You might know Rachael Yamagata as a performer who’s toured with The Swell Season, Sara Bareilles, Adam Cohen, and opened for David Gray solo at Madison Square Garden.  You might also know her as a songwriter whose collaborated with Jason Mraz, Mandy Moore, Dan Wilson, Katherine McPhee, and sang on recordings by Rhett Miller, Bright Eyes, Dave Matthews, Ray LaMontagne and Ryan Adams.  Rachael has put out three full length records both on and off major labels, and this past summer she enrolled in Berkleemusic’s Online Music Marketing with Topspin course. Berkleemusic’s fall 2012 term begins on September 24th.

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Mike King:  We’re ten weeks into the online course. What has your experience been like so far?

Rachael Yamagata: It’s been so good – I feel like if I had been this engaged in college I would have done much better!  I’m super into it. There’s a bunch of people in the class that are coming from a tech background, and a variety of other musicians in there that provide great perspectives on marketing. It makes the weekly live discussions so interesting, and the material the students are posting is great.  I’m all about it.

Before I took the class, I was trying to educate myself by watching YouTube videos of different online music marketing conferences.  This course is a great master class overview on exactly what I was searching for, and it’s all super fascinating to me.  I’ve had such a roller coaster ride in industry, and there have been times where I have been completely unaware of all of the new technologies or campaign ideas or where the money is going, and not really knowing the ins and outs or whys as much as I should have. I think a lot of artists are encouraged to not worry about it; they are encouraged to keep the creative and business side of the music business separate. I love the idea of looking at music as a purely creative endeavor, but I’ve had enough years in the business to know that it has ultimately been a disservice to me to not understand how the marketing and business works.  It really changes fundamental business decisions. Having a team is great, but building up your own education is only going to help you.

MK: How did you find out about the course?

RY: My friend Kevin Salem. He’s my mentor and producer, and he’s been involved in music for 30 years. He’s seen me since the birth of career, and witnessed my experiences on two major labels to becoming independent. He’s seen all the transitions of my career, from playing for five people to playing for 1000 people.

He’s a DIY sort of guy when it comes to the business of music, and he was talking about Topspin as a great way to engage with fans, and was talking about the whole DTF idea, all terms I was sort of aware of, but because he suggested it I paid attention.  I researched what Topspin was, and who uses it, and came upon the class in my research.

I released an indie record last year, my first one working as my own label.  My team for that round was guided by management, MRI Distribution and RED.  They did a fabulous job, but to extend my experience for future releases, particularly with DTF, I wanted to learn how Topspin could help. The technology associated with Topspin can be overwhelming at first, and I was concerned about whether or not I was qualified to even take the Topspin course. I have a great philosophical background and I have a lot of experience, but I was frightened of the tech part. So I reached out to the student advisors at Berkleemusic, and ultimately just took a chance, and I’m so glad I did. If I hadn’t enrolled, I’d probably still be sitting here fishing for tips on the Internet. It’s so much more of a class than I thought it would be.

MK: How so?

RY: First, it’s a great overview of the industry in general.  The course bridges terms on the technology side, on the marketing side, and on the direct to fan side.  It really brings it all together.  Each lesson is totally focused on a particular area of marketing or business.  For example – we have discussions on areas outside of DTF marketing, like third party online retail, and we talk about things like the pros and cons of Spotify. The focus areas are things all artists should think about. You also get the ability to have educated dialogue with your classmates and your instructor about the things that affect all artists. There are so many tools now to help expand your fan base. It’s huge

Every label, or manager, or advisor, in whatever way, they all have their own system for working.  There is the old school way, and then there are the new Amanda Palmers of the world.  There are varied options for moving forward in your career. This is an objective course, and it shows you how things are changing, and why some things have failed. It also shows you the potential options for the future, and let’s you decide what is best for your own career.  The course does not have you adapt to a particular ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, as that is out dated. I find it all very empowering.

