Marketers Steve Levesque and Buzz Poole, musician and book publishing consultant Jeff Nordstedt, and musician/film distribution consultant John Cusimano discussed DIY marketing tactics at our NYC show. How would you spend $1000? Find out….
New York 2007
BH: Bruce Haring, moderator
SL: Steve Levesque, Luck Media & Marketing
BP: Buzz Poole, book marketing
JN: Jeff Nordstedt, musician/publishing consultant
HR: Howard Rosen, radio promoter
JC: John Cusimano, attorney/film distributor/musician
BH: Well, hello and welcome everybody to the first panel of the D.I.Y Convention. I appreciate you getting up early. The program runs today until about 5pm, after which we are going to be showing some films. After that we have an after party at Arlene’s Grocery, which is only a couple of blocks away from here. Please come by and hear a couple of our D.I.Y names from 6-8.
Our first panel today is about D.I.Y marketing, which is at the core of what any artists does, whether you are at the core of film, music, or books. I am going to ask the panelists to introduce themselves to you. I will ask questions and then we will take audience questions.
Let’s start over here at the far end.
SL: Hey guys, I am Steve Levesque. I am a longtime music publicist and marketing guy. I started off in the late 70’s managing my brother’s punk band, they were called Agent Orange, and then I ended up working at a cool record label called (inaudible) Records. I have been an independent publicist for about 15 years.
JC: My name is John Cusimano and I am an attorney. My background is in film distribution, business affairs, and acquisitions. I worked for a company called Arrow Films. Then I went out and started my own company called Watch Entertainment, and now I do a lot merchandising and licensing for celebrity clients. I am also in a band called The Cringe. We work with Steve here in publicity and we work with Howie on radio promotions.
HR: Hi, I am Howie Rosen with Howard Rosen Promotion. My website is Howiewood.com. I have worked for numerous record companies, Casablanca records, I have been the senior vice president of Warner Brothers reprise, I have been the vice president of special projects at A&M Records, senior vice president of promotion and marketing at Motown, and I started my own business in 1985 to work on clients that I thought were the next thing you were going to read about or go to see.
JN: Hi, I am Jeff Nordstedt. As a young college student, fresh out of college, I started as an intern at an independent publishing company called Barricade Books, and within about 2 years I was the vice president and I ran the company for about 7 years. I recently left that to pursue a freelance publishing career working with authors and publishers to help kind of catch everything that falls between the cracks, and to give authors the attention that they need. We work with them whether it’s for design, packaging, web design, web marketing, or web publicity.
BP: My name is Buzz Poole. I got here a couple of years ago and I ran a literary journal that won an award at the D.I.Y Book Festival. I have sat on a panel. I am now the managing editor for Mark Betty Publisher, we are a small house, I freelance for places like The Voice, San Francisco Chronicle, and graphic design magazines.
BH: So we have a very eclectic panel here. We have a background with the book publishing industry, we have a strong music industry, and John has a background in film distribution. We are going to attempt to cut a general slot here through things and keep the conversation somewhat generally focused. We will also be able to touch on people’s specialties and feel free to ask whatever you need to ask.
Let me start with over here with the basic question. You have $1000 to market your product, Steve what would you suggest you do with that $1000? What is the best way to get a bang for your buck?
SL: Well I think what I would do with $1000, if I was in that position, is go out with a bunch of friends and get really drunk. Speaking from the music perspective, also applying to books and films too, you would want to stand out from the pack somehow. It’s not a lot of money, but with the journalists that we deal with in music, they get about 2500 CD’s a month, and so you want to do something that is going to stand out. You should do something that John did with his band that I thought was really innovative in our campaign, which is that he made his album vinyl and you don’t see that anymore.
It’s just an old fashioned double album that you can open up and you can still stick a CD in there for people that don’t have a turntable.
The point is when you get so many CD’s and then someone calls to follow up, they might appreciate something extra like this, because you don’t want to just be one of the pack.
BH: John, from a film perspective, can you talk about what you would do to gain some attention in that market?
