Archive for the 'Music Industry' Category

Social Media and The Box

Check out @donkeybox – perfect example of a forward-thinking band that embraces social media and uses it to build up a tight-knit fan base

I saw this on the band tweet and was well glad to see this, so at least I am doing something right 🙂

So on this blog I occasionally write things from my point of view on behalf of my band DonkeyBox and this is one of those posts. It’s pretty hard work doing all the social media stuff for the band and in fact a lot of musicians find this aspect overwhelming. Also on the surface it does not seem to produce any results. As far as I can see there aren’t many new people turning up to every gig and sales of our songs on iTunes haven’t actually increased.

Did I just say sales? Actually although I can’t prove it as such, sales of our EP Backstage Pass must be in large part to our good online presence combined with great gigs and engagement. Even in these hard days of selling music, we’ve done it.

We have met odd people through social media as well, a few have even turned up to gigs or rehearsals. And these people don’t even live in London or indeed even in the UK! They visited us while on holiday here and that is pretty cool.

Here’s to making more new friends and fans. And I am so looking forward to meeting people for real who love the band’s music and support DonkeyBox. Exciting stuff and that’s what keeps me going with the social media effort.


small is the new big

  • Mass media is dead, long live multiple channels of information
  • ..but there’s just too much digital noise out there; too much email aaaaarrrrgh!
  • Being a cog in a job measured and described by someone else blows
  • Most web pages are ugly
  • Your best fans will promote you in a way you can never do

Obvious things that your entrepreneurial, creative head already knew but Seth Godin puts it in black and white.

In late 2008, totally hooked to Derek Sivers’ ideas on music marketing and his own blog, I started a journey into modern digital marketing books by following his book list and gradually buying some of those books.

And this is how I came across Seth Godin, it all started with his book Small Is The New Big. This book is a culmination of Seth’s best blog posts in a nice, compact book form.

It is all in the bonus – redesigned band website

The bonus at the back of the book on website design and function was total gold. He basically mentioned that most web pages are ugly and serve no purpose (what a bold but true statement). He then provided a clear, concise guide on what a web page should be. Prompted by his guide I asked myself

“What is the purpose of each and every page on my band’s website?”

Going from the bottom up I realised there really was no clear cut purpose for any of the website. I was randomly hoping that people would see our videos, hear our music and then become fans magically! While the website definitely helped in marketing I never used it as something more direct.

So now:

  1. I chopped down the 7 navigation pages to just 4
  2. Placed the navigation bar at the top
  3. Included a “buy these songs on iTunes” link
  4. And eventually put up a form on every single page for people to sign up to our mailing list

The purpose of the webpage was now not only to market the band, but to act as a portal for collecting fan email addresses and also sell our music.

Lo and behold…a few months later, thanks to being clearer on this we started selling downloads and having people sign up to our mailing list 🙂

Turn strangers into friends, then into fans and magic will happen!

On Facebook, etc I was meeting some random people through music networks and I became friends with them. That gradually meant that I could tell them about the band and get them interested in our music. That happened slowly and steadily with time, so much so that Facebook friends from the US saw us in London, how cool was that!

This wasn’t the amazing bit though…the amazing bit I actually experienced was through my part-time job at the time as a Maths/Physics tutor. With that job too I had turned people into friends, then customers…then something magical started happening, some customers started marketing me to their friends direct and I started getting more and more work. This continued to such an extent that in June 2009 I was able to quit my actual full-time job.

Now I was in a place where I had a job that I liked a lot lot more, and that freed up more time to concentrate on music, self-improvement and other hobbies.

This concept of your customers marketing YOU is nothing new in terms of word of mouth marketing, but he articulates it better in his book under the title “Flipping the funnel”.

Blink one more than 182

I could go on about his posts in the book, there are 183 of them…and most fairly short, direct ideas and thoughts with the odd rants thrown in. It takes time to absorb and implement them.

His thoughts on the music industry itself are pretty radical (“the music industry had no right to think it was going to last forever”) and together with his other book “Tribes”, it is inspiring reading and above all an action book for musician marketeers.

Ignore Everybody

Just about a year and half ago I started getting into some really cool modern marketing books, all spawned by my desire to promote my band and study marketing in general. Amongst a range of books I came across Hugh Macleod’s gapig void blog (via twitter if I remember right) and I found his posts that are now a book called Ignore Everybody.

I printed all his blog posts out, his candid and direct tone were a wake up call and when he said that the best way to be creative was to ignore everybody, well it was quite a shocker! I also happened to be reading a lot of Seth Godin stuff at the time so it was all mind blowing stuff together.

In Ignore Everybody Hugh describes that essentially no one gives a damn about your creative idea, so if you want to go ahead and make it in your music business, arts or whatever.. it is best just to ignore everyone and go ahead and do it anyway.

Ignoring everyone is hard at first
This was hard for me to swallow at first but I gradually got used to the idea and started accepting it slowly….and in a weird, paradoxical way I started setting myself free. One of the first things I did was to painfully chop down my band’s mailing list. I had put on anyone who showed a vague interest in the band on the mailing list but in reality they were just being polite most of the time. I was so used to excitedly annoucing to the whole lot

hey, hey I am doing this, look look here, now!

that it was hard for me to think that no one cared really. But slowly I started a mailing list totally from scratch instead, people who were into the same music, who loved going to gigs, who themselves were in bands, a smaller bunch of people who voluntarily subscribed with what I have to say with respect to making music in the band 🙂

Sex and cash theory
I also love his sex and cash theory, essentially he says that the creative person has two types of job roles, the creative sexy type and the boring but cash generating one. Every artist has to do both to survive and also feed their creativity. He gives the fantastic example of the software engineer coding for faceless corporations during their day job (“cash”) and then coding to make games or other free-ware world changing things in their spare time (“sex”). As I worked in a software type job myself at the time I could see what he meant.

In terms of being a musician I translated it as the fact that you do crowd pleasers and cover songs (“cash”) that you might not like doing any more (sort of like Metallica only playing their early music coz the fans want it…) but it will bring in enough cash for you to let you do your own material.

Although I don’t like playing too many covers as they are always a pain to get right (and there are always anal musicians and others who say..”yeah but you got that bit wrong”) covers are worth it for the sake of generating a nice party atmosphere when the right moment calls 🙂

You don’t need expensive guitars and recording gear
The first acoustic guitar I ever bought 13 years ago for ÂŁ60 is the guitar I still use to compose all songs, I have recorded with it and after that I only ever bought one more guitar a year later, my electric guitar. All these years I learnt how to get the best sound of both guitars; I didn’t need any more guitars to get a better sound. The same goes with recording, I used basic software, normal spec PCs and shock horror..a PC mic to record and learn everything I learnt about demo production.

Over the years I saw others buying expensive guitars and even more expensive recording gear…but they never took the time and patience to master the basics first..they dived straight in with the good gear.

“The more talented you are, the less you need the props”; that pretty much sums up my philosophy on mastering lo-fi stuff first.

Get blogging and use all media
Thanks to Seth Godin and Hugh Macleod back then in late 2008, I got blogging and started this blog up 🙂

Yes, starting and maintaining a blog requires a whole different skill set

Yes, it is hard work

Yes, it takes time away from making music

but as it says in the book, not one medium alone will ever capture the attention of your audience. You have to use music, words, videos, photos and anything else that you can.

There is no barrier to the internet marketer or book writer to reach masses of people. I know I started blogging and haven’t looked back since, I got my band blog going and even set up a London musicians networking forum just by a blog!

Keeping the day job
The one thing I didn’t agree with from that book was to keep my day job. Because to me that wasn’t part of my plan (by the time I was reading all this I was beginning to hate my job life, luckily I had an alternative!). So I did exactly the opposite six months ago and left my day job…to become self employed instead.

He mentions that there is a danger that when you make your hobby your living as well, you devalue it and can actually start hating your hobby towards the end. Personally I now have more time for music than I had before, obviously it is not my living so I don’t depend on it to feed me but I think it *is* possible to leave your day job and dedicate more time and effort to your music.

In summary
This book is definitely a good kick up the old backside if you are a musician (or a small/big 🙂 business wannabe) and have run out of things or got stuck in the same rut, the central theme behind it to “ignore everybody” is what you have to believe in really. His tone is candid, frank and at times strong with the odd expletive thrown kinda rock ‘n roll. He’s made it through drawing cartoons on the back of business cards…which in itself is a whacky thing!

If you’ve also read that book or would like to I’d love to see your comments down here.

Spotify is about to shake up the music business

I remember when Napster was out in 2000, I was at university in London and Napster spread like wildfire on campus. The “music industry” did not even know what had just hit them. To them it was a virus that spread at the speed of light.

They had to stop this beast immediately. I was contacted by IT admin at college who in turn had gotten an email from the BPI about a song I had downloaded via Napster, wow how had they done this? Scary stuff man! I felt victimised but a right rebel too at the same time. The download war had started and I was just one of many.. It was Atul Vs The Music Biz now 🙂

It was a total revolution for me as a music lover, I could now find and download the most obscure music possible, and I had pretty much any song I wanted on demand for FREE.

The music industry reacted in their own way to protect their monopoly and the top earning musicians felt threatened. Metallica fumed out and banned Napster users. Ironically they generated publicity from this and the end effect..more fans.

That time has come again now. Last week I was sent a link to spotify and on the email text my friend said “This is god’s”.

Between (internet radio) and spotify there is a massive challenge to the music industry as we know it. will let you type in an artist name and then stream similar artists to you.

Spotify on the other hand will let you listen to any song by any artist. It’s a live Napster, no downloads, no mess…instant songs on demand.

Watch out iTunes, you have big trouble coming up!

What is the new music business model then? Well I am a musician in a band, admittedly not making money out of my recorded music (yet) but I “get” the new shift in the music business and that is what I will be following…

What is the new business model then?..Andrew Dubber sums it up best in his post: Why give away music for free?

He quotes: “Make money *because of your music* not *from* your music”

So… you “get it”?

PS: Thanks for the visits to my last post in reply to Seth Godin 🙂

RIP Music Industry: Long live the musician!

I read Seth Godin’s blog post today and just had to smile 🙂

He quotes:

“This is the greatest moment in the history of music if your dream is to distribute as much music as possible to as many people as possible, or if your goal is to make it as easy as possible to become heard as a musician. There’s never been a time like this before.”

I was at a company meeting last night and as it always happens someone else got interested in the band (DonkeyBox), and the general music scene. As always the typical question is along the lines of:

“Are you aiming to get signed?”

My answer to that is always:

“Why get signed? So I can sell my music in the biggest music stores in the world? But I can already do that on iTunes!”

The music industry is frankly in a huge mess, they’ve extracted too much money out of you and me in the past. Now things will be available in more quantity, with more choice and a better way of storing and organising.

The future is bright and both as a musician and a big consumer of music I love it!

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