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Videos

Four ways to tackle the 'lack of content' problem

The lack of content problem

by Chris Singleton

Back in the day, ‘content’ wasn't a problem for your average musician. Producing the stuff generally boiled down to doing what most artists are meant to do: releasing an album and playing some shows.

Things got a bit more difficult 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 clips of you parading a mullet.

Fast forward to 2018 and it’s a different kettle of fish. Mullets are, for the most part, out, and content is now, to pardon a much-overused phrase, king. These days 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...and so on.

As exhausting as making / doing all that stuff sounds, there is actually a 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 out your act a sense that you are serious about what you do online (something which is crucial in an era where the music industry and the internet are increasingly joined at the hip).

But how on earth do you tackle producing all this content? For many 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.

There are a few things you can do, however, which make climbing the content mountain easier, and in this post, we're going to highlight four ways you can tackle the 'lack of content' problem.


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.

I usually suggest devoting a week or so to content well before you release any music. During this, you could...

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

Once you've done all that, you can edit it so that it looks, sounds or reads great, and put it in a Dropbox folder: now, you have a 'content bank' containing a lot of stuff that you can share regularly during a music promo campaign.

So, 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 that much-sought-after ‘buzz’.


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 and blog — something that 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 when you get into the content-curation business, you need to 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 can be a bad thing, as it it often means that bands who make great music but don't quite have a slick enough image aren't taken as seriously as they should be.

On the flip side, today's emphasis on image in the music industry, coupled with Instagram, can make content creation quick and simple. It's dead easy to create and share interesting visuals using Instagram that arguably say a lot more about who you are as an artist than a 1500-word blog post could ever do.

In short, Instagram is one of the quickest way to get into the content-creation business without having to spend ages on creating any content! So if you're not using Instagram, it might be time to get cracking with it.

In terms of the kind of pictures you should take and share using Instagram, I'd suggest that rather than constantly share pics of your band, you post images of stuff that represents your act and its ethos – whether that’s pictures of vintage microphones or dramatic skylines.

Doing so lets you make an impressive statement about you and your music in a few seconds.

I hope the above suggestions have helped ease the content pain a little. And remember, there's always the mullet video...

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Youtube for Artists is announced

Youtube for Artists

This week Youtube announced “Youtube for Artists”, which they describe as “insights and tools to help you share your music, engage your fans, and build a career”.

In reality, Youtube for Artists currently amounts to a small website containing

  • a suitably inspirational (if not madly informative) video about how every artist has the power to ‘make it’ thanks to the internet (if only it was quite that simple)
  • a brief overview of some Youtube features specifically for artists (some of which aren’t entirely ready yet)
  • some general tips on promoting your music videos.

The site feels a little half-baked right now BUT it is clear from it that there are definitely some potentially useful things on the way, chief amongst them a new ‘music insights’ tool which allows you to get an overview of where, geographically speaking, your videos are being watched – the idea being that you can take note of this big-brotheresque piece of information and plan tours accordingly.

Additionally you’ll find quite a lot of tips on Youtube for Artists about how to keep fans engaged with your videos, optimise them for Youtube’s search engine and access / make the most of statistics. When it comes to providing these tips, the Youtube for Artists site often points you in the direction of existing (and non-musician specific) help pages – this in particular helps give the whole enterprise its ‘half-finished’ feel, but these articles are useful nonetheless.

Finally, Youtube have also recently created a new feature called ‘Youtube Cards’ – these are not being introduced specifically for musicians but they are potentially very useful to them. These cards are essentially pop-up messages which you can use to add call-to-actions to your videos; Youtube somewhat hilariously describe said pop-ups as being ‘as beautiful as your videos’ (frankly, if your video is only as beautiful as a pop-up card, I would seriously worry about its quality). Despite this hyperbolic description, the cards do have the potential to be quite useful: you can use them, for example, to drive people who are watching your video back to your website, or encourage viewers to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign. If you are familiar with Youtube annotations, you can think of the cards as an evolution of those – they look better though, and are responsive (meaning they’ll display nicely across all devices).

Youtube for Artists currently feels as though it's in its infancy, and the Youtube Cards idea needs some development too - but it's good to see Youtube create resources specifically for musicians, and improvements are promised to both products. Any musicians keen on staying up to date with what remains the world's biggest music streaming site would be well advised to keep an eye on developments.