JC: With music, $1000 probably stretches a little further with some cool merch or keychains, but in the film business it is a little tougher. I would take that money and apply to any and every festival and market that’s out there, because that is where all the acquisitions executives are going to be looking at those films. Maybe $1000 can get you an attorney, a young hungry attorney, a producers rep who can represent your film and get it to the right people by really working it, because it certainly helps to have someone soliciting your film other than just you. You can get someone who has relationships with the acquisitions executives so it gives you time to focus on filmmaking, which is what you should be doing, and not selling your film. You need to obviously sell your film, but it helps to have someone who sells films for a living so that it really works in your favor.
BH: Howie, what about you? What would you do with $1000, especially an expensive medium like radio?
HR: First of all $1000 is not a lot of money, but I would make sure that I had my product totally in line, make sure it’s mixed right, make sure it’s mastered right, and it’s worth spending your money on perfecting your craft. When you product goes up against someone else’s product, you have to expect that they will have their mastered, mixed correctly, live drums, and all of that. You have to use your money for the most important thing, which is you, your product, and your opportunities.
$1000 can give you a website, you can get good photos, and you could create an opportunity for yourself just by going on the web. There are numerous contests on the web that you could deal with. There is on right now called 67 records, that for a fee of $10 you could submit your music to the situation, there is a CD that gets made up once a year, it goes to A&R people, company presidents, publishers, some radio stations, and it’s only $10. That leaves $990 to do something else.
Find yourself an agent that can book you, they don’t make money unless you make money, and there are a lot of other things you can do. I would do things that are not traditional now but that were traditional before, a phone call, an actual letter, a postcard, these things get looked at and they get read. Everyone deals with e-mails, you know 20 years ago if you did an e-mail that was pretty cool, but it’s not that cool anymore. Go back to a postcard, go back to a letter, go back to a phone call, find a person who answers the phone to the head of the company, introduce yourself to that person, send things, correspond with them, send a package that is a little bit better than the next person’s, have artwork that’s available, and so on.
BH: Let’s save some of those things for more specific questions. Basically what you are saying is to keep it old school and maintain a personal touch?
HR: Yeah. Just do things that everyone is not because everyone is doing the same thing.
BP: We have tried getting some attention lately with some people by sending a fax, people don’t send faxes anymore, and so we followed up with a little fax campaign and it’s surprising how many people returned it.
BH: Why do you think that was? Was it the shock of seeing one?
BP: Well you get so much spam that it is hard sometimes to determine a professional from spam mail.
BH: You aren’t sending a singing telegram next, are you?
Jeff you are out there, you have a band that is working, obviously you are also in the book publishing industry, so what kind of perils do you see between how that money could be used in both of those worlds?
JN: With books first, $1000 is kind of an odd amount of money, it’s sort of a lot in a really D.I.Y sense, but in terms of making an impact it’s very little. I was thinking about it in regards to books, it depends on where you are at, whether you are self publishing, or if you are working with a publisher but you are doing the promotion part of it yourself, the best thing you could have is a good publicist, and $1000 is probably going to fall short of getting you what you need. Basically you are looking at $1000 per month, per media, for a publicist.
BH: What would the ballpark number be then?
JN: Basically, for doing print publicity, you are going to spend $1000 on just your publicist, and then you are going to have to have books, you are going to have to have postage. This is assuming you have no help from the publisher. You are probably closing in on $1300-1400.
If you are doing it all on your own and you have what you need to do it, you can do a lot of what a publicist can do, but it’s just going to take a lot more work of researching, finding the connections, and understanding everything. It goes beyond developing a mailing list, you have to be in tune to what editors, what magazines, or newspapers, are doing what kinds of things and do things accordingly. A good thing to do, however you are getting your books, whether it’s buying books back from a publisher, making sure you buy a bunch of free copies from iUniverse, or whoever is producing your book, and sending them out a lot because the best thing you have is your book. If you don’t have a good book you are kind of screwed anyway. That would be a way of spreading the word around.