I’m working on my Spinshop online store right now, and I’m excited to have an outlet for creative releases that go beyond just the record download.  With a new knowledge of things like data tracking, merch margins, and specifics about my fan base, I can create bundles of offerings that I think will be more in tune with what my fans are craving from me.  To be able to turn my website into a supportive business platform in this way will offer more funding for things like touring and future releases.  Also, compiling things like geographical data on my fan base allows me to get a better handle on places I should be touring that I may have missed.  Again, the bird’s eye overview on your fan reach that you start to get by taking this course allows you to coordinate all sorts of campaign ideas with each other.  You learn how to see what’s working and what isn’t, and get the tools to make smarter decisions all around.

MK: Can you talk about your instructor, Chandler Coyle?

RY: Chandler is so knowledgeable about technology, and how you can use technology to work for you to do something.  Also, his overview on the broader campaign concepts is awesome.  His insights on the assignments are super thorough, and he’s always making suggestions about things I may have missed. He does a great job of adding daily updates, and because of the articles that he is posting, I am now following some really fascinating tech folks.  Coming from a place where music technology has scared me, it’s great.  I am so interested in it now.  He’s really good in showing you how technology is used effectively in the music business, and he does a great job of bringing it all forward. I think he’s been supportive of me too because I have been so engaged in the course.  He’s always willing to expand on things.

Chandler provides a constant influx of great ideas, and I think it’s really good to have somebody acting as a moderator in the course. Having someone to tie these things together is invaluable.  He’s great at bringing ideas down to earth.

MK: Can you give me a quick example of something that’s changed for you since you took the course?

RY: Sure.  There was a morning a couple weeks back where I wanted to create an email for media widget.  I’ve never pictured myself sitting back making widgets, but I built one pretty quickly, and I was able to get 100 new fans in an hour, on a Saturday.  I couldn’t believe that I had just made something like that, and received that kind of response.  The direct gratification is so important for an artist like me. I’ve always had webmasters, and I would have to wait two days to upload something.  To be able to pull something off on my own is awesome.  In the future, I can assign this sort of thing to someone else, if I want, but now I know the specifics about how it all works, and what can be done.

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I met up with Owain Kelly, the bassist from the band Tigers that Talked, in March at SXSW. Here’s a video the band created during their time in Austin:

Tigers that Talked was a co-winner (along with Sonoio) of Topspin’s grant competition, which I helped judge along with some heavy hitters, like Rick Rubin, Marc Geiger, Richard Jones, Glenn Peoples, and Jennie Smythe. Owain and the band created and executed a compelling new-school music marketing plan, and I thought it might be helpful if I took a minute to lay out some of what this band did, and what they are continuing to do, from a sales and marketing perspective. Most impressive in my opinion was the band’s product and pricing strategy and execution, as well as their approach to PR and overall communications. Check out an interview I did with Owain from a few weeks back:

Band Background

Mike King: Can you talk a little bit about the background of the band, your ideas for the campaign, and what you were trying to accomplish?

Owain Kelly: I got together with Jamie, Chris, and Glenna after graduating from school. We all just kind of came together and we really liked what we were doing, so we went forward with it. We ended up signing to a local independent label. It was great at the time – we recorded the album and the label essentially turned around and said that they couldn’t release it. So we went through the whole process with them and eventually got the rights to the album ourselves, because we were very proud of it and we still wanted to release it.

MK: Were they not releasing it for creative reasons, or were they not releasing it for financial reasons?

OK: I think it was financial reasons. They aren’t even a label anymore. They are still a management company but they aren’t a label anymore. So I just think in the long run, they couldn’t do it. So we had this album that we finally got the rights to and we decided that instead of searching for another label, we could release it ourselves. We really just wanted to get the album out there and heard. You know, it’s the debut album, and a lot of people worked very hard to pull it together. We really just wanted to get it out there, get it sold and heard by people who had actually been waiting for it for quite awhile.

Process: Doing it Yourself with Help

MK: So when you say you put it out there yourself, was it just the four of you that were responsible for all the marketing and sales initiatives, or did you have some other folks that were helping out?

OK: We also have our manager, Ritchie. We had a radio plugger for the campaign but we didn’t have a press plugger. We did all of our press ourselves.

MK: I want to get into what you did with press because I think it’s fascinating, but I’m interested in knowing what else you guys were doing yourselves. Didn’t you also create your website?

