“In order to be successful you must think about your fans as customers”, Ariel says. First, wrapping my head around fans is enough. I know I have people that like my music and I’ve sold music to them, but when I think of the word “fan”, it’s hard to picture these people as fans because I know nearly all of these people personally. They’re friends, family, acquaintances, people that I see around. I haven’t made a really long reach yet, and I have trouble reconstituting these people as customers. I have asked them to buy music from me and review it, but I do so thinking that they want to support me as their wacko music writing buddy. Maybe a shift in my perspective will help, but I’ve never really enjoyed sales. I think that’s probably the point here is to start thinking like a business person. I find something that helps is only sell when the other person expresses interest. That’s the opening to shift to sales person. Don’t try to sell to someone before you know that they have interest. This helps me stay authentic.
There are a ideas in chapter 6 of the book Music Success in Nine Weeks that I like better than the last one. Make ringtones out of songs. ReverbNation has a new store and selling ringtones is something they offer their artists so I’m going to try and get a few good excerpts of songs to post there and see how that works. Something else I’ve thought of doing is making stickers. I really like the Rhythma logo and I think it would make great rub-on decals, so that’s on my list of things to do. How many of you would buy stickers, 2 for a buck? Do I hear t-shirts?
A good portion of the chapter is dedicated to email marketing and building your email list. I’ve had an email list for over 5 years now. It’s not a huge list, and I don’t send out that many emails which according to Ariel is not good. You need to be consistent and frequent. For much of last year, I abandoned the list because I wasn’t doing much music as other things had priority in my life. I shant do that again. She really presses the idea of knowing your audience so that you can think of interesting and relevant things to add to the newsletter to make it compelling. I’ve always thought of the common thread is the love of music so I only talk about things that are going on musically. People are so inundated with content being pushed to them that I tend to keep my newsletters short and to the point. According to my analytics, only 30% of my newsletter mail-outs are read. That’s a really big concern and I don’t know what to do about it. Is it spam, are they getting lost in the shuffle, or are they just being deleted? I recently upgrade my software and found that there are rejections from some servers thinking that I’m spam. I’m remedying this. Spam is a real problem because it’s easy to get black-listed from major email servers if a few people have a spam happy trigger finger or mass mailings to larger email servers trigger their alerts and once you’re on those lists, they’re really hard to get off of.
The other thing about the newsletter is the formatting. I always keep my subject line reading, “Sean Michael Imler AKA Rhythma Newsletter.” That’s pretty clear. The book then talks about the 3 G’s: greeting, guts, and getting. Got that the greeting as my software Active Campaign’s 12All adds personalization of the sendee via hooks. The gut is the content which should always be compelling in my opinion. Getting is where you get the readers to do something, which I’ve always done, no matter if it’s primary or secondary to the guts of the email. She prescribes only one call to action tho. I’m a firm believer in staying to one point. Readers can only handle so much at once and will easily miss the point because most people are skimming because of time constraints.
Last but not least, she recommends surveys. I’ve haven’t done this in a long time, since before I put out my first CD in 2005. Anyone remember the poll I did to decide which songs to put on “Rhythma?” Well, I set up a new poll. It was pretty easy to do now that I’m using WordPress. I used a plugin called WP-Polls. It was a little tricky to hook up because you have to have the wp-head and wp-foot php includes in your templates. I’d removed mine not thinking they were needed and I ended up at their forum trying to debug why it wasn’t working, but it’s all good now. I posted my first poll asking everyone to pick between two versions of a song that I recorded.
So, this is good: Ariel’s getting me to be more active with my email list. A couple of sites she recommends to use for email lists and polls are SurveyMonkey and BandLetter. They seem like pretty cools sites but I’m such a DIYer, I probably won’t go down that road. ;O)
I submitted this to a Taxi listing that was calling for a tense acoustic singer/songwriter type song that raised an air of suspicion for an indie film. I thought that “Falling” was perfect but it wasn’t dark enough so I rewrote it in E minor and rerecorded it. Unfortunately it didn’t get selected. But, I have something to share with you so check it out. You can even leave me a comment. If I get some decent responses, maybe I’ll polish and produce it with more instrumentation and it will make it onto my next CD.
I was at some conference where I was talking to some people about heading over to different conference to register for it but was worried that I’d misread the documentation about the schedule and expected that I was too late to get in.Â I left anyhow and drove into a parking garage that was very similar to the one where Road Rally was held.
When I got inside, it was indeed completely jammed with people waiting to register. The line was so long, I didn’t think there was any way that I was going to get any of the accommodations I was looking for, but I got in line anyway and started chatting with the people around me. Suddenly, this young woman walked up and asked if I was Sean and told me that they’d set aside some panels for me and that everything I had wanted to attend was attainable. I was elated. I went back to the other conference I was at shared my excitement with my friends that everything had worked out.
