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If you intend to sell CDs, downloads or merchandise direct to your fans, or need a way to build a music website that handles e-commerce well, then you might want to try out Shopify for free here.

Top tip: sending e-newsletters to your fans

If you need to send emails to your band fanbase, we recommend Mad Mimi. It's possibly the most cost-effective solution we've encountered and allows you to manage / grow a database and design attractive e-newsletters without a need for any HTML coding. You can sign up for a free account here.

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Click here for TuneCore, the service that allows you to distribute your music quickly on all major digital retailers and keep all of the royalties.

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Top tip: getting your band typeface right

Getting your band typeface right can make the difference between looking like amateurs, or coming across as a serious outfit. Read our article on the importance of typefaces here, or test your band's name out in a variety of fonts using Myfonts.com.

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Entries in Musicians (9)

Tuesday
Dec112012

The power of enigma

Would Jim Morrison share what he'd just eaten for lunch on Facebook?

In pre-internet days of yore, there was a clear barrier between rock stars and their fans. If a rock star wanted to communicate with fans, this was generally done at gigs attended by thousands of people, through big newspaper interviews or via appearances on TV shows watched by millions. The communication was generally one way, with the rock star talking to (or sometimes even down to) his/her fans using the 'traditional' mass media. 

Fast forward to our whizzy fancypants digital era and, to a large degree, the internet has brought this barrier crashing down and changed the whole way stars communicate with their audiences. Firstly, the rock stars in question are able to inject themselves much more easily into a fan’s everyday, personal life, via appearances in Facebook accounts, email inboxes, Twitter feeds, Instagram pictures and so on in a way that was unimaginable even a few years ago; secondly, they can’t seem to resist using this power to divulge sometimes quite boring details of their personal lives that would never have been shared by their rock star forbears. Finally, the communication between a star and his/her audience is now two-way, with even the most successful of musicians replying to fans’ online comments on Twitter, taking part in Facebook conversations with them and so on.

All the above has led to the arrival of a conventional wisdom which says that bands – particularly unsigned bands – need to ‘engage’ with listeners in order to attain success. The idea being that artists need to develop a very direct relationship with their fans, where they must reply to even the most inane of queries; do requests of cheesy Christmas songs; go round to fans’ houses and play gigs; post pictures of themselves at home doing the washing up and so on (and yes, I've probably done all or most of these things myself at some point or other throughout my, ahem, music career). Through these personal interactions with fans, the theory goes, an artist eventually develops a fanbase comprising people who feel like they really know that musician, are friends with them, and ultimately feel compelled to buy their music when that oh-so-engaging artist finally finds time to stop chatting with fans online and actually record and release an album.

In many – perhaps most – situations, the above approach works, not least because fans, accustomed to the two-way communication processes facilitated so easily by online technology, almost demand this level of interaction and attention. And for emerging bands with small fanbases, where the act effectively knows each and every one of their listeners, it seems almost rude to ignore them. 

However, something huge is lost in all of this personal, two-way, share-everything communication business: the mythology that used to surround musicians.

When, many moons ago, I was a teenager, following a band meant devoting time and thought to a bunch of guys you really had no direct relationship with or access to. This meant imagining what that band was like. Forming your own idea about what the front man ate for tea. Developing weird and completely unfounded notions regarding what the band liked to do with their groupies at the weekends. It did not mean being shown Instagram pictures of an artist’s cat, or being subjected to tweets about a band’s preference for a shot of vanilla syrup in their lattes. The inaccessibility of musicians (coupled with the imaginations of fans) meant that rock stars ultimately ended up shrouded in enigma.

And enigma is a powerful thing, because it provides two key ingredients for rock success: interest and ‘cool’. It creates interest because an enigmatic star often represents the ultimate, sexiest mystery for fans and the media to get to the bottom of; and cool because it is the enigma surrounding an artist that makes him/her stand apart from the crowd – they form a hip clique all of their own. But too often bands today (particularly those using social media for the first time) tend to use the digital communications tools available to them to strip away anything remotely enigmatic. Inevitably status updates of the ‘I’m having a sandwich for lunch now’ variety appear, and there is nothing particularly cool, enigmatic, or curiosity-generating about that (unless your listeners really want to know what was in the sandwich).

Ultimately what I’m getting at is that in this age of instant, interactive digital communication there are still alternatives to the ‘show all, tell all’ route to pop stardom available, and sometimes an approach which focuses on maintaining enigma and mystique may be far more productive than the ‘let’s engage everybody to the nth degree’ option. Being enigmatic online doesn’t mean that you have to ignore your fans, but it does mean using online tools to communicate with them more cleverly. You can use social media to be cryptic, oblique, dark, moody and mysterious just as easily as you can use it to tell listeners what colour socks you are wearing at any given point in time – it’s really a question of deciding what sort of relationship you want with your listeners, and if you think potential fans will be more impressed with a dark and mysterious musician or one who is good at sharing pictures of his cat.

About The Prescription

'The Prescription' is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications and Irish PR at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today. We offer music PRdigital marketing and music web design services.

Don't miss great free music promotion advice from Prescription PR

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Wednesday
Nov212012

Inbound marketing and what it means for musicians

Have you heard of ‘inbound marketing?’ A lot of my non-music clients are getting quite obsessed with it. And rightly so, as when employed correctly it is a powerful way of attracting and retaining new customers. ‘What the feck is inbound marketing then, and can it make me a pop star?’ I hear you mutter. All right then, I shall elaborate.

Inbound marketing typically revolves around the internet, and involves three key steps:

  1. Getting found (i.e., driving traffic to your site)
  2. Converting (capturing data and generating sales)
  3. Analysing (looking at site stats and sales data to improve steps one and two).

Although I think that inbound marketing probably works better for traditional businesses than musicians, there are still some big advantages to employing it as a tactic in the battle for rock success. So let’s break down the above three steps from a musician’s point of view.

1. Getting found

Getting found boils down to what content is on your site, how it is presented from a search engine optimisation point of view, and how easy it is for readers to share it. Interesting content is key here – and by ‘interesting’ I don’t just mean your music. Yes, it is good to have a wide range of your tracks available on your site, in a variety of audio and video formats; and ideally you should present your visitors with images and text related to your music too (for example, free downloads of posters and lyrics). But if we are honest about it, only people who already know about you will be searching for you – and to make new fans, you obviously need to start attracting people to your site who have never heard of you. The key to this is to create content which is not related to you, but of interest to an audience who might like your music.

Say your music is reminiscent of David Bowie’s and your latest album is called something like ‘Ciggie Sawdust’. Obviously therefore, you are most likely to sell your music to Bowie fans. But if you make your site exclusively about you and your music, you are unlikely to attract your target audience via search engines (as there would be little or no Bowie keywords on it). But if, for example, you were to write a blog post about what Bowie means to you, and discuss various aspects of his career in depth…well, from a Bowie fan’s point of view you are now of interest; and when they search for Bowie and Bowie-related keywords, you (and more importantly your music) have a greater chance of being discovered. Even changing your site title can have an impact – instead of calling your site ‘Official website of Joe Bloggs’ it is much better from a search perspective to use a title like ‘Joe Bloggs – camp indie rock music influenced by early 70s era David Bowie when he wore a lot of tights’. (For more information on search engine optimisation for musicians, and why site titles in particular are important, I’d check out our Prescription article on SEO for musicians.) The point is that is that there are millions of searches going on every second and by creating strong, keyword-rich articles about stuff other than your good self on your site - be they to do with art, politics, music or underwear - you can grab a share of those searches. (A key part of this really is having a blog – you can read our musician’s guide to blogging here.)

It is also worth remembering that anything you post on your site should be very easy to share - if your site or blog doesn’t have sharing buttons, you really are missing a trick. Most blogs have these by default but if you are stuck, you can install Addthis on your site very easily. Regardless of how your sharing functionality is set up, it must be there – your content will travel much further if readers can just click a sharing icon and whack your content up on Facebook or Twitter easily. This generates more traffic back to the site, which is all part of the ‘getting found’ process.

2. Converting

Now that your Bowie fan is on your site, reading your lovely Bowie-related article, what should happen next? Well, you should do a bit of converting. There are two main sorts of conversions – from site visitor to lead, or from site visitor to sale.

A site visitor becomes a lead when they have handed over their email address – or, in this era of social media madness, has followed you on Facebook or Twitter. Personally, I think that having a fan’s email address is still the best outcome, as you are in 100% charge of the communication process after that – i.e., you can email a fan whenever you want and are not dependent on a social network’s algorithm or that person being logged into Twitter / Facebook at a particular time for your message to be seen; you can also use the email address to invite somebody to follow you on social media anyway. Regardless of how you ask a visitor to your site to subscribe to communications though, you generally need to offer him or her an incentive in exchange for doing so. This could be a free track; a free ticket to a gig; or the promise of more interesting, Bowie-related articles. The key thing is to make the proposition overt and attractive. Spell out what you are offering and make it extremely easy for visitors to avail of the offer (i.e., use a  prominent data capture form on every page of your site; have clear calls to actions; visible social media buttons and so on. If using Facebook, try to employ a ‘locked content’ approach where fans have to like a page in exchange for content – to see an example of this in action, you might like to check out Chris Helme’s Facebook page, which we worked on recently to add 'download in exchange for a like' functionality).

Converting a site visitor to a sale immediately is extraordinarily difficult, particularly for musicians (as music is practically free now in this Spotify-era and people are even more reluctant than ever before to buy it!). It can happen though, and to 'give sales a chance' you need to ensure that your site is set up so that buying music is a very straightforward process – again, clear calls to action can help, as can prominent buttons, exclusive versions of products (i.e., signed CDs and merchandise) and a wide range of purchasing options (Paypal, iTunes etc.). But realistically most sales are going to come after somebody has been converted to a lead. The idea is that once the site visitor has become a lead, they receive a series of tasteful and useful email and social media communications from you, engage with you, and finally decide to part with cash.

3. Analysing

The final part of the process, the analysing bit, involves looking at what you are doing in the ‘getting found’ and ‘converting’ parts of the process, and continuously trying to improve them. In terms of analysing the ‘getting found’ aspect, you can use Google Analytics to look at what blog posts on your site are particularly popular – and create more of that kind of content; you can also use it to analyse the kind of searches that are delivering the most traffic to your site (or not) and optimise your site accordingly. You should also look at what sort of content from your site is being shared on social networks - tools like Addthis provide a lot of data on this.

As for analysing how you are capturing data, you can experiment with various propositions and see what works best. Is a download of a track a more attractive proposition than a stream? Does moving the mailing list form from the left-hand side of your website to the right-hand side generate more subscriptions? Does one type of social media icon work better than others in generating more follows? Does prioritising iTunes over Paypal mean more dosh? If you really want to go to the nth level, you could consider running some surveys via your email database about what made your site visitors take the plunge and subscribe to your mailing list – although I’m not sure how rock and roll that is.

Finally, since we’re talking inbound marketing, you could also use Hubspot’s free marketing grader tool. Hubspot coined the phrase 'inbound marketing' in the first place, and their tool looks at your site and makes simple recommendations as to how you can make it better from an inbound marketing perspective (it will score you on SEO issues, blogging frequency, social media activity and more, and then make a series of recommendations as to how you can improve things).

Whatever tools and methodology you use, the ultimate aim of the analysis is to make constant improvements to the ‘getting found’ and ‘converting’ parts of the inbound marketing process – to maximise the chances of somebody discovering your site and establishing an online relationship with you (ooh er, missus)...and eventually buying some music, gig tickets or a crappy t-shirt from you.

But…there’s a catch

Ok, so that is all great in theory isn’t it? And actually, for most of the business clients I work with when not wearing a Prescription hat, it works pretty well in practice too. There is a problem though: inbound marketing and the content creation that comes with it takes up a lot of your time – time that you could be using to write and record great music in the first place. Writing good blog posts can take ages; plodding through Google Analytics to work out if a blog post is attracting significant amount of traffic can also take a long time. But nothing in the music business is quick or easy, and as most of the music industry seems to be migrating online these days, I think it does make sense to devote some effort to understanding – and employing – this new-fangled inbound marketing stuff. It's a question of balance - making sure you are creating strong content for your site without it preventing you working on your music.

And finally...

Finally we'd just like to point out that if you're reading this Prescription article, our inbound marketing strategy is clearly working. Now may we suggest that you hire us to promote your music.

