~ Here is an excerpt from an interview I found on Music Think Tank with indie artist Matthew Ebel. I have been thinking for a while now that the subscription model for bands is going to be the future. No one has a crystal ball, so who knows, but it seems to be working for Matthew. What do you think?
AH: If you could give a band or artist any type of advice on how to start in social media, what would you advise them to do?
OK, so, six things that have made a difference for me…
1. Stop the Musical Masturbation
I wasted so much time playing open mics and writer’s nights in Nashville and Boston. The same is true of all the “hot new music sites” that spring up every 20 minutes on the Internet. The fans do not go there, you’re only entertaining yourself. Every open mic I’ve ever seen is a room full of musicians politely waiting for their turn to get on stage. These events only introduce musicians to other musicians and offer some live performance practice. Trying to sell CD’s at an open mic is like trying to sell timeshare condos at a telemarketing convention. Fans go to Facebook or iTunes, not Stereofame. I could waste all my time playing for a crowd of other broke indie artists or I can spend my efforts approaching fans where they’re already congregating.
2. Shove Yourself Into A Niche
Music fans aren’t found on sites for music fans. I’m inspired by certain things– technology, animals, politics, sci-fi/ fantasy –and so is every other artist. Whatever I’m writing about, there’s a community based around that topic. Instead of going after generic “music fan” crowds, I chose to focus on specific niches that share MY interests. Since I’m into podcasting and new media stuff, my music has been resonating particularly well with the geek crowd. That is where I focus my efforts. I’m also a big sci-fi/ fantasy nerd as well, so I hit conventions and gatherings of that nature. Not only is my music relevant to them, I can relate to them on a personal level.
3. Get Personal
I imagine this advice won’t apply to “concept bands” that have a specific theatrical act or image, but getting personal with my fans is what keeps me alive. Good music is barely enough to get fans to hand out 99¢ anymore; they have to be emotionally invested in the artist if that artist wants their loyalty. Don’t get me wrong, there can still be a “fourth wall” during a live concert or video, but real, meaningful connection with the fans is what keeps me in their heads after the show’s over (heck, even your “character” can interact with fans in-character). I chat with my fans via Twitter, Facebook, matthewebel.com and matthewebel.net, and as many other channels as possible. The more I interact with them between performances, the more I stay fresh in their minds and the more inspiration I draw from them.
4. Keep Them Screaming Your Name
In October of 2008 I started my own subscription service– www.matthewebel.net –with no clue whether the fans would like it or not. Part of the offerings were two new songs and one live concert recording every month. It seemed like a tall order to me, but something I could accomplish. Little did I realize that new releases every two weeks would be better than any good album reviews or press coverage. Giving my fans something new to talk about every two weeks meant exactly that: they talk about me every two weeks. They’re not buying an album, raving about it, and losing interest after a few months, they’re constantly spreading my name to their Twitter followers, coworkers, pets, etc. Regular delivery of quality material is damn near my one-step panacea for the whole industry.
5. Don’t Suck
No amount of marketing can make up for a total lack of talent– this is why people don’t want to spend $20 on major label CD’s anymore. 25 years of piano and a music degree doesn’t guarantee I’ll be a success, but it gives me one hell of an advantage. I try to keep myself sharp and never assume I’m good enough. Even long-time pro football players go through spring training every year. If nothing else, I find that surrounding myself with talent raises the bar for my own ambitions. I listen to Ben Folds to inspire my production and piano abilities, I follow people like Ariel Hyatt and Amanda Palmer to improve my outreach, I keep a steady stream of Pat Monahan on my Pandora list to hear what kickass vocals sound like. I always want to be on my toes.
6. Experiment In Public
Speaking of being on my toes, I try to push my comfort level in plain sight. Sometimes I’ll produce a song in a style I’ve never really attempted before and release it to my subscribers at http://matthewebel.net –sometimes it flies, sometimes it doesn’t. My first attempt at Trance, a song called “Night Train”, has become one of the most requested songs I play at live shows now. It’s the first one people have openly talked about pirating. For something I originally downplayed as “just an experiment”, it’s now one of my biggest hits. I experiment onstage as well, trying new arrangements or even lyrics. My fans love knowing that they’re part of something spontaneous, that they’ve got a hand in shaping the very future of my music. Happy fans are vocal fans.
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