The most crucial aspect of selling your project is honing your pitch. Instead of rambling for hours, try to master the art of the elevator pitch, which lasts for as long as a ride. At the DIY Convention, a panel of experts illuminated the process…
D.I.Y. Convention 2007- NYC
ES: Ellyn Solis, moderator/PRLADY.com
FB: Fiona Bloom, president/The Bloom Effect
JT: Jim Testa, Jersey Beat/songwriter
LV: Lisa Vandeveer, Sundance filmmaker/producer
AA: Andy Adelewitz, Little Big Man
MH: Mat Hall, artist manager, Maine Road Management
FB: My name is Fiona Bloom and I have been in the business for 18 years. I started out as a radio personality and then I went over to EMI records in marketing. Then I went on to head an independent label as the head of media relations, then I went on to book clubs and I booked Joe’s Pub for a couple of years. Then I went on to TVT as head of international marketing and publicity, and most recently I have just started the Bloom Effect, which is a one stop shop in marketing, publicity, promotion, A&R, booking tours ovevr seas, and speaking engagements.
The reason that I wear so many hats is because it is all interconnected, it’s all about branding, which is what us publicists have to do because of all the blogs, onlines zines, myspace, and YouTube.
PR is not really PR anymore.
MH: Hey, I’m Mat Hall. I’m an artist manager and I work at a boutique management company that is involved with David Byrne, Bobby Brown, and other artists that have been in the business for over 10 years.
I also work in publicity, in clubs as a music journalist, and as a publicist. I pitch a whole lot myself and I believe it’s important. That is why I am here.
JT: My name is Jim Testa and I am best known as the editor/publisher of a fanzine called Jerseybeat. On the last panel we talked about dinosaurs and I am basically the brontausarus here, printing fanzines on the glory days of indie rock in the eighties, but it has evolved and now Jersey beat not only is a print fanzine but also a website, a blog, and most recently a podcast. We are using the Internet to help bring word about what these guys are selling to people like you.
LV: Hello I am Lisa Vandeveer. I am currently the representative (inaudible) I have been doing that for about 5 years, prior to that I worked in music and film, and I have been involved in making my own documentary.
ES: So before we get started I wanted to point out something. A good thing to think about is all the different places that we come from in art, you will see that as much as people complain that music is a society and that record sales dropped, you will see that it really is an exciting time to be an artist because there are so many more opportunities for you. Before you would have to go by the record labels, years ago, and you obviously don’t have to do that anymore. Having said that there is still alot of competition, maybe even more, because of that. You really need to have this pitch. So having said that, who wants to go first?
We are taking audience questions….
ES: I think the first thing that I am going to say to you is WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION.
FB: I don’t even know what you said.
ES: You lost me at multi-media.
FB: You lost me at Jimi Hendrix.
ES: I think what we should do for this answer is to go down the line and see what people say. You can’t say so much, especially when you are asking for money, you need to have your pitch together, and you can’t be all over the place. Okay, Andy you are first.
AA: I think the difficult thing with pitching something like this is coming down to the fact of “what is the product?” In this instance it’s really hard to see that, so you can’t really judge everything else, and I will agree that it was much longer than you are probably going to want to have. The people that you are pitching this to only have 24 hours in their day. You are probably going to want to go in already knowing who the press people are, you are going to want to have a budget and a business plan so that you can show them exactly what their $50,000 is going to be used for.
FB: Rule number one, when you are actually pitching and sitting with people in an office, NEVER say “Oh, getting back to my pitch.” That is what you said and you have to have it tight, short, and sweet. That is when you are talking to somebody in person. When you are dealing with someone through an e-mail it could be a little longer but it shouldn’t be more than a page. It has to be very quick in person because we want to become engaged in a person’s dialogue and pitch in a minute or else we just lose interest.
Also, we have so many other things that you are trying to achieve, obviously the music, then you talked about multi-media, then you said the video and the installations, all these different things, and I think you should really fine tune what you are trying to sell by finding one or two things that you really need.
When you are raising money, especially if you are trying to go to Wall Street or some other corporation, they are going to need a Powerpoint presentation and proposal, something that looks really slick and professional. When you are doing this make sure that your website is clean, has all the information on it, and is easily navigated.
JT: I think, musically, if you are able to or even if you are not able to, you are going to find a way especially by using the methods that have been described here, because that is what people relate to.
You described yourself as 3 black guys that play rock music, right? That in of itself is unqiue to a degree, there are black rock bands that some people may be aware of, such as Bad Brains, Living Colour, etc. The general public might not be aware of it, but I think that is something worth exploring. Don’t take anything for granted. We don’t need to get into details about this but you can certainly record a record for less, and if you are interested in exploiting the video aspect of this well then everyone in this room should be aware of You Tube right now. It’s explosive in it’s ability to reach people and turn them on, they have just as much power as MySpace right now.
There is a band called OK GO that achieved all their success through You Tube videos.
ES: It is your obligation as artists to know You Tube. Your obligation. You can no longer be in this business, or do the business aspect of music, without knowing You Tube.
FB: The Internet is your friend.
MH: The Internet will save you hundreds of thousands of dollars if you use it right. That is if you are interested in exploiting videos and right now You Tube is in the process of being bought by Google. This is a good way to reach people. There are alternative ways to go about things that are good ways of getting exposure and money.
JT: I am going to give you a piece of advice right now and you should all write this down because this is going to be worth every dime of this convention that you paid for. It might change your lives. Ok here it is, don’t suck.
No matter how good your pitch is, if your product doesn’t measure up then it’s not going to work. Take care of business first and make sure that what you are selling, whether you are a band or a filmmaker, is not only good but it has to be the best you can do. Don’t be content until it is. Rule number one.
Next, for you guys, you are obviously not 19 year old white kids from the suburbs, which is what everybody is from New Jersey right now, so that is both your biggest liability and your biggest problem. It’s because you are not the next emo band coming out soon. It doesn’t matter because people are getting sick of that and they are going to be looking for something new, so that could be you, right? Why not?
Keep that in mind. Focus on what you are and don’t try to sell somehting that you are not. Why is anyone going to want to listen to what I have to say? Pitch on that.
ES: I am just going to add a few things just so that I can put you inside your own head. Since I am not in music at all I feel sometimes that I am musically naive, and since you might often be pitching to people that are, and so this is something that I think is useful.
I noticed when you started pitching, after awhile I started feeling an anxiety to what it is you wanted. Be aware of your selling pitch. Hone in and know your audience.
ES: The first thing I would like to know is what type of music you play. I am coming from a PR ground. If you are playing a festival I think that should be the breaking news. You should focus on promoting that. I think that was missing from what you said. I know it’s a difficult thing to promote yourself and so that is why we are here.
AA: Are you looking for a free agent or are you looking for financing? Because I think from that perspective what I was missing in your pitch is who is going to be coming to your shows? You alluded to the MySpace community in the U.K., but if you don’t have any prior presence there, if you aren’t on the label there, if you aren’t on the radio there, then I say you pay an agent or you should go in there and try to sell tickets.
At the end of the day because that what you make your money from.
You have to make sure you pitch why you have something to offer them.
FB: So Rachel you are at Vontage because you are an attractive woman, and let’s face it attractive women when they are pitching it, pitching. It is a very male driven business and the majority of your pitching is going to be to men, I am seeing you right now, and I am saying if you got it, flaunt it. Trust me it helps. That’s how I got ahead.
Secondly, I am from the U.K. so we should talk. I still have many, many contacts overseas, especially in the U.K. It does seem that you are already on your way becaus if you already booked shows in London and Cambridge by yourself, without an agent, chances are that you might not really need an agent. Unless maybe you are trying to do huge stadiums or you are trying to do a 6 week tour in the U.K. Plus an agent is going to take half of your money or even a quarter of your money, and if you are already doing it how you are, with the families that you found on MySpace and your wesbite people, you can just go ahead and ask people who they can recommend. Write your e-mails to all the place in England, you know Manchester, Brestol, wherever you want to play, just get a map of the U.K., Scotland, and just do it yourself. This is what we mean by D.I.Y.
Who needs an agent right?
ES: I just want to make sure you understand that Fiona wasn’t suggesting you pitch topless or anything.
FB: Bruce, you agree right?
ML: I think what Andy said about agents, about how it’s so black and white and of course anyone that you speak to you are going to presume cares about your talents and the art. The world of booking agencies is very black and white. People make 10% of what you earn. So it’s pretty clear, what is your earning potential? Is it going to be worth their time to book your shows? They can book you for 20 days at $20 a pop and they want to know if it’s worth their time to do it.
I think it sort of speaks to the pitch everywhere, you have to know the interests of the people that you are pitching to, and you have to pitch to their interest.
Why is it to their benefit to work with you? Agents, good agents, are going to care, they are going to want to be involved with you because they respect your artwork and they respect what you do, but mostly they need to pay their bills and they need to pay their overhead. They are money minded people, but we are all money minded people.
People are followers, 99% of people are followers and they only show interest after someone else shows interest, which is horrible for the whole chicken and the egg thing. They are waiting for someone else to justify your talent before they think that it’s even worth their time.
JT: One piece of advice. I am in the community of networking, so if you are in NYC for the summer and you are probably playing in your living room or on the sidewalk, there are alot of people playing those places, so maybe some of them have been to England. Go ahead and find out who they are and what they went through to get there. Just troll MySpace and use Google services.
I have a friend who literally grew up about half a block from this building, Jeffrey Lewis, he plays to maybe 50 people on a good night in NY and 300 in London. English people absolutely lovely American singer/songwriters. He has been there a bunch of times, so just get his e-mail address, or someone like him, and ask him about going to London. Most people like being asked for help and they are happy to hear from you.
FB: I just want to interject. If you are already going to London, make sure you hit up every agent in London and make sure they come to your show. They will have so many opportunities to see you.
ES: I think Fiona is your girl after this conversation.
ES: That’s a good pitch. I think my advice to you is that you should stand up when you are pitching to people that you want something from. Think to yourself who you are talking to, tell us who you are aiming to pitch to and maybe that will help us understand where you are coming from a little better.
You didn’t get to the fact that you are looking for PR or marketing until the 6th sentence. Always stand up when you are talking about yourself. You are in a band and you are not shy.
You say you are looking to build a team of publicity and management, so I am going to ask you that you when you are calling the marketing and publicist people on the phone you need to know what your story is. What is the story of your band? Why would I or any of the people on this panel would be interested or even think that we can help you? There are a million bands out there and we need to know why you stand out from everyone else.
AA: The reason we are asking this is because we need to know your story if we are going to be calling journalists and trying to get them to write about you.
ES: We would need to call Jim and tell him your story. Jim would you take over for us?
JT: I am actually on the payroll for this band (The Milwaukees) I have been a big fan and supporter for a long time, but one of the problems is, because they are a totally kick ass band and I have watched them grow and get better, it’s hard to say that you are just a rock and roll band. Unfortunately it’s not enough on today’s market to say only that, everything is a label these days, emo, punk, etc.
What was Exile on Main Street? It was a rock and roll record. You have to focus on that as the number one thing to move up to the next level. You need to say that you are more than just a rock and roll band.
FB: You guys should have a kick ass logo so when people see the band The Milwaukees they will remember you.
I would just go into a bunch of chat rooms and blog about yourself. That’s a good way to get your name out there.
LV: Maybe your band should have a contest. Maybe give out an Independent Music Award or make a CD compilation. Maybe get some fans out there front and center with you onstage. Be D.I.Y. friendly.
FB: I think that compilations are important.
AA: I would say depending on who you are pitching to, so if you have a laundry list of what you want, then I think the maximization of what you get is also good.
JT: The thing is you don’t want to just give out all the information about yourselves. You have to think about what people want to hear. No one wants to receive a 45 page press release on you with every single article every written about your band stapled inside. Instead you should talk about the clubs that you have sold out where maybe other famous bands have played before. Talk about what you have done that will stick out not what everyone else is doing, such as playing college radio stations, it doesn’t always matter because almost anyone can get on a college radio station, so you need to stand out when you present yourself.
ES: I like the logo aspect. I like that you guys already have a distinct logo and you should bring that out more, you should also talk about how you guys sold out Maxwell’s because that is a huge thing.
MH: Just bear in mind that you said you were looking for a marketing person and a booking agent, and those are two very different pitches. I would suggest picking one to pitch at a time.
LV: I like that your description of your band got up my curiosity to want to hear what you sound like. That’s a good thing. You have enough presence that I give you this credibility that you might not suck.
ES: I want to say thank you to the people that stood up and did this, it takes alot to do it. That was great. The thing that you should take away from this is the passion that goes into what you are doing. Your succintness about the music and your passion are the keys that go into what you are doing.
JT: There is a fine line between enthusiasm and a court order, and you don’t to cross it.
ES: Thank you to our audience members and thank you to our panel.