Interview With A Blogger – Sjimon Gompers from Goldmine Sacks

sjimonSjimon Gompers is a freelance writer, editor, advising consultant and part time produce schlepper. He resides in San Francisco, with an eye on the happenings of the local and global coasts. He contributes regularly to Impose Magazine, known for his massive Week in Pop roundups in his column, affectionately titled with tongue in cheek; Goldmine Sacks. Bearing an unusually insightful and a great music mind, Sjimon recently agreed to answer some of our most burning questions about the biz.
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Music Discovery – How Artists Can Beat The Hype And Create Value As Curators

jukeGuest post by Yannick Servant of The Digital Edge, a new blog by Official.fm on Music Industry 2.0 and the opportunities it holds for artists (@digitaledgeofm).

In the midst of Apple’s launch of “the absolute best way to discover new music”, you’d have to have been living under a rock over the past few months to not notice the massive hype built around the notion of music discovery. Case in point : 44 out of Spotify’s 74 “Top Apps” are labeled “discovery”. But dig a bit deeper, and it’s hard to equate share of voice with share of added value on this subject. Put more bluntly, in Kyle Bylin of Sidewinder.fm’s words : “a majority of listeners don’t care”. Technically brilliant data-focused algorithms are being welcomed by unenthusiastic shrugs because they crash into what Jed Carlson calls the “tension around music discovery”. On the one hand, music fans don’t want to be told what to like, on the other, they’re constantly looking for social cues to create context and put sense into the immense music catalogs now available to them. Music discovery has always been experienced and loved as something inherently social. Focusing on technology means you’re focusing on telling people what to like. Sites like the Hype Machine gained traction by shifting the focus to what’s actually being talked about, but it’s still a list of lists, outside of fans’ social circles.

What this blog post by Sidewinder reminds us is that music discovery bears most value in the eyes and ears of the music fan when it’s a real human he can feel close to curating the music. Hand-picking musical items and assorting them in a meaningful order (a playlist, a mixtape), with the promise of value added by the curator’s expertise. Making sense out of the informational and musical chaos. That was precisely radio’s role, and, in its prime, it did it well (think “The Boat That Rocked”). Now that the gates have fallen and that anyone can have his shot at being an influencer on the Web, curation is a powerful lever at the musician’s disposal.

Here are the top 4 reasons why you’d want to look into it :
1. It’s an incredible opportunity to engage your fans and bring them into your universe. If your fans are passionate about you and your art, they’ll want to know all about what influenced and inspired you to create the music they love. More than ever, they’re eager to feel a part of your social circles, and that’s something you should make the most of.
2. As an artist, you’re in the best place to produce meaningful curation. Music is your hobby, your job, your career, your passion. You’ve got the credentials, and the more quality curation you produce, the bigger the boost to your cred and following will be.
3. In the era of instantaneous information and short attention spans, it’s a way of continuing to exist on the top of your audience’s mind – that’s one of the big reasons a lot of electro & hip hop artists produce a steady stream of mixtapes in between releases.
4. In the hype of music discovery, you’re up against algorithms generating endless lists of “related artists”. You, on the other hand, have the opportunity to make it exciting, unique and memorable by giving real and personal context to what you’re sharing. Authenticity makes a real difference.

There’s one artist we love who does a good deal of this pretty neatly. The guy’s stage name is Pretty Lights, an electronic music artist with his own label, Pretty Lights Music. Every week, he curates “The HOT Sh*t” on Spotify, the playlists from his live radio sets that blend his tunes, tunes from artists on his label, and other musicians he appreciates in the same genre. This week is episode 82.
Sure, the guy’s got 700,000 Facebook fans and was playing Coachella this year, but the fundamentals are the same whatever your size : have a look at his Web presence… his commitment to his curation effort and his management of his artist/fan relationship really force respect.

Acing curation is no easy task, but here are three tips that should help before jumping in :
• It’s an investment (Pretty Lights is onto his EIGHTY-SECOND playlist) – make sure to connect with your audience along the way to feed your effort with their feedback.
• Know your audience: you can’t (and shouldn’t) please everyone – aim for what will really turn your fans on, and build it from there.
• This is your opportunity to deliver something truly unique… make sure you have an “editorial voice”.

We strongly feel curation and discovery really are buzzwords when you deal with automation and algorithms. There’s no lasting value, no experience in that. But, when you work on curation that shows you know your audience and provides them with a truly unique experience, the value should speak for itself, and it should really show in your fanbase, whether you started from 700 or 700,000 fans.

Agree, disagree, have experiences to share ? Let us know in the comments !

And next up on The Digital Edge, a hands-on look at the best tools to get cracking with curation. Stay tuned !


Want More Fans? Get More Friends

friendsWe talk a lot on this site about making fans (hell, the name of our book is Get More Fans, for god’s sake). It’s essential to your music career and the responsibility is on you alone. But what we’re really talking about when we say make new “fans” is actually make new friends.

I’m on Twitter a lot these days, making friends for my band Sensual Harassment. I read a lot of tweets from a lot of musicians who are constantly referring to their “fans” almost in a condescending way. While we’re sure you do have “fans” of your music, the context in which many musicians use this word is often self-aggrandizing. Unless you’re his Holiness, The Grand Bieber, you should probably avoid doing this (and even the Almighty Bieb has been chastised recently for such behavior). Further, your fans should not be some abstract concept or people you know nothing about. Your fans should also be your friends.

Friends let bands sleep on their floors. Friends support your live shows and buy merch. Friends buy your crappy clear 10″ vinyl that is taking up all the space in your closet. Friends tell other people about your music so that you can gain new fans. Friends join your street team and help you work the merch table. Friends help you get better shows and can take you to the front of the line for getting reviews or anything else. When you begin to think about your music career through this filter, making decisions for your band can become a lot easier. Would you send your good friend spammy emails 4 times a week about your band’s “big” show at Rooster’s Chicken Shack on Thursday? Doubtful. So think about the same thing when you consider sending something out to your fans.

While some young fans may really admire you, buy your music, etc., its still important to not treat them as second class citizens. You wouldn’t ignore a tweet, email, or even complaint from a friend, so don’t do the same with fans. Personal thank you emails to fans, bloggers, and everyone else matters (even though at times it may feel as if it doesn’t). Remember that your fans have other interests as well. Just because they follow you on Twitter doesn’t mean you’re the most important thing in their lives. Show interest in what they do, be authentic and continue to meet new people.

And don’t forget that you need more than internet friends – some connections are just better made in person, so if you’re trying to troll your way to the top from the secure spot of your granny’s basement, clogging up that WIFI, you might want to consider leaving the house once in a while. Remember that in this modern music era, it’s not record labels, not MTV, and not even blogs that are the most responsible for creating successful bands – it’s friends and fans. Get out there and get “friendly”.


How To Make That One Thing Go Viral – Upworthy’s Amazing Guide

slide-1-638One of the arguments we’re constantly hearing at Musformation is that having great content is all you need to be successful. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. While a great song or eye-catching video will certainly help you, it’s only one part of the larger game. If you’re not marketing yourself to your full potential, you are definitely wasting your time. If you’re not hip to them, Upworthy is a burgeoning entertainment aggregate site similar to Buzzfeed. At the end of last year, they came out with an amazing presentation on making things viral, and it’s still making the rounds, as it was brought to our attention recently. Whether you’re thinking about email subject lines or ways to get others to share you new video, Upworthy’s How To Make That One Thing Go Viral acts as a marketing degree and creative writing crash course in one presentation. HIGHLY recommended reading.


Getting Personal With Your Promotions – Japanther Get It Right Again

You might remember the amazing Brooklyn band Japanther from an interview we did with them a few years back, but as usual they’re at it again, innovating and doing exciting promotions. In the above video we hear a little about a very cool event they did at a restaurant in LA. I recently caught up with Ian Vanek, the bands thunderous rhythm doctor, to have him explain a little more about what the band did for this project, why it was personally important and how the natural instincts of the band have become an almost accidental promotional tool.

1. Explain the Automat Project you guys did in LA.
The piece was entitled “69¢ Only”and was a part of residence based restaurant program called Thank You For Coming. Our dear friend and collaborator Jenn Su had the wild idea that a “resident” would come and change her restaurant every month or so. We were aware of all the hurdles Jenn was facing while opening TYFC and we felt fully challenged by her invitation to be one of the first residents. Social justice often takes center stage in Jenn’s actions so we wanted to challenge her in return. This is roughly how we arrived at the 1930′s automat theme for our residence. Cheap, quality food without a hassle. At that moment we wanted to be the cheapest game in town. So Jenn proportioned several small meals into 69¢ servings, we made some 69¢ Japanther wooden coins and started sanding and painting and making a huge mess.


2. Explain the money side of things for this project.

Thank You For Coming is open for business. They have hours and a cash register and all that. We were one of the cheapest restaurants in LA but we had our eye on the bottom line. The ingredients were carefully proportioned, tons of people volunteered their time and we went foraging a lot.

3. What kinds of reactions did you get from customers, fans, etc? Anything surprising?
Children seemed to get it the best. It’s a game and you always win! We got so many amazing reactions and gifts from participants. Too many to write down really. Sasha Grey was there one night with 12 of her friends. Our friends at various label and zines mailed stuff in. Kids of all ages getting amped on the idea of an automat was huge for all of us. Everything after that was just icing on the cake.

4. I was at one of your shows recently and saw a tape that was titled (quite cleverly) “Eat Like Lisa, Act Like Bart”, and from having known you personally, I know that food and health is important to you guys. This seems like a very local, community-based project that is way outside the realm of what normal bands consider for promotion. Specifically, why was this project important to you guys?
I think Japanther’s choice to stay involved with creativity was a natural one. Promotion is so far from our minds while creating that often times the bi-products go unnoticed. Restaurants and specifically “pop ups” are just another fun way of being creative. Lots of people host dinners all over the world in a variety of creative manners. In no way are we an authority on health or food we just love the dialog it creates.


Lose The Lottery Ticket – Get In The Trenches

trenches
As unbelievable as it may seem, occasionally we run into people who are still, after all these years, stuck mentally in the the 60′s, 70′s and 80′s (or what they’ve been told about that age in books and from other salacious accounts). They think that artists are a privileged class who lounge around all day perhaps smoking weed and playing Resident Evil (not that there’s anything wrong with that per se), then casually roll into the studio around 8PM, effortlessly crank out a track or two of vocals (backing band should do the rest, right?), hand that over to a super slick music exec who will then hand it to a world class marketing department to send it straight to the top of the charts, because naturally, they are the most talented musical prodigy on god’s green earth and everybody knows it, right?

In their heads, at some abstract time in the future, they will, after a few hours work (maybe or twice a month), simply exit the studio, hop in the Bentley and head off to another Manhattan rooftop party with Eastern European Models and swanky DJs with sweet sideways haircuts and ridiculous appetizers that no one can even pronounce. Well, if you know how we can get involved in this racket, please let us know ASAP (I woke up at 7:30AM to work on this blog post so I could really use some tunes and a snack right now).

Last time we checked, this awesome/ridiculous cliche isn’t around anymore (and even when it was, you had a better chance at hitting the NYC Powerball Jackpot than becoming this kind of artist). If dreams like that are fulfilling enough for you, more power to you. The lottery serves a purpose for many people. They get to dream. And dreams are powerful things. However, if you’re after more than dreams, a first grade math student can tell you that your odds are not so hot to hit this grandiose pie in the sky prize.

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Download Wristbands Done Cheaper!


A few weeks ago we mentioned some download wristbands that CD Baby was selling.
What we weren’t so excited about was the price of the wrist bands (pretty expensive) and the fact that you have to drive traffic to CD Baby when ordering their wrist bands. We decided to do some research and found a much cheaper alternative that is also fairly customizable. Ticketprinting.com offers some very cheap alternatives. Although probably a little less stylized than the ones at CD Baby, the price difference and the ability to direct fans where YOU want seems worth it. I bought some for my band Sensual Harassment and paid less than 30 dollars for 1000 (there is quite a selection to choose from as well). On our recent tour, the bands seem to have worked pretty well and venues seem to have no problem using them. Definitely another great way to get people to walk away from your shows and remember who you are.


Jango Adds New Features + Offers New Users 100 Free Spins

musformation_blogbanner1.JPGThe good folks at Jango are always updating us on their cool new features.  One we were really excited to hear about was the Realtime Listener Feed.  This dynamic feature allows further interaction of artists, songs and listeners as it happens.  If you’re already a Jango user you can log in to your Airplay account and see exactly who is listening to your music (including what song they’re currently hearing, why your song matched their station and the listener’s location).  From there it’s easy to click on your listeners and learn more about them and their music habits.  When listeners became ‘fans’ they show up in your feed, allowing you to email them directly.  It also shows you what songs you have in rotation that are
generating the most fan activity. Overall a very useful feature that can sharpen your marketing focus. 

To help promote this new feature, the folks at Jango are offering Musformation readers 100 free spins when you sign up for the first time.  Click on the image above to get started.  Very generous offer from a very useful service that is quickly getting better and better. 


Happy Holidays – See Ya Next Week

drunksanta_vector.jpg We were so anxious to get the hell on with our end of the year vacation that we forgot to say Happy Holidays to everyone. We’re taking some time off, but will see you back again January 3rd (baring a serious New Years Eve party accident). Best wishes to everyone and here’s to hoping for a great 2011.