Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Welcome to the Music Business..."
The Weekend: Day Three (9/11/13)

The symposium’s second day began with Martin Atkins talking about how important it is to develop a social media mindset. He invited his audience to choose select vehicles from a lengthy list (including many I had never heard of, like tiny URL, Klout, Nimbit, Topsin, etc.) and encouraged them to develop a system of posting once a day vs. seven times on one day per week. He also noted that is now the most popular platform for the under-26 demographic.

Main Takeaways:
1.     Think of online posts as t-shirt designs,
2.     Tweet is the new fax,
3.     “Shoot the dolphin,” meaning that your message should jump back and forth between digital and real worlds.

Gary Kuzminsky (right, aka Sir Real) is one half of JaGoFF, an artist, activist, musician & media collaborator. Like Atkins, his maniacal approach to public speaking was used effectively to drive home points related to the film industry’s ties to music. Unfortunately, his delivery was so powerful that it kept me from taking extensive notes. I did get to speak with him later, but that conversation mainly centered on “Dust Radio.” BTW, he knew little about the artist and nothing about the project.

The morning’s panel discussion featured information on networking, photography, promotion (by Umphrey’s McGee drummer Kris Myers), filmmaking, performers’ venue rights (or lack, thereof), and the radio industry.

Takeaway: Photographer Mary Sweeney talked about a Madison, WI group called Sexy Ester. It made me stop and wonder how many bands there are. As I sat down to write this, I searched for the answer online. This was my favorite, from a Yahoo Answers user named “SleepWalker” four years ago:
              “There are about 7,000,000 bands on Myspace (a recent survey was conducted).
                So there might be around 8,000,000, out of which 7,999,000 suck.”

One band that doesn’t suck is the aforementioned Umphrey’s McGee. They give away more music than most anyone else records and sells—supporting the idea that “free is the new black.” Just search their podcasts on iTunes for hours of free live music that is worth hearing.
Kris Myers (far right) and bandmates can be vewed (among hundreds of other places) here.

After lunch, a session called “Zero Dollar Marketing” was delivered by the organizer. I have seen this idea in practice at every show I have attended since. The use of signed material, promo copies, and, of course, t-shirts sell and are raffled off regularly. More on this to come.

The next event included a t-shirt screening workshop, so I decided that it may be better to spend the next hour or so at the Navy Pier. With camera in tow, I set off to see and document the Chicago Harbor lighthouse. To my disappointment, the end of the pier was off limits. A concert was happening, and the crowds made any good views of the structure impossible. With nothing more than the workout of walking out and back on the long pier to show, I returned to SAE for the day’s final lecture.

“How to Make Your Show an Event” was a highlight of the conference, both in content and delivery. Atkins’ patter had not become boring, and the practical information was worth the band attendees internalizing (though I had my doubts as to how much was absorbed, as only one other person was taking notes). The main theme was that the show is not the first thing, but the LAST thing.

Top Ten Takeaways:

1.     Sell more than one style of t-shirt,
2.     Your band’s name does NOT have to be on the t-shirt,
3.     Put a tip jar on the table and keep it full,
4.     Sell re-mixes, live CD’s; don’t sweat quality, make them limited editions,
5.     Make EP’s and singles more that full-length CD’s,
6.     Add a cause to the event,
7.     Assign a theme, based on coinciding calendar events (even obscure ones),
8.     Piggyback onto a nearby major concert event,
9.     Incentivize early ticket buying
10.  Play five venues within 40-80 miles of an actual target city, depending on the area (a larger area in the Midwest, for example),

And my favorite quote. It related to a great story about a band who promoted a show as their last before embarking on a fictional European tour, only to be caught by some fans when they went out to buy beer: “It’s not lying, it’s show business!” So true.

As we broke out, I headed out to the post-conference party. I was looking forward to seeing Moldover perform, having heard so much about his unique approaches to music, production, packaging and promotion. I was quite impressed, enough to get sucked into buying a personally hand-made package of his CD. I was pleasantly surprised about how lucid and friendly he was to talk with, and I asked him to consider bringing his distinctive brand of performing to Pittsburgh. Here’s hoping this San Francisco product fares better than the hundreds of thousands of others.

 The long day ended with a fantastic dinner just down the street, at a nice neighborhood pub called the Green Door Tavern. I headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep before heading back home the next morning.

Postscript: At the time of this posting, Moldover’s Kickstarter campaign for the production of his second release continued steay movement toward its $290,000 goal. As mentioned before, this second offering is even more creative than the above-first release.   
Check out the video here!

Next Week: "Loud Lovin' in Rochester"

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