Kelli Richards is a trailblazer in the digital music and media arenas with more than twenty years of experience, including 10 years at Apple. A highly sought-after consultant, mentor, speaker, producer, coach and author, Kelli is the CEO of The All Access Group . A frequent speaker and panel moderator at digital music and entertainment industry conferences globally, she is also the host of BlogTalkRadio (you might recognize a few of her past guests) and author of the book Taking the Crowd to the Cloud. We spoke to Kelli about social media marketing and the future of music. Enjoy!
Marketing Your Music: Kelli Richards on Social Media & Our Future in the Cloud
Q: What do you think the best strategy is for an artist's online presence? Is having your own website still important for artists in an era of free social media networks?
The best strategy is one that works for the individual artist. There are a plethora of amazing tools out there to make it easier for the artist to reach and engage with their fans, and for the fans to engage with each other as well. It’s not necessary to be on every platform and use every tool. Some artists may seek fan-funded tools like Kickstarter, Slice the Piece, and Pledge Music to pay for their next album, while others may leverage TopSpin to create unique bundles of goods that allow them to go direct-to-fan (especially for superfans). Others may use crowdsourcing sites like Talenthouse to become visible and burst onto the global scene.
I do think that a website is still important for artists – beyond their Facebook page, Twitter accounts and the like, primarily because it’s a destination for a band’s fans. You can share tour dates, biographies, photos, show videos, and engage in direct-to-fan e-commerce – all in one place. It provides both a rich infrastructure and a destination tied to the band’s brand & name.
Q: With social media, is there any danger of over-saturating your fans with updates & content? And on the flip-side, do you think it’s possible to not provide enough content on social media?
I think there’s always a risk of oversaturation by tweeting about nonsensical things that no one really cares all that much about, but on the other hand there’s a lot to be said for artists who are willing to engage with their fans often and openly (if they’re comfortable doing that). That direct dialogue, interaction and engagement is so powerful in this age of direct-to-fan communication.
Regarding the risk of not providing enough content on social media, I think it comes down to setting expectations with fans to the comfort level of the individual artist or brand. If they want to be active on social media, if so how, how often, and really just being authentic & setting the pace. Fans who are in tune with their favorite artists & bands prize authenticity above all else.
Q: Do you think artists must share everything of themselves to truly connect with their fan base, or is there still room for some mystery, some mystique in an artist’s life and career?
Not at all! First of all, wearing my hat as a coach and being a BIG believer in life balance, I maintain that an artist has a right to a fair amount of privacy – balanced with their public persona. So I think it’s a mistake in most cases to not reserve some of their private life for themselves, and I think generally speaking some degree of mystery with fans is welcome.
Q: In your view, what’s more important for an artist to obtain: a Facebook “Like”, Twitter follower, or a fan’s email address?
Once again, I can’t answer this in a ‘black and white’ way; the real answer is “it depends”. I’m not sure what having a huge Twitter following really does for an artist – but Facebook ‘likes’ could come in handy when trying to secure brand sponsors for tours and other activities to demonstrate an artist’s popularity and engagement with his/her fans. The fan e-mail address is still a prize and should be treated with great care and respect; it allows the artist to engage directly with his/her fan base without any intervention from a third party at his own discretion. For some artists having a ton of “Likes” is more important to them than the e-mail addresses; but if I were forced to recommend one or the other I think I’d go with the e-mails in most cases.
Q: What are your thoughts on the newest social media site on the block, Google+? Do you think artists should be using it? And do you feel it’s a real threat to Facebook’s dominance?
I think it’s too soon to say how impactful Google + will be for artists; I don’t think it would hurt to add it to their social media mix (especially if they have someone else taking care of that for them) but on the other hand I don’t see a lot of clear, direct benefit for it quite yet. I also don’t see it as a threat to Facebook’s entrenchment and dominance just yet; but Google is a major force, and I wouldn’t count them out. It’s really just too early to tell where Google + is going.
Q: Many artists don’t think to use LinkedIn as part of their online strategy, but in your book “Taking the Crowd to the Cloud”, you dedicate a chapter to it. Why do you think artists should incorporate LinkedIn into their online strategy?
Depending on what they do and how experienced they are around social media, an artist may or may not see the wisdom in using LinkedIn. But make no mistake, the industry leaders in the field, and the reviewers, bloggers and print media writers are most definitely there – so this becomes a valuable link in an artist’s online chain – and that chain reaches all the way from them to their fans. In fact, there are 70M users on Linkedin, and 37 percent of those are making more than 6 figures. So while an artist’s listeners and fan base may not be looking for them on Linkedin, bands can find some amazing connections there – and successful collaborations – along with some fully funded fans, followers and even brand advocates and sponsors for their merchandise and tours.
Q: Also in your book, you talk about how you don’t think MySpace is dead. Do you think artists should still maintain a presence on MySpace?
MySpace is a great place to build an audience, advertise gigs, get gigs, sell cd’s and merchandise and basically engage your audience. Like most social networks, MySpace Music Pages can be set up to host songs, pictures, biography, gigs, updates, blogs, friends and comments. The reason it’s worth being in there is that it’s got a huge presence of other musicians and artists – and if you’re looking for music lovers, you go where the music is.
The most exciting news about MySpace is that you can now attach your MySpace Page to your Facebook Page through a simple app. So if you’re there already, this is a fantastic way to use everything you already put into place without spending ten hours to move it over or mirror it on Facebook. Beyond that, Justin Timberlake led a group of investors to purchase MySpace earlier this year, and it remains to be seen what comes next – but with a musician at the helm it’s worth watching. MySpace still has a ton of artist sites and traffic despite Facebook’s dominance.
Q: Speaking of "Taking the Crowd to the Cloud”, you were at Apple for many years and helped to spearhead and manage their music initiatives. What do you think of iCloud? Have you been using it? And is “music in the cloud” the future of music consumption in your opinion?
Yes I was part of a very small team who launched Apple’s earliest music initiatives, and led those efforts during my ten-year tenure with the company. We had the vision for what music could mean to Apple, and Apple spearheading a digital music revolution once the Internet hit full-bore, for over a decade before iTunes launched – but without Steve at the helm, the powers that be who were in charge didn’t empower us to make it happen. Imagine would might have been possible had we been able to execute on our vision that much earlier in the process.
Of course I’m heavily biased towards all things Apple, and I love iCloud. I think it’s a fantastic, natural evolution. Many of us have been touting the concept of a ‘celestial jukebox’ since the dawn of digital music – where everything is stored in the sky and you can call up what you want on demand. With advancements in online streaming, smartphones and ‘everywhere connected’ tablets, we’re seeing this vision materialize at long last. I do think that “music in the cloud” is a vital component in terms of how music gets consumed moving forward; Pandora, Spotify and iTunes have proven that (along with a plethora of other services and enabling devices). It’s just going to get more and more exciting as we move towards a world of everything on-demand.
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