation that go along with them?

DD: Of course, there is nothing that prevents artists from just being artists. However, if an artist hopes to make a career out of being an artist, then that typically means that the artist will need to find both an audience that is engaged with the artist’s creative output, and ways to earn revenue from that engagement. If we talk about music, the Music Industry of the past 30 years defined the rules, both in how you found an audience and engaged with it (think radio, MTV, mainstream press), and how you monetized that engagement (by selling and licensing recordings, and the occasional concert ticket). You wanted a career? You needed to find your way into this Industry, understand the rules of the Game, and abide by them. This worked well for a relatively small number of artists, and very well for a relatively large number of businessmen, lawyers, and shareholders.

As we all know too well, the innovations of the last 15 years in how you produce, distribute and promote music, mean that the rules about how you find an audience, and how you monetize it are seeing fundamental shifts. The technologies that are causing these shifts threaten many of the established rules, but also open the door to new rules and new models. A lot of this newness is still unproven, confusing and chaotic. It is often comforting for an artist to keep having faith in the old ways. However it is clearly the serious artist’s responsibility to understand what is happening and seek out the tools and techniques that will work for them.

Click here to read the whole thing.

Posted by David Dufresne on 08/25/2010 | 5 comments
David Dufresne

Bandzoogle is hiring! - Support (and social media)

Bandzoogle keeps growing (thank YOU), so we have to keep growing the Zoogler family.  We are looking for a support person to join our team full-time. The candidate will be responsible for helping customers via web chat and email, testing new features, and suggesting improvements for our products.  The candidate will also help out with our social media efforts, so we are looking for someone that loves writing a good blog post, interacting on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

This is a full-time, work-from-home position.  This is for a 6-month contract, with the possibility of a permanent position

Requirements:

  • You must be friendly, courteous, with excellent written English.
  • You must be self-motivated (working from home isn’t for everyone).
  • You must love helping others solve their problems, big or small.
  • You have a strong understanding of web pages and of the Internet in general (HTML, domains, FTP, Widgets).
  • You have experience with blogs, Twitter, Facebook.
  • You have expert level computer skills (Windows XP/Vista/7 - Mac OS X).
  • You have an up to date computer and high speed internet connection.
  • Bonus points if you:
    • Blog.
    • Are a musician.
    • Have experience building websites.
    • Are fluent in other languages than English and French (written, too.).
    • Know and love the Bandzoogle platform.

Why work with us ?:

  • A competitive hourly wage, plus bonuses based on performance.
  • Paid training.
  • A low stress, fun work environment.
  • We're growing fast, even in this economy!
  • We're building cool technology for musicians.

To apply:

  • Send your resume to jobs (at) bandzoogle.com
  • Send links to your blog and Twitter account, if you have them.
  • Send a link to your Bandzoogle site, if you are a member
Posted by David Dufresne on 08/17/2010 | 5 comments
David Dufresne

Band PR 101: How to get covered by music blogs

I recently had the privilege of catching up with Ty White. Ty runs Sum The Greater, a music blog and direct-to-fan marketing company out of San Francisco. He spent two years managing Artist Services at Topspin and has since dedicated himself to helping small bands build actionable fan bases. A few weeks ago Ty posted some excellent and specific advice in an online discussion about how artists should try to get their music featured and reviewed on music blogs. We liked it so much that we asked him if he would turn it into a blog post for our members and visitors. Definitely an important topic for artists that are looking to get more exposure, whether you do it yourself or through a PR service.

I'm in a bit of a unique position as both a marketer and music blogger, but I hope (and expect) more marketers will follow my lead -- blogging about your favorite music is a great way to build brand identity, introduce yourself and your brand to your favorite artists, and, most importantly, eat your own dogfood.

It's the eating your own dogfood part I want to hit on today. The communication between artists (or, more often, their PR representatives) and bloggers today is abysmal. I talk with artists weekly who are pissed at their PR firms for taking their money and not delivering any blog hits. On the flip side, bloggers detest opening their email for fear of another run of spammy, impersonal blasts infiltrating their inboxes and wasting their time.

Ultimately it's a problem of communication -- bloggers expect to be hit with the personal touch that the web and word-of-mouth marketing have made possible (or, arguably, required), while PR agents rest on the laurels of having thebiggest (read: most impersonal) "list" they can. The disconnect creates a problem like two parties trying to communicate in two different languages (hint: being on the receiving end of the sale, it's the blogger's language that wins).

I thought the best way to start approaching this problem would be through analysis of two real-world emails from artists to bloggers. I've altered them both to appear to be from the same person (one of my clients) for the sake of comparison, but they are both real-life emails pitching bloggers on a post.