OK: Yeah, absolutely. Essentially, the way that came about was another economic restraint. We had this kind of holding page website which we’ve had for years when we first started the band, made by the same guy who did the album artwork. It was a very simple one page that would just redirect you to the label’s website and it would direct you to our MySpace; there were just two links on it. We decided that we needed something a bit more substantial and we just couldn’t afford to go and get someone else to do it. Eventually we kind of talked about it, Ritchie and the four of us, and we agreed, “let’s just go for this and try and do it ourselves.” None of us had any form of web experience, no coding experience; basic Photoshop experience is really all we had. So we did a lot of online tutorials, chatted with friends who do a lot of web design; we just taught ourselves, and it took about a years worth of banging our head against the wall to get something that we were happy with. We kind of succeeded in the primary goal of making a website in about three months, it just took another nine months of honing skills to actually get a decent looking website that we were all happy with.

MK: It’s something that people talk about a lot, the fact that it is difficult to be writing and recording music, producing your own music, and then doing all the marketing yourself. Did you find that you were stretched thin by doing all the press and all the web design and updates?

OK: I have to say, without kind of just wanting to pat them on the back, it genuinely helps to have a service like Topspin involved to help with the direct communication with our fans. It is a lot of work, and it does take up a lot of time, but if you aren’t prepared to do that for your fans, then why are you even bothering to play the music? The fans are there, they want to hear from you, and I think the fans respond differently when they know that you’re making your own website and you’re doing all your own press. The more you can do yourself, the better. It’s really inspiring when you finish something you’ve done on your own, and while it might have taken you slightly longer than it would taken someone else to do it, I think it’s motivating to have a real stake in every aspect of your band as a business. With direct to fan interaction, we are getting the opportunity to tailor make our entire future and to do it in response to the people that are making this happen for us. Of course, there is a really difficult side to all of this, but it’s exciting!

Acquisition and PR Campaign

Email for Media Widget

MK: Can you talk a little bit about the techniques you used to make folks aware of you, and how you acquired permission-based contact with new fans? How did you do this on your own site and on third party sites?

OK: One of the big things we used for the acquisition stage of the campaign was the email for media widget through Topspin. Three weeks before the album came out we created an email for media widget and put it in a really prominently place on our site. The idea was that it was the first thing fans and potential fans saw when they visited the site, and we exchanged a free track for an email address. Kind of simple stuff really. But we also used the email for media widgets in the wild, too. You know, anytime we approached anyone in the press, we tried to hit him or her with the free email for media widgets. If they were going to mention that an album was coming out, we’d ask them to embed the e4m’s as well. And it worked! Using Topspin’s retrieved data we saw that the email for media widget we were using has been viewed almost 14,000 times, and from those views, the e4m was clicked around 1500 times, acquiring more than 900 new emails alone in the process. These are all people that we can connect with for this current record, as well as records down the line.

MK: You also had a dedicated EPK and content page on your site that only press could access, right?

OK: Yeah, we had that as well. That was another thing, the press page that we set up on our site. I mean that again came up quite incidentally, we were just having a conversation and said, “You know what? We’ve got this page for the fans where they arrive on the site and they can instantly go to where we want them to go, so why don’t we make one for press?” So we hid a URL that wasn’t hooked up to our navigation on the actual site, and we embedded the full album, we embedded a link where press could downloaded the full album, downloaded the press release, the bios; everything that actually goes into a normal press release by an email, except that this was a live URL so that they weren’t dealing with an email that just looked like the rest of the other emails. The emails to our targeted press list were very, very short and to the point. We’d send them out and they essentially just had this link in it that said, “if you are interested in this band, here’s a press link” and if they click on that, it would take them to fully dedicated page just for them, complete with a way to contact that management, to contact us, a way to explore the site and download content.


Tigers That Talked Press Page

MK: How did you focus your press outreach?

OK: We did a couple of things. First, we looked at everyone we ever talked to back from the first EP that we released, and we targeted those folks with a really personalized email. It looked a lot less like a press email, and it was from our personal accounts. We’d email these folks and say, “Hey, we’ve got this album coming out. Here’s the album for free with the press download.” This approach was really successful actually, we got some really great blogs that responded well. The second thing we did was that we created our own database from trolling through sites that we liked and pulling out email addresses of writers that we thought might like our music.