Related articles

About The Prescription

'The Prescription' is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications and Irish PR at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today. We offer music PRdigital marketing andmusic web design services.

Don't miss great free music promotion advice from Prescription PR

Get our music industry advice articles in your inbox
Subscribe to updates by RSS
Follow Prescription PR on Facebook
Follow Prescription PR on Twitter
- Find out more about Prescription PR, a leading UK music PR and band promotion agency - visit our website.

Tuesday
Nov132012

A guide to blogging for musicians

A keyboard with a key that says 'blog'

There’s a sense amongst a lot of musicians that I chat to that ‘blogging is important’, but not an understanding as to why. So in this article I thought I’d try to spell out what blogging can deliver for a musician or band, and how to go about it.

Why should I blog?

The main reason for blogging is because it delivers traffic to your site in a way that your music alone (as an independent / relatively-unheard-of musician) probably won’t. If you write an interesting article about, say, the price of cabbage, it may get discovered in a search engine by a cabbage-lover, who then retweets it to the (enormous) cabbage-loving community, generating thousands of visits (by cabbage lovers) to your site. And, when the cabbage lovers arrive there, not only do they get to read an interesting article about cabbage, they get subtly (or not so subtly) exposed to your latest and greatest MP3. If you had just posted this MP3 somewhere online without any references to cabbage, you wouldn’t get this traffic, because the web is full of bands posting MP3s online and frankly people are rather bored by that. A blog post about cabbage, however – now that’s interesting.

The above cabbage-related example may sound daft, but it explains pretty well how something important called ‘inbound marketing’ works. You write something interesting on your blog, it gets indexed by a search engine, and people interested in that topic discover it when they type a search phrase about it into Google. If the article is very good, the user may well post a link to it on Twitter, Facebook etc., creating the potential for a lot of traffic to your site. It’s a ‘pull’ marketing tactic rather than a ‘push’ effort, because the quality of the blog content will drive the visits and shares (meaning you don’t have to spend money on online ads or subject your Facebook followers to the same post about a music video involving your cat over and over again).

What should I blog about?

The simple answer is: not you. If you’re blogging about how great your music is all the time, or detailing the minutiae of your latest creative project every five minutes, you are unlikely to get much in the way of traffic to your site (unless you are already a genuinely huge star, in which case I’m not sure why you need my advice). Whilst it’s okay to post news of what you’re doing musically periodically into your blog (there may actually be some people who are interested in that) the focus of your blogging efforts should generally be on other issues. Stuff that’s topical; stuff that you’re really interested in; other bands you like and so on. For me the crucial thing about blogging is to write about stuff that you are genuinely fascinated by, because it will inspire you to write interesting posts, which are of course more likely to get shared and discovered than navel-gazing dissertations about your deep and meaningful lyrics.

How do I blog?

There are a host of free services out there that let you blog – the list seems to be growing endlessly, but big hitters include Blogger, Tumblr, Wordpress, Squarespace and Posterous. If you are completely new to blogging, I’d probably suggest starting off on Blogger, because it is a free service which is very easy to set up and use. If possible though, the best thing to do is to get your music web designer to include blogging functionality on your site – this is usually the ideal place to host a blog because it means that all your musical content is on display when visitors arrive at it.

How often should I blog?

The simple answer is: frequently. According to inbound marketing experts Hubspot, businesses that blog at least 20 times per month generate five times more traffic than those that blog only a few times per month. You may not consider yourself a business (although you probably should – you’ll find a few reasons why here) but the same rules generally apply. Again, the caveat is this: don’t bother blogging every five minutes if you are simply posting nonsense about yourself.

How do I get people to read my blog?

The golden rule is: write interesting, topical stuff. Your blog will get indexed by search engines and if the content is strong, you will get traffic via ‘organic’ searches. However, there are some tactics beyond that which can help boost readership:

  • After writing a new post, make sure you post a link to it on Twitter and Facebook, encouraging readers to share the article (without being too pushy of course). The acommpanying tweet or status update should contain a short but accurate summary of what the blog post is about.

  • Add an email subscription form to your blog so that readers have the opportunity to receive new posts in their inbox when you post them. The easiest way to do this is probably using Google’s free ‘Feedburner’ service. If you use an email marketing tool such as Mad Mimi or Campaign Monitor, you’ll often be able to edit various settings so that the tools convert your blog posts into emails automatically.
  • Make sure your RSS feed is very visible on your blog and easy to subscribe to (if you’re not sure what an RSS feed is, this BBC information is very helpful). Using Feedburner makes it easy for people to subscribe to an RSS feed in a variety of readers.
  • Always add relevant tags to your blog posts. Tags are keywords that summarise your content and help readers and search engines to find it easily. For example, when you do get round to that ‘price of cabbage’ article, you should tag it with things like ‘cabbage’, ‘economics’, ‘vegetables’ and ‘Brassica oleracea’.
  • Keep your blog post titles keyword-rich, but short and very much to the point (Hubspot recommend no longer than 75 characters). This is because search engines 1) deliver more accurate results if the keywords are right and 2) generally only show the first 75 characters or so of a blog post title in search results. So, rather than call your blog post something like ‘My meandering thoughts on the increasing cost of a garden vegetable’, you’d be better off with ‘Big increase in the price of cabbage.’
  • At the bottom of every blog post, list the ways that people can follow you – mention your Twitter profile, Facebook page etc. And promote the email subscription option again. The more followers / subscribers you get, the greater the chance that your content will be regularly read and shared. It's a virtuous circle.
  • Use pictures in your blogs. Not only will these make your posts look more attractive, but any time somebody shares your posts on Facebook, the pictures will be displayed in the article preview. These will make the articles jump out of a user’s news feed much more than a boring old text link (particularly if your blog involves a scantily-clad Eva Longoria, or, if he floats your boat, George Clooney in his underpants. Sex sells. You get the drift).

And finally…

Finally, having gone to all that effort to create a well-crafted blog, do make sure that information about your musical activities is clearly visible on it – make sure a link to a free download is available, or that some tracks are available to stream on Soundcloud. For some ideas on a layout which foregrounds music as well as blog content, may I be so bold as to refer you to my own blog, which, after having written all the above, I now realise that I must update more regularly…

About The Prescription

'The Prescription' is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications and Irish PR at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today. We offer music PR, digital marketing and music web design services.

Don't miss great free music promotion advice from Prescription PR

Get our music industry advice articles in your inbox
Subscribe to updates by RSS
Follow Prescription PR on Facebook
Follow Prescription PR on Twitter
- Find out more about Prescription PR, a leading UK music PR and band promotion agency - visit our website.

Tuesday
Oct302012

An important new Youtube feature for musicians

InVideo Programming

I just came across a bit of news on the interweb which I think is worthy of sharing with you, dear Prescription reader.

And it's this: Youtube have recently launched a new feature which could potentially come in very handy for musicians: 'InVideo Programming'. 

In a nutshell, it allows you to insert two clickable thumbnails in a video which point to 

  • your Youtube channel
  • one of your other videos

You can insert one or the other, or both.

It means that if somebody stumbles across one of your music videos, it's now much easier for them to click through to (and hopefully subscribe to) your Youtube channel, or watch a video that you particularly want them to see. It also allows you to add a degree of branding to each of your Youtube videos, as the thumbnail image used to point people back to your channel is your channel's profile pic (or you can add a JPG of your choice).

Personally I hope that Youtube improve the features a bit so that when a user hovers over either the channel or the featured video thumbnail, text is displayed which clearly identifies where they will go if they click on the link; right now users just see a not-very-informative Youtube URL, which isn't madly helpful. Additionally it would be nice to be able to promote different things within different videos - right now the thumbnails are applied across all your videos, and you can only promote one of your other videos.

I've had a play with the new functionality on one of my videos, so you can see InVideo in action here.

For more information about InVideo programming, you might want to read Youtube's own blog post on the topic here.

About The Prescription

'The Prescription' is written by independent musician and Head of Digital Communications and Irish PR at Prescription PR, Chris Singleton.  

Find out how Prescription PR can get your band noticed - contact us today.

Don't miss great free music promotion advice from Prescription PR

Get our music industry advice articles in your inbox
Subscribe to updates by RSS
Follow Prescription PR on Facebook
Follow Prescription PR on Twitter
- Find out more about Prescription PR, a leading UK music PR and band promotion agency - visit our website.