I also think, that without spending any money, there are a lot of things that you can do if you have a really good website that features an excerpt, because then you can just spend a lot of time online with e-mail releases or developing free content. I have had authors do essays that I will post online and then I will just send a bunch of e-mails out to people who do book type things, and then I tell them to take a look at the essay. The essay is then linked in through the website, which has an excerpt, which is linked to Amazon, and all of that is just about free.
BH: Buzz, what do you think?
BP: I’d go back to the party idea and get drunk. I think wherever you are headquartered, if you get a lot of notice from events where you are pushing your product, whether it is a book, a band, or a film, and then you have people in line for it, they end up blogging about it, and then you hit up every media person you know. You hope that your ripple carries out far enough to make an impact. I have been involved with parties with people that have been lined up down the street, it’s incredible the amount of press that it does generate, and we spent much less than $1000 on it. That is a starting point, so it is a limiting budget, but use it for what it is worth and have people want to know why everyone is talking about it. It’s no different from a record release party or a book launch, where all the tastemakers come and spread the word. There are lots of ways to pull that off.
BH: When should you start marketing your product? How long should you let a project go before you start pulling back and maybe concentrating on the next one? Any thoughts on that from anyone?
JC: I think from the film perspective you should start thinking about marketing from the second you start thinking about your script. We always used to say, from the distributors point of view, that it’s all about the initial thing that people see, like the movie poster or the ad in the newspaper.
If you are writing a script, or you are coming up with an idea, or if you are working on your film, could you imagine what that poster is in your mind? If you can, then you have a good marketable film. For example, Jaws is the all time classic great movie poster. You look at that poster and in a second you know what film is about. If you are going to be on, you are going to probably have a small ad, unless you get picked up by a large distributor, and then you have to compete with George Clooney’s next Hollywood movie. Your ad has to really pop out and if it is just two unknown characters faces, then what does that say that will grab someone’s attention? Think about the poster because it is very important, particularly when you want to interest distributors.
BH: Any ideas about how long is too long to work a project? Is there any metric where the feedback stops but you think you should keep going?
JC: On the CD side of things, with independent artists and independent distributions, you have to start marketing at least 3 months before the album release date. You might want to start to create an online presence, you want to get your single out to radio, get that buzzing, and once the record hits, even if you are still just selling it online or through CD Baby, you still want to have a target date that focused on the release date. I would say you would have to work it for at least a year with the touring and doing everything you can, you can pretty much get a feel for when you have to maximize the situation, if you lose enthusiasm then it’s probably time to get onto the next project. Even the independent albums at record labels have to be worked for at least a year.
BH: Jeff, you had some thoughts?
JN: It’s sort of a really interesting question from a book perspective just based on doing it yourself as opposed to working with a traditional publisher. If you are working with a traditional publisher, even a small publisher, books are extremely perishable. Basically the chains, Barnes and Nobel and Borders, are buying for 6 weeks worth of stock, so if you are working with a publisher your book has gone out, and in 6 weeks if you haven’t made a big splash then your publisher is going to be pretty much done with you. That doesn’t mean that as an author you can’t continue to do a do it yourself promotion to sort of revitalize the book, and since Amazon doesn’t have shelf space it will last forever on Amazon.
BH: You were talking about an interesting anecdote backstage about when you were a marketing head and you had to make some sort of big decision, can you elaborate on that again?
JN: Well what I was saying that part of the reason why I wanted to get out of traditional publishing and do something else was because I too was often sitting, I would have 15 books per season, and I would have to make really tough decisions if there was a book that I really liked. We would have to make decisions about whether we wanted to pursue it or not, we had a limited staff, we had a limited budget, and I had a dozen books piling down on me for the next 3 months that we would have to pay for bills to get printed and things like that. Often times I would sort of have to choose not to pursue marketing, or publicity, or some kind of angle because of that, which is really something, whether you are working with the publisher or you are doing it on your own, you have to be proactive. It’s also an argument for self-publishing, for if it comes to the fact that you want your book to sell, even if you are with a great publisher, no one is going to want your book to sell as much as you do and you have to sort of take the D.I.Y approach to promoting your book with a publisher or without one.
BH: Howie, you had a thought on that?