MK: Can you talk a little bit about the results? I know you were touring at the time. Were you getting more record release press or tour press?

OK: It was more record release press and we had a few tour presses, mainly for the lead show; we did an album launch show at one of the local venues and we had a few reviewers come down and do that. We also had quite a few interviews – one of the biggest local leads that did a full cover feature on us and did a full length interview. We’ve done some other things with press, like the PRS acoustic session we did and the Amazing Radio acoustic session. I think it’s nice to see the quality of the press hits and the longevity that you can have if you approach your campaign in a personal way.

Sales Strategy:

MK: So you’ve got some momentum with press and live events, you are building up your permission based contacts, and you’re engaging with your fans regularly. Can you talk a little bit about your ideas behind your graduated pricing campaign and your variable product offerings?

OK: Late last year, we released our album, The Merchant on a graduated pricing model. We did a four-week graduated pricing campaign where the price of the record ranged from £1.00 if you purchased early, up to £4.00. So the first week you could get it for £1.00, the second week you could get it for £2.00, third week for £3.00, fourth week for £4.00. We really wanted to reward the fans that had waited months between the recording and the release of the record. We just wanted to make it incredibly cheap so that anyone who was already a fan, who was waiting for it to come out, could get the record for the lowest price possible. Along side of the digital release, we were selling a t-shirt as well as the physical CD. We sold the CD for £5.00 and we sold the t-shirt for £12.00. We also created another bundle, at £15.00, which was all the digital downloads, the CD, and the t-shirt all together.

It was interesting to see that 58% of total revenue from the campaign came from the first week when we were offering a £1.00 digital download, and the average purchase on the site ended up being £4.48. So a lot of fans were buying some of our more expensive items. Overall, 18.3% of purchasers opted for the more expensive options we provided.

We followed The Merchant release with a ‘pay-what-you-want’ EP called Battles, featuring exclusive tracks, remixes and 4 pieces of graphic art we designed ourselves. We offered a variety of suggested donations, from £1.00 up to £25.00. We found that 67.9% of fans opted to pay more than the lowest suggested price of £1.00, while the highest option of £25.00 accounted for 47.5% of our total revenue.


Battles EP Donation Release Strategy

Communication Strategy

MK: Can we talk a little more about how you are communicating with folks? There was obviously some demand for this record, even though there was a while between recording and releasing in. How did you maintain this interest through messaging and communication?

OK: We run our own website, so all the blog posts come from us and we try and write at least one blog a week. We don’t like to bombard fans with emails. We don’t ever want to be an irritation for them so we try to send out about one email to the list maybe once a month. Every month, we’ll send out an email saying what we’ve been up to, what we are going to do next, that kind of thing. Facebook has been a great channel for us as well. We’re on our Facebook page all the time and all the posts on the Facebook come directly from us. We’ve found it to be a great way to have a direct and immediate participatory relationship with our fans.

Our overall strategy is that we’re all music fans at the end of the day, and we know what irritates us and we know what really inspires us, and what captures our imagination, and it’s just a case of looking at that and putting yourself in your fan’s shoes. You know, I wouldn’t want to have an email everyday, not even from my favorite band; barely every week. Once a month with what’s going on is a nice level of email communication. I also think it’s important for us to make sure our fans know that the Facebook and the Twitter posts all come direct from us. They are not talking to a representative or a PR agent; they are getting to hear what we’re actually saying and what were actually doing. It’s just brilliant that there are plenty of mediums now where you can reach your fans so directly.

Check out more on Tigers that Talked here

I had Matt Stine as a student in the inaugural run of my Online Music Marketing with Topspin course, and it’s a thrill to see him put the sales and marketing tactics we discussed in the course into practice with his artist Clinton Curtis. It’s equally thrilling to see his work presented in outlets that I admire, like Mike Masnick’s Techdirt.

I’ve pasted Matt’s guest post in Techdirt below. Congratulations Matt!

