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My friend George Howard recently wrote a great article for Berklee’s Music Business Journal.  In it he explains how music marketers can connect more closely with the fans that matter as they try and propel their band forward.  Here is an excerpt from the article and solid advice for any marketeer.  The complete text can be found here.

The Life Cycle Curve

In order to find your audience you must consider several details. The first is to accept the fact that you cannot market to the majority; you can’t afford it, and even if you could you would fail because of issues related to frequency of contact with these gatekeepers (i.e. radio/press).

Take the Mavens and Early Adopters and focus on these two groups. The Mavens, a term popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point, applies to people who actively and aggressively seek out new things. They are the ones who are not only the most connected to the information channels, but are also most predisposed to discover new things, and new channels as well.

These mavens have a personality type that generates deep satisfaction from not only the seeking out and discovery of new material, but also the sharing of this material. The first class of people with whom they will share are so-called Early Adopters.

These Early Adopters are one standard deviation closer to the majority than the Mavens, and thus there are more of them. However, while they will adopt new things more quickly, they are not typically at ground zero of discovery. If the mavens are the bloggers, the Early Adopters are the readers of these blogs, and — to a degree — the re-bloggers. Again, these Early Adopters are a more populated class, and thus their influence is potentially greater than the Mavens.

There is crossover between the two groups. The area of focus is detailed below:

In every product category there are Mavens and Early Adopters. Whether you are dealing with music or any other product or service, you must find a way to bring your product to both groups.

Pyschographic Modeling

In an era of interconnectivity, demographics and geographics, while still important, are less important than the habits, trends, personality of a customer; i.e. their psychographic profile. Finding your audience requires you to understand profoundly the psychographic profile of your customers. What do they look like, where do they shop, what type of food do they like, etc.?

Determining these factors allows you to create a “model” customer. This is the person who, if you could get your music to her, would deeply embrace it. Also, given the fact that she is a Maven/Early Adopter, she will likely share what she has discovered with her network. Significantly, defining this Model Customer allows you to determine where this customer is likely to congregate, and thus where you must bring your music.

The Straddle: Offline and Online

We do not make profound connections with products, services or people online. Profound connections occur offline — in person. The genius of Facebook, and why it has eclipsed networks such as MySpace, is that it represents a Straddle of offline and online; we upload pictures and detailed stories of our offline activity so that our friends and family can be aware of these offline experiences. In this manner, you must understand that technology is simply an accelerator of your offline activity. By locating the Mavens/Early Adopters within your psychographic landscape, and taking your music to them — in person — you greatly increase the odds of these people developing an emotional attachment to your work.

Architecture of Participation

One of our most primal urges is to share information; this is why babies make the massive cognitive leap to learn language skills. Your job, once the initial offline experience has been established, is to create an architecture of participation; a method for frictionless sharing of information so that those Mavens/Early Adopters who have discovered you offline can begin to share their discovery with their network (i.e. online).

This requires a series of steps related to value exchange. Your first task is to establish four things:

1. Your own site
2. A Facebook Fan Page
3. A Twitter Account
4. An email newsletter

Your Site

On your site you must present a value proposition that begins with exchanging some type of content for an email address. Email is your currency; the more of it you have, the more likely you will be to convert what is essentially a non-scarce resource (i.e. your music) into something of tangible value. Do not be fooled into thinking you can get away using a third-party site as “your” site. While, undeniably, service providers such as Reverb Nation and Bandcamp provide value, you do not own these sites, and fundamentally your participation does more to increase the value of these sites than increase your own value. This is not to say you cannot extract value from these third-party sites; however, this requires using them like Facebook, Twitter, and others, to drive potential customers to your own proprietary site.

Facebook

Your FB fan page, similarly, must also represent a value proposition. The value here relates to engagement. FB allows for easy engagement via its makeup. Consider contests, polls, short videos, or other ploys that will keep your fans not only engaged with you on FB, but will encourage them to direct those in their network to your FB fan page. Of course, you must use FB to direct customers to the value proposition that exists only on your site: a content-for-email exchange, and other site-specific offerings (chats with the artist, etc.).

Twitter

Twitter should be used to establish your voice and to direct people to your site. The establishment of the voice comes as much from your affiliations — who you link to, who you follow — as it does from your actual tweets. As above, use it to engage and to direct traffic to your site. Employ time-sensitive offers and offers only available to those who follow you on Twitter. The goal is to inter-connect these tools, and to leverage them to enhance the offline experience. In all mediums you must encourage and facilitate sharing. Your site must have a FB “Like” button and a share on Twitter so that whenever you post content, your constituents can share with their network.

Email Newsletters

The single best tool for conversion of fan to customer is email. While email is an increasingly ineffective tool for communication it still yields a higher return with respect to sales than any other tool.

Therefore it is imperative that you use your email newsletter wisely.

1. They must be short; highlight one and only one action. The total length should be less than 500 words.
2. They should be frequent; once a week on a regularly-scheduled basis.
3. They should have a call to action; tell the recipient what you want them to do: come to the site to get something, come to a show, etc.
4. They should be forwardable; ask your recipients to forward the email to someone they think will enjoy it.
5. They should have sharing functions embedded; allow people to Tweet, add to a FB status.
6. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

Don’t worry about overwhelming people with email blasts. If people are unsubscribing, they’re likely non-value adding “fans” any way. Instead, focus on presenting real, timely, share-able value to your current fans so that they have a tool to help you gain new ones.

