Musicians Are Natural Entrepreneurs

Berkle article clip imageBerklee Today, the journal for alumni of Berklee College of Music, recently gave me the opportunity to explore the relationship between musical training and the skills of entrepreneurs. I interviewed several Berklee alumni who have gone on to create groundbreaking music technology companies serving independent artists.

Each of these companies provides tools that help musicians distribute music, raise funds and market themselves, but what struck me was the similarity between direct-to-fan and lean startup practices. Direct-to-fan platforms give artists a strong connection with their super-fans, providing valuable feedback and ongoing engagement. In particular, early-stage pre-release platforms like PledgeMusic show artists what their fans value and how they want to be engaged. By the time the funding cycle is complete the artist knows their customer and has had the opportunity to tweak their offerings. Each person I interviewed described their musical training as fundamental preparation for working in a startup environment.

You can read the full issue of Berklee Today here or download a pdf of the article. Please check out each of these inspiring entrepreneurs and their companies. You will be amazed!

How Social Media Impacts Brand Marketing

Today Nielsen  released graphs illustrating where consumers are getting trusted recommendations. Their charts clearly illustrate the importance of peer recommendations and clear communication and interaction from company web sites. You can view the full post here.

Preferred consumer sourcesWhere are your customers getting information about your products and services?

What are their most trusted sources?

Are your communications reaching your audience?

Is it easy for them to join the conversation and spread the word about your company?

Who Are the Most Valuable Digital Consumers?

Today Nielsen released a potent infographic that visually illustrates current trends in social, local, and mobile media usage.

Nielsen Digital Consumer InfographicWho are you trying to reach with your communications?

How do they use digital technology?

What do you want to tell them?

Social Media for Nonprofits – UCLA

SM4NP LogoOn August 22nd, in conjunction with my work with the Los Angeles nonprofit, Project Return Peer Support Network, I had the good fortune to participate in the all-day Social Media for Nonprofits conference at UCLA. I have been to many music, tv/film, and tech conferences over the years and this was exceptional on many levels.

The event was packed with great presentations, case studies, tools, tips, and wonderful people committed to using technology for social good. Co-producer Darian Rodriguez Heyman did a masterful job as MC, bridging the non-stop presentations with helpful, targeted summaries. His closing remarks tied everything together and he seemed to have as much energy and focus at the end of the day as he did at 9 a.m.

Great Presentations

Presenters included: J.D. Lasica, founder of Socialbrite, Evan Bailyn, Founder of First Page Sage and Good Media Company, Holly Ross, Executive Director of NTEN, Bryan Breckenridge, Head of Nonprofit Solutions, Linked In, Charles Porch, Consumer Marketing, Facebook, Matt Mahan, VP of Social Impact, Causes, Brian Fujito, CEO Razoo, Dave Boyce, CEO Fundly, Joel Bartlett, Director of Marketing, PETA, and a panel discussion featuring, Geoff Livingston, Filiberto Gonzalez and Nedra Weinreich. Each presentation was available online within minutes . You can find the day’s robust tweet stream but searching on hashtag, #sm4np.

Takeaways: Big Ideas, Targeted Tools & Granular Data

No social media event would be complete without continual reference to Big Ideas like “Engagement” and “Authenticity”. The social media world is rapidly maturing and each day these high concept terms are demonstrated concretely, with results that are making a huge positive impact on the world.

Tools and opportunities multiply at a dizzying rate. I am continually inspired and amazed by the evolution of social media communication technologies. Just a few of the things I will be digging into include Netvibes RSS dashboard, Tech Soup (software and hardware for nonprofits), and video slideshow sites, Animoto and Stupeflix which make digital storytelling simpler than ever.

Metrics and data tracking were discussed at length, particularly in relation to fundraising. The importance of tracking metrics can’t be over-emphasized. At one point Darian Rodriguez Heyman mentioned a nonprofit that saw an immediate 30% increase in donations when they changed the color of their ‘Donate’ button from grey to red! I am sure neuroscientists can explain this phenomena, but the important thing is that robust data is available to everyone. Experiment and find what works for your organization.

All said, this was an inspiring and educational day and I made many new friends. Pay attention to Social Media for Nonprofits and check them out when they hit your town.

Were you at Monday’s event? Was it helpful for your organization?

Book Review: We First – How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World

We First logoIn his new book, We First – How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World, creative director and blogger Simon Mainwaring makes a compelling argument for the need to redefine capitalism, factoring the social and environmental footprint into how we evaluate and support corporations. Social communication technologies provide consumers with an increasing array of tools fostering transparency and intentional, purpose-driven consumption.

At first I thought Mainwaring was preaching to the choir, but as I continued to read this thorough and well documented manifesto I became more and more excited. There are many innovative examples and practical ideas here that can be applied by corporations, consumers, government agencies and non-profits to foster sustainable business practices and create a better world.

Highly recommended.

Focus Your Content With Personas

Children mannequinsBuyer Personas are used extensively by marketers and product managers to test and focus their product designs and customer communications. A persona is essentially an archetypal character who could become your fan or customer. More than just a demographic profile of your target audience, a persona is detailed and personalized, usually based on interviews with real customers.

Product managers use personas to prioritize their features and design their user interfaces. Marketers tailor communications and web pages to specific, segmented personas. Personas can help you understand who your audience is, what their needs are, and how, when and where to reach them. Copywriter Karen Goldfarb compares personas to mannequins for your product. Read more of her excellent tips on creating personas here.

Sounds kind of silly. Why should I bother?

This may seem contrived, particularly for musicians. Either people like your music or they don’t, right? Well, there are several benefits to this practice:

  • You will learn a lot about your followers from the interview process. Creating personas will inspire you to dig deeper and get to know your customers and fans.
  • Personas get you thinking about the real value of your product and the needs it meets.
  • Even for a niche business there will be distinct types of people you are serving, who speak and live differently, hang out in different places, and get their information from different sources. Each group may use your products differently, in ways you may not even be aware of.
  • You may ‘discover’ new product ideas as you get to know your customers and their needs.
  • Artists have a potentially vast, international audience. Helping potential fans find you is an enormous challenge. Personas give you an idea where to look, and help you target your communications.
  • For a small service business or product developer, personas can deepen your relationship with existing customers, strengthen your customer care programs, and humanize your sales strategies.

Have you used personas in your business? What’s working for you?

Photo courtesy of Brandon Fick

Using Google Reader and Twitter Search to Listen

Old Radio

Since I began subscribing to RSS feeds, Google Reader has been my organizational tool of choice. I have also used Safari and Mail and follow some feeds with iGoogle, but as the volume of blogs began to grow I settled on Reader.

At first, I used it as a blog bucket but soon I needed to get organized and dug in a little deeper. The interface seemed a bit stark until I got under the hood and began to explore the ‘Manage Subscriptions’ option. Google Reader allows you to create multiple folders to organize your feeds. I follow a diverse range of blogs and Twitter searches so this has been really helpful. You can create folders on the Manage Subscriptions page or while viewing an individual blog summary. The ‘Feed Setting’ drop-down menu allows you to assign a specific blog to existing folders or add a new one. Reader Play provides a slideshow view of blog abstracts (by feed or folder) and allows you to easily ‘star’ favorite items.

Using Twitter Search feeds…

One powerful, free, online listening tool that is often overlooked is the advanced search page available at: search.twitter.com. With Twitter Search you can drill down and discover what people are talking about based on multiple keywords, location, date, etc. When you develop searches that are useful, subscribe to the RSS feeds with Google Reader just like a blog.

Why should I care?

Following and organizing blogs and online searches is a very powerful method for discovering new content, participating in online conversations, staying in touch with your customers and fans, researching your industry, and finding new sources to follow. The obvious thing to do is search on your company or industry keywords, but with a little experimentation you will soon discover a vast world of possibilities.

How do you get the most out of Google Reader and Twitter Search?