The first hit my inbox a few weeks ago and struck me not because it's particularly good or bad, but because it does a lot of things right and yet misses entirely because of a couple seemingly small factors:

"Hey there

My name is Jim and I’m an indie-singer songwriter. I’m based in San Francisco, but I’m known in 57 countries and am building up a wide fan base.

I’m writing because I saw your site and enjoyed reading some of your reviews.

I have a new LP out called "Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go" and I think that you and your readers would like it. "Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go" has been described as a mix of Elliot Smith and Grandaddy. It has the perfect balance of songs – from those that are ideal for sitting back and relaxing, to those that make you want to get up and dance.

"Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go" has gotten great reviews from sites such as Bloginity, Consequence of Sound, and Spinner.

We’re offering it for free while Modest Mouse is on tour this summer. I know time is scarce, but if you could give it a review, I’d love to read it. Even if it’s negative, I really respect your taste, and would be interested to hear what you think.

If you would like a cd or a t-shirt, please shoot me a size and address and I'll get one out to you. If you prefer, you can listen to my LP for
free on my site.

A few links to check out:
Homepage:  http://www.allsmilesmusic.com
Download “Oh For The Getting And Not Letting Go" here:  http://allsmilesmusic.com/download
MySpace:  MySpace:  http://www.myspace.com/allsmilesmusic
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/allsmilesmusic

Best,
Jim"

Near-positives:

  • Sent from "the artist" - the intent is right, but the quotes signify that it's not actually successful in convincing me it's from the artist, and thus you'll see a corresponding negative point below
  • Spirit of "I saw your site and enjoyed reading some of your reviews" - again, right idea, but fails in execution (boy, that's a nice thing to say to...every blogger out there...so why me?)
  • Links to other reviews - while many bloggers won't admit it, we're all interested in what our peers think. However, I would show an excerpted quote from each instead of just linking -- show me that they thought it was good without my having to click through and find out what they said.
  • Offer of a CD or t-shirt - bloggers also like free stuff -- getting a 7" in the mail from Beloved Rogue reminded me to post a second song from them -- but don't emphasize free merch ahead of telling the blogger how to listen to the music

Negatives:

  • Impersonal - while it's signed by the artist and comes from what sort of appears to be his personal email (the name field on the email was the equivalent of "AllSmilesMusic.com" -- how do I know that is actually Jim and not his management?), it doesn't address me or my site with any sort of personalization. If you want me to listen, tell me why you thought *I* would like your music (what other music have I posted that you like or associate with? had you ever seen my blog before today? BE HONEST! All the crappy PR blasts have turned bloggers into finely-tuned BS-sniffing machines).
  • Link organization and calls-to-action - The whole email is about getting me to listen, but never explicitly tells me where to listen. Should I assume it's on the homepage since that's the first link? Honestly, my first instinct is to go to the download link (where there actually isn't a stream), but I shy away from that because I don't want to clutter my machine with music that I might hate. I want a taste first. And what is the purpose of the MySpace and YouTube links? Is there something I'm supposed to look at there? Or do you just want me to include them in a post? Be as specific in your calls-to-action as possible.

Now for an example of an e-mail with similar intentions and structure, but is personalized and organized more effectively:

Dear Chris and Gorilla Vs Bear,

My name is Jim Fairchild.  As a bit of background, I spent over a decade in Grandaddy and now tour with Modest Mouse.  I was turned on to you guys by my friend Scottie Diablo a while back and I dig what you do.  In particular I was stoked to hear about Vega and Neon Indian early on from you guys. And then Cults!

Anyway, I'm writing to let you know about another project I work on when not doing stuff with Modest Mouse.  It's called All Smiles and it's mainly me and Joe Plummer (one of the Modest Mouse drummers) with a wider ranging cast of characters as are near and necessary.

While I'm away from home this Summer, I've decided to try and turn more people on to our latest album Oh For The Getting and Not Letting Go. By giving it away for free in exchange for an email address.  We've been working on a bunch of new stuff, with the thought we'll get a new album and EP done by the end of the year.  More home spun affairs this time.  But I'd like more people to be familiar with what has preceded it when that happens.

If you haven't checked it out, you can either stream and download it at allsmilesmusic.com or use these to download:

Full Album: http://t.opsp.in/IUHE
"I Was Never The One" MP3: http://t.opsp.in/IV1a
"Foxes In The Furnace" MP3: http://t.opsp.in/IV1b

Okay Chris.  I hope you enjoy the album.  If you do decide to post something about it, I'd really appreciate if you'd include the widget that lets folks download it, the code is down at the bottom.

Take good care and thanks for your time.

Cheers.
Jim


(code goes here...)


Sure, the grammatical structure may be a bit awkward and imperfect, but that's how Jim writes (and talks) and it helps his personality shine through. Note what is done properly here:

  • Personal background - answers "why I might care" off the bat, and points to real-world examples of why the music would be a fit on the blog (he's inspired by the music they post)
  • Quickly gets to the point - no frills, elaborate bio, or page-long story of the inspiration for the record -- this can all be posted on a press page for those who care to dig deeper, but don't waste the blogger's time up front
  • Direct links to the most relevant content - stream or download the record, or download two suggestions of singles (a suggestion of a starting point for listening is always good)
  • Soft ask to embed widget - this was actually Jim's move, to move the widget code to after the sign-off, and I love it -- it keeps the entire body of the letter personal while still including the ever-important code

Remember, bloggers are often combing through hundreds of emails a day, and 99+% of the time won't even listen if you don't catch their attention. The way to do so takes a little more time and effort than your traditional PR blasts -- it requires a personal touch. If you want them to be interested in you, you need to show interest in them. I guarantee you, though, thatif you put the same amount of time into sending 10-20 really good emails to the right people, it will be infinitely more valuable than sending a slightly less personalized email to a much larger group (1 hit out of 20 is still far better than 0 hits out of 2000).

Bloggers can and should be one of your most valuable allies, but you have to learn to speak their language. Put yourself in their shoes and think "why would I be interested in posting about this artist?" Then write with that in mind.

Posted by David Dufresne on 08/16/2010 | 11 comments
Chris

Great band websites part 1: Own your fans

In July, I was fortunate enough to speak at the New Music Seminar in NYC. The premise of my talk was: "Attrack, Engage, Sell: How to make a band website that rocks", condensing my 15 years of building artist websites into 15 minutes. It was great fun. Since then, I've received a lot of follow up questions so I'd like to revisit and expand on the talk over the next few blog posts.

Before I get into how to make a great artist website, the first question is why? Why have a website at all?

As a musician, you have many options to create an online presence. Why not just have a MySpace page? Or Facebook? Or even just Twitter? It is something I get asked a lot. I have a simple answer:

You own it.

You own the fan list, and more importantly, you own the experience that fans get when they hit your site. No noise, no ads, just your message and your music.

50 Cent knows this -- He is one of the few artists with over 1,000,000 MySpace "friends". Yet, he directed fans away from MySpace towards his own site, ThisIs50.com. Why? His label said:

"The thing that separates ThisIs50.com (from MySpace) is that we control the e-mail database."

 

Owning your fan list is an important and powerful concept. It becomes especially clear when, like many bands, you move from MySpace to Facebook as your primary social network. Since you don't own your fan list, there is no way to carry them over -- so you end up losing a chunk of your fanbase in the process. When you own your fan list (even a simple email database), you are in control, and you can move it to any service you like.

On your website you also own the experience. You control what your fans see, and the messaging that you send them. No social network noise, no ads, no other competing links vying for your fans attention. A recent article in Wired magazine re-affirms how important this is. They spoke to labels, looking at the trend of moving their artists away from social networks as their main web presence. They found that:

"Artist websites (...) strengthen the fan relationship more than a social network can, by emphasizing an artist’s own brand"

Brands aren't just for corporations -- your "brand" is your unique identity, what defines you as an artist. Showing a clear and memorable brand on your website helps to set you apart from the noise that fans are bombarded with online. It helps your fans to identify you, connect to you, and remember you later. By owning the experience on your website, you can focus fans on your brand with no distractions and direct them to your call to action to deepen their connection.

Social networks are important. In fact, they should be a key part of every musician's online presence. But, they should be used in tandem with a great home base - your website - where you can create a unique experience for your fans and have the flexibility to grow that connection over time. In my next post, I'll go into more detail on how to most effectively leverage your social networks to drive traffic to your website. Stay tuned!

Posted by Chris on 08/12/2010 | 29 comments
Chris

Radio 2.0: How to get airplay on streaming music services

This is a guest post by Jonas Woost, a digital music consultant specialized in helping music start-ups with Business Development and Content Licensing. Before moving to North America in April 2010, he was Head of Music with Last.fm for four years, based out of London, UK. Jonas has been working in the music industry all of his professional life. Jonas' perspective on streaming services is interesting since he's been on the side of those building them, with music fans in mind and with the often lukewarm collaboration of content owners. Today he looks at what it all means for those that create the music.

Music streaming services are a great way for fans to access, consume and discover music on the Internet. They also offer bands and labels great ways to get discovered, build a fan-base, and, for some, there is even some money to be made. Unfortunately there are many misunderstandings about the different services on the Internet and this post will (hopefully) clear up some of the questions that Bandzoogle members, and other DIY musicians and indie labels might have.

So, what exactly are “streaming services”?

