It's a subject talked about a fair bit here at UM HQ. Through the radio show and our deep house fans page it's something we have a lot of influence on one way or another. But it's as label owner the whole topic of how and why producers should take a more active role in their sales promotion and brand development has become a frequent thorn in my side. And a difficult one to succinctly cover.
A good friend and all round music business brain Ian Straker (Kahua Music, Lost My Dog who is sadly a Newcastle United fan) recently posted this article on the very subject 'Who is responsible for music promotion (http://www.kahuamusic.com/artists-vs-labels-who-is-responsible-for-music-promotion/)' - it's a typically insightful post from Ian and had I got my act together sooner I would have already posted this one - but that's life! So, how can I add to that with my views and still make it worthwhile you reading on?
Lucky for you all, my background is in brands, so I thought I'd chip in with my two cents. In the past I've talked about getting noticed, adding value to promo lists, managing your online brand, but never really talked about 'brand' in itself. So let's start with what is a brand in this musical sense.
When I'm talking about brands to clients I keep it simple, the brand is your character, a personality, a way of looking, sounding, feeling, wherever I find it. Managing your brand is your sole responsibility, and should be the most important part of your day. If you don't manage it, the public will make their own judgements and once made it'll be near impossible to change.
So when I rant and rave about crap biographies, cliched DJ pictures or constantly giving away your work as free downloads, it's these things you should consider. What do they say about you? Having a clear personality online isn't easy, dividing your profiles into 'mates' and 'work' is a good policy - pushing random friend requests to your brand page and allowing your Facebook profile to people you actually are 'friends' with. I covered some of my wider thoughts on this in an earlier feature: "Making the most of your 15 minutes" (http://untitledmusic-org.blogspot.co.nz/2012/04/make-most-of-your-15-minutes.html)
You are the brand
In today's online, 24/7 world of multiple social connections, tweets, posts, likes, +1's and all that we have all become accustomed to living life in view of the masses - at times it works in our favor, at other times it annoys the crap out of you.
Like it or not, these followers and fans are the people who want something from you, and not just to have your babies. Statistically more people follow 'a brand' on Facebook for offers or discounts than for pure interest reasons. Over on Twitter followers are after news, comment and short, sharp interest pieces. Understanding the differences is key. Soundcloud is obviously about music, RA is mainly about charts and gigs while Beatport profiles have added a new and yet unknown dimension to it all.
Across every location, what you do, say, post, like and how you do of it is vital to developing that audience stream. As the web moves more mobile based the user desire is not to be redirected out of a site - as you are with URL links currently, so keeping content within the walls of your domain is going to be important - in general, but clearly not when trying to refer followers to another source, to buy a track for instance.
Having a clear goal of what you want to achieve in different environments is a key step in the brand deployment. If all you want is Soundcloud followers looking for freebies, then free downloads and posting that link across all social media is the way to go. But that lacks a commercial reality, and while I've heard the fact so many producers are in it for the love, labels are not in it just for love - especially given their financial investment and time taken getting an EP to market. And it's here that the whole issue is relevant to any label.
Be heard, be seen, be commercially minded
In any given week over a thousand deep house releases can be released on the same day. Pre-release promotion can help generate a buzz, charts and Djmixes (if there's a track listing) can help get people pre-sold, but the old adage of 'good music will sell itself' just isn't true these days - otherwise Guetta wouldn't sell a track.
If a release gets feature placement on a retailer, especially Traxsource, then sales can be very strong in the opening week, but that is only one week. After that the next batch of releases takes over and your release becomes the music equivalent of chip paper! Keeping the release in the minds of shoppers is the dirty end of the business and as Ian's articles outlines, the ability of a label to keep up the momentum alone is limited - what labels, producers and remixers need to realise is that without frequent and positive promotion, by all involved. those tracks won't sell, won't make a profit, and no one will get paid - no matter how good the music is.
No one wants to be seen 'spamming' but the view ratios on Facebook claim around 10%-15% of your audience will see the post in total amongst their timelines filling with pet pictures, links to people needing likes to have a boob job and the other weird and wonderful stuff that goes on. If you've got 1,000 followers, that's only 100 people seeing it, of which converting 5% of them to buy will be a good return - one post then might equal 5 tracks sold - at best I'd say.
Varying the time of your posts is a good idea and helps avoids boring the same people. Internet traffic is at it's highest between 7pm and 1am globally, so when you consider the many timezones, people checking at lunchtime, or on their way to work… accessing this hard earned audience is the only way you'll generate a following worth having, and by that I mean one that is commercially invested in you.
I get the feeling too many artists think it's the labels job to promote, and given the investments that can go into a release they have to just to try and break even. It's disheartening when the passion for the release isn't forthcoming from an artists. One or two posts early in the week and then nothing. Most online purchases are made Thursday, Friday and Saturday - fact.
So, when is the best time to post?
Taking everything said so far it's fair to consider 3 posts a day at the right times is the way to go. This might be Beatport in the morning, Traxsource in the afternoon or iTunes in the evening, mixed up with the odd chart support or Dj playing your tune. Suddenly you 5 sales might be 15…. a day! If both artist, label and remixer are doing this with a co-ordinated approach, especially over the 3 key days at the end of the week, then success is far easier to achieve. Keeping variety is important - the same post twice is a turn off - having something to say is really needed to keep avid followers interested. Using the social sharing buttons from sites is a great policy too - Traxsource often ReTweets those, adding more reach to your release.
Is social media the brand channel of the future?
Research shows that bigger brands are moving away from social media and back to more traditional websites or apps. Why? So they can better control the brand experience, control the interaction and generate an audience relationship or longer-term value. If you consider your own relationship with your smartphone you'll quickly understand the difference in time spent in an app than on a Twitter profile or website. From a user perspective dedicated sites or apps mean you're data isn't been collected and resold, and the obligatory mailing list means you can be kept up-to-date with news and promotions with ease, and without the drone of all the other stuff online.
Producers like Giom, Evren Ulusoy, Dilby, Mark Farina and more have long since had dedicated websites, acting as a central hub for their social media feeds and more. The challenge moving forward will be how to better engage fans via websites or apps and deliver best sales as a result - will the main retail stores play a part in that? Time will tell, but in bandcamp a movement on retailing has begun already.