music promotion

SXSW at a glance

The music side of things at SXSW sometimes receives a bad rep. Sure, there’s more free Tito’s and Taco Bell afoot than is decent, but there’s some seriously awesome knowledge being thrown around the Austin Convention Center between 11am-6pm. Between working for On Pitch as a marketing guru since 2011 and staring my own farm festival this year, SXSW proved an amazing space for me to alter my conceptions about branding, social media marketing and the music industry itself. Below I’ve transcribed some of my SXSW panel experiences, highlighting key points from industry experts who have insight into what we’re doing right and what we need to work on as the industry continues to grow.

The NYTimes ran an article back in February citing the first increase in global sales for the music industry since 1999, and that energy was alive this year at SXSW. Between the new reign of Spotify and the rise of digital sales all around, the music industry is in good shape for the foreseeable future.

Here’s why:

1) The Buyer and the Beat: Music Fans Could Spend Up to $2.6B Annually (if we pave the way and create content they want)

Nielsen, a leader in consumer-spending studies globally, sparked a great discussion in their panel “The Buyer and The Beat: The Music Fan and How to Reach Them” about how to get music fans to spend more money and what kind of content consumers are craving.

Key points:

  • For music, digital consumption is at an all-time high. In 2012, 1.3 billion digital tracks were sold, 37 billion music streams occurred and 161 million radio tracks were spun (the format that still exists as the #1 tool for music discovery for Americans).
  • The main spending comes from three kinds of fans: 1) The Aficionado Fan - likes indie, buys music in the form of concert tickets, artist merchandise and online streaming services, spends about $400 a year on music. 2) The Digital Fan – searches for trends, active on social networks, likely to listen through Youtube, spends about $300 a year on music. 3) The Big Box Fan - emotionally connected with music, especially pop and country, likely to buy in-store or via Walmart, largely influenced by deals and sale prices, spends about $200 a year on music.
  • Fans want content, and fans are different than consumers. Consumers maybe listen to Pandora once in awhile or check out the occasional concert, but fans want to become a part of the artists’ creative process and want a personal relationship with the product they’re buying.
  • Crowd-funding projects like PledgeMusic work because fans want exclusive content. It’s the basic principle of “give something, get something.”
  • Ideas for your artist or brand: signed CDs, signed vinyl, pre-order/exclusive access to album, liner notes, videos from inside the recording studio, streaming concerts online more frequently… the potential for further engagement is limitless.

2) Spotify: The streaming service that launched in 2006 is finally gaining the mainstream attention it deserves. Spotify is making it easy to legally consume media.

Spotify CEO & Founder Daniel Ek and Forbes Associate Editor Steven Bertoni talking about the future of music at SXSW 2013.

Spotify figured it out. Daniel Ek, founder and CEO, has dedicated the past six years to giving consumers a cheap, easy way to consume content, providing a convenient, important alternative to music piracy. In the panel, “Forbes 30 Under 30: Meet Spotify’s Daniel Ek,” we heard the ins and outs of Spotify from the man himself. Oh and also, if you haven’t yet, try the month of free premium. You’ll never turn back.

Key points:

  • We live in an age where the value of true artistry is being challenged. Ek feels as though true creative genius can still shine through in an age where everyone (your next-door neighbor, your little brother, your boss) can be a DJ or a photographer. Technology is only making creativity more accessible to the Average Joe, but that isn’t a bad thing. It helps true creativity shine.
  • Spotify’s chief objectives are notable and noble: 1) They strive to get everyone on the face of the planet more music. 2) They want to create a stronger music eco-system where artists can make a decent living.
  • Most music consumers and people aren’t inherently stealthy. Not many fans go out and think “Oh man, I’d love to steal stuff off the internet today.” Often times torrenting or downloading an illegal zip is faster and more accessible than logging into something like iTunes or Amazon, so consumers take the shortcut and resort to piracy because it’s simpler. Spotify offers a legal counter to that problem by offering free on-demand streaming.
  • 1/2 billion people are listening to music online, 6 million people are paying to use Spotify, 30-35 million people are iTunes users.
  • The goal of Spotify shouldn’t be to convert all 25 million Spotify users to paid members. The goal should be to convert 1.5 billion using piracy services to listen legally.
  • Ek also shared some pretty cool stories about being handed a guitar at age 4 and a computer at age 5. The rest is history.

3) Girls & Tech: As technology is becoming more and more accessible to a younger demographic, a new generation of taste-makers and marketers are cropping up organically.