This week seems to have gone by really quickly. I’m still grappling with identity in Flickr and how much personal stuff to share. I can’t seem to make a decision around some things that I wrote about in last week’s post especially concerning Flickr and I’ve neglected to write down the user/pass that I created for the MyBlogLog account that I created as a todo in Week 5 of the book. The most ironic thing is that I had a “personal” MyBlogLog account, and like the Flickr account, I wanted to try to separate Rhythma from everyday Sean, and it might just be that I can’t do it.
It’s quite a commitment to work thru this book and update my blog each week for each chapter, but I’m persistent and will prevail. And, speaking of blogs, that’s the topic for this week: Gittin’ yer blog on. So, if you read my first post, you’ll know that it was a big deal for me to turn this blog loose because although I’d been keeping a dream blog for about 5 years, I’d never made it public. Now that you may have read some of my dreams, you’ll see they can range from short and bizarre to long and bizarrer. I’ve added two other categories, “Rhythma Music” which I’ll file this post under, and “Life in General” which is not getting many posts because I can’t seem to find the time to upload my pictures to Flickr or anything else because this project is taking so much time and after that, there’s music. So, no life.
To turn my blog on was quite the effort because my OCD kicks in whenever I’m working on the computer. I get a vision in my head of the way something needs to be, and I work relentlessly to achieve it. In this case, I had to first upgrade WordPress from version 0.9 to 2.8. A quick synopsis of WordPress would be that it’s a very nicely written blogging application that you install on an internet server so that you can host your own blog under your own domain. When you look at Rhythma.com in it’s current state, you’ll see that there are links in the left hand side that take you to other pages in the site where you can look at photos and listen to music, but in the middle is my blog. The comparison would be to look at Blogger.com where they are the host for someone’s blog which you can write once you’ve created a user account with them, but your blog will always be on Blogger.com. I’ve always liked hosting my own content. In fact, I ran my web site from my own server out of my house until about 4 years ago when I finally decided to have godaddy.com host it because I was tired of the maintenance and hack attacks. BTW – I really like godaddy.com hosting.
WordPress is nice because if you don’t know too much about web sites, you can install WordPress with an incredibly simple installation! If you want to make WordPress look different from the default look, you can pick from hundreds of themes that users have created that give you different styling options and page layouts. It’s really awesome. For me tho, I needed to make WordPress look and feel like my current web site because I’d been running it at an exclusive url and never bothered to give it the look and feel of Rhythma.com. To do this, I had to learn how to create my own theme. Once I did that, I got the current layout that you see on my site, with the addition of plugins available from WordPress. A plugin is a chunk of code that does a particular task that you can add onto an application. The plugins that I’m using and I highly recommend are:
Twitter Goodies – I use this to send the titles and links back to my blog posts to my Twitter Page.Â I could have Socialite do that for me as it is a feature of that plugin but I have Facebook set up to post all of my tweets to my main Facebook. Not to mention that I get that dandy little right side bar widget that reposts my tweets right back to Rhythma.com.
Find Me On – This gives me the six icons on the right hand side above the Twitter Feed that point to the social networks where I have content that I want to share with my visitors. You can choose from a whole bunch of them and the icons are very nicely made.
The book recommends that you not only have an outgoing blog to share parts of yourself but that you engage with other blogs online to establish a connection with bloggers that you might at some time get to review your music.Â This is a road I’ve been down and I’ll share with you my experience and also some of Ariel’s thoughts around this. Music bloggers are a very busy lot. New music is coming out constantly and it’s really hard to get them to write you up. Last year, I went to SXSW and sat in on some panels that talked a lot about bloggers and a tactic that I learned was simply to hunt down music blogs that might be apt to review music like yours. I find my music somewhat similar to Brett Dennen and since he’s been getting traction, what I did was do searches online for “music blogs” and “brett dennen” and came up with a good list of thirty blogs that had reviewed Brett. I then went to each one of them and tracked down who wrote the article and how to contact them or how to send them music. Then, I bookmarked each of those sites and sent out lots and lots of emails. I sent out mp3s via email and even sent out actual CDs for review. The result: Not one review. Months went by and nothing… Pretty disheartened, I wasn’t sure what to do next. After reading week 5, I learned that bloggers are a finicky bunch and to get reviewed by them, you need to become one of them. So, if you notice down the right hand side of my web site, there’s a long list of music blogs or what you might call a blogroll. Ariel’s suggestion is to go to these sites and create an accounts there, make comments on articles, let the writers get to know you, and then… slip in that you create music and maybe they’d want to check it out. The bottom line is that bloggers have a lot of influence over real music lovers, so I’m putting this into practice. Like many of the suggestions in this book, this will take some time to garner results, so I’ll have to get back to you on that. Plus, I need to increase the number of blogs from 30 to 50.