Case Study: Clinton Curtis Connects With Fans And Gives Them Good Reasons To Buy His New Album

Ever since Mike Masnick introduced the concept of CwF + RtB, he has been confronted time and time again with the argument that this concept can only work for well-known artists with large established fanbases. And time after time Mike has provided evidence that CwF + RtB can work for any band or musician at any level. Clinton Curtis’ latest release campaign for his new album, 2nd Avenue Ball, is a prime example of how a new artist can use the concepts behind Mike’s formula to build a foundation for a successful career while earning money along the way from a small group of “super” fans.

Clinton Curtis’ 2nd Avenue Ball comes out today, March 22nd but it has been available for Pre-Order since March 1st. My company, 27 Sound, has been responsible for every aspect of the campaign, from producing and recording the music, to designing ClintonCurtis.com to developing the marketing and promotion strategy. Although technically this is Clinton’s second album, Clinton is still very much a new artist, and we treated this latest release as if it was his first. Clinton had been playing a lot of shows locally and regionally over the past year, and acquired a decent amount of email addresses at those shows. We knew that a small percentage of those fans would likely support Clinton going forward. Our goal was to offer something unique to those fans already in Clinton’s network and at the same time create ways for Clinton to connect with potential new fans.

In designing Clinton’s website, we wanted to make sure we were giving Clinton’s fans a reason to return to the site on a regular basis. We created two new elements — CC Radio and CC Connect. CC Radio is essentially a bi-monthly live show, broadcast directly to clintoncurtis.com. Each episode features members of Clinton’s band, guest musicians, friends and even Clinton’s fans, getting together at 27 Sound Studios to perform a solid hour of music. Powered by Ustream, it’s really simple to use, easy to integrate into the website and shareable across all major social networks. In fact, Clinton’s album release party will actually be a CC Radio episode (9:30PM EST tonight, Tuesday March 22nd) which is a much more effective use of time and money than trying to throw a big party at a NYC venue. CC Radio is an exciting way to keep fans coming back to the site and a great way for Clinton to connect directly with his them. It has been a huge success in only it’s first two months. The fans love it, and the easy sharing capability brings more traffic to Clinton’s online store.

Once fans reach Clinton’s Online store we wanted to be sure that we gave them plenty of incentive to buy directly from us. We created CC Connect, Clinton’s “VIP” fan club, to add value to all of our direct-to-fan offerings. Any package purchased through clintoncurtis.com comes bundled with a lifetime membership to CC Connect. CC Connect members get free download packs each month featuring exclusive previously unreleased music, live recordings, studio demos, audio from CC Radio episodes and more. They also get ticket and merch discounts as well as an entire fully-produced album recorded exclusively for CC Connect members each year. By doing this we add a tremendous amount of value to each package we offer through the site, giving fans a good reason to buy.

For 2nd Avenue Ball, we worked hard to come up with a variety of packages that we think will please Clinton’s fans and drive their support. I won’t go into too much detail here on each one, but there are a couple of noteworthy items in the biggest, Super Fan Deluxe Package that I think might interest Techdirt readers.

Each of the 50 Deluxe packages come with gatefold vinyl packaging but the vinyl record inside is not Clinton’s album. We don’t yet have enough demand among Clinton’s fans to warrant manufacturing and selling vinyl, but we wanted to showcase the amazing album artwork we had from an incredible young artist, Matthew Burrows. We planned on putting high quality art prints of his work inside as an insert where the vinyl record would normally go. But then we had the idea to also include an actual LP from Clinton’s personal vinyl collection. Along with the LP, each package comes with a note about what that album meant to Clinton and what significance it had to his musical upbringing. We thought this would be a cool way to make each package completely unique.

Then we thought to return the favor…. If people get a piece of Clinton’s favorite music, we should give them back some of their favorite songs, too. So anyone who orders this package gets an email from Clinton asking for their favorite song, and then Clinton records that song and sends it directly to their inbox. Yes, it will be a lot of work for us to put this together, but it will give each of these 50 fans something special that they really want. And who knows, maybe some great recordings will come of it! (In fact, almost all of these Deluxe packages have sold out at the time of writing this, and the song requests have been really cool, including one person who requested an original song that his 9 year old son wrote.)