HR: Yeah. As Steve was saying, it takes time to develop your situation with a new album. It does take a year or longer, if you are a rock band, like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, or Kiss, then you have your Dream On, your Stairway to Heaven, your Rock and Roll All Night, and those are mid-tempo or ballad type situations. Eventually you have to get that kind of music from your album as well. Although you might stand out as a rock band, you have to give yourself a chance to give someone your really good songs, and if it’s not your first or your second then it should be your third.
Part of advertising is believing in a three prong attack. Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them it, and then tell them what you told them. You have to keep repeating your image, if you are going to send something to a company, send it with an image, send the postcard before that, send the CD after that, let it be seen, let it be recognizable, and let it be obvious.
BH: If you hire somebody to assist you with your own marketing order, if you have an entity to distribute to, how much should you expect from them as far as working the project? How much should you get involved in working the project? Any thoughts on that gentleman?
HR: Yeah, I think you should expect nothing. If you expect too much you will get nothing, so expect nothing and do the work yourself. Unless you are a band that has had success, you can’t expect a record company to start putting out the PAP money (the promotion, advertising, and publicity money) which usually could be $2 a record more. If they put out 20-30,000 records then it’s going to be $40-50,000. If you put out a 100,000 records then you are talking about a quarter of a million dollars. You have to be ready to do it on your own.
BH: What about the concept of stepping on someone’s toes though? Is that even a consideration or not really?
HR: Well if it’s your project, if it’s your life, then stepping on toes isn’t that bad.
JN: I think there is a way of avoiding stepping on people’s toes, initially when you are developing a relationship, like with a film distributor, if you get a contract with them hopefully, you can go ahead and let them know then that there is a minimum amount of money that you want to spend on the film. If they don’t do that and you happen to have money to do something else called a service deal, which they do in the record business too, where you put up the money and you rent out their distribution company. They do the work for you, they take a much smaller fee, and it’s different than doing a more traditional distribution deal. After that you get to own and retain ownership of your contract.
SL: I wanted to say that if you are doing it yourself then you are doing it yourself, but if you are with a record label then one of the most common mistakes that I see artists make is once they sign the contract, all the work that you have done to get to the point where someone is interested in you, a lot of times at that point the artist will sit back and wait for someone to take the reins for the project. That is the biggest mistake you could make because by the time you sign your deal, you record the new album, you have to reschedule it by the time it comes out, and then you lose all your momentum. So, no matter what, whoever is working with you, distributing you, just keep up that momentum. A good example is back in the day when I managed the band Agent Orange, we had a good record deal with a record company and all of a sudden the head of the company called me up to ask me what the band was doing because we were selling extremely well and we were going through the roof. They weren’t doing anything for us so they wanted to know why we were selling so many records. I told them that one of our songs was in a skateboard video, it didn’t have anything to do with the record label, because the only thing they were doing was putting the records in the stores so someone could buy them. You have to keep up the momentum no matter what. Communication is important, give them something to help them do the job for you.
BP: I just want to agree with him that the most important thing you could do, like with books, you finish your manuscript, you submit it to the publisher six months or more before your pub date, as soon as you are done writing you should try to get a meeting with your publisher and set up a marketing meeting. For better or for worse, what they are going to do and what they aren’t going to do, and this is a way to avoid stepping on toes. Anything that the publisher promises to do is something you should take note of, make sure that they do it, and anything that they don’t do you have to be a partner with them.
BH: I would say that counts for the record and film industry as well. Any distributor.
BP: It’s just better to figure out as soon as you can what they are going to do and what they aren’t going to do. Don’t assume that they are going to do everything, because if you sit back and assume that everything is going to be taken care of by the publisher, then you are done and it’s over.
BH: Let’s talk about social networking sites like Parlor. Obviously they are relatively low cost and hold out on the hopes of reaching somebody on a mass scale, do they really work though? Is it possible to promote through Myspace and actually get effective results? Anybody here have any results with sites like MySpace or Friendster?
