Digital Marketing for Bands: Everyone’s Doing it Wrong

Digital marketing for bands isn't a cure-all when no one is buying music.There’s a little tiny mushroom industry of music marketers growing. A lot of them offer digital services to help “promote” you. Bands are falling for it. Musicians want to believe that, with enough clever marketing on this magical thing called “the Internet,” they’ll still become rockstars.

The fundamental problem with this belief is that people don’t pay for music anymore. Sure, you might get 10,000 Facebook likes. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be making any money. Literally… any… money.

Now, it’s not like every band was making millions before the Internet. However, almost all of them could at least depend on one thing for sure: album purchases from fans. Maybe the fans liked everything on an album, maybe they liked two or three songs.

Either way, there was no other way for fans to consistently listen to your music other than buying your album. 

Today, there are dozens, maybe hundreds of ways for fans to simply not give you any money and listen to your music. Digital music has been unchained from the chain of commerce. And bands have become the missing link. This isn’t debatable: album sales have consistently hit new lows almost every quarter.

Digital marketing and digital music have become a music lover’s paradise… except any band that doesn’t have the popular support of millions of people is going to be left behind, leaving us with boring, predictable, faux-controversial, vanilla music that is as accessible as possible.

Streaming platforms – via Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube – have created a culture where “listening to music” is as easy as turning on the faucet. Just like water, music has become a utility. But if we’re being taught that music is interchangeable, on tap and always available, how do bands make money? 

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YouTube’s Music Service Could Screw Indie Musicians – Here’s Why

Youtube's premium service means heartbreak for indie musicians.It’s been an uphill battle for indie musicians to make a living. Forever. Dwindling CD sales haven’t helped much, either, along with the pittances paid by streaming radio stations like Pandora and Spotify.

Well, as rumored, YouTube is planning a premium subscription music service now. And, as expected, indie artists are apparently getting way worse deals than the major labels. If they don’t sign onto the new service as it rolls out, they risk being dropped from YouTube “in a matter of days.”

That would be fine if YouTube wasn’t aggressively persuading (ahem, forcing) indies to join the music service.

From The Guardian:

[Trade organization] WIN claims that the company [YouTube] has signed lucrative licensing deals with major labels Universal, Warner and Sony, while demanding that independent labels sign up to inferior terms or face having their videos blocked from YouTube’s free service.

Seem a little harsh? Maybe, you might be thinking, the videos would just be blocked from YouTube’s new music service, not the whole site. According to WIN – and clarified by The Guardian:

“If labels don’t sign up for YouTube’s new paid music service at the (non-negotiable) terms, their entire catalogues will be blocked on YouTube – all of YouTube, not just the new premium bit.”

That means the rug has essentially been ripped out from underneath musicians’ feet. All of the music videos, albums, and songs independent artists have uploaded to YouTube, the things that have gotten thousands upon thousands of views for YouTube… might disappear. If you don’t sign something.

So how did we get here? And is there any escape?

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Bands: Don’t Forget This One Thing When Marketing Online

Bands need to build a local following before going crazy with online marketing.The promise of going viral has never sounded so sweet. From Rebecca Black’s “Friday” to the newly viral and morbidly interesting “Brick in Yo Face” by Stitches, marketing your band online seems like it has magical powers.

One day, you make a YouTube video. The next… well… you’re famous. Right?

Or maybe you’ll find the answer in Facebook and Twitter and ReverbNation, instead. If you spend enough money online and have a good website, won’t that make sure your band gets heard?

If you’ve tried all of this stuff, or you’ve thought about trying it, you might already know the answer. In the scramble to market their music online, bands are forgetting one vital thing:

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5 Boston Music Tech Start-Ups You Should Know About

Boston Music Tech Meet UpWe might already be entering the era of music business 3.0.

That’s at least what the CEO of music technology start-up Gideen told me in my recent interview with him.

I like the term. It acknowledges that streaming and downloadable songs (music business 2.0) existed before this new wave of music tech start-ups.

And also acknowledges that streaming and downloads are, slowly but surely, failing musicians.

To be a musician has always been a very poor career move, but you could at least count on album sales to stay (kinda) afloat. That option’s gone, because most people aren’t willing to spend money on music. Digital downloads are dropping. Streaming pays tiny shards of pennies to artists.

So what kind of technology can actually help bands make music, distribute music and get paid? I went to a Boston Music Tech Meetup last week to find out.

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3 New Ways You Can Sell CDs at Shows

Bands can still sell CDs at shows, but you have to think differently.It’s harder than ever -literally, ever – for bands to sell CDs at shows. People just don’t buy them anymore. CD sales are at an all-time low.

In December 2000, 785.14 albums were sold.

In 2013, that number dropped to 289.41 million. This past January, sales reached another record weekly low.

My laptop doesn’t even have a place to put CDs. Itunes has been offering a digital alternative for years. Streaming radio stations like Spotify & Pandora have made the process of music-to-ears even smoother… and free-er.

Iphones and iPads don’t play CDs.

But bands keep trying to sell them shows, because it’s still one of the most straightforward ways to make money from music. But trying to sell a CD at a show full of music lovers with smartphones is like trying to sell a DVD to someone with Netflix. Or iTunes. Or Amazon. Or Google Play.

Trust me, they’ve moved onto something else.

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Forget iTunes & Pandora: Gideen Offers Bands A New Way to Make Money Online

Online marketing for music has been one of the most hyped up things in the past few years. It seems simple, right? You release a song online. Promote it through some savvy Facebook marketing or YouTube videos.

Then, suddenly, you’re Viral.

As most bands know, the reality is different. You can drop $50 “boosting” a Facebook post for $0 in return. YouTube channels become haunted houses of cobwebs and shakily filmed videos of you playing in an empty bar. And streaming stations have destroyed a mid-market brand of listener and both Spotify and Pandora pay musicians terribly.

In the pursuit of precious exposure, musicians are leaving revenue far, far behind.

I haven’t yet come across a reliable way for bands to make (decent) money online… but I think I might have found one on the horizon. Gideen is a start-up, an online music platform that taps the best of every world to create what CEO Heiko Schmidt calls “a 3.0 music business model,” which casts aside the $1 song completely.

Fueled by fans, musicians, advertisers, artists of all stripes and a lot of songs, Gideen is hoping to revolutionize traditional licensing and revenue models in the music industry. Right now, the company is hosting an IndieGoGo campaign to fund it all.

Here’s what Schmidt had to say about Gideen, music marketing and the music industry in general:

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What Musicians Can Learn from YouTube Millionaires

Musicians can learn from YouTube millionaires.A few years ago, I saw a video kicking around Facebook called “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking.”

It was a standard YouTube video: a webcam photoshoot of some person, doing something. This video was pretty funny, and featured a monologue by someone named Jenna Marbles.

Today, Jenna Marbles’ YouTube earnings are valued at over $4 million. “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” has over 55,000,000 views. The channel for Jenna Marbles videos has over a billion views.

Where’s all this money coming from? YouTube. How? Ads.

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7 Things Making Musicians (and the Music Industry) Go Out of Business

The music industry - and musicians - are struggling.I recently stumbled across a really interesting documentary – “Unsound.” No, it’s not out yet. In fact, maybe it never will be. Right now, it’s in the funding stages on IndieGoGO and I beseech everyone to go help make it become a reality. Writers, artists, musicians – anyone who does creative stuff needs to donate to the campaign.

It’s not really a donation, anyway, since you get the movie out of the deal.

Unsound is about the increasingly harmful effects of “Free” on the economy – from journalism to music. That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, too. Mostly, I want to know why the creative economy is in such peril. So, today, let’s focus on music.

Here’s what’s happening to the industry, and why musicians everywhere are struggling:

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5 Ways Your Band Should Be Using Facebook

Bands can learn a lot from the Facebook Page of Dead Letter Circus.Facebook for bands is a Rubik’s Cube. If it works, it can really work. But if it doesn’t… it’s embarrassing.

A lot of bands use Facebook on a less-than-monthly basis, but there’s some power to steadily creating a stream of content for fans. In fact, I realized the impact of social media when I was waiting to buy a CD, “The Catalyst Fire” by Dead Letter Circus, for almost three months.

That’s kind of a miracle. The “album” as a concept is dying because singles are selling so much better. Not only that, “anticipation” for a creative product is almost a foreign feeling on the Internet, where we’re entitled to instant downloads and streaming.

But there I was, waiting impatiently for October 29 when I could finally buy an album that had been on YouTube since August and available in Australia for months.

So what happened? Social media. Specifically, Facebook. Dead Letter Circus – and what I suspect is some help from the band’s album label, UNFED – brought social media marketing to some next level craziness and it worked. The album debuted at #2 on the ARIA Album Chart.

Here’s what any band can learn about social media from Dead Letter Circus:

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3 Social Media Mistakes We Can Learn from the Concert that Never Was

Bands and businesses have a lot in common when it comes to social media strategies... and mistakes.

This post originally appeared on MarchPR.com

I recently tried to go to a concert here in Boston. I won’t name the venue or the bands, even the most popular of which is pretty much unknown. The show was on a Monday night. My mission was to see one band in particular, but I didn’t know when they, or any band, were going to start playing.

I embarked on a treasure hunt to put together whatever clues I could find. Now, if you’re in PR or know anything about PR, you’ve probably heard the term “messaging” before. Messaging is the cornerstone of any PR campaign. Companies do a lot of research and work very hard to make sure that a message is on-target before sending it out into the world. A good message is consistent on all platforms and channels.

None of these bands had good messaging. The club didn’t have good messaging, either. And, as I tried to piece things together, I couldn’t help but think about all the different ways a solid social media strategy could have helped.

Here’s what I noticed:

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