I’ve gone thru the trouble to create this blog because as Ariel points out, it’s really important for your fans to be able to get to know you and it’s important to create as much of a presence on the internet as possible. Big brands spend thousands of dollars in marketing just keep their brand in the public eye and in your face. They do that because of what I call “out of sight, out of mind” which all of us suffer from when we don’t keep in touch with our friends and you find out about the great party that you missed because they forgot to call you ‘cos they hadn’t heard from you in three months while you were dating that hotty that you met at the club, etc. And really, the bottom line for all artists is that you always need to be generating stuff, all the time. If it’s not going to be music, stay in the rounds, keep posting your ideas, thoughts, photos, tweets, anything so that you don’t get forgotten.
I was in some sort of salon. Jan was with me and another woman. They started singing what I thought was a “Heart” song. The lyrics had something about the power of love in it and when they were singing it, I could hear it in my mind. Another woman came up and they were trying to remember the lyrics to the second verse. I started singing it and they started fumbling to follow along. We finally made it back to the chorus and and the four of us were singing but as I was singing, I started to get kinda dizzy and it felt like the song was morphing into another song. I could hear the chorus in my head even as I woke up, and realized that this was never a “Heart” song, it was something that seemed very familiar but I’d actually never heard before. Now I wished I remembered it.
I was with M and one of his brothers and his wife. I think we were in Lovelock, NV and had stopped into a very small casino/bar. His brother and his wife took off and left us there. M talked me into buying some chips. I ended up buying $261 worth, and gave the man who sorted out the chips for me a $1 tip. He gave me a lot of chips in small denominations, so small that I had to carry them around in a large gray bin. M took off and left me there alone so I walked around to see what my choice of things to play was. They had about 20 table versions of Ms. Pacman whose interfaces were all linked together so when you went out the tunnel on the left or right of the maze, instead of coming out the other side, you came out on the machine next to you. That meant that your pacwoman could jump from machine to machine and engage with all the ghosts and other pacwomen that other people were playing with.
I was having a hard time deciding what game to play and whether I wanted to play at all since I don’t really care for gambling or losing money. I finally decided to play video poker. I went to this really large obnoxious machine where this man who was dressed like a circus ringmaster and shouting out that you needed to play the greatest game on earth or something silly like that. Although it took a lot of courage, I decided that I wasn’t going to just nickle this machine to death, I was going to play the entire chunk of chips. The machine was so large that I was able to place my gray container into a large slot after grabbing a couple handfuls off the top and I watched my $260 worth of chips disappear inside the machine.
I hit the deal button and away we went. I got a pair of 5’s on the draw and one 6. I felt pretty good about the 6 and let the other two cards go. I hit the deal button and ended up getting two more 6’s. I was pretty stoked. The machine announced a whopping $17,490 return on my play. I stood there wondering if someone was going to come write up a ticket for me or how I could cash this thing out because I certainly wasn’t going to play anymore.
This dream came on the heals of suggesting that A take her friend to look at the town of Moraga as a place to possibly relocate from Arizona. In the dream, I had driven into town and was going to get gas. The last time I was there, there was only one gas station, kind of a mom and pop sorta place. It was still there and they were serving gas from a large steel canister. But two other gas stations had moved into town, a Chevron and a 76. I would always rather support the mom and pops of the world so I pulled into their station and stepped out of my truck. There was an old man selling trinkets so I walked over to see what he had. There was a knife that caught my attention. The handle was actually a blue and white box, about an inch and a half square. I bought it and walked away but as I got back to my truck I realized that the blade when extended was really wobbly so I walked back too him to see if I could make an exchange for one that was more sturdy.
Week 4 is brutal.Â In fact, I’ve been working on week 4 for 4 weeks.Â The book, “Music Success in Nine Weeks” is theoretically structured in a way that you “could” follow it week to week and complete the 9 main chapters giving each a week to accomplish, but realistically, it’s more complicated than that. Depending on the kind of free time, technical know-how, and desire you have, you may or may not be able to follow this letter for letter.
Chapter 4 is all about social networking.Â In my case, I have a number of the things that the book suggests already in place; i.e., a mailing list, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace accounts. At a bird’s eye view, it doesn’t take long to create an account on each of these sites, but grokking how to use them does take a while. Establishing a presence that is consistent visually can be a large time sync, and really getting MySpace and Facebook off the ground can take a very long time.
I’ve had my MySpace account for ages and it’s barely attracted any friends mainly because I don’t like to use it. I find it more tedious than enjoyable, and frankly, I have enough things in my life that I “have” to do. The problem is that much of the music industry still judges you on your outreach to fans and number of friends you have on MySpace and for good reason: The last statistic I heard about MySpace was that even tho it’s fallen behind Facebook in unique visitors, it’s still at about 50M. That’s a LOT of people. Also, if you want to get gigs, it’s a great way to find out about venues in cities you haven’t played before. Just find a musical artist or group that sounds like you in a particular locale and see where they play, that simple.