JC: I had results with MySpace on the music end of things. Not so much on the film end of it. Our band now has 35,000 friends at MySpace, and when the number hit 30,000 people started actually showing up at our gigs just by hearing about us on MySpace. It’s obviously a vital marketing tool, if you really work at it and develop your friend base, then it’s an indispensable tool to promoting your band. MySpace has sort of become the new A&R, all the major labels, the smaller labels, their guys are on there everyday looking for the next band.
BH: Let me ask you some questions about that. Did you get those 35,000 legitimately or did you sign up people, or did you get a bot to get those 35,000?
JC: No we didn’t use a bot, it was basically me and the bass player in the band just working it. It took about 4 or 5 months, the more friends you have then leads you to the friends that come through them.
BH: How do you communicate to those people? Do you just send out bulletins?
JC: It’s so many people at this point that it’s just hard to talk to everyone, but you try and go through the mail, if you see something interesting then you respond to them, and a lot of it is other bands obviously. It’s something that you just have to stay on top of and work at for a few hours a day.
BH: Did you think that there was anything about that 35,000 tipping point that paralleled the success you had in the real world? Were people starting to really pay attention?
JC: Well it all sort of grew together. When we first start gigging years ago there would be 25 people there on a good night, then it became 50 people on a good night, and then when we had 35,000 friends we started seeing over 100 people at the gigs. I don’t know if there is a correlation there or not, but that is how it’s been for us.
JN: I think you also have to be careful, because I know bands that have 30,000 plus, whether they did it through bots or not, that never worked it. So I feel like it has nothing to do with the number, but more with how you work it.
JC: Our bass player really does most of the stuff. He tried to set up a bot, but they didn’t let him, so it didn’t work or something.
JN: What I like about it is that with shows you can promote by the zip code and things like that. I have found it actually somewhat helpful to not have it be as huge as possible, because I can actually target it in people and I can know the people who are really interested and I can work it that way.
BH: How do you communicate with them? Do you send out a bulletin?
JN: I usually do 3 things with it, I usually do the bulletin, I do the event, and then you can invite by zip code. Then I have my list of people in that zip code and it’s 30 mile radius, and then I can hit all of them with messages. I tend to do real people instead of bands. Our MySpace page is probably half full of bands, which is actually kind of annoying.
HR: There is an active friend and there is a passive friend. If your music, once again spend your $1000 on perfecting your craft, draws people to your product they will either come back or they won’t. It all boils down to putting out the best product that you possibly can, go the distance with the money you have to make your product the best possible thing, and then push it.
On CD Baby, if you get to a certain level, they will put you on distribution for iTunes and certain other things. As you start getting more, you start getting more.
JC: CD Baby is good too because they will let you know when they sell a record and then they will send you that person’s e-mail address. You wait two weeks, then you send them an e-mail asking if they want to be a part of your list, and if they don’t you leave them alone. That is a great way of getting valid e-mails, because every band brings an e-mail list to a gig, so the people who are signing your list are now a part of your e-mail. They can later bring friends down and it’s a great way to develop a base at the gig.
BH: I would like to talk about e-mails. What are the essential elements that you must have in every e-mail? Is it necessary to have an HTML e-mail or can you get by with plain text and just make a point in there?
SL: One thing that we have had a lot of success with lately is coming up with an e-mail that is targeted. We’ll put together a nice e-card for some of our clients that have songs and control all their masters and publishing, we will do something for them like a music supervisors e-card. We will send that out to our list of about 2500 music supervisors, we will have some graphics, we will have some editorial on there about the band, we will have a link to their MP3 and/or their site. The most important thing about this particular e-card is to make it look professional, in other words if it is targeted directly to music supervisors, so that they know it’s not band spam, because there are so many artists out there that have the technology and the will to promote their bands. Like Howie said earlier, sometimes the music isn’t up to the promotion, so you want to make sure that you are targeting your audience and try to give them something they can use.
With the music supervisors e-card we get a great response if we are selective of what we send them and if they like what they hear they will ask for a copy of the CD, they will add it to their library, and they will keep it in mind when there is a film or television project that might need music. You have to remember who your audience is.
HR: I think also if you are going to have something to sell you should use Paypal. Everyone can deal with that better than they can deal with any other source of payment. It is the easiest way to buy something. Invest a few minutes in figuring it out and it works best for everybody.
