Content problem

by Chris Singleton

Back in the day, ‘content’ wasn't a problem for your average rockstar, or wannabe rockstar. Producing the stuff generally boiled down to doing what most bands are meant to do: releasing an album and playing some shows. Things got worse in the 80s with the invention of the pop video, but even at that, this sort of content creation was just a case of accompanying 3 singles from your album with some poorly-shot clips of you parading a mullet and a pair of leather pants in front of a some par cans and a smoke machine. Oh yes, whilst locked in a cage and playing a guitar with your teeth. Easy.

Fast forward to 2015 and it’s a different kettle of fish. Mullets are out, and content is now, to pardon a much-overused phrase, king. It’s not enough to record songs, make videos or play gigs: on top of that we have to ‘engage’ our audience with blog posts, photographs, live videos, vlogs, viral games, tweets, status updates, online gigs, alternate acoustic versions of album tracks…you name it.

As exhausting as making / doing all that stuff sounds, there is actually point to it – it can generate interest in your band, drive traffic to your website and help you make new fans. It also gives any industry contacts checking your act out a sense that you are serious about what you do online in an era where the music industry and the internet are increasingly joined at the hip. But how on earth do you tackle producing such a mountain of content? For most aspiring artists it’s hard enough to fit in recording music and playing gigs around a time-consuming day job; as such the thought of even keeping a Facebook page up to date – let alone writing a blog post about what the band cat gets up to on tour – simply instils dread (and doesn’t get done; probably a good thing though, as what the cat gets up to on tour stays on tour).

There are a few things you can do, however, which make climbing the content mountain easier:

1. Create a ‘content bank’

Don’t wait until you’ve got something to release before you start thinking about what sort of content you’re going to accompany that release with. Have it all ready beforehand. This means devoting a week or so to content well before you release any music. Try

  • going into a studio for a day and recording a load of acoustic versions of your songs
  • spending a day in front of your computer writing a truckload of blog posts about music or art that's inspired you
  • taking a load of ‘behind the scenes’ images of rehearsals, gigs, recording sessions and so on.
  • capturing footage of recording sessions and editing them into little ‘making of’ videos.

Polish it all up / edit it nicely and whack it in a Dropbox folder: this means that you have a 'content bank' containing a multitude of items that you can share regularly during a music promo campaign. By the time it comes to releasing your album, you won't be worrying that tumbleweed is blowing through your Facebook page at a time when it’s clearly meant to be conveying a sense of much-sought-after ‘buzz’. Having a content bank takes the stress out of content – bigtime.

2. Curate content

If you’re struggling with the content bank idea, or even if you DO have a lot of content ready to share, think about being a ‘content curator’. This means sharing other people’s content via your social media presences - this obviously takes a lot of the legwork out of content-sharing. The kind of content that you share can say a lot about your band though, so think very carefully about the links you post and how frequently you post them – but done correctly, content curation can create a ‘vibe’ about your band, convey a sense of activity and make your followers keen to stay posted to your feeds, simply because they’re interested in what sort of crazy / interesting  / downright disgusting link you’re going to post next.

3. Make some live videos – and kill four birds with one stone

It’s a good idea to make a live video of several tracks. Done correctly this can gives you up to 4 pieces of valuable content:

  1. Live tracks that you can give away or use as bonus tracks on releases
  2. Several video performances that you can whack up on Youtube and include in electronic press kits
  3. Well-lit photographs of your band (assuming you can convince a photographer to hang out that day)
  4. An experience that you can blog about (complete with lots of nice images and embedded videos)

4. Use Instagram

Being in a band is as much about the visuals as the music. This is generally speaking a bad thing (in my old fashioned book at least), but there is an upside to it: thanks to Instagram it’s dead easy to create and share very funky visuals that arguably say a lot more about who you are as an artist than a 1500-word blog post on your favourite type of guitar pedal. Don’t just take pictures of your bandmates though: share images of stuff that represents your act and its ethos – whether that’s pictures of vintage microphones or dramatic skylines. This means that when you’re completely stuck for something to say, or simply too pressed for time to come up with a Stephen Fry-style witticism, then you can still make an impressive statement about you and your music in a few seconds by posting a good Instagram picture. 

Finally, there’s always the mullet-cum-guitar-cum-cage video to think about too – that sort of stuff is probably due a revival.

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