This morning I read Seth Godin’s newest book “We Are All Weird“. Don’t be too impressed it’s only about 100 pages so it’s a perfect Sunday morning read. Deep into it, he talks about a friend of his that started a string of boutique hotels in Los Angeles. He goes on to say that Hyatt jumped on the bandwagon and started a chain of trendy boutique hotels, but something felt ‘off’. From the framed Beatle’s record to the “Oops” eraser on the desk. Mass produced “weird”, he calls it. No wonder it doesn’t work.
I started thinking about that more and it finally hit me. This is why “weird” bugs me. It’s not the weird itself, but the popularization of the ‘weird’. Who else is completely driven nuts by the t-shirt that says “Why Be Normal”? It’s not that the shirt exists that bugs me. It’s the fact that the person wearing it got it at Target because they saw five other people wearing that shirt and thought it was cool. Mass production of “weird” is no longer weird. It’s annoying. Especially to the ‘weird’.
Think about it. How many hipster’s out there are completely annoyed that Jónsi is on a Chevy commercial? Or that you can hear Fleet Foxes at the grocery store? What was once “weird” has been commercialized and now it’s not “indie”. It’s not weird. And it’s not cool.
I had a friend who would wear leather Indian moccasins. You know, the kind with the tassels? He wore them because they were ‘weird’. They were different than other shoes and he thought they were cool. He didn’t want ANYONE to find out that you could get those exact moccasins at Urban Outfitters for $30. Because if that happened, POOF, not cool or weird anymore.
Get to the point Brody.
Seth, speaking about the Hyatt hotels says this,
“It doesn’t’ work because while they did the surface things, the easy things, the cheap things, they failed to do the hard work of being (and embracing) the weird. It’s sort of weird for the masses, not the actual work of a human being with interests.”
I’m looking at you record labels.
How many times have you seen one artist do the same “weird” thing another artist did six months before? I’ve said it before in my “Spaghetti” post, but just because it works for one band doesn’t mean it’s going to work for another. Labels, you’ve taken the ‘weird’ parts of what certain artists do and tried to make every artist their style of “weird”. You’re adding leather moccasins to the Urban Outfitter’s inventory, and by doing that you’re ruining the coolness of weird.
Like Seth said, “no one wants to do the hard work of embracing the weird”. Instead labels try to generalize the “weird” and hope it works for everyone. Maybe the Facebook gimmick isn’t going to work this time. Maybe the Twitter campaign doesn’t matter to this crowd. Maybe we’ll have to come up with something just a little different this time around.
See, if there’s one thing that fans see through, it’s the fake weird. It’s the generalized tactics. Especially with the Internet, we can now pick and choose our version of cool and as soon as someone else thinks our version of cool is cool, it’s no longer cool. The same goes with marketing tactics. We’re already seeing articles about how “uncool” Kickstarter is, or the abuse of Twitter in marketing. It’s too mainstream, so it’s not cool anymore. Nobody really thinks the person wearing the “Normal Is Boring” shirt is weird. They think they are like everyone else…. or normal.
“Don’t dress up your general and pretend it’s particular. It’s not. Average is for marketers who don’t have enough information to be accurate.”, says Godin. And I completely agree. Study your fan base, study your artists, learn their “weird” and embrace that. And for crying out loud, throw away that “Opps” eraser.
I’ve traveled with a lot of bands. I’ve done some road managing, crew and production, but I’ve spent most of my time on the road doing “social media”. I’ve traveled with all sorts of different artists, and there is one thing that is constant throughout all of them. Are you ready?
Nothing will go the way it’s planned.
That’s it. Sure, you’ll get to a city, with all your stuff, and do the show, but the in-betweens? Those are what can really jack up your plans. It’s amazing to me that some people working in the “industry” still don’t get it.
A while back I was on the road for a “Twitter Campaign” thought up by the label. Here was their plan:
- The band Tweets asking their followers where they should hang out that day.
- The fans respond.
- The band picks a place to go near the venue or hotel.
- The band hangs out there.
- Then band thanks the person that suggested it on Twitter.
- This causes the fans to communicate with them more on Twitter, thus raising their Twitter following, right?
Now, on paper, that seems great. The problems?
- Two members of the band flew to New York that day to finish recording.
- One guy wasn’t’ feeling well.
- One guy was writing.
- One guy didn’t want to do it alone because that’s lame.
- Strike one, strike two, strike three, four and five.
Imagine the disappointment to the label when I tell them their plan wasn’t going to work. But they have the greatest of all marketing minds working on this stuff?! How could this possibly happen. It was going to raise their “Followers” by at least 10%??!
So here’s what we do. We still communicate with folks on Twitter. We @ message them and join in on THEIR conversations. We answer the questions that THEY are asking us and we improvise. We don’t fight to control the conversation. We just interact.
The result? You mean besides a label claiming that I didn’t do was I was contracted to do with their artist? Well, there was a nearly 15% increase in Twitter followers by simply interacting and getting the ball rolling, but that wasn’t what they “planned” so they didn’t like it.
So here’s where I’m going with this. Sometimes our “flawless campaign” is going to tank. It’s going to fall flat on it’s face and then what? All you can do is look at the overall goal and come up with a backup plan. Can your campaign handle a change in a different direction or a speed bump? Is your definition of success so specific that if your campaign doesn’t work you count it as a failure? Or does just doing something count as forward progress?
Dear Christian Music Industry,
It seems like I’ve been away from you for a while now. It’s not really the case, but at least I haven’t been traveling with you for about 6 months now. Do you miss me? I didn’t think so. Not that I expect for you to be paying attention, but if you’re wondering I have been traveling and working on the “Country” side of things. You know them don’t you? I’ve heard that you and them go way back. Well, if you haven’t talked to them in a while, I’ll let you know. They are doing good. Selling records, touring, same old stuff that you would expect, but you know what’s funny? I heard a conversation the other day that made me think of you, and I remembered I hadn’t written in a long time.
The conversation I overheard was a pretty simple one but it reminded me of conversations we have had. Conversations about budget. I know, I know, you’re not one to really want to bring that up are you? Here’s the problem, Christian Music Industry, we have to talk about it. Everyone does. Even your more affluent cousin Country Music Industry.
The conversation went something like this, and forgive me if I’m paraphrasing. I wasn’t really listening because there was a new episode of Cake Boss on TLC playing on the bus.
One guy: ”Man, you know what’s cool about touring in the Pop world is the budgets are so much better that it frees you up to do different things.”
Other guy: ”You’re not kidding. Country budgets aren’t even close to Pop budgets.”
I told you I missed most of it, but you get the idea. Anyway, this got me thinking. We’ve had this same conversation about the Country Music Industry haven’t we? I can hear it now. ”Man, Christian budgets aren’t even close to Country budgets.” Blah Blah. Yep, the grass is always greener right? I wonder who the “Pop” guys are wishing they were.
So here’s my deal. It’s simple. We’re all the same. We’re all wishing we had just a little more to spend on different things we wanted to do. Whether it’s touring, production, web, promotion, there’s never going to be enough. I promise. And there’s always going to be more buy then there is to spend. And here’s where we have to adjust our thinking Christian Music Industry. It doesn’t matter what you don’t have. What matters is what you’re doing with what you do have. Make it work. And I’m saying this to your cousin Country Music Industry too. There’s no reason to short sell excellence. Don’t do something crappy because you don’t have the budget. Do it right the first time and make it work for you. If its important, it’s not a question of ‘can we afford it’, it’s a question of ‘how can we afford it’. All it takes is a little work and initiative. A little creative energy. After all, it’s a job you know.
I know this letter is a little different than the others I have written you but I felt like it was something that needed to be said. Stop crying about money and make it work. You’re not the only ones out there affected by this jacked up economy, and there’s still a billion people out there willing to spend ten bucks on a record. We just need to go at things a little differently and figure out what it is that makes us succeed.
My, my, my. It’s been a while since my last letter to you. And look at how you’ve grown! Now correct me if I’m wrong but I think even my last letter you to was a bit of an encouragement to you. Was it not? You’ve really taken this whole ‘Social Interaction’ thing to the next level haven’t you?! Some might even say that you’ve surpassed other music genres in the social media arena. I’m like a proud second uncle or something.
Now, let’s see. I’ve done a little research and it looks like nearly every Christian artist is now on Twitter and the numbers are growing every day. Now there are too many Christian Musician blogs to even count, and artists are even branching out and being creative themselves and coming up with different ways to interact with their (uh oh, here comes that word we all know and love) “tribe”. Yeah, I said it. Tribe.
All this to say, I’m happy things are going so well. I love seeing the interaction. And I’m not going to sit here and say that me or SkörInc had everything to do with it, but I hope that we were able to play a part in ‘shaking things up a little’. **And if you are new to these ‘Dear Christian Music Industry’ letters, please go back and check out some of the past letters. Id’ love to know your thoughts. But make sure you start here.**
So now what? Now that everyone and their road manager has a blog and Twitter, what can this letter possibly be about? Who in the Christian Music Industry is still struggling to find a “tribe”? Who’s struggling to interact with a fan base they don’t know they have?
The Record Label. This letter is for you.
What if a record label got a fan base? What if a record label became a living, breathing, likable personality that allowed it’s tribe inside? Into the inner workings of the backbone of the music industry? What if people were allowed to become a ‘fan’ of the label? A fan of the company that is bringing you music that you love.
Some say the record label is dying. People say the record label is the ‘bad guy’. People say that artists don’t need a record label to succeed. All of these things are both true and not true. I think if the labels stay the way they have been for the last several years, yes, they might die. But they aren’t. Label owners aren’t stupid. They are changing with the times and updating their ‘tactics’ the same as everyone else. And they should be. But what if they took it a step further? What if they became something to ‘follow’ along with the artists they are promoting? Would you pay attention?
What if the label allowed an “inside” look into what artists they were considering signing? What if there was an interactive voting system that allowed their ‘tribe’ to vote for their favorite potential artists? What if the tribe was informed on how songs got to the radio, and what all went in to promoting an artist? The packaging, the promotions, the tour schedules of all the artists signed? What if the labels website became not only a place of information, but a place of interaction geared toward the fans of these artists? And in turn, became something worth being a fan of itself? Maybe I’m just a music nerd, but I’d love to follow something like that if I was given the opportunity.
Now, sure, not everything you write about is going to be interesting to everyone, but hey, this letter is probably boring the heck out of my mom. But here’s the thing. Everything is interesting to someone. People care about what labels are doing. People want to know the inside story and they still don’t want feel like they are constantly being sold something. Come on record label. Let’s give it a shot. Let’s start a living, breathing, transparent, “designed for the fan” website and lets see what happens. Who’s up for it?
Dear Christian Music Industry,
It’s been a while since we have talked. You have kept me busy, but also I have been watching you. I’ve been watching how you are responding to this ‘new’ way of communicating with your fans/listeners/followers or whatever else you want to call them. I’ve been watching you test things out and figure things out and move forward rapidly this past year. I’m proud of you.
I’ve noticed that aside from a handful of ‘mainstream’ artists, Christian musicians seem to be leading the charge on Twitter with thousands of followers and connecting to their fans. Twitter has become a regular term used in management and label meetings. This all happened this year. Funny because when I made my first phone call introducing Twitter to an artist, the response was something along the lines of , ‘I have no idea what you are talking about’.
A couple weeks ago The Wall Street Journal published an article talking about the ‘Secrets of Marketing in a Web 2.0 World‘. Sounds exciting doesn’t it? And here’s the funny part about that article. It’s exactly what SkörInc has been saying for a year. It’s exactly what we have been trying to tell you way back in our first letter to you. In fact, I think someone even mentioned it far before that. However, it does look like The Wall Street Journal has now given us a name.
A ‘MARKETING TECHNOPOLOGIST.’
So who should direct a company’s forays into Web 2.0 marketing? A number of managers identified an ideal set of skills for an executive that go beyond those of a typical M.B.A. holder or tech expert. We coined the ‘term marketing technopologist’ for a person who brings together strengths in marketing, technology and social interaction.
Here’s what I am excited about, Christian Music Industry. There’s a chance we are at the forefront of something here. There’s a chance that we have been doing something an entire year before even The Wall Street Journal even mentions it. Doesn’t that excite you? Or does it make you nervous?
The downside? Yes, there is one. The downside is simply that since we are on the forefront of something, we need to stay there. We need to blog and blog well. We need to interact with people more than ever and we need someone’s help doing that. We need someone who has been living this way for long enough to know what they are talking about, and we need to ask for help. And for clarification, when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘you’, Christian Music Industry. You can’t do it yourself. Your artists can’t do it themselves. The Wall Street Journal is making up names for people that can help you.
And if you are going to do it, you better make sure you are doing it well. After all, people are watching.
Dear Christian Music Industry,
Have you been by any of the “heavy hitting” bloggers pages lately? Oh, come on CMI. Do you mind if I call you that? CMI? I feel like we are friends enough now right? Anyway, I know you have been visiting a bunch of these “heavy hitting” blogs recently. You know how I know? It’s this new little thing that your marketing people are doing called the “Blog CD Giveaway”. Yep, I know it’s you. I know that you are the one’s contacting these bloggers with massive amounts of readers and asking them to talk about and give away the new records you are releasing. They are everywhere. Autographed copies, pre-release copies, copies with t-shirts, copies with posters. There’s a number of ways that one lucky reader of these popular blogs can take home something special from either their favorite artist or a brand new artist they have never heard of. It’s a good move CMI, and I support it. Well done.
I do have one question about this tactic though. And I’m not even being as sarcastic as I normally am with you. Are you ready? Here it is. How come you recognize blogging as a valuable form of marketing to the masses yet you still are struggling to get your artists to blog themselves? There’s an easy way to get your artists to blog well and all you have to do is ask.
I will give you one guess, Christian Music Industry, who would write about your artists new records with more passion and more excitement than any blogger you will ever meet. Do you want to know who it is? It’s the artist themselves. I know, it sounds silly. Why would an artist talk about something that they have spent the last year and a half giving birth to? Surely they aren’t going to be able to convey a message more convincing than a popular blogger, right?
Maybe look at it this way. I could show you pictures of friends kids, and I could talk about them all day and I could even get you to tell me that they are cute and you like their dimples or something, but think of the difference between that and me telling you about my kids. What if I showed you pictures of my kids? Told you about how they jumped off the couch and got a concussion? Showed you their first day of school pictures? Wouldn’t you be more convinced of my passion for my own kids?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about other people telling the world how cute my kids are, but if I am going to ask people to talk about my kids and tell people how great they are, wouldn’t I be doing that myself as well? Wouldn’t I create a platform where I could join in the conversation and give people the real inside stuff? The stuff popular bloggers might not know about?
As always, it’s great to talk to you Christian Music Industry. Let’s get coffee soon.
Dear Christian Music Industry,
There’s this really cool group of musicians out there, maybe you’ve heard of them. The “Independent” musician. Sometimes people like to call them “Indies” when they want to feel cool, and a lot of times it’s awesome to pass on their music to your friends so they think you are cool too. They call it “hip to the Indie scene” or something like that. All in all “Indie” musicians are pretty decent. They typically will tell you that they are ‘in it for the music’ and come across a little more ‘arty’ than other musicians. And I like that.
You know what else I like about Independent musicians? I like the fact that they care about their careers. You know why they care about their careers? Because if they don’t, they don’t get to eat. They have no record deals, they have no marketing team, and they have no money backing them, and they realize that it really, truly is up to them to succeed. They get that fire under them to create music and then they get that fire under them to spread the word.
And you know what happens when they want to spread the word, Christian Music Industry? They look way down at the bottom of web sites of artists that they feel are doing it right, and they find a logo. They find a logo of the company that these popular musicians are using and they email them wanting the same thing. Because if they get that same thing, they increase their chances of succeeding. Not only do they feel it increases their chances of succeeding, but in talking to this company they realize that so much of the work load of their marketing is lightened in doing so.
You know how I know all of this, Christian Music Industry? I know all of this because I have been on the receiving end of several emails from “Indie” artists over the past few weeks. Emails asking how to do what other artists are doing. How to get their music out to more people. And they want our help. Then we start to talk.
Today SkörInc launched a new site for another Indie guy named Elijah Stephen. He’s an artist who is starting out on the right foot and wants to do as much as he can to succeed. So he called, we talked, and now he has the same service that several other signed artists have. And he’s excited about that. Make sure to head over there and give a big fat hello to him.
Now, here’s the funny part, Christian Music Industry. Are you ready? Elijah paid for it. Yes! Can you believe it. This independent musician searching for ways to better his career paid for services that he thinks are valuable. And he’s getting them.
Now I know there are budgets and flow charts and projections and all that for the labels in the Christian Music Industry. I know that people are paid well to make decisions based on a company and ‘maximizing profits’ and all that. And I think that’s awesome. One thing I’m not too sure about though, Christian Music Industry, and maybe you can clear this up for me. I’m not to sure how an ‘Indie’ artist playing to thirty people or so a night can come up with the money for something valuable, but these major record labels seem to have a hard time finding the budget and need for something like a silly old blog. After all doesn’t MySpace have a blog feature?
Now don’t get me wrong. I know that some of your labels are forward thinking enough to jump on the train, but the majority of your labels refuse to see the need for oh… communicating with your fans… or creating a community or something like that. For years labels have looked at what Independent musicians are doing to succeed and taken those concepts and drug them into a corporation setting. And it doesn’t look like this will be any different. So it’s time to get on the bus Christian Music Industry labels. The hip “Indies” are doing it so why shouldn’t you?
Dear Christian Music Industry,
I have an idea for you. See those three record covers up there? Pretty famous record covers right? Here’s my idea. I think it would be awesome for one your next record covers to be exactly like something that has been done before. What do you say? Go out and find a record cover that you think is awesome, one that really gives off a vibe that you want your record to give off and then copy it. Copy every detail, except make sure to put your bands name on it, and maybe if you copy the Weezer cover don’t wear that black and blue shirt. Maybe do a black and purple shirt instead. Portray yourself publicly as completely unoriginal and unartistic.
I learned a new word this week. Aesthetics. Have you heard of it?
Here’s the thing, Christian Music Industry. Since I’ve been writing you these letters I have noticed several blogs “randomly” popping up. I even touched on it in my last letter to you when I mentioned that some of you were blogging but still were viewing blogs as something “extra”. You’ve finally gotten to the point where blogs have become your “desktop wallpaper”, your “behind the scenes look” that you give away to fans. Congratulations. The problem with that is it’s simply a wrong type of thinking. Don’t agree with me? That’s fine. At least the Washington Post does. Blogs are not “extra”. Blogs have become your voice, your market research, your connection to the folks that want to support you and more importantly your image to the world online. Let me let you in on a little secret. They don’t want your buddy icons. They want you.
“But Brody, our blog is a representation of us. We blog almost daily and try to interact as much as we can. Look at how original we are with our fancy header image.” Good for you. Really, I mean it. I do have one question for you though. Why are you doing it from a blogger account that is available for the rest of the world to use? Why are you choosing a blog theme that any blogger can get, and just change the header out without even thinking? Is that how you want to portray yourself to the world? Unoriginal and unartistic? I mean if that’s the case book a ticket to London, take your shoes off and walk across the street for your next record cover.
Or you could do something custom. Something that no one has done before, and maybe something no one else can have. Show people that you care about your online public appearance as much as you care about your record cover’s public appearance. Just a thought. If your interested, I might know a guy.