BP: With books, in regards to the format of e-mail and the success of it, I have found that most of the e-mails that I have sent out is to bloggers to try and alert them about a certain project. I found that a simple, plain text e-mail, as long as what you are giving them is valuable and you know who you are talking to, is a great idea and they respond to it. That is a great thing about the blog world, because there are people out there that are just interested in reading and other things, and if you cater to their interests you end up giving them something that fits right into what they are doing. I have had success with the most plain text e-mails, whether it’s a link, or a pitch to an idea that they can use towards an author on their blog, if I have it targeted it right and I have good content then they respond right.
JN: The e-mail is not the product and it doesn’t matter what medium it is, but the e-mail is the way to get someone interested in the product, whether they are going to buy it, write about it, or promote it. I think short and sweet is the way to go, especially from the publishing aspect of it.
BH: Is there still a place for print advertising in this world? I know it’s expensive and most people don’t like to do it, but is there a niche where you can reach it and it becomes effective for someone who is on a limited budget?
BP: On a limited budget for publishing I would say no, only because for a successful print ad campaign you would have to go at it every week or every month. A one-time spot at $1000 isn’t going to get you anything and you could have spent that money more productively.
JN: When I was at Barricade, every once in awhile an author would come along and they would just have to have an ad in the New York Times or a book review, because they wanted to show it off to their friends or whoever it was. They would end up spending $7-10,000 on a dumb little ad and the book would sell zero.
HR: In the music business there is a magazine called R&R magazine and they put out a daily sheet, either faxed or e-mailed to you, where you could buy an advertisement called Daily Street Talk. It goes through 3400 people and the ads are $700-800, which is not a lot of money for the reach and frequency you can have, but it will swallow up a lot of your budget.
BH: What about websites and some of the essential elements to have on a website. Clearly this is the way most artists are using to communicate their record to their audience, but what do you need to have on that site? What are the essential elements of that site, any thoughts on that gentleman?
HR: I think that part of it is to make sure that your addresses, phone numbers, your contact info is clear and obvious, and I think your front page should have some kind of interesting pictorial or graphic that will make people get to the next page.
JC: I think with as far as film goes you are going to want your movie art, your image, and your trailer. On the music side, you want your show, your gig info, your MySpace page, and maybe a couple of songs streaming.
JN: Good point. Keep your website updated. There are so many times you go to check about bands playing and you notice that the news is all old and there are no new gigs up there. You have to make sure to update it and keep it really fresh. People will come back if there are new things on a regular basis. Also, make sure that it doesn’t take too long to load. Keep it updated.
BP: For books and authors it’s a similar thing. I generally will feel out an author and usually it’s 50/50 whether they are going to dedicate anytime to dealing with an online presence at all. Authors tend to not be as hip to the technology. So if you end up investing any time to updating the technology, make sure there is a simple page with a direct link to Amazon, which is a much more fun site.
I also think that if you are inclined and into technology, you should do something where you are offering regular content. If you can become a hub or develop a web presence for the community that is interested in whatever subject you are in, that is great, but it takes a lot of time, investment, and energy to develop that sort of thing.
BH: How would you develop that sort of thing?
BP: It depends on your project and what you subject matter is.
BH: You would have to have a message board or some sort of way where the community can contribute.
BP: That is often a way to do it. I worked on a book about plus-size pregnancy, and it turned out that these were women who all sort of congregate online and there is a real need for this community. People came to it often and wanted to share. That doesn’t work for every subject so you sort of have to assess and be smart about what you are writing about. Pick an interesting way to engage your readers.
BH: What about Google and Yahoo ads? Does anyone here have any experience with using those?
No one has used them? Okay.
What should you be working on? Should you be trying to brand yourself or work your project? What is more important?
JC: As far as music goes, I would think you would want to brand your band, or if you are a solo artist then you want to brand yourself, because that is what you are selling. For movies, unless you are Spielberg, people are going to want to see the movie. I would definitely brand that movie.
