My mentor at Rykodisc, Jill Christiansen, used to talk about the “mystery” associated with rolling out an artist campaign. For example, when going through a photo shoot to determine which image to use for promo, perhaps consider the sly, slightly-out-of-focus image as opposed to the straight on shot that “gives everything away.” It’s an interesting idea, given this age of everything being instant, with artists laying it all on the table immediately with social media and everything else.

Anyway, below is a great example of an artist that’s playing it close to the vest with an upcoming release. I have no idea what this release is – a DVD or future audio release – but I’m intrigued enough to give my email so I can find out. OF COURSE it doesn’t hurt that the band is Sigur Rós, OF COURSE they have a massive fan base, but I think it’s a solid example of a band properly rolling out a campaign that relies on subtlety and mystery perfectly focused on a core group of fans, as opposed to unfocused repetition and noise out of the gate. Cool approach.

Check out a fun video from Austin-based The Bright Light Social Hour promoting their recording fundraising effort.

More here

Thanks to Ihor Gowda for the tip!

Even with all the buzz around online Direct To Fan marketing tools and techniques, I still firmly believe that live events are one of the best ways to connect directly with fans in a meaningful way. Similar to how DTF initiatives have expanded the relationship between artist and fan as it pertains to retail, it’s encouraging to see artists expanding the boundaries of what constitutes a “tour” (such as David Bazan’s “living room” show series) as well.

Artists are becoming more adept at using technological tools and third party partners to bring the spirit and energy of a live event to folks that are unable to attend in person. Sheila Hash, a former Online Music Marketing with Topspin student, is engaging in a wonderful “take-away show” initiative with her band Crush Luther, which provides their hard core fans with an opportunity to check out a unique and personal acoustic performance, and perhaps more importantly, also works as a compelling introduction for casual and potential fans. Take a look at an example, here:

no plan 8 #132. “slowdance anywhere i go” from Justin Borja on Vimeo.

In terms of music marketing, videos events like this can also help to extend the life cycle of a band’s release by providing serialized content well past release date, which is crucial in keeping fans engaged with your band.

Of course traditional live club events still provide an opportunity for artists to establish long-term fan relationships, and Christopher Grant Ward from The Elk (another former student in my Online Music Marketing with Topspin course) has created a wonderful data-driven analysis on the techniques he used to promote his show, with a focus on increasing his number of fans (in this case, defined as permission-based email contacts) and maximizing traffic at the event. While data analysis is key to guiding a successful online music marketing campaign, it’s rare to see an artist go into such detail around a live event. I think what Christopher created is a valuable case study, and I’m psyched to be able to present the details:


* Campaign duration: 40 days (02/10 – 03/31)
* Goals:
1) Maximize audience turn-out for the “Rock The Pink Slip” concert
2) Grow the band’s permission-based email list.

Data Analysis of Campaign

(click to enlarge)

Campaign Details

Site Visibility, Pricing, and Acquisition Techniques

A month out from the event, Christopher implemented a tiered approach to selling tickets to the show on his own Website. As mentioned above, the goal of this campaign was focused on increasing the draw to the show and acquiring new fans (as opposed to focusing strictly on monetization), and as such Christopher offered the tickets at extremely reasonable prices: 1 ticket cost $4.00, 2 tickets cost $7, and 4 cost for $10. Because Christopher was using Topspin to facilitate the ticket sales, he was able to collect the email addresses of everyone that purchased from him (thus capturing the fan relationship). PDFs of the tickets were created, and all purchasers were put on a list that the bouncer checked at the door.


14 days prior to the event, a small online ad campaign was initiated on Facebook and Google AdWords. Christopher experimented with several sets of ads over the course of the campaign, which correlated to two periods of high click rates (see graph above). The 1st of these high periods targeted a larger, more broad audience and directly promoted the show. This ad yielded the highest click rates but had no conversions.

The 2nd of these periods targeted smaller audiences and promoted the band’s music. These ads yielded somewhat fewer clicks but a significantly higher lift in plays (via a Topspin widget) and emails collected. Messages that directly promoted the show yielded significantly fewer visits, plays and emails collected.

Facebook Video Share Initiative

One month out from the event, Christopher released a video on Facebook, with prominent calls to action and direct links to the ticket offer information on his site. While the video was responsible for the largest spike in plays (Christopher was also using Topspin’s Email for Media and streaming player widgets) during the live event campaign, the video was ineffective at driving traffic or ticket sales.

Campaign Results

Again, as this campaign was focused on growing the band’s permission-based email list, the fan relationship statistics were the main gauge of success.

* Concert Attendees: 211
* # of New Email Addresses: 83. This translated into a 94% increase in the band’s email list.
* Unique Visits to band site: 1384 (based on Google Analytics data from 02/10 – 03/31)
* Total Page Views: 2910 (based on Google Analytics data from 02/10 – 03/31)

While revenue was not the main focus of the campaign, the band didn’t want to lose money, either. Details on expenses and sales for the event:

Ticket Breakdown:

Average ticket price: $5.46
# of $8 (door) tickets sold: 98 ($784)
# of $4 tickets sold: 46 ($184)
# of $3.50 tickets sold: 18 ($66)
# of $2.50 tickets sold: 48 ($120)

Gross Earnings: $1154
less advertising expenses: $325
less club take: $235
Net Earnings: $594

Cost Analysis of Emails Collected

It’s difficult to estimate the lifetime value of an email address. Christopher took a stab at estimating the cost of acquiring the 83 emails by dividing the money left on the table if the band did not discount the tickets by the amount of emails collected to come up with a cost of $3.54 per email. The math looks like this:

The band made $370 on tickets sold through direct sales on the site.
If those tickets were sold at full cost (assuming they got the
same number of concertgoers) they would have earned $664 on that same
segment. The money left on the table was $294. Divided by 83 emails, the cost
of each email collected could be calculated as $3.54.

This number was valuable to the band in estimating how they should price their
products and to help them gauge what expenses are cost-effective to building their

Post-Show Campaign and Analysis

About 30% of total visits to the site and 10% of emails collected occurred *after* the show. The band prepped an HTML page and Topspin widget before the concert. At the show, they used a photographer, videographer and audio engineer to capture live content from the show, and by the time the fans got up the next morning after the show, they had live audio and photos from the show in their inbox. The following weekend, the band released live video of the concert as well, paired with an album purchase offer. Following up with fans after gigs was a great way to continue driving traffic and getting new play and email conversions.

Here’s the video that was sent out post-show:

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Further Analysis and Findings

1. Club ticket sales are time sensitive. Sales of concert tickets on the site were quite low until right before the show. In fact, 95% of ticket sales occurred less than 48 hours before show time (a spike in emails collected on show night can be attributed to these sales.) Even during the band’s largest spike in visits (200+) on March 17th, the band yielded fewer than $10 in sales. Overall, it is impossible to tell how many of these prior visitors may have returned to purchase tickets. Most people probably decide to see a club show within three days of gig night, especially when there is no stated limit on ticket sales.

2. Advertising data showed a lift in the number of visits to the band’s site, but few conversions. The good news is that targeted ads drove traffic, even for an unknown band and small club events. The bad news is that it was impossible to correlate ad clicks to returning visitors who purchased tickets.

3. Christopher’s targeted campaign more than doubled his permission based email list, and created dozens of new fan connections which he can use for re-marketing down the line, for free (as opposed to starting over with his next marketing campaign).

I’d like to thank Christopher for sharing this fantastic data. Follow up with him and The Elk, here.

I’m not sure if it is because I had a bumper sticker on my car in the 90s that read “I am funkier than you,” but 5 of my friends have sent me the video below. I would imagine it is unlikely that the fellow who created this mashup received permission from the copyright holders, but the “Mother of all Funk Chords” is a fantastic example of creating something entirely new and extraordinary from divergent original sources. From a marketing standpoint, this piece is great for the remixer, Kutiman, and because Kutiman lists the source material on his site, the original creators of the music could benefit as well.

