Stop, COLLABORATE and Listen

The world may make fun of Vanilla Ice, but he was ahead of his time with the epic first line of his biggest hit “Ice Ice Baby.”  In true academic fashion though, a deeper analysis of this statement may show that the phrasing is arranged in the wrong order, at least it may not be the most effective method to getting things accomplished.  Before one can really collaborate, you must be open to listening first.  How else could one really produce a collaborative work otherwise? The likelihood that the work will be anything of merit is not very high.

One of the goals for Detroit CYDI (the hip hop group that I manage) this year is to do get involved in more collaborative projects.  While for the average music artist, collaboration would just mean working another musician or vocalist.  As their manager, I will be looking to help them with that, along with seeking opportunities with visual artists, lifestyle brands and other parties that would prove to be mutually beneficial.

It is always best to listen first before going to work.

On the music end, the CYDI guys have been receiving a lot of offers for collaboration, so they have been doing a lot of listening.  Some of the interested parties are a lot more promising than others, but we would not know that if we took every offer to collaborate.

Let this be a small lesson, reminder or what have you. It is always best to listen first before going to work. This applies handling things in various areas. When engaging on social networking sites, take your time and get a feel for the culture before jumping into the mix. And when I say listening, I do not just mean with your ears. When on Twitter, obviously you need to listen with your eyes. Look to see what is effective in terms of how to communicate with people. Just because you see artists retweeting everything people say about them does not mean that is really working for them. In fact, it would be quite the opposite, so STOP, LISTEN and then COLLABORATE and you will have a banner start to your new year!

Want Music Biz Success? Lead By Example!

Leadership by pedrosimoes7

I was on the Weightless Recordings forum the other day and there was an interesting tangent conversation, which happens a lot on web forums, that revolved around the surprise of how much Weightless product a certain fan claimed to have collected. Basically, someone made mention that they have purchased every piece of merchandise the label had ever released. That is quite impressive, if you ask me – a fellow collector.

It was kind of weird to see people on a fan forum poke fun at someone for being too much of a fan. Is that not the point? Mind you, the folks are the forum are pretty much a fun-loving clique. There are plenty of inside jokes and micro-memes that pop up on the regular (Google “Purgatorious“). I know the gang was not really serious in their teasing of another forum member being maybe too open about his STAN tendencies (think: Eminem’s hit).

The real trigger for my slight angst is that a lot of the forum members are actually hobby artists themselves. Now I may be coming off a bit overly sensitive to some, but it would seem that such a group would be more em-/sympathetic to the plight of the independent artist (collective) and/or label, meaning such jokes would not really be propagated. Then I got to thinking about how often links for downloads for new albums are shared on the forum. That is when my blood really got to boiling a little.

From here on out, it needs to be about putting your money where your heart is.

All the time, we hear artists pleading, “support good music!”  Well, how about this?  You do it first!  Artists are just as guilty of illegally downloading content as the folks they feel are ruining their chances of success.  If that is not irony, then call me Alanis Morissette.

Honestly, how can you expect anyone to treat you with any kind of respect when you are not even doing so?

Gain Music Biz Success

From here on out, it needs to be about putting your money where your heart is. Every other industry expects a certain level of integrity out of its leadership. Politicians are scrutinized for every move they make in office; artists should have it very much the same. Let’s see some real action taken!. If you want to have a sustainable community that supports itself, then you need to do more than just showing up and looking cool at events. While showing up is half the battle, there is still another half that needs to be fulfilled. Some sort of giving back needs to applied. The best way you can do that is by showing substantial support to your fellow artists. There are many ways you can do this. Whether you make a point to buy t-shirts from your favorite local band or you volunteer your time at the same band’s merchandise table, it all has tangible value.

Regardless if you want to believe it or not, you are an influence to someone. Recognizing this fact will provide you with the power you need to really build up to your 1000 true fans. As you build this tribe of fans, your interaction with them should be one of genuine trust and appreciation. Keep this group growing and staying true by showing them how to be a self-respecting individual. Your call-to-actions should not always be about your gain. Give of yourself. Introduce your network of fans to your favorite music acts. Find out what causes your fans are passionable about and throw your support behind them if you are in agreement. This kind of action inspires; this kind of action builds presence. This is the prototypical work of the personable geek.

As this is a new year, what are you going to do to become a better artist?

AVG: Blackreign and Ohkang – Say It With Finesse

Post-industrial-pre-resurgence Detroit meets Clockwork Orange. If you like this, please share. This gem has been on Youtube since SEPTEMBER and it only has 150 views. My marketing brain has some thoughts on this, but consider this my way of doing what I can to help some talented folks.

The group is Blackreign and Ohkang, featuring O’Nasty as a guest. They are from Detroit, MI, where a lot of great music is made that does not get heard by the mainstream populace. I swear it is not bias either. Save a talent with a retweet or a Facebook update!

Merchandising Tip: Make Something COLLECTABLE

Ro Spit Collector Set

All right, here is where I draw my line in the sand. I am no longer interested in buying any physical product that does not have any sort of creative effort put into it. I do not care how nice the artist is or how much they need it. I want a personal touch to your CD, t-shirt, flash drive, coffee mug, etc. Otherwise, any requests for my hard-earned money for physical objects will be ignored. Now I will probably still buy your album digitally if it is terrific, but more than likely that is going to be a slower income stream for you. Therefore, if you want get the most immediate bang-for-your-buck from a music buyer like me, then you must have merchandise that is worth the space it takes up on my shelf.

There is a reason I celebrate the Masters of Content, because the exalted supply their fans with goods they are actually happy to have/see.

When giving examples of music acts that have cool swag to buy, there is always the criticism of “those guys can afford to do that. Little guys like [us] cannot.” Here is the deal, folks. You are supposed be creative, so BE CREATIVE/RESOURCEFUL! You could easily come up with cheaply-made customized materials that would be worth more to someone than a regular, cold piece of plastic pressed up with a single sheet insert. I am even going to go one step further with this and give a free suggestion. Being green is in, so recycling is really cool right now. Consider your possibilities.

According to Mike King, author of Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution and Retail, there are 3 basic things that a music act should have as far as merchandise to sell:

  • recordings
  • t-shirts
  • posters

If roll with this ideology, then there is still plenty of room to create distinct items. CDs do not have to be placed in a jewel case. T-shirts do not need to carry your band’s logo on it. Posters can be handmade; heck, so can CDs and t-shirts.

Know of any clever merchandise concepts that you have seen to share with curious artists?

Fellow New Music Managers, Having Fun Yet?

Uzi Does It - GBC-Hollywood

If you are not aware, I am the manager of the hip hop group, Detroit CYDI.  Lately I have been reading the blog by Ian Rogers, manager of my newest point of interest – Get Busy Committee.  Inspired by his well-developed plan for his group, I am now looking to evoke similar progress from my own managerial efforts. Much like myself, Mr. Rogers does not have substantial experience managing music acts.  It is facts like this that keep me motivated in this crazy, unpredictable industry.  As long as there are smart folks like Ian Rogers willing to take chances, I figure my work is not in vain.

This all has me wondering about what I need to do to inspire the kind of work ethic from my group to eventually start seeing a return on my investment of time and energy. Right now, we are working on a fundraising campaign to gather funds for their first official physical project that was released to the world almost a year ago. This is truly a test of faith as we are seriously limited on time. If we are not able to get the funds, then it would be somewhat of a setback. Fortunately, there are alternatives to how to release an album in a short amount of time, so even in a crunch, we can have some sort of product to sell.

Going through this process, I have realized how important it is for me to be on top of things. As a new manager, I cannot expect anything more from my group that cannot be expected of me. Watching others that I know are in the same space as myself, it becomes apparent that a manager’s job is more than making deals for their artists and cracking the whip on them. A manager has to be a leader. It is as much of my responsibility to inspire as it is for me to manage, especially since we have the formidable task of trying to wrangle a fan base that is invisible to us.

Ian Rogers is a new manager, but he does not seem to be new to success. He has been in the tech space for music since the 1990s. There are very few that can say that. If he were to come to me with ideas on how to try to succeed, I know I would listen! That is why I give the guys in Get Busy Committee a lot of props for picking him as their manager, regardless of his background. In this day and age, it is hard to say if old music industry types can be as effective as they once were for new bands. I am sure some would beg to differ, but I would imagine cost of entry has dropped. The valuable connections that were to be had are probably not as hard to come by these days. Everyone is looking for new opportunities.

In my position, I feel I am good as anyone to be an artist manager. Networking and connecting people are major passions of mine. Helping my friends is as automatic as breathing for me, so it only seems right to be able to make a part of my life’s work.

For all my fellow artist managers out there, what attributes do you believe to be key in your success? You have taken on a tough job, what keeps you going? We all know that artists are a special bunch, so how do you keep them on point?  Share your comments below, please.