HR: I think that you do brand the band. When I was at Casablanca records we had a band called Kiss who sold millions of records, but then when we came out with the 4th solo album we did not. Brand the band. Offshoots will sell less for the most part, but the band is what you have so make sure to brand it. It will grow.
BP: With books, it seems to be pretty true, is that it is almost impossible to brand a book. That is sort of what I like about working on books, because it’s a little bit more organic when you have an idea and you just put it out there. On the music side, branding the band is essential.
BH: Okay, we are going to take some audience questions. One more question though, online or offline, where are the buyers? Where should you focus most of your effort these days?
SL: I think it’s pretty obvious that the browsers are online. That is the way people are finding out about music, so whether they buy it online or in the store, I still think the buyers are online. There is only so much room at radio or MTV, so I think everyone else is online.
JC: I think it’s both. With the bands and music it is easier to reach people effectively online. Offline you could do some guerrilla marketing, but I don’t know how effective that is. With the film business, if you are approaching buyers or distributors, it’s sort of more of a personal thing. There are also festivals and markets, especially around market time, you buy the film market issue that has a listing of all the international and domestic buyers.
BH: Howie, online? Offline?
HR: Both. I think online gets you volume attention, offline you need to perform and show the people that what they came to see is for real. You need posters, but for the most part you need to present yourself in person and onstage.
JN: We had this conversation before about how there are a lot of people in the publishing world that say that people don’t read anymore and instead they spend all their time on the computer. What do you do on the computer but read? I agree that consumers are in both places, but from a D.I.Y marketing perspective it’s much easier to deal with and approach people online, if you have a limited budget and you are working to promote yourself. Everyone is reading online and it is a great place to showcase.
BP: I agree that it’s the ideal and practical place to work your book. Your book is a physical object, it’s not a song or something as ephemeral as that, so at some point it comes down to what you are holding and what you are turning the pages of. I think there is something to be said about having a presence in high profile retail outlets, if you have people holding something they are going to be much more inclined to buy it.
JC: I think the first thing you have to think about is marketing budget. I don’t know how much money you are spending on creating the actual CD, but the big mistake is to raise a lot of money, make this great CD, and then have nothing left over to promote the thing. Unfortunately, marketing, especially if you want to work outside of your general media community, does cost some money. Whether it’s radio or if you hire a publicist, these guys don’t work for free and even within their industry things don’t happen for nothing, and so you have to think about a marketing budget and sort of work from there.
HR: You need to develop your website as a launching pad. If you have someone capable in the band, obviously it won’t cost anything, but if you don’t then you should invest in yourself and in that.
You can attract attention from chat rooms, CD Baby, and other places. Once people come to your website you have to deliver, so spend money there, because $2000 is not really going to get you where you want to go in a lot of the marketing aspects that you have. Let your shows help you spread the word, let the website help you-
SL: If you have a video camera, while you are doing the recording process, I would do like a band cam thing so that you know have the “making of” the record. That could be cool if it is edited properly, it could be a cool thing to put on a website, sometimes it’s tough with the light, but you can videotape live performances and then put that on your website or MySpace page.
There was an artist named Sandy Tom, she did a basement tour, and it was on MySpace and she played every night for months and showed it all online. She has a record deal now, she is a big major label artist, and she did it from this underground basement tour.
JC: I recently had a conversation with someone from Indie music that I really trust, and he said something to me that totally changed my approach to promoting the band, he said to me “your job is not to sell CD’s, you job, with the level you are at, is to brand your band.”
Don’t make it the goal to sell 1,000 CD’s, in the long run if you want to be successful, your goal is to get that CD out to people and develop the brand of the band. Be focused more on that and don’t be afraid to give out more to develop the larger picture. You might not sell 1,000, but you might get 10,000 fans before it’s all over. Think about it that way.
SL: Maybe your first CD is almost your lost leader and initially it is more of a promotional tool. When people go online they are not usually buying CD’S, they are buying songs, so if you can get on CD Baby then it can definitely help you do this. It’s about $1 a song or whatever.
BH: That is all the time we have, but I want to say thank you to our panel and their advice.