These are just a few of the things that are unique about this campaign although there are many others (including the “Turn This CD Into A Coaster” Kit that comes with each disc!). Have a look over at clintoncurtis.com to see the package offers in more detail and explore around the site to see more ways Clinton is actively connecting with his fanbase. I would love to hear people’s thoughts and ideas on what we could be doing better. I always keep reminding our team that this is all an experiment and we need to adapt and change every day as we learn from the feedback we get from our fans. So visit the site and help us out!

I wrote a course for Berkleemusic called Online Music Marketing with Topspin, which starts this Monday, June 28.

My friend Peter Brambl at Topspin put together a post that details a few examples of the work some of the course graduates have been involved in. Take a look:


Crush Luther

Sheila Hash has been using Topspin to set up what she calls “The Living Room Sessions” for artist Crush Luther.  “Basically, you can request the band play your living room,” says Shelia.  “You need to send pictures of the space and guarantee that at least 20 people will show up. We set up a private ticket link on Topspin and every ticket purchase gets a hard copy of the album upon arrival to the show. It’s been highly successful and the band is booked at various houses throughout the summer. They love it because it’s much more intimate and interactive than a regular show. “
http://www.crushluther.com/


Jonesez

Annmarie McMath is kickstarting a fan acquisition project for artist Jonesez.  “The course was instrumental in not only honing my online marketing skills but educating my artist on best practices for social media marketing and direct-to-fan initiatives,” says Annmarie.  “We have had a steady intake of sign ups, and social media interaction is increasing. We have received a stack of great feedback from fans, musicians and others in the industry..and of course the widgets and music players have been a hit too. Thanks Topspin & Berklee.”
http://www.jonesez.com.au


Brandon Hines

Dan Conway is applying his marketing skills to student projects at Drexel University as well as his own record imprint:  “With our latest release on Drexel’s student run record label (called MAD Dragon Records), we utilized Topspin in creating a new website for the band (streaming player, mailing list, store functionality, etc.) as well as marketing the album using techniques covered in the course. Next year, I plan on incorporating Topspin into the everyday classroom through courses like Marketing and Promotion in the Music Industry and E-commerce in the Music Industry. I will also use it as our direct to fan platform for every Drexel released artist.  Along with my work at the university, I have applied the knowledge at my own record label, Revel Music Group. We used Topspin to release a free promotional “mixtape” for an R&B artist, Brandon Hines, that we have signed. We were able to grow his mailing list from 0 to over 5,300 in a few months (and still acquiring an additional 100 per week) using the email for media widget to exchange 10 free tracks for an email address. We continue to view Topspin as a large piece of the puzzle in both our distribution and marketing strategy and plan to incorporate it into all future releases.
http://maddragon.ning.com/
http://brandonhinesmusic.com/


Soul Mekanik

Ian Clifford is applying the best practices from the course to the marketing of online stores for artist Soul Mekanik. “I had some internet marketing experience already, but I had never applied it in an indie basis,” says Ian. “I learned about the process from the course. In six weeks we have added 600 fans to the email list.”
http://www.soulmekanik.com

Sign up for Online Music Marketing with Topspin, get your own hands dirty with the tools, and send me your success stories to feature next term!

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:

Overview:

* 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.

Advertising

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
Network.

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:

<param name="flashvars" value="widget_id=http://cdn.topspin.net/api/v1/artist/49/single_track_player_widget/20095?timestamp=1271291020&theme=black&highlightColor=0x00A1FF ” />

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 feel like I owe an apology for the lack of activity on my blog lately. While I’ve been better about keeping up with Twitter, I’ve definitely let the posts slip here. A resolution of mine for 2010 is to get back on the horse and get the posting schedule back on track. Not that it is any excuse, but I’ve been particularly busy with creating content in a couple of other ways. Here’s what I have been up to over the past few months.

I’ve written two new marketing courses that are enrolling now for Berkleemusic’s next term, starting January 11th. As I have mentioned on this blog before, Online Music Marketing with Topspin (co-authored by Topspin’s Shamal Ranasinghe) will teach you how to use Topspin’s unique marketing, management, and content distribution platform to help you market and retail direct to your fans. In the course, students will develop the in-depth marketing expertise necessary to properly execute a successful sales and marketing campaign using Topspin. You can watch some videos of Topspin’s CEO Ian Rogers and myself talking about online marketing and the course here.