‘Old Radio’ photo courtesy of Garry Knight

Blogs and Facebook Pages: Creating an Online Magazine

Collections of magazines

When it comes to Social Media everyone is in the publishing business. Blogs and Facebook Pages are forums for community building. Occasional self-promotion is alright, but your followers will not keep coming back unless you provide fresh, valuable content that encourages conversation.

Think like a magazine…

With social communication tools you and your company can develop an interactive, engaging, online magazine that will attract followers and strengthen your credibility and brand. Sounds great, right? Before you jump in, think about what this means. If you don’t have a plan to maintain your presence daily (or at least several times a week), your fans will lose interest.

Stay away from self-promotion…

Look at your favorite magazines. You may see a few discrete appeals for subscriptions (and that card that always falls out on the floor), but what compels you to read them is the content. The focus is on the reader, not the publication. Many bands use their Facebook Pages solely as a billboard to announce upcoming gigs, post new songs, reviews, and generally talk about themselves. If I’m a fan of a company or artist, I already know I like what they do. There is no reason to regularly return to their Facebook Page if it doesn’t offer anything new.

Consistency breeds loyalty…

If The New Yorker skipped a couple of issues or was suddenly missing columns they would lose readers fast. Facebook Pages and blogs require the same consistent commitment to publishing content.

Reach the right audience…

A good magazine brings you unique, targeted content you can’t find anywhere else. Who are you trying to reach and what do they value? Many folks get much of their news and cultural information from Facebook and blogs. If you’re not Hemingway, you can establish a strong identity simply by aggregating content and encouraging discussions with your fans.

Talk about what you (and your followers) love…

I’m a guitar player. I have many friends who are guitar players. The most active conversations on their Facebook Walls are about music they love, or gear, or instruments, or other musicians. If it’s an upcoming gig it’s usually mentioned because it is something special. “I’ll be playing at blah-blah on Friday night” is generally not a conversation starter.

Personal Facebook Profiles vs. Facebook Fan Pages…

Some people are very active on personal Facebook profiles, but when they put up a business Page they suddenly clam up or resort to self-promotion. The nature of social technologies is to blur the lines between formal business and social communication. If you are running out of ideas try sharing other people’s posts you would naturally publish on your personal Wall. Plug in interesting content from around the web and see what gets a conversation going. Comment daily on other people’s Pages, Facebook Groups and blogs with a link back to you.

Create a publishing schedule, keep it active and see what works…

Magazine publishers live and die by deadlines and production schedules. Make a plan for your Page or blog and stick to it. When you see something that works, ask yourself why and do more of that. Most important, keep it fresh and interesting.

What approaches to blogging and Facebook have been most effective for you and your company?

Image courtesy of Long Nguyen

Social Norms & Market Norms

As behavioral economist Dan Ariely notes in his book, Predictably Irrational, we live simultaneously in two worlds; one ruled by social norms, and the other determined by market norms. If you hire a professional designer to develop a website for you, they  expect to be paid in cash. If they invite you to Thanksgiving dinner, it would  be inappropriate to offer them $200 for the wonderful meal! Bringing a dessert or a bottle of wine and offering to help clean up would fit the social norm.

Social Networks are, well, Social…

Online social networks arise spontaneously and are built on trust. Permission to join a network and share your art, requires an understanding of that community’s purpose and rules. People connect online out of a need to be acknowledged; to stay in touch with friends and loved ones, express themselves, create, have fun, show off a bit and share opinions. Before you start talking about your business, your next gig, or your latest album, ask yourself what the network values.

What have you learned about the online communities you participate in? What  contributions have gotten the conversation going?

NARM 2011 – Panel: Direct To Fan & Email Marketing

NARM 2011 Music Business Crash Course panel discussing Direct-To-Fan and Email Marketing. Panel moderated by Bill Wilson, NARM‘s VP of Biz Dev and Digital Strategy:

Phil Antoniades, President of Nimbit

Jason Fischer, Director of New Media, Epitath

Bob Moczydlowsky, VP of Product & Marketing at Topspin Media

Lou Plaia, co-founder of ReverbNation

Video link here. Embedded video below: