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5 THINGS FACEBOOK CAN TEACH US ABOUT PROMOTING MUSIC

I’m not gonna grumble about Facebook’s new set of billionaires. I don’t even worry at the moment if Facebook is prying into this post to garner more information about me. I wonder what I can learn from Facebook to improve the lives of the artists I work with. After all, Facebook must have done something right. They weren’t the first to market. Friendster and Myspace came before them. So what parallels do I see in their success that any artist can replicate? Here are five biggies:

1) KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID
Remember the early days of Myspace? Annoying graphics and colors clashing with insane widgets all over the place. What did Facebook do? White pages with a thin blue bar. A modest number of links, but all done in a neat orderly fashion. Sure, it’s expanded over time, but to get it going they kept it as simple as possible to attract people. Counter that with many artist web sites. A ton of junk and useless information competing for ones’ attention. A lack of focus on pushing a single song. A cacophony of information that is often never updated. The audience just wants to hear your music. Everything else is secondary. Focus on the one thing you presumably do well. If you don’t get that done right, the other stuff is irrelevant.

2) BE OPEN
To grow their audience, Facebook opened up their API so developers could do some cool new integration tools. Sure, they’ve closed that off somewhat and change the rules often, but that happened AFTER they became huge. Not on the way up. Meanwhile, on the music side, many artists close themselves off. They overprice music that is hard to give away. They withhold music on Spotify because it doesn’t pay much and forego the exposure. They complain about people’s ability to use their music on YouTube videos without permission. Get over it. The more open you are to new uses, the more likely your music will grow.

3) IMAGE MATTERS
Once you nail the content, you’ve got to use images and have a definable image. Think about how many Facebook posts are more successful with an image. The better the photo, the more likes and comments. Without nailing those images, you’ll have a hard time finding an audience to embrace you. At the same time, you need an image that remains branded in people’s minds. Last week, people complained about the lack of respect Mark Zuckerberg gave investors by showing up to meetings in a hoodie. I, on the other hand, saw in my mind a very defined image of who Mark Zuckerberg is. Rather than worry about pleasing or conforming, make yourself undeniably memorable.

4) MAKE SUCCESS YOUR MISSION
Mark Zuckerberg didn’t just make Facebook. He made its success a passion. At any point, he could’ve stopped, made money and moved on. But he is consumed by a higher goal that drives him to make the business achieve heights only he can see. A billion people using the service? When you put your entire focus on nothing but the business for 24 hours a day for years on end, you can. How many artists out there are that driven? Every minute you play a video game, watch a TV show, hit the snooze bar, or stay later at the dive bar is just further proof that you don’t have it. That’s more telling than the music you create. Nearly every successful artist I know has a drive that would never let them think about any of those things. If you want to be the top of the game, the game has to be at the top of your priorities every minute.

5) LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE
Facebook believed in itself. They withstood years of people asking for an IPO. They could’ve gotten very rich years ago, but held out for bigger riches. Their belief in themselves and foregoing some short term financial gain paid off. Do you have the fortitude to do that yourselves? Can you reinvest every dime you make back into your music? Can you hold off on a record label payout until you’re big enough to command the biggest advance possible? Most importantly, do you believe in yourself enough to trust you can make it work?

FOR HIT SONGS, INGREDIENTS MATTER


While I lay out important steps for hit songs in my book Futurehit.DNA, is that all it takes? This morning I got an insightful tweet from David Brogan asking that very question. He writes a UK based blog posting articles on writing hit songs as well, and his question is a variation on one I get asked often:

If we have the same ingredients & follow the same recipe, shouldn’t we get similar results?

The key words of “ingredients” and “recipe” are the important signifiers here. It would be great if the only thing you needed to do is read my book and spit out a big hit. But there’s many more elements involved that can never be taught in a book. Experience is about the only way you can get thru that. Comparing that to cooking is a great way to frame those elements.

Pick the right ingredients. How many times do you hear stories of great chefs waking up at 4 AM to hit the fish market to get the freshest catch? Going to farms to ensure they get the best vegetables? And for that matter, knowing which ones are best when they see it? That’s what top chefs do. You can have the same recipe for a great fish/vegetable dish that they do. Yours won’t taste as good because you don’t get the best ingredients. Never mind your failure to get up at 4 AM to find them. Music is no different. If you don’t know, can’t afford, or can’t select the best musicians, producers and engineers, how is your song going to be a hit?

Follow the recipe exactly. The best chefs follow the recipe they create down to the very teaspoon. Down to the very second. You might add just a half teaspoon too much. Or keep a dish in the pan for 30 seconds too long. The dish may taste good, but is it great? Just having the recipe and following it may not be enough. You have to be meticulous, exact and accurate. It also helps to practice it many times and see how you get it wrong before you get it right. Just following the recipe doesn’t yield a great dish.

Practice until it’s second nature. A chef can have a dish with the right recipe and ingredients and it still doesn’t come out perfectly. For that, it needs to be made with such ease that it’s second nature. The best chefs practice and make the dish repeatedly so that perfection is a foregone conclusion. Along the way, the recipe gets slight tweaks to achieve greatness. Have you practiced to the point of performing with your eyes closed? Does the song feel effortless because you’ve already played it 500 times? All key points to a hit.

Please don’t buy my books if you think that’s all it takes to make a hit. It’s not. You need to commit to it all. Learn how to get the best elements and insist for the best. Make sure you take your learnings and be exact in their execution. Practice until its hurts and you can’t stand. Then, and maybe then, the Futurehit.DNA elements will elevate your song to a true Top 10 hit.

MULTIPLE IMPRESSIONS

How often are you leaving your mark? Many people need to see multiple impressions of something before it registers in their mind. Yet musicians presume that someone sees something about their music once and that’s all they need to do. On rare occasions, this can happen. For nearly all other content, you need to make sure you are seen over and over to truly get the potential fan engaged.

One of the things that labels are good at is ensuring their artists receive multiple impressions. They make sure the music is written about in several blogs and publications. They purchase advertising. They generate stories in industry tip sheets. They make videos that get exposure online. And this is before they generate impressions on radio and TV. It is one of the cornerstones of their business’ success.

How many impressions have you received? If you just put your video out there, pushed it once to your social network and got 5,000 views, the answer is probably “not very many”. Certainly not enough to compete. If you stop promoting a week after the video comes out, you’ll get even fewer impressions just because you stopped generating impressions.

Think about some of the viral videos you’ve passed along on Facebook. If you’re like most people, you’ll recognize a friend posting a particular video or article. But unless something is really alluring, you probably won’t actually check out the content until the third, fourth, or fifth time you see it. You needed those multiple impressions before you reacted.

Your music is no different. Make sure you consistently are getting awareness of any sort in front of as many people as possible as regularly as possible. Don’t do one thing and let it be. Do several things and keep doing it. Be in several places. But most importantly, don’t settle for one impression and expect it to do the job.

You’re running a marathon with your music. Keep plugging and keep creating impressions. Eventually it will pay off.

THE MARATHON MUSICIAN

This morning, my friend Scott Perry put up a post talking about how much money is out there these days. Instagram sold for 1 Billion dollars. The Avengers made over $200 million in a weekend. Amanda Palmer raised over $500,000 in about a week. Deeper in his post, however, is the truth.

While these projects may have made a lot of money, they had years of making no money to get there. Instagram had no revenues for several years before getting purchased. The Avengers was a comic book 50 years ago and was set up with many years of Super Hero movies with varying degrees of success. Amanda Palmer has been pushing hard for nearly a decade to activate an audience of 10,000 people to respond in this manner.

This new climate is producing a new kind of artist: the Marathon Musician.

The artist that will persevere is the one that’s willing to stick it out thru every sort of hardship to get to a career. That career may have a huge hit. That huge hit may never spawn another. However, the quick fix hit is something that every artist has to accept is unlikely.

Data abounds showing that most artists need to be a Marathon Musician to succeed. Around 2005, the music critic world was salivating over acts like Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand and how they would change the musical landscape. Each of those acts put out 3 albums and have had several years since they’ve released anything. They’re still active, but since the buzz has died down they need to run a marathon to continue to win.

The hip cognoscenti have proclaimed many musicians over the last decade to be the “next great thing”. One Marathon Musician who was able to avoid being a flash in the pan: Jack White. Jack ran a marathon, albeit one on his own terms. The end result for him became creative control, a diversity of artistic endeavors, and finally receiving a #1 album last week after a decade of slogging away. This from a guy that most people on the street would vaguely remember is the one that made the “dum da dum dum da dahhh dum” sports anthem in their arena. While the other mentioned musicians have released 3 albums since 2005, Jack has released 3 White Stripes records, 2 Raconteurs records, 2 Dead Weather records, a solo album, and produced countless singles.

My new label, DigSin, hasn’t scored a runaway hit yet. However, I expected to run the label like a Marathon Musician. I’m working with artists that want to work hard long term and I hopefully will give them the support to do so.

An artist I publish, Jenn Bostic, is reaching some milestones this week. She crossed 500,000 views on her YouTube channel, with a second video, “Snowstorm” crossing the 100,000 view mark. She’s sold over 10,000 downloads and is embarking on an East Coast tour with another one of my artists, Connie Lim. She didn’t achieve this overnight. I first met Jenn 2 ½ years ago. She is a Marathon Musician. Knowing what she’s got next gives me confident she’ll keep going the distance.

The success of the music business is chiseling away day after day for tiny successes that bring you a step forward. Most people can’t handle it. Those with the drive and work ethic will get to the top 10% just by the desire to persevere. Being a Marathon Musician isn’t easy. Few can do it. But those that can will cross the finish line with more pride and success than anyone else.

Are you a Marathon Musician?

MUSIC MARKETING & STRATEGY ARE NEEDED FOR GREAT TUNES

This morning, I had coffee with Dave Delaney at a Nashville coffee house called Crema. The place was unexpectedly packed. It had been open for a few years. The coffee was consistently great. What had changed to explode their business? A new office building opened across the street.

This morning, I heard an interview by Warren Littlefield about his new book Top Of The Rock. He talked about how Cheers was the lowest rated show in its first year. He talked about how Seinfeld struggled to find an audience in its first year. What had changed to make those shows explode? They scheduled them with other hit shows to give them proper visibility.

This morning, I read a Lefsetz blog post saying great music doesn’t need social networking to be big. To quote Bob, “You just have to make great music.”

Which one of these stories doesn’t belong?

Let’s pare down to the truth. Believing you don’t need to music marketing at any level of quality is ridiculous. Thinking that releasing songs in certain places at certain times is not a key idea is to live blindly. With so many choices, marketing and strategy is an essential part of any successful song. Social networking just happens to be the easiest and cheapest way to do it today. But if you choose not to tweet, be prepared to spend big in other places. Even if you’re fantastic.

At the same time, you do need to read the tea leaves to know and believe that what you created was great. NBC stood by Cheers because they knew it was great material that needed to be seen. Crema makes great coffee to accommodate the new office workers. If it’s not great, no amount of marketing, strategy or luck will change the equation.

Believing you can become successful just by existing is the worst decision one can possibly make. There are far more examples of long-lasting hit entertainment due to savvy marketing and strategic placement than examples of entertainment hits that “just happened”. Think all you need to do is make great music? Play the lottery. Think you need to put in hard, strategic work to find success? You’ve got a shot.