The “ownership” of music has become less relevant over the last years. Many people (myself included) don't feel they need to own any CDs, vinyl records and mp3s if most music is available on the Internet to listen to. Ownership results in maintenance and responsibilities: we have to clean records and make sure they don't get damaged. We have to back up our mp3 collection and make sure we keep the format up to date (who knows if mp3 as a format will still be relevant in five years ?). 

A great alternative to the above is using a music streaming service to access music. The files are stored “in the cloud” and we only access them through the Internet as opposed to owning them. Typically, you will not pay every time you listen to a track but you will pay a subscription fee, or there will be advertising that you will be exposed to in order to listen to the music for free.

What is important to understand (and this is where it gets tricky) is that there are basically two types of services: “radio” and “on-demand” streaming. 

The “radio” option is borrowing its name from a technology it has little to do with, but it refers to the fact that it's more of a hands-off experience. A “radio” streaming service will play a music selection that you cannot directly decide. You might chose a genre or an artist you like and tracks will be streamed to you that are similar to what you have selected. It's a music discovery experience to help finding new music based on what you already like. The only influence on what you will hear is that you might be able to skip or rate what you are listening to (helps the service personalize your playlist) but you will not be able to decide exactly what is playing next. Streaming services like Pandora and Last.fm fall under category “radio”.

“On-demand” streaming is a more active music listening experience where the listener can directly decide on what they want to listen to. It feels and often looks like an online jukebox where you can listen to specific tracks, whole albums or build playlists.  These kind of offerings can really replace a CD collection: if the service has all the music that you like there is no need to own the recordings any more. SpotifyRdio, Rhapsody, and MOG are examples of an “on-demand” streaming service.

The reason why it's very important to understand the difference between those two types of services is that the licensing and royalties structure work very differently in each one. Without going in too much details, a “radio” service would only pay a fraction of the royalties an “on-demand” service is paying, due to the different type of music consumption in each service. Also, a “radio” service might pay the royalties to a collection society (such as SoundExchange in the US) and an “on-demand” service might pay steaming royalties directly to the artist or label. All this also depends on the country the service is operating in. And that explains why some services are not available in countries where agreements are not in place. Confusing, I know.

As an artist, how can my music get on one of the streaming services? 

Just like traditional record shops, most streaming services don't deal with artists or smaller labels directly.  This is because very small teams run those companies and they do not have the resources to deal with thousands of artists every day. There are some companies out there that might be able to help you get on some of the streaming services; ReverbNation, CD Baby, Ditto Music and Tunecore are popular with DIY musicians, and companies like IODAThe Orchard and IRIS deal mainly with independent labels. Keep in mind that they might not be able to get you on all the different streaming services.  

Is it really worth it that I add my music to those services? 

There have been many discussions on the web about the amount of money that is paid out to artists by streaming services and those numbers seem to be low. But they aren't. Every one of the big streaming services (certainly the ones mentioned above) are paying out millions of dollars every year to the music industry. There are a lot of misleading articles out there (such as this one) that make it look like the money paid out is very small. But, I like to make the comparison between traditional FM radio stations and streaming services: the digital services pay out much more to artists and labels per listener than the FM equivalents - and in the U.S. the FM stations are not paying anything to the artists (only to songwriters).

One thing I hear a lot is that music streams might cannibalize sales of music and therefore some artists are understandably hesitant to make their work available for streaming. I have not yet seen any hard evidence that anyone sells less music because fans were able to stream their music. In fact, music streaming is a great way to promote some of the products that cannot be digitally delivered through the Internet such as tickets to gigs, merchandise or limited edition premium CDs/LPs. 

So should your music be available for streaming? I think every artist should make sure their music is available on the new services. Other than the fact that there is ultimately some money to be made, there is a much more important argument: your music has to be where the fans are so the “old” music industry don't even have the choice to fight this development and progress. The days where artists and labels can control the music and decide where fans will find and consume it are over. This might not always be advantageous for the musicians, from an artistic or financial point-of-view, but fighting this development is not only hugely frustrating but also a waste of time. Every musician is an entrepreneur, and part of that means you have to understand your market and be reactive to changes quickly.

Looking forward to feedback and questions: feel free to leave comments here or contact me on Twitter or my blog.

Posted by Chris on 08/06/2010 | 9 comments
Chris

Bandzoogle has a new CEO!

Today I'm very happy to introduce Bandzoogle's new CEO, David Dufresne. David brings the business savvy and management skills to take the company to the next level. He is also extremely passionate about music and very involved in the local scene here in Montreal. For more on David, check out his recent interview at Hypebot.

With David on board, I can focus all my effort on making Bandzoogle even better. We have some big new features under development, and now I'll have time to help the dev team get them done even faster. I'll also be sharing my experience by blogging more and doing live webinars on a variety of topics (more about this soon!).

Exciting times are ahead. David: welcome to the Zoogle family!

Posted by Chris on 08/03/2010 | 40 comments