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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

It’s interesting to me that for all the industry insider perspective I post, it’s the gear reviews that seem to get the most traction.  Comments anyone?

Happy, successful 2014 everyone!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

5 Rules for Responding to Blog Comments | DiscMakers

5 Rules for Responding to Blog CommentsYour blog is buzzing. Your content is getting shared far and wide. Your articles are getting commented on all the time. Now what?

Well, first — congratulations.

Second, it’s time to sit down and RESPOND to those comments.

Here’s a handful of general guidelines for responding to blog comments

1. Respond to every single comment. It’s a basic courtesy. Someone took the time to interact with you, your work, your articles, