Old Rules vs. New Rules For Media – A New Blog Series About The Future Of Media

Old RadioWith apologies to Bill Maher, I’ve tried to re-arrange the presentation I did at the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver and the Multimedia Meets Radio conference in Prague about ‘The Future of Radio’ into a series of coherent blog posts.

Instead of creating a single, giant post, I’ve tried to break up the salient points of the presentation into individual observations that I’m arranging as ‘Old Rules vs. New Rules’.

The goal of the series is to show how traditional media has worked and why they’ve made the strategic decisions they have, and then show how almost the EXACT opposite of those decisions are the NEW rules for success.

In the end, I hope to provide some clarity about why traditional media companies are struggling and where to look for solutions to their current problems.
So without further ado, here’s installment #1…

Old Rule #1: Shut Up And Watch / Listen

In the past, the only way to consume content was to tune into a live radio or TV station’s programming.  Old media pushed it out as a broadcast, and you tuned in.  If you missed it, too bad.  Old media controlled the how, when, and where of your experience. It was a one-way, linear push of content and information.

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13 YouTube Success Tips For Musicians

You’re a music artist.

Not enough people are hearing your music.

You’ve got your tunes up on MySpace and New Music Canada.

You’ve got your music video (if you’ve got one) up on YouTube, MySpace and New Music Canada.

What else should you be doing?

In the YouTube universe, the answer is LOTS. The goal is get people exposed to who you are and the music you create.  And the music video is far from your only tool.  Here are 13 OTHER ways to use YouTube to get new people to get to know you and your tunes…

  1. Tour diary. If you’re an artist that tours, give updates from the road.  All you need is a webcam , a laptop, and an internet connection.   Tell us about last night’s gig.  Tell us where you’re going next.  Talk about your favourite moments of being on the road.  Show us the dump of hotel you’re staying in (or the van you’re sleeping in).  Interview people who are at the show. Shoot something live during your show and tell the audience to check it out on your website tomorrow morning. EVERYONE secretly wants to go on tour and live ‘on the road.’  Show ’em how great it is… or dispel the myth.
  2. Making Your Record. Take your fans into the recording studio (or your basement).  Show them process.  Show them how you write, how you rehearse, how you record.  Show yourself making mistakes.  Show yourself figuring out the way you make your music great.  Give them a window in your creative process.
  3. Day Job. Show your fans what you REALLY do when you’re not making music.  Do you work at the GAP?  Do you sell insurance?  Do you live in your parents’ basement?  Be honest, be bold, and pull back the curtain.  Show your fans what your life is REALLY like when you’re not on stage.  You’ll be shocked at how much they might care and love you for it.
  4. Ask for help. Jammed with lyrics?  Want to know which version of a chorus works better or worse?  Curious whether a solo sounds better on a guitar or a keyboard?  Pose your dilemma to your audience.  Open up, put it out there – you might be totally shocked at the great suggestions you get from your audience.
  5. Create a video diary / blog. What do you care about besides music?  Politics?  Sports?  Filmmaking?  Throw it out there.  Be passionate.  Be emotional.  Be confident.  Say what you believe and ask for feedback, opposing opinions, and further thoughts.  Let people get to know the REAL you, not just the musician.
  6. Bring the Funny. If you’ve got a knack for humour, by God, use it.  Show people your lighter side.  Shoot a skit, pull a prank on your bandmates, do your best impression.  Making people laugh could be the best thing you ever did for your music career.
  7. Reply to other YouTube videos. Give your opinions on other artists videos by commenting.  Comment on videos about subjects other than music that you care about.  If you’re brave enough, create some video replies to other people’s content.
  8. Take Advantage Of What’s Already Popular. Pick a viral video, popular web meme, or web video celebrity.  Talk about why you love it/him/her.  Talk about why it/him/her is horrible, shameful or stupid.  Do a parody of it/him/her.  Tag your video with keywords that will turn up for people searching for the original.
  9. Make a video with another musician or band. Make a video together.  Have fun.  Do something that will stand out.  And post it to both of your sites, both of your YouTube, MySpace, New Music Canada accounts.  Email the fans from BOTH your bands and let them know what you’ve done. That way, you can introduce your fans to their music and personalities and vice versa.
  10. Subscribe to the videos of bands that are similar to yours. Subscribe to videos created by fans of bands that are similar to yours.  You might get good ideas from them.  They might check you out.  They might like what they find on your channel.  They might tell others.  That would be good.
  11. No matter what you put up on YouTube, tag it properly. Put in your name.  Put in your band’s name.  Put in your genre of music.  Pick the words for which you want to turn up as the top search result and put ’em in the tags of your videos.
  12. Whenever you put up a video on YouTube, put it everywhere else you can think of, too. Facebook, MySpace, Vimeo, Viddler, Blip.tv, you name it. YouTube is the 800 pound gorilla, but there are lots of other great niches where you can find audiences, too.
  13. Once the video is up live, tell EVERYONE you know about it. Put it on your website or blog.  Tweet about it on Twitter.  Put it on your Facebook and MySpace status.   Send it your newsletter or email subscribers.  And DEFINITELY ask your audience to pass it along to their friends, too.  If you can get others to pass it along to their networks, you’re off to the races…

What have I missed?  Any other ideas?  Let ‘er fly in the comments…

The Curse Of Web Success – Matt Good’s Dilemma

Taking advantage of social web tools has MAJOR benefits for just about any creative type with something to say.  But it can also create MAJOR problems.

Take the excellent example of Matt Good. He’s signed to a major label and has what most would consider  a very successful career.  Unlike the majority of music artists, though, he’s also a VERY passionate user of new media. His website, matthewgood.org, is not just a home base for fans of his music, but fans of his writing – whether it’s about politics, human rights, or a variety of other topics NOT related to music.  And his consistency in regularly posting smart, relevant, valuable content has developed a large audience.  I’m betting most of them come to read what he’s written and not just to listen to his music. He’s also on Facebook, MySpace, Flickr, and most interestingly, Twitter, posting everything from updates on Montreal Canadiens sports scores, to interesting web links, to alerts about new posts on his blog.

Why is this important?  Because a couple weeks ago, his new album, “Live At Massey Hall,” was released and it quickly rose to #2 in the Canadian iTunes store and hit the top 40 in the U.S. iTunes store.  And apparently, there wasn’t a single scrap of promotion from his record label.  According to Good, the only place the album was significantly promoted was on his own website.

Think about that.  A passionate and engaged community that visits Good’s site regularly because he has a lot of interesting, controversial, and strongly opinionated things to say about things that AREN’T necessarily about music helped to deliver a huge first week of sales of a music album.  How much influence can his site have on touring?  Merchandise sales?  ANYTHING else related to Matt Good?

He’s got his “1,000 true fans” and then some, but this tribe wasn’t created solely through exposure to his music.  Matt is an extremely compelling example, perhaps the poster child even, of why musicians need to do more than just make music. (Even though something tells me that Matt would have this site whether he made music or not…)

Without actually asking his community directly, I can offer a few pretty good guesses as to why he’s had so much success:

  • Matt’s audience feels like they ‘know’ him because of his web presence, in a very different way than they know him from buying or listening to his music.  There’s an intimacy created that’s unique and separate from recorded music.
  • Matt and his web presence have become part of their digital ‘routine’ – it has become valuable enough that Matt has earned credibility as a source of quality, trust, and relevance.  If his blog is this entertaining, why wouldn’t his music be equally so?
  • Matt’s community can talk to and with each other on his blog through commenting.  Many of them know each other, too, and feel like a member in the ‘Matt Good appreciation club’
  • Matt actively engages his community.  He’s currently posting new site designs previews on his Flickr site, presumably for feedback.

Here’s the big problem…  Matt has become a victim of his own success.

He’s currently redesigning his entire site because he can’t afford to hire people to maintain it and deal with the level of traffic he gets.  He gets zero funding for the site from his label (which is ironic, since the site is probably making them a lot of money this month…).  He’s considered scaling back considerably and eliminating commenting, although the protests of his community appear to have changed his mind on this.

I believe that if Matt’s site loses commenting, his impact will shrink considerably.  The ability for fans to actively participate – to be heard by Matt and to share ideas and thoughts with each other – is what nourishes and grows a community.  Participation breeds loyalty and without it, the reasons to come to a site regularly diminish.

So what should Matt do?

I don’t how his site works, how much work goes into it, and how much editorial judgment is needed on a day-to-day basis, but my gut is that Matt should turn to his community for help.  I know of a great many sites that use their community to help moderate comments, edit content, provide design help, etc.  There’s always a great deal of discomfort in giving up control over things like this (particularly if you’re an artist!).  It’s a GIANT leap of faith.  However, faced with the option of a limited community versus a passionately run community facilitated by the community themselves, I’d choose the latter every time.

Frankly, Matt’s in the rare and unique position of having a problem that most artists would kill to have – too much traffic to manage.

And that’s the point.  If Matt, without any external support or funding (despite being a successful major label artist), can take the time and effort to build a community like this, why aren’t more artists (who need a passionate, engaged community even more than Matt) following his example?

Take a risk.  Put yourself out there.  Let your fans get to know you.  Let them talk to you. Ask for their opinions. Talk back to them.  Share your opinions on THEIR blogs.  Give them a reason to come and visit your website every day or every week whether you’ve got a new album or a tour or not.

And if you provide regular value, relevance, and connection to them, they will return it to you when you need it most.

Just ask Matt.

***P.S. Don’t judge Matt’s site by its current design – he’s reverted to a very basic WordPress template while he works on the new version.

Why Musicians Need To Do More Than Make Music

In the last week, I’ve talked with Jordan Kawchuk (Producer of the Radio 3 video podcast, R3TV) and Grant Lawrence (Champion of Canadian music and web radio/satellite radio/podcasting host) before they spoke at panels about  ‘web 2.0’, ‘music 2.0’, and ‘the youtube era for musicians’.  Jordan spoke to a group at the Western Canadian Music Awards and Grant was moderating a great panel at CMJ in New York – thousands of miles away, but both organizers wanted a lot of the same advice for artists.

This makes me think that there’s a lot of musicians who are still daunted by the prospect of all the tools available to them on the web, who aren’t sure what kind of content they’re supposed to create with them, and who don’t understand why they’re so vital to their future success.

Whether you’re signed to a major label, signed to an indie label, or making music in your basement, you need to do more than make music and put it on MySpace (and New Music Canada, of course 🙂 ).

Here are the basics.  I’ll have more detailed thoughts on creating relevance and credibility online in the coming weeks.  But the price of entry is this:

You need to blog.  You need to use Twitter.  You need to use Flickr. You need to use Youtube – and not just for posting your music videos.  You need to participate in communities and comment on other people’s blogs.

Why? You need to build a community, communicate directly to them without a filter, and empower them to help make your music and your other creative projects reach more people.

If you’re a music artist looking to get more people to hear your music, looking to tour more to places outside of your hometown, province / state, or want to sell more of your music, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a blog?
  • If so, are you posting daily?  Or at least weekly?
  • Are you on Twitter? (Do you know what Twitter is?)  Are your tweets creating value – ie: should I as a potential new listener care about what you’re tweeting?
  • Have you put anything other than a music video up on YouTube?
  • Have you put up any photos on Flickr?
  • Do you visit and comment regularly on the blogs of music fans (especially those who write about your genre of music – or even better, YOUR music?)
  • Are you using Facebook, MySpace, Upcoming, New Music Canada, etc to post your gigs, album releases, etc?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is ‘no,’ you’re missing a chance to connect with and grow your audience and community.  What are you waiting for?