How An Unknown Band Helped Launch The Career Of Another Unknown

I just stumbled across my own Facebook post from January 9th about this Walk Off The Earth video. At the time, I noted that it had an amazing 4.5 million views. Now here we are, a little over three months later and the video has an astounding 93 MILLION views. And oddly enough, that's not even the biggest part of the story.

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You Get More Done When You Know What's Worth Doing

Being an independent musician or photographer is tough. Not only do you have to be a creative genius, you have to be an accountant, salesman, project manager, customer service rep and marketing guru, too. And based on my conversations with people who do it day in and day out, they're willing to do the work, they just don't know what is and isn't worth doing. So I'm launching a new idea to help on the branding and marketing front. It's called the BigHowdy Mini Brand Exam for creative professionals. Find out more after the jump. Since this is the beta testing stage, I'm going to work with the first FIVE people who raise their hands and I'm going to do it on the cheap — $199. It's for musicians, photographers, painters and other folks who need help with their marketing but aren't sure where to start and have a limited budget to consider. The key is priorities. With that in mind, I'll review your materials, sites and content and give you specific feedback on What Is Working, What Isn't Working and What's Next. This is NOT a full-on "dive in deep" brand audit. It's a short list of specific priotities that you can do to get things moving and headed in the right direction. The process is really simple:

  1. Email me at exam(at)bighowdy(dot)com and say "Examine Me, B!"
  2. Fork over $199 via PayPal, credit or debit card. Plus tip (I kid. I kid.).
  3. Fill out a short questionnaire and send links to all your work (music, portfolio, etc.), sites, pages, videos, merch and other stuff.
  4. I review everything and develop a series of insights and specific recommendations for what you should keep, what you should lose and what you should do next.
  5. We meet—either over coffee in Nashville or via Skype or phone—for up to two hours and talk through your materials and I walk you through my insights and recommendations.
  6. I tweak stuff based on our conversation and email you your very own BigHowdy Mini Brand Report in one of those fancy schmancy PDF documents a couple of days later.
  7. You go and do all your stuff and become an international sensation, guaranteed*. (*Not a guarantee in the literal sense, of course. More in the "No doubt, Bud!" or "For realz!" kinda way. You feel me on this, right?)

So what does a BigHowdy Mini Brand Report look like? Well, for starters, yours is developed 100% for you. It's broken down into three sections: What Is Working, What Isn't Working and What's Next. The first two sections include things like "You're a great writer and your blog seems to really connect." Or "Your photos and design don't fit with your music." Or "You are very focused on Twitter, but your audience is more engaged on Facebook." Or "Your website is full of typos and it reflects poorly on your attention to detail as a photographer." Or "You don't have up-to-date music on your pages."

What Next includes things like "Schedule one blog post per week and promote each post in these 3 ways…" Or "Make the photos on your website larger for more emotional impact." Or "Add a RootMusic BandPage to your Facebook." Or "Invest in a good photo shoot." Or "Check out BigCartel or Goodsie to set up an easy online store." It's specific, it's realistic and it's a realtively gentle kick in the pants.

So, if you're stuck and sick of feeling like you're spinning your wheels… If you need direction. Priorities. Honesty and objectivity… the BigHowdy Mini Brand Exam is a good fit and a great place to start. Email me at exam(at)bighowdy(dot)com and we'll get things set up. If you have questions, post them on the BigHowdy Facebook page or email me. Thanks for reading!

5 Things Musicians Are Too Worried About

  1. Album title. Stop fretting over what people will think about the title. Why? Because people WON'T think about it.
  2. Album artwork. Does it make a difference? Yes. Will you ever be totally happy with it? No. Album covers are marketing, not personal expression - that's what your music is for. So give it some thought, hire a great designer and pull the trigger.
  3. Release date. Unless you are a big artist on a major label with a massive push behind them, the release date is just the beginning. It's the most anti-climatic day of your career.
  4. Press quotes. Quotes are useful, don't get me wrong. But they aren't an end in themselves. They don't sell tickets or CDs.
  5. Everyone else's opinions. Opinions are free. And most of the time, that reflects their real value – nada. If someone is an expert, listen to them. Otherwise, it's just more random stuff to make you question your own judgement. Find a core team of three or four people to make those calls with you. Committees are a horrible way to make decisions, particularly creative ones.

Doing A Whole Lot Of Nothing

Twitter, Facebook and all these other outlets are great ways to reach your audience. But there are limitations. And without a smart strategy, they can become black holes, sucking up all your time and energy. I know people who seem to spend hours a day on Twitter and Facebook, responding to followers, trying to be witty and desperately trying to hit 1,000 or 10,000 or even 100,000 followers. Bless their hearts, they think they're working. And, in a sense, they are. But, in most cases, they are just treading water -- working their asses off and getting nowhere. Like good press, a Twitter or Facebook or email following is not an end in itself. It's a means, an opportunity. And if you don't have a plan for how to activate those followers in some way, then you are just wasting your time. That's why you need a healthy balance of content and promotions.

It's easy to get wrapped up in all the crap. To feel like you're doing something when you aren't actually getting anything accomplished. But eventually that futility will end up killing your good intentions because you can only do something for so long with nothing to show for it. You give up. I understand that not everything has a direct, obvious and measurable return. Ultimately, however, it is a business. And that means that - AT SOME POINT - you need to sell records or tickets or something. With that in mind, here five guidelines for smarter use of your time online:

1. Have reasonable expectations, but ALWAYS have expectations and goals. 2. Create a balance of content and promotions. 3. Set guidelines for what and how often you post. 4. Keep perspective. Don't become a slave to the numbers. 5. Don't ever forget that making music/art is the first priority.

The Difference Between Content And Promotions

When you look at content and promotions on your website, Facebook, Twitter or through other media outlets, they would seem to be pretty similar. But there is one huge distinction: Content is something you give to people with no expectation of anything in return – a photo, blog post, video or a link to an interesting article. Promotions, on the other hand, are built around a specific call to action – sign up for this, buy a record, download a song, come to my show. A good marketing plan has a balanced mix. Content grabs their attention and promotions convert that attention into something worthwhile. Not enough promotions and you spend a lot of time and effort for nothing. Not enough content and people will get sick of you asking them for stuff. It's like all healthy relationships, it has give and take. And when that balance gets out of whack, someone is going to leave.

The New Model Is Not Your Problem

Whether you are in music, art or pretty much any industry, all the magazines and "experts" are talking about the "new model" and how the "old model is dead." Guess what? The old model didn't work that well for most folks anyway. Yes, social media is out there. And there are a million options for websites, PR, distribution, and everything else. The bad news: No one has built the new model yet. Worse news: One model may not be the new model. But here's the good news. Awesome, actually. It's not your problem. Because you don't have to figure out the new model. You just have to figure out YOUR model. The model that gets you and your products in front of your customers and gets them to open their wallets. The one that plays to your strengths and manages against your weaknesses. So maybe that's three social networks, a website and a demo video on YouTube. And maybe it's four events a year and a monthly email newsletter. Or maybe it's a corporate sponsorship and giving your product away. The point is that it doesn't matter what your model is as long as it works for you. Let me repeat that last point: It doesn't matter what your model is as long as it works for you.

And oh yeah, you don't have to get it perfect out of the box. Try some things. And if they don't work, drop them. And if they do work, invest more time, energy and money into them. Keep tweaking. Eventually, you'll find a mix that works for you. Or you'll find out that you don't have a viable business and you need to do something else. Either way, you are one step closer to getting it right.