I also just finished a second online music marketing course called Online Music Marketing: Campaign Strategies, Social Media, and Digital Distribution. This course covers some key areas that all marketers need to focus on, such as social media marketing, effective use of data to direct you campaigns, what partners you should be aware of, and much more. By the end you’ll have a fully timed, integrated, and optimized online marketing plan that you can use to generate interest in your music, acquire new fans, and sell your music online. It’s a great companion course to Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail, with a greater focus on the online side of marketing.

Finally, the companion book to Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail is done and available. The book contains additional interviews and content which complements the online course of the same name. I’m giving away a free chapter and selling the book on a discount here if you’d like to check it out.

That’s all from me. I wish you the best in 2010!

Here’s a video of me talking about the new Online Music Marketing: Campaign Strategies, Social Media, and Digital Distribution course:

I recommend you watch this outstanding presentation from Techdirt’s Michael Masnick on Trent Reznor’s online marketing techniques.

Key points: engage your fans directly, provide variable products and pricing (including a hi-end deluxe package), use free music as a way to collect fan email addresses, and create an ongoing connection with your fans both online and offline.

Also check out the great ways (via YouTube, Flickr, and fan remixes) that Trent is working to get his fans to interact directly with him via his Web site, and his innovative usage of BitTorrent technology.

Some good examples of bands that have NOT had major label support in the past using these same techniques as well.

Note: Trent and several of the other artists that are mentioned in this presentation are using Topspin’s software. Our online course, Marketing your Music with Topspin, is coming out this September.

Leadership Music Digital Summit 2009 – Entire Mike Masnick keynote presentation, 3/25/09 from Leadership Music Digital Summit on Vimeo.

“Talking gross numbers that come directly to the band, we have made more money already than we have on the last record in four years,” said Mathieu Drouin, the band’s co-manager.

Great piece in the L.A. Times today on Metric. The band is forgoing a traditional record deal and focusing on alternative income sources and direct to fan sales and marketing techniques for their most recent release “Fantasties.” Direct to fan has been a proven model for megastars like Radiohead and Trent Reznor, and it’s encouraging to see a “middle class” musician (Metric’s 2005 release “Live It Out,” sold 45,000 copies) having success using a similar template.

Some takeaways from the effort:

1) Without the distribution fee and record royalties that a major label and distributor would charge, Metric is able to net $.77 per iTunes track as opposed to something closer to the $.22 per track a label would pay (this figure includes international downloads, which could pay the artist more than the US standard of $.70 per track by going direct)
2) As distribution follows marketing, Metric has hooked up with Topspin to handle the online direct to fan marketing and sales efforts. Take a look at their Website, here. Fantastic way to leverage “free” to acquire names for the mailing list, they have an active blog area, and most importantly, they are engaging in variable product and pricing which everyone from the hard core fan to the curious potential fan can engage in. Again, because the band is selling direct, their profit margin is much higher. Metric sold out of an initial allotment of 500 deluxe packages in 48 hours, said Drouin, who estimated a profit of $13 to $15 per unit. “We can never offer a fan that much value at that price if we had to go through a record company, distributor and a retailer. We cut out three rungs.”
3) The band made the entire record available for free as a stream a month before release, creating widgets that could be embedded in fans Websites (provided by Topspin). Folks were able to become familiar with the new record, they liked what they heard, and they paid for the record when it was released commercially. This is the “emotional connection” theory in action.
4) The band worked with independent distributor Redeye for the physical CD. Because Metric has a track record and had analytics that proved people were into the record, Redeye had an easier time shipping the record to physical independent record stores.
5) Canada supports the arts. The Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent on Recordings provided the band with $50,000 to cover recording costs, as well as a smaller federal grant.

Major labels are traditionally known for A) financing, B) marketing, C) distribution. I think Metric is a great example of a band that not only accomplishing all of these things outside of the traditional model, but is making more money because of it. Check out a cool Elliott Smith cover by the band: