First off, we’re Foxhound — a digital age creative studio created and run by Jared and I. We specialize in design, web, branding, motion, apps, marketing, photography, illustration, social media miscellany, etc. We’re a boutique firm that takes care of everything for young tech startups and the music industry.
We’ve been doing a lot of work with musicians and a recording studio in the past little while and we’ve learned a fair amount about what it takes to make it as a band in the age of torrented cds and social media from our side — the marketing and design side. And we’ve been on the other end of it too, or at least Jared has, as the starving musicians touring the country in broken vans.
We’re both musicians and passionate about music, and we’ve just just started up a band together called Unlovable. Hopefully by the time you’re reading this post we’ve got some free music and videos out there, but at the time I’m writing this we have 0 songs recorded, a one-word website, and 24 Facebook fans. With those inspiring words, on to the good stuff:
Essentially, there are three must-haves online: a website, a Facebook page and a Youtube account.
This one you need. Badly. Facebook is a tremendously powerful platform — much more so than other popular social media platforms, like Twitter. It’s click-through rates are through the roof. And chances are your fans spend a tremendous amount of time on Facebook already, so if you can communicate with them that way and stay on their radar (newsfeed) as they go about their day-to-day business you’re ahead of the game.
I’ve got all of my favourite bands liked and love seeing their updates and checking in on their tour dates. It’s completely non-invasive, too, since people can like you, unlike you, subscribe to certain types of activity and unsubscribe from others.
So how do you show up on your fans’ newsfeeds? That’s where it gets tricky. Facebook is always switching up their algorithms, but typically the more activity a certain post or page has the higher a chance it has of showing up on everyone’s newsfeed.
If you’ve got a fanbase that likes to “like” things then great, but if not you might need to get creative. The more controversial/crazy/interesting a post is the more likely it is to spark a lot of dialogue and “likes”, which makes it crucial that the majority of your updates give your fans value and entertainment.
You shouldn’t be posting boring stuff on Facebook. Keep it to yourself. If your fans don’t find your post interesting they won’t comment or like it. If people feel like they’re being pestered by useless updates they’ll unsubscribe or unlike your page.
Know your fans though. Some fans find the strangest things interesting. I would have thought the music video would be more interesting, but to each their own!
Another way to get a higher priority in their algorithms and to elicit a higher response rate from your fans is to always post a picture along with your update. “Get ready Dakota Tavern, we’re coming next Friday” is a much more interesting post if you accompany it with an interesting and somewhat related photo. Someone in your band probably has an iPhone or Android. Snap a quick photo and include it. Facebook gives posts with photos and links attached a higher priority, which results in that post getting significantly more views.
If something crazy happens on tour try and snag a photo of it. Post it to Facebook. Or write about it as plain text. Get out of the mentality of posting to Facebook when you feel like posting to Facebook, and switch to the mentality of posting to Facebook when you have something interesting to say.
How do you get people to like your page? The best way is to simply ask them. Next time you’re on stage simply tell your fans “Hey, we’re trying to get our fans on Facebook — add us.” Sometimes just telling people what you want them to do can go a long way.
If you want to go one step further put up free content/music on your page and mention it. That’ll sweeten the deal and make it worth their while to visit your page and like you.
Once people like your page make them glad that they did. Offering up free music and insider information is a great way to reward a fan for being a fan. Reward people for interacting with your page. Respond to their comments. Engage in the conversation. Treat them like friends.
Does that mean Myspace is dead?
It pains me to say that it’s breathing its last breath. Even Tom isn’t part of Myspace anymore. If you have a substantial amount of fans to interact with on Myspace (comments, dialogue, messages, etc) and the time and inclination to do it, feel free to keep using it — but for 99% of bands out there it’s not worth the effort to keep your music, photos, and news updated enough.
In fact, it can actually hurt you if you have an old Myspace account running with old crappy demos and spam comments flooding your wall. Do what’s safe and just delete the account. You’ll get more comments on a newer music only platform like Soundcloud anyways.
And you do have to actually delete it. Myspace ranks so high on Google that if your band has an account people WILL find it. And they’ll click it, too. You’ve got to remove that option and encourage them to use the platforms that will work better for you.
2. Have the best photography that you can
Photographers love to shoot bands, and as much as I hate what that’s doing to the photography industry, it’s great news for bands. You probably won’t need to pay a dime to get some wickedly professional photography done. You’ll appear like a better band if you have better photography. And fans like the visual candy.
On a slightly separate note – drop the crossed arms and mean looking face. You’re in a band and you’re badass – we get it. But everyone is doing it and as a band it’s crucial to stand out. Make it interesting, even if that means smiling and having fun.
Since 95% of bands are doing the cross-armed grim-face that actually gives you a real opportunity when it comes time to take a new photo. If you do something different you’ll immediately stand out.
Check out these two photos of the band Gym Class Heroes, taken by the legendary photographer Dave Hill. The first is a typical band photo. Yes, it’s well done, but otherwise it’s rather unremarkable. I doubt you’d tell your friends about it. The second one is dynamic and tells a story. It’s full of energy. And it’s different.
3. The more you give away the more you’ll get
Chances are you aren’t making the majority of your money through album sales. That’s the nature of the business these days. You can try and beat a dead horse and insist on charging for all of your music (only to have most of your fans download it anyway) or you can take advantage of the changing times and start offering more of it up for free.
You might not be charging money, but you can get SOMETHING out of it. Maybe you make it so that in order to download the track they need to give you their email or like your Facebook page. Things like that are ridiculously easy to set up, both on Facebook and on your website — especially if you get yourself a simple WordPress website.
Once you have someone’s email you can send out an email to all of your fans the next time your album drops, or the next time you release a music video, or the next time you put up a free track on your website, or the next time you run a contest, etc.
Give away a lot for free. Don’t think of money as the currency — think of attention and fame as the currency instead. Build a fan base. A loyal one. And then you can leverage that attention and turn it into money. Getting the fans is the hard part. Once you’ve got those there are tons of ways to monetize it.
If you can’t quite let go of trading music for money there are better ways to do it. Let’s say you release a free track on your website in exchange for their email address and you allow the option for donating $5 if they want to. What reason does that fan have for giving you $5? Pretty much none, so unless you’ve got really damn altruistic fans you’ll be getting none too. You can leverage social rewards into the equation though. Maybe you make up a page where you list all of the people that donated money and thank them. That way they can at least get recognition for their money and time.
Lifestory Monologue, one of our favourite local bands, released an EP and let their customers name their price. Great idea. I bet they would have gotten more numerous and more generous donations, however, had they offered some sort of incentive to donate — even if that were just a public thank you or an invitation to their VIP early access mailing list or some such.
People don’t want to buy cds anymore, but they’re still willing to buy other things. The Chariot, one of Jared’s favourite bands, hand-stamped and signed 25,000 vinyl records with each member doing 5000 of them. They ran a contest saying that the first 5 fans to collect all 5 signatures (they were hidden on the inside of the jacket) and take a photo and send it to them would have a track named after them on the new album. What an inspiring way to encourage your most loyal fans to get involved with the band (and spend even more money on the records) while the fans get something else none of their friends could ever get – a real song named after them.
4. Have a real website
Having a central platform that links to all of your social media, youtube videos, photos, albums, etc is crucial. Having a Facebook is great, but it doesn’t do a good enough job of centralizing your material for your fans and it’s extremely hard to find new fans through it.
Having a website for your band makes it look more established and official. That helps. But that’s just the beginning. You can release free music in a controlled way through your website. You can track your visitors using Google analytics to learn more about your fans and the success of your promotions — which is invaluable. You can list your tour dates. You can have a blog and give your fans a chance to get to know you better.
Websites aren’t expensive (often under $100) and they aren’t hard to come by or manage anymore. All you have to do is go out and find a WordPress theme that’s been specifically programmed for bands.
If you find good ones, like ours, and many of the other ones on these lists, then they’ll come pre-packaged with everything you need to be up and running right away: social media integration, GigPress widgets for easily managing your tour dates, Soundcloud widgets for uploading and playing your music, the ability to upload Youtube videos into your posts, sliders for showing off your band photography, newsletter sign-ups, etc.
Paulius wrote up a pretty kickass list of WordPress themes for bands a little while back. Check it out.
LMFAO, the party rockin’ sensation with over 500 million Youtube views, has a website that can easily be bested by any of the themes on the that list.
Once you install the WordPress theme, your website is incredibly easy to manage, since WordPress takes care of the backend for you. Writing up a blog post is as easy as writing up an email. Adding a new page or changing up your content is a breeze too. No coding or html involved whatsoever. And you can have all of this up and running in a couple hours.
If you have the budget for it you can get a really phenomenal custom website for 2-10 grand, but for most bands out there you can start off with a “band theme” based WordPress website and get all of the benefits of having a website. Most of them are fairly easy to customize, too.
5. Blog and be active on blogs
Be active online. When you come out with a new album, music video, single, etc you should be going out and posting it on as many blogs as possible. Email bloggers in your niche and ask them to check it out. Submit your music for review on music websites. Propagate your stuff in any way that you can think of, whether that’s by trying to hype it on Hypem, Soundcloud, or having that track posted on some music aficionado’s blog.
If you’re a metal band contact lambgoat, if you’re a rock or indie rock band contact Pitchfork. We’re always surprised by how few people take the initiative to contact the people that could really make their band a massive online success.
Make it easy for people to promote your stuff. Send them the files, links, imagery, and text blurbs/descriptions that they’d need. A blogger might be a bit lazy, but hey if you’ve got great music that their readers would love and you’re handing them all they need to make that blog post right then, well, then, why wouldn’t they?
6. Cultivate loyal fans and be loyal to them
Loyal fans aren’t something to underestimate. Let’s do some math. If you can get even just 1000 diehard fans that are willing to buy your merch even just once a year, and let’s say you sell a t-shirt for 20 and make 10 in profit from it . . . well you’ve got 10 grand in profit right there from 1 shirt. Is that unrealistic? Not really.
A loyal fan these days typically spends about 100 a year on the bands that they’re loyal to. It isn’t that hard, and it isn’t that out of the question — especially considering you can sell your merch online. If you have some great merch and some loyal fans well it really isn’t hard to inspire them to buy it.
If you’re using Facebook properly it’ll probably be pretty easy to reach out to your fans. When you get new merch in snag a photo of it using your phone, post it to Facebook, caption it with “New shirts just in! What do you think? We’re really happy with how they came out. Buy one now while they’re hot and in stock? You’d be helping us out a ton!”
Reward your most loyal fans for being your most loyal fans. If you can think up a way to reward the most active people then do it — and it doesn’t need to cost you anything.
If someone is always commenting on and liking your posts, maybe you message them a day earlier than everyone else with a link to a new free track as a way of saying thank you. Making them feel appreciated can really go a long way. Your most loyal fans are the backbone of your entire operation.
7. Get modern with selling your stuff and make it really damn easy for people to give you their money
If you have an iPhone you’re in luck. You can now swipe credit cards at your merch table. Get Square and I have a feeling your sales will take off… if your fans are old enough to have a credit card that is
Paypal is the industry standard for online interactions and it’s a breeze to use. If you run all of your online purchasing with a pay with Paypal option it will make things much much easier for your fans, resulting in a much higher conversion rate.
And finally, stand out.
You’ve either got to be the best at something that everyone does and everyone wants, or you can be different. Don’t be scared to ruffle some feathers and do things a different way. Be a band that people tell their friends about because they can’t believe that you did whatever that different thing is that you did.
We hope that helps!
If you liked the post, check out our own blog at www.foxhoundblog.com