Converting your Audience to Customers

It is an immutable law of business and nature that somewhere close to 80% of your activity (engagement, profit, etc.) will come from 20% of your constituents. This is referred to as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule. This means that if you have 10,000 people on your email list something close to 2,000 of them will generate 80% of your total sales. The other 8,000 will be largely non-value adding.

The problem of course is that you won’t know which of the 10,000 are the true fans. Thus, you must continuously work to increase your overall amount of constituents. Rather than having 2,000 of 10,000 contributing, strive to have 20,000 of 100,000.  In order to sift through the layers of participation to find the most valuable customers, you must create a filter. Think in terms of a funnel. At the widest point of the funnel is the easiest level of engagement: a free song for an email address.

Summary: The Value of Psychographics

The key is to determine what you deeply care about; what your purpose is, what your values are. From there you can begin — via a psychographic analysis — to find fans that share these same values. At that point, your goal is to bring your music to them, and create the architecture for more participation. Straddle between an offline and an online engagement strategy, but use both.

Once you’ve aggregated these Mavens and Early adopters, you must begin converting them into both customers and evangelists. This is done by honoring the 80/20 rule and working to extract maximum value out of your loyal 20%. Always work to increase the overall pool of your fans.

By George Howard

George Howard was President of Rykodisc, is an original founder of Tunecore and  Assistant Professor and Executive in Residence in the College of Business Administration at Loyola University.

From the Business Innovation Factory Summit, my presentation on the Past, Present and Future of Music.

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Here is the story they wrote about me for the Summit.

Back in the seventies, David Kusek walked from his freshman dorm at the University of Connecticut, down a long hill to the music department for classes several times a week. When the routine got a little stale, he began taking other routes. One detour took him past the computer science building where he quickly noted the “hot” cars in the parking lot. Naturally, he began taking computer science courses.

Great ideas are born in such serendipitous ways. When Kusek melded his deep-rooted love of music with his newfound affinity for computers, he opened up unchartered territory in the music world by inventing the electronic drum. His company, Synare, took a relatively unfamiliar technology (computers) and combined it with an indigenous musical tradition that tuned percussion to the key of the song. Kusek also knew how to start a business, develop products, and take them to market. Having the right price point added to the appeal of the electronic drum and attracted the attention of fledgling artist Donna Summers who took a chance on the new sound and propelled her career.

“For better or worse, we had our part in the disco age,” Kusek says. “We helped to define the sound of the era.”

Taking another detour for curiosity’s sake led Kusek to study animal communication in California with noted biologist John Lilly. They were trying to use sound to communicate with dolphins when the Apple II computer came to market.

Kusek was already synthesizing the sounds that dolphins make, so he devised a way to do the same with musical instruments, to “put the Apple II between the instruments.” He explains that his new company, Passport Designs, “broke music down into a language of expression, which we mapped to simple computer code and connected it to the instruments. We created a computer language for music.” Witness the birth of Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), developed by a group of companies including Passport, which has left an indelible mark on the music industry by becoming the prototype for all music interface software.

If only they had patented it.

Kusek, along with Dave Smith and the other people responsible for creating MIDI could have made millions with MIDI, but he remains philosophical about this missed opportunity. “Maybe the reason why it took off was that it was absolutely free,” he says. “It was a compact way of representing music in a simple and cheap format.”

Kusek has learned to appreciate and even extol the benefits of free and open access to music. He helped create musical notation software and was instrumental in developing enhanced CDs for the commercial market. He supports the creation of a music utility to “monetize” the immense wave of file-sharing that has become standard operating procedure in the industry. He reasons that Internet users already pay for access to a network that supplies the music, so why not add a nominal fee to the ISP bill and allow for legal trading? With approximately 80 million households using the Internet, a monthly music utility fee of $3 would generate almost $3 billion in annual music sales from households alone.

“If you tracked what was downloaded,” Kusek says, “you could create a system where the money flows exactly to the people who are listening. It could be a 30 to 40 billion dollar business again, as it was in the nineties.”

Admittedly, this system would spread those billions among a larger base of artists, establishing an unfamiliar sense of parity in the music industry. But Kusek says that the megastar is gone, anyway: “In the last four to five years, new artists coming to market are not making anywhere near what artists like Madonna made. I think that happens because of file-sharing, but also because the music industry was taking its eye off what was important. In the mid-nineties, the record companies thought their customers were WalMart and Target. They had no connection to their audience at all.”

File-sharing may have killed the megastar, but not the art, Kusek insists. “I think it’s a great time to be an artist,” he says. New performers may have smaller audiences, but they also have a more efficient way of finding that audience and staying connected to it through online chats, newsletters, and blogs. And instead of the record industry’s marketing machine pushing music at fans with an $18 plastic CD case and the elaborate promotion attached to it, word of mouth is shaping the musical tastes of the rising generation.

As it should, according to Kusek. He has brought technological innovations to the music industry by accepting such change and using it to open up the possibilities of sound. He envisions music flowing in a clean stream wherever people communicate, allowing artists and fans to express themselves freely.