For me, striking a balance between the have-tos and the want-tos is critical. Managing Facebook and Twitter has much more appeal for me than MySpace because Twitter is just plain easy and Facebook keeps me connected to my actual friends. I’m able to have a personal page and an artist page and even tho the two are barely connected thru the Facebook interface, they’re easy to manage and stay connected to people, not just about what you’re doing but seeing where they’re doing. So, all in all, I think you should put your energy where you’re going to receive enjoyment out of the process. If you’re enjoying it, it will reflect in your presentation. By all means, keep your want-tos and your have-tos in balance.
One of the things that’s really baffled me about the social networking part of this is something that I brought up in a previous blog post, What a Big Day This Is!, and it’s the private vs. public life situation. I’m not by any means comparing myself with big names like Tiger Woods or Bill Clinton, but look what happens when you do something controversial that captures the public eye. They rake you thru the coals and it’s not pretty. How are you able to keep a private life separate from a performance life? And with social networking, that line gets blurred even more. The latest talk in the music industry is all about exposing yourself as a person, not just a performer up on a stage, where the fans get to know you and possibly have one-on-one contact with you. That’s all well and good, but where is the line drawn? Is there a line? I’ve been facing this dilemma especially with Flickr. I guess I can kinda consider myself an old skool Flickr user, since 2003 actually. What I ended up doing was starting a new Flickr account just for music related photos. I’ve decided not to connect my personal account with my music account. Ariel suggests letting your fans get to know you at more of a personal level and I’m okay with this to an extent. But the way I’m looking at it, if I post something to my blog about my personal life, it will be premeditated. I will have decided to divulge something about myself that I feel is something I’m comfortable sharing. It took a long time for me to decide to expose my dream blog, but in the same way that I will only share photos that are relevant to my music, I’ll only share dreams that don’t cross the line of the ultra personal. This is completely subjective and probably different for everyone, and even for me, that line could change at any time. Maybe to truly be a successful artist, you have to be completely exposed! I’m not sure. A teacher of mine, Jan Engels-Smith told me that when she was writing her book Becoming Yourself, she received guidance that she needed to be completely open about her personal life to touch her readers. In a lot of ways, I do that as a song writer as many others do, and maybe that line is part of every artist’s personal journey.
Ariel’s step-by-step procedure for each site is comprehensive and she points the user to commoncraft.com to watch well done videos that explain in detail the concepts that she’s sharing in this chapter and other parts of the book. You’re in good hands here, and probably have a small likely-hood of failing if you dig in and follow her plan. I’ll probably be working with this chapter for a while myself and there have been some really good suggestions that will take time to implement and seed with information and photos, etc.
Last but not least was the inclusion of your music in podcasts. I’m still working on this angle. What I decided to do was offer some of my songs on my first CD without voice, just instrumental which I thought would be good for background music because there’s a lot of electronic texturing in the songs. I’ve bounced down the songs and I’ve converted them to mp3. Next, I’ll update the id3 tags using dbBpoweramp which is an awesome music converter that runs on Windows. The site I’ll upload the music to is Music Alley which connects musicians to podcasters. I’ll have to get back too you on the success of this venture, but right now, it looks promising.
I think that’s it for now. Stay tuned for next week’s chapter on blogging. This gets really interesting, technically.
I was with a guy and a girl and we’d broken thru a wall into a long dark tunnel.Â We followed the tunnel for quite a ways and came out into an incredibly opulent Tibetan temple.Â The walls were golden and very ornate and covered with beautiful and enormous thangkas.Â One of the things that was most intriguing tho were the “cats” that were there.Â I only call them cats because I’m not really sure what they were.Â They reminded me of the cartoons of the Japanese bobtail cats like the Maneki Neko where the bodies are thick and the heads are fat with a kind expression filled with large loving eyes.Â One was a dark grayish brown and the other white with gray stripes, and their fur was very short and somewhat course, tho softer, longer and pure white on their undersides and paws.Â The darker one I found absolutely irresistible and reached out to scratch it behind the ears.Â It was very cautious at first, as curious of us as we were of them.Â I managed to scratch just the right spot and whoo it into submissiveness.Â Within moments, I was lying on my back and it was lying on it’s back, on my chest, and I was scratching it’s belly and beside myself with how cute it was.
All of a sudden, a very angry Tibetan woman came in and completely ruined the atmosphere by screaming at us for breaking into their temple.Â Within moments, the dream had shifted and I was walking down the street with the girl that I’d entered the temple with, explaining to her that I’d hired a lawyer to defend me and by no means was I admitting that I’d broken into the temple.Â She asked if I felt I was lying and I said, “Absolutely not!Â We went in their under no malicious intent and I was not about to be blamed for having any ill intention.”