One of the best “viral” emails I have seen since Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits email campaign.

Barack Obama has taken out ads with Electronic Arts to get visibility in their game “Burnout Paradise.”

“Like most television, radio and print outlets, we accept advertising from credible political candidates,” EA spokeswoman Holly Rockwood told the tech blog GigaOm. “Like political spots on the television networks, these ads do not reflect the political policies of EA or the opinions of its development teams.”

This is brilliant for many reasons, here’s two: 1) They target a demo perfectly. Obama needs young voter turnout. B) The ads have been picked up by outlets everywhere – editorializing them! Editorial is always better than advertising – here Obama’s campaign gets both.

Just like in politics, smart music marketers need to search out creative and effective techniques to reach their demo. I think what Obama has done here is a home run.

One needs only to take a walk down Boylston Street pass the new Apple store at 8AM to see how important word of mouth is to Apple and their new iPhone. Apple is legendary for their marketing (customer service is another thing – I waited close to an hour last week to get an iPhone, in which time Apple was only able to service ONE person). Their integrated marketing campaigns are amazing, from the traditional print, packaging, television, and branding components; to their forward thinking viral and word of mouth campaigns.

To get a large group of people to evangelize about your product or service is the end goal of any marketing campaign, and it’s something that my friend Dave Balter knows a lot about. In 2002, Dave founded BzzAgent, a word of mouth media company that currently coordinates 450,000 volunteer “agents” in the US, Canada, and the U.K.. Dave recently wrote and self-published his second book on Word of Mouth marketing, creatively titled “The Word of Mouth Manual Volume II.” It’s a great read, illustrated with examples from the Grateful Dead, Crocs, and of course, Apple. The book is for sale for $45 on Amazon, but Dave’s provided the book to a few folks for free, as a PDF download, available here. If you’ve ever been curious about how or why word of mouth marketing works, or how to get folks to start talking about your own product, I recommend you check it out.

Balter’s Book

Following hot on the heels of No Depression’s announcement that they were closing up shop, Harp Magazine, another one of my favorites, announced this AM that they too were ceasing publication.

From my old contact there, Jake Flack:

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I am very sorry to tell you that, effective March 20, 2008, I will no longer be the Associate Publisher of Harp. Because of the declining revenues and increasing costs related to print publishing, Harp is discontinuing publishing as of that date. The March/April issue (with Dave Grohl on the cover) will be the last issue printed and distributed. The company is shutting down operations and will not be publishing the May issue.

It’s been my distinct pleasure to work with all of you. For the past five years I’ve been very fortunate to work with so many wonderful people who are dedicated to putting out and promoting great music. I’ve always felt that Harp provided a first class platform for giving independent music a voice that otherwise might not have been heard. We were able to do that because our advertisers shared that vision.

I apologize for the mass email but time dictates this rather impersonal notice. Best of luck to everyone and thank you so much for everything!

Jake

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It’s always a drag to see another positive entity in the music business go down, but I suppose I am not incredibly surprised. When I think of the parties and folks at SXSW that made an impression on me, much of it was online focused: Ioda’s party on 6th and Red River, Imeem’s event, the Ourstage folks, and so on. Similar to mid-level indie labels, I think mid-level music print mags are in for a tough haul, in particular those that are not making a serious push for online business. Online businesses with marketing dollars prefer to spend it on online advertising: certainly keyword buys, but also newsletter affiliation, banner ads, and contextual marketing. With online marketing, you can pinpoint exactly how successful a particular campaign is, and more importantly, online marketing folks know that it is easier to attract someone that is already online than it is to to attract someone that is offline. To survive these days, Harp and others need to monetize their online efforts by creating an online community, that A) folks want to be part of, and B) advertisers see value in.

Those that are not evolving are going to be left behind…

Yes, I was humming the Boyz II Men song when I wrote that title.

I got an email yesterday announcing that one of my favorite magazines is ceasing publication. I’ve been a fan of No Depression, an amazing pub mostly covering the alt-country world (the magazine was named after the debut record from Uncle Tupelo, the band Jeff Tweedy was in prior to forming Wilco) since 1998 when I started advertising there for Rykodisc. The editorial was great, and the folks running it were absolute pleasures to deal with.

We all know the Internet has changed the music and publishing industries forever, and No Depression really was caught in the perfect storm between the two. The editors wrote a goodbye letter of sorts, which laid out their dilemma:

“…advertising revenue in this issue is 64% of what it was for our March- April issue just two years ago. We expect that number to continue to decline.

The longer answer involves not simply the well-documented and industry wide reduction in print advertising, but the precipitous fall of the music industry. As a niche publication, ND is well insulated from reductions in, say, GM’s print advertising budget; our size meant they weren’t going to buy space in our pages, regardless.

On the other hand, because we’re a niche title we are dependent upon advertisers who have a specific reason to reach our audience. That is: record labels. We, like many of our friends and competitors, are dependent upon advertising from the community we serve.

That community is, as they say, in transition. In this evolving downloadable world, what a record label is and does is all up to question. What is irrefutable is that their advertising budgets are drastically reduced, for reasons we well understand. It seems clear at this point that whatever businesses evolve to replace (or transform) record labels will have much less need to advertise in print.

The decline of brick and mortar music retail means we have fewer newsstands on which to sell our magazine, and small labels have fewer venues that might embrace and hand-sell their music. Ditto for independent bookstores. Paper manufacturers have consolidated and begun closing mills to cut production; we’ve been told to expect three price increases in 2008. Last year there was a shift in postal regulations, written by and for big publishers, which shifted costs down to smaller publishers whose economies of scale are unable to take advantage of advanced sorting techniques.”

I get a lot of my music news updates from RSS feeds from maybe a dozen or so outlets, but I love kicking back with Paste, Magnet, Harp and No Depression as well. As Barack Obama says, change is what’s happening, but in the case of No Depression, it doesn’t mean that I have to like it.

No Depression