Think about the young girls in your life. They are on Twitter, they are on Tumblr, they are on Instagram. These girls love music with an intense passion. They push out content about these passions on their social media platforms, which are all at their fingertips. The panel, “Girls and Tech: Why Young Women Rule in Music,” explained a little more about this phenomena and what it means for the industry.

Key points:

  • As brand experts, marketers and the like, we need to start taking young girls more seriously because they have market-influence on primary social media platforms.
  • Girls themselves are becoming excellent content creators. They are marketing inherently with their passion and constant output of content. They’re not even trying, but they’re doing an awesome job.
  • How can you use this demographic to your advantage while still holding them to a high regard? Give them exclusive access to an event. Let them take photos and make gifs. Do a Twitter contest and let them in the photo pit for the first three songs. For the right artist, it could be amazing.
  • Community managers must use an authentic, passionate voice to connect with this specific audience. Find out where these girls are and how they relate to your brand, but don’t fake it. Be authentic and passionate, and rise to meet them on their level.

4) Music Festivals: There’s a new eco-system of music festivals in America, which provides a great revenue potential for the industry (if we attune ourselves to the demands our markets and cultivate a unique brand experience).

What makes your event special? Are you charting your sales effectively? Do you know how your attendees are herding and moving in and out during your event? At “Music Festivals: The Real Deal from the Experts,” some insight was given into these pertinent questions.

Key points:

  • RFID technology can be extremely useful and could be worth way more than the money you’ll save on barcodes with its potential for data. It’s essentially just a chip in the wristband (you’ve seen them at Bonnaroo, Coachella and other major festivals), but there’s a wide variety of benefits. 1) They’re hard to rip off or duplicate. 2) As a festival organizer, you can add information onto the chip, so you know exactly where the wristband has been and how it may have fallen into someone’s hands or why difficulties may be arising with a particular band. 3) You can attain data, which applies to staffing, security and police (among other areas), which is another place to find cost savings. Too expensive? Have a sponsor underwrite that specific line item and enjoy the benefits of increased data.
  • Marketing for festival starts with a brand, idea, feel. The schedule comes next. Then announcements, news items and general hype-building.
  • Fan experience and safety should always be the number one priority of a festival organizer. Bottom line.
  • Work toward attaining partnerships with businesses and people who will personally invest in your project. Don’t settle for traditional marketing strategies. Let people spread the word rather than lifeless newsprint pages (which seems to be true, at least for some festival demographics).
  • Make attainable goals and set milestones for yourself to make sure you’re on track. Keep organized in something like Google Drive and keep track of all your media releases and blasts so you can coordinate with sales later.
  • Stay true to yourself. If you’re a small festival with huge success, don’t jump the gun and up your capacity by 10,000. Fans probably like the experience they had for a reason, and you don’t need to be huge to make more money. Up your ticket prices instead, up the quality of your experience. An example given: Prada. Prada built a brand of exclusivity and their products are worth a lot because not every bag or product is mass-produced. Ponder the idea of a boutique festival with that mentality and go from there. If that’s not your thing, figure out what exactly is.
  • Festivals are more than just bands on a stage. It’s about the experience you’re creating. Create something worthwhile.

Zoey Miller has been working for On Pitch since the summer of 2011. Active in the Iowa music scene, Zoey acts as Director of Marketing for SCOPE Productions, the University of Iowa’s independent concert promotion and production organization, and has been a marketing volunteer for 80/35 for the past two years.

Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!

Meet the speakers participating in our SXSW panel

Tomorrow we host Landing a Music Career in Flyover Country at the SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas. We are honored to feature such an accomplished group of professionals with successful music careers in “flyover country.”

From a Grammy-award winning musician that maintains his home base in Des Moines, an entrepreneur that carved his own path opening a music venue and launching a major summer music festival, a record store clerk turned manager for major recording artists that cultivates his music community, and a blogger whose website not only revolutionized his city, but the entire indie music scene.

Please take a moment to get to know the Landing a Music Career in Flyover Country speakers.

Scott Booker

Scott Booker started as a clerk at Sound Warehouse in Midwest City, Oklahoma. After enrolling at the University of Central Oklahoma, Scott simultaneously managed Rainbow Records. After Scott met The Flaming Lips in 1990 he quickly became – and still is – their manager. In 2001 Scott formed Hellfire Enterprises with his wife Jennifer, helping get the word out about bands like Sigur Ros, Devendra Banhart and El-P. Currently CEO at the Academy of Contemporary Music at UCO, Scott’s focus is helping cultivate and educate future generations about every aspect of the music industry.

Find Scott on Twitter: @scottdbooker

Sean Moeller

Before revolutionizing online music, Iowa-native Sean Moeller was working full time as a sports and entertainment writer for the Quad-City Times and freelancing for various music magazines across the country. While out on a run one morning, Sean came up with the idea of having touring bands drop by a studio in Rock Island, Illinois, and play an impromptu set on borrowed instruments. Now considered one of the most popular indie music blogs on the internet, Daytrotter allows for free music discovery and is home to a host of creative music, writing, and artwork.

Find Sean on Twitter:
@realdaytrotter

Shawn Crahan

Shawn “Clown” Crahan is one of the founding members of Des Moines-based metal icons Slipknot. His resume includes seven Grammy nominations and one win, 14 million albums sold world-wide, and tours spanning the globe. Shawn also performs with Dirty Little Rabbits and is currently preparing for the release of the debut album from his latest Group The Black Dots of Death. He continues to maintain his roots in his hometown of Des Moines, Iowa.

Follow Shawn on Twitter: @MShawnCrahan

Amedeo Rossi

Iowa native Amedeo Rossi’s goal is to foster a cultural landscape that encourages up-and-coming artists to stick around. After years of corporate human resources, Rossi shifted his focus to Des Moines’ budding arts and entertainment scene and collaborated to open indie music venue Vaudeville Mews in 2004. Rossi helped found the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition and has led the development of the annual 80/35 Music Festival.

Follow Amedeo on Twitter: @amedeo10

Panel Details
Landing a Music Career in Flyover Country
Thursday, March 17
3:30pm-4:30pm
Room 11AB

If you can’t attend, watch for updates on Twitter: @OnPitch.

Photo Credits: Scott Booker via ACM@UCO. Shawn Crahan via Brian Leli.

Successful online music marketing case studies

Connecting with fans is imperative in today’s music industry. It’s that connection that can give them a reason to buy and support your music. Utilizing social media and having a strong online presence makes connecting with fans much more achievable. Below are some good case studies of bands that found success through an online campaign. I encourage musicians to review these examples and pay attention to the elements that made them successful. Then think about how to implement those strategies into your own marketing plans.

  • Arcade Fire – Interactive Music Video Using Google Street View
  • Watch the video

    Arcade Fire utilized HTML5 to create an interactive music video for “We Used to Wait.” Users are prompted to enter the address of their childhood home at the start of the video. While watching the video, scenes from your old neighborhood are pulled in using Google street view.  The elements of new technology, interactivity, nostalgia, experimentation, and personalization all aided in making this video a huge hit. Think about those factors for your next campaign.

  • Jason Parker – Name Your Price Using Bandcamp
    You may recall this example from our previous blog post: Pay What You Want Model: Does it Work? Jason Parker is a Seattle-based jazz musician that has found a lot of success utilizing Bandcamp, a site for bands to sell their music and merch. After deciding to allow fans to name their own price for his music, revenue increased from $15/month to $300/month. Pay attention to what Jason is doing on his social networks. He knows how to connect with fans and give them a reason to buy. He says the majority of his sales from Bandcamp are directed from Twitter, “I see a direct correlation between how much I converse on Twitter and how many downloads I sell. It’s a no-brainer.” Read more about Jason Parker and how he utilizes Bandcamp and social media in this Techdirt article.
  • Josh Freese – Crowdfunding and Miniature Golf
    The one size fits all product days are gone. Having something for the casual fan to the super fan is a great way to be able to sell more and put additional money in your pocket. One way to utilize this method is through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for artists, musicians, inventors, filmmakers, etc. Josh Freese decided utilized Top Spin (a similar site that becomes available for all artists next month) to help fund an upcoming album. The thing I like about what he did was the creative “product” offerings that fit his personality, including:
  • Lunch with him at Cheesecake Factory or PF Chang’s
  • A round of miniature golf
  • Josh washes your car or does your laundry
  • He joins your band for a month
  • A private drum lesson
  • Take three items out of his closet
  • Josh writes a song about you
    See the full list of packages and items Josh made available, which ranged from $7-$75,000. Check out Kickstarter to see how you can use it creatively to fund your next project. Just remember to do something that fits your band’s personality. If you make it the right fit and support it correctly, it can work.
  • Amanda Palmer – Turning the Power of Twitter into $11,000 in 2 Hours
    Amanda Palmer is widely known for her social media expertise. Advertising Age said, “Palmer is more sophisticated than almost anyone on the internet — musician, brand or otherwise — when it comes to gathering her audience around her and keeping the conversation going.”
    On a boring Friday night, Amanda managed to rake in $11,000 in just two hours. It all started with her tweeting about how she was alone, again, on a Friday night sitting in front of her computer. Others started chiming in and began claiming how “we are all losers.” Dialog continued and grew at a rapid pace. A faux organization was started called, “The Losers of Friday Night on their Computers.” Amanda created the hashtag #LOFNOTC and thousands joined the conversation.
    A follower suggested the group create a t-shirt. Amanda quickly decided to run with it. She took a sharpie and made a t-shirt design. A website was thrown up that night with the t-shirts available for $25 a piece. 2 hours later… $11,000.
    What can you learn for this example?
  • Interact with your followers and don’t just mass broadcast.
  • Be personable and share a variety of things with your fans.
  • Always be on your toes, ready to act quickly when opportunities arise.
  • Matthew Ebel – Subscription Site for the Super Fan

    The packages range from $5/month to $15/month, as well as annual options.  He offers a wide range of perks are including members-only parties, VIP seating at shows, access to new music as soon as he creates it, new live concert recordings every month, broken apart tracks ready for remixing, behind-the-scene sketches, drafts, and ideas, and many more. View the full list of packages and perks here.
  • The Poison Control Center – Tumblr Tour Blog
    A special shout out to Iowa’s own The Poison Control Center for their awesome tour blog. The band uses Tumblr, a simple and free blogging platform, to regularly update their fans from the road. After each show they share pictures, videos, and posts about their experiences, even down to thanking the sound guy, door person, bartender, and of course the fans. They do it right by updating frequently, providing a wide variety of content, and always remaining authentic.
  • Gossip Grows on Trees – Building Your Email List with a Fortune Cookie
    Email is one of the best ways to directly reach your fans, but sometimes it can be difficult to grow your subscription list.  Gossip Grows on Trees from North Carolina executed a creative way to gain more email addresses at live shows.
    They created a download web page that gave visitors a free music download in exchange for their email. At shows they walked around and handed out custom fortune cookies with the URL of the download page and a short message from the band. This gave the band an opportunity to spark conversation and develop relationships with fans. Plus, a lot more people visited the download page and provided their email address because they were approached in a memorable way.

All of these online music marketing case studies have a common theme of musicians connecting with fans. It isn’t enough to put your music out there and hope people will gravitate towards it. You have to be willing to push it out there and utilizing online mediums is a key element.

If you know of a successful online music marketing case study, please share it with us in the comments.

Making a Living as a Musician Spotlighted in Juice Cover Story

Last week we got an inside look at the money struggles of local musicians in Joe Lawler’s Juice cover story, “Facing the Music.”

The article made an important statement: “A musician can make a living in Des Moines, but odds are it won’t make you rich.” The takeaway from that is musicians can make a living here. Maybe it won’t make you rich, but most of us choose career paths that don’t provide lavish lifestyles. We choose a path that fulfills our passions and gives our life purpose. So, if that path is being a musician, how can you make a living?

That’s a big question that’s going to have a different answer for everyone. There is no clear-cut path to success. And what works for one band isn’t going to work for another. The key is figuring out what works for you. Maybe it includes finding a sponsor to go on tour, using a pay-what-you-want model to gain exposure, building relationships to get fan funding on Kickstarter, or landing a set opening for a notable band.

Whatever it is, you need a plan. Not just one in your head. If you want to make a living in music, then it’s a business. And what business wouldn’t have a written out plan? Brainstorm, strategize, experiment, evaluate, and write it down! This is the start of making a living as a musician.

Gross Domestic Product bands share how they promote their music

Des Moines’ longest running all-local music festival, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), returned for its fifth year last Saturday, March 27 at All Play. The event is organized by the non-profit Greater Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC) to provide local bands an opportunity to play in front of a bigger audience. As well as showcasing the amazing talent Des Moines has to offer. This years’ lineup was packed with performances from 14 of the top up-and-coming acts in Iowa, spanning the indie, hip-hop, metal, acoustic, electronic, and pop genres.

Through our involvement with all DMMC events, we worked on many aspects of marketing for Gross Domestic Product, including media relations, social media, street team promotions, and word-of-mouth marketing. So, in the spirit of promoting local music, we talked with Aeon Grey, Cashes Rivers, and Canby to find out what they do to promote their shows and music. One of the recurring themes was connecting with fans in a more personal way. Watch the video to hear about how they are successful with their local marketing efforts.

What do you think is important in marketing music and shows? Share your tips by leaving a comment.