You can find out more about Youtube for Artists here, or click here for information about Youtube Cards.

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Why you NEED to be on Youtube - even if you don't have a video

Youtube

Okay, so you lucked out and somehow managed to slip one past Geoff Smith and got a spot play on Radio 2. Millions of listeners all over the UK have just heard your 3 minutes of radio-friendly-two-tone-emo-shoe-gazing-nu-metal-folk-soul. Which means you’re now going to sell a load of singles, yeah?

As is ever the case with these articles, dear reader, the answer is no (and sorry about that). What will probably happen is this: around 0.01% of the people who heard Jeremy Vine interrupt calls from inane members of the public to play your song might be interested in hearing the tune again - but for free. And if they like it enough, then they might consider paying to download the track (or, since it’s Radio 2 listeners we’re talking about, see if they can find a 78 in an antiques shop in Rye). Either way, when they've got a little more acquainted with your music they may, heaven forbid, finally take the plunge and purchase your whole album. The main thing is: they've got to be able to hear that radio-friendly song again.

Now, they probably won’t hear it again on Radio 2, because there is an awful lot of James Blunt to play and you really used up all your luck by nicking that 3 minutes off him in the first place (heavens, his mummy will be ringing in to complain next). But, James Blunt aside, 0.01% of 8 million people is still quite a lot of listeners – 80,000 in fact – so you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for those half-interested people to find that catchy little ditty of yours.

Obviously some of them will go looking for the song on Spotify – a good reason to have singles up there, even if you’re reluctant to let people stream your whole album for free – but not everybody uses Spotify, and it's unavailable in a truckload of countries anyway. Put Spotify to one side, because there is an arguably far more important streaming site which bands often overlook: Youtube.

The reason Youtube is often ignored by bands is because they simply don’t have the budget, time or ability to make videos for their songs. Rather understandably, they therefore think Youtube, because it is a video hosting site, is irrelevant. Big, big mistake.

Here’s why: Youtube has, in internet terms, been around for ages and is so famous that even Radio 2 listeners have heard of it, and – gosh – use it extensively. They use it for two reasons: (a) to look at videos of cute cats and (b) to access the biggest repository of free pop music ever known to mankind. Let’s momentarily ignore the cats and ram point (b) home: Youtube is synonymous with pop music, and even in the Spotify era, people simply expect to find any song they have even half-heard of on Youtube. As such, your radio-friendly-two-tone-emo-shoe-gazing-nu-metal-folk-soul effort needs to be there.

BUT WE DON’T HAVE A VIDEO FOR IT, I hear you scream (in capitals, obviously). WE CAN’T AFFORD A VIDEO, you shout. WE READ YOUR LAST BLOG POST AND YOU TOLD US NOT TO MAKE A VIDEO IF WE WEREN’T MARTIN SCORSESE. Well, so what. Look up any Beatles song on Youtube. The biggest band in the history of rock didn’t really make videos – thank god, or the mullet would have arrived 15 to 20 years earlier – but nonetheless, you’ll find any Beatles track, no matter how obscure, on there. You'll no doubt encounter a video of Polythene Pam made by a mad bearded fan: the song will play to a home-made photo montage of images involving said mad fan sporting latex and covered in cream. All for the delight of you, dear reader. And yes, it will have been seen by 656,234 people.

Latex aside, if you don’t have a video, you can – and should - do something similar with that song of yours. Get some tasteful pictures of your act together, do a little montage using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, and upload the opus to Youtube. If you’re too broke to have even done a photoshoot with the band, you could think about accompanying your song with some stock footage from iStock; using random-but-arty lo-fi video footage you shot on your phone; as a last resort, just whack something up containing some text against a black background (the song lyrics perhaps). Or a picture of Cliff Richard at Wimbledon.

The key thing is: get your music on Youtube in some shape or form. It’s still a major go-to point for potential fans, and at the end of the day, if you do get any airplay, there will be an expectation amongst the people who heard your music that you will be on there. And if you’re not, that 0.01% of Radio 2 listeners are going to just shrug their shoulders and go back to Blunty.

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