Warner’s demand that thousands of videos featuring their music be removed from YouTube gives artists another reason to think twice about signing with a major label. Two years ago, all four major labels signed a licensing agreement with YouTube that provides them with a per-stream fee for each video viewed (whether it is a video created by the majors, or one which is user generated), as well as a share of YouTube’s advertising revenue.

The existing deal is nothing to sneeze at. While it is unclear how much revenue Warner has taken in from YouTube, Universal has brought in “tens of millions of dollars” from their relationship with YouTube, according to Rio Caraeff, executive vice president of Universal Music Group’s eLabs. The problem is that Warner Music is not seeing the forest for the trees. In their quest to max out all their possible revenue streams, Warner is overlooking the fact that their music business is built on the backs of artists who need this connection with their fans to grow their base and further their career. Inserting a barrier into this process, where fans cannot add the music of their favorite artists to their homemade videos, or send around a new video to their friends, is not a good way to draw in new fans. And again, unlike traditional marketing outlets like commercial radio, YouTube is an emerging revenue stream as well. “It’s growing tremendously,” says Caraeff. “It’s up almost 80 percent for us year-over-year in the U.S. in terms of our revenue from this category.”

As Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls writes on her blog “it’s abSURD. they are looking for money in a totally backwards way. money that, i should point out, i would NEVER see as an artist. if they got their way and youtube decided to give them a larger revenue share of the videos, it’s very unlikely it would ever make it’s way into the artists’ bank accounts.
i loved my videos. now they are gone. why is life so hard? did i mention that being on a major label is starting to seem like…..not such a grand idea?”

I talk a lot in my course about the fact that touring “kickstarts” (I need a better phrase here, I think, one that does not make me thing of Mötley Crüe every time I write it) all the other marketing efforts: press, retail, merch, radio (some form), and Internet. It not only gives press a reason to write about you, a reason for radio to spin your record, and retail a reason to stock your music, but it’s the best way to forge that all important “emotional connection” with your fanbase.

My friend and colleague George Howard talks about the importance of having a foot in both the online and the physical marketing realm (he calls it the Straddle). I think uStream does a great job of providing a platform to accomplish this (in terms of bringing what you do offline, online) via their free webcasting tool at Similar to the most successful online ventures, uStream is extremely user friendly. The setup is simple: once you create an account, you can embed their video player on your site, use your webcam or plug in a firewire camera to film your live event, let folks know about the show through the scheduling tools on your uStream page, and you are off to the races. You can record and archive past live events as well. All for free.

uStream has some community based features that allows fans who are watching your Webcast to chat in real time with one another (hopefully positively) about your show. Superfans can embed the player in any social networking site, too. Take a look at the player in action

Make Our Video

May 20 2008

Radiohead and I share a couple of things in common. We both love Bill Hicks (Paul Kolderie got me backstage in 2002 where I got to talk to Jonny Greenwood about Bill), but more importantly we are both interested in user-generated content. I really liked the “Nude” remix idea where different “stems” of the song (vocals, drums, guitar etc) could be downloaded, remixed, and then entered into a contest on Although some folks have a problem with buying the stems from iTunes at $.99 each, I think it’s a great visibility vehicle for the band as well as a wonderful way to interact with their community. Radiohead even provides folks with a widget to add to their Facebook profile, MySpace page or website. Marketing ploy? Yes. Creative promotion that is effective at engaging folks? Yes.


Following up on this, aniBoom is now in the semi-final stage of their In Rainbows Animated Music Video Contest. The contest invites folks to create animated videos to In Rainbows tracks, with the winner of the competition (who will be chosen by Radiohead themselves) receiving a $10,000 cash prize and a shot at having their video air on the Cartoon Network’s [adult Swim]. Below are some of my favorite semi-finalists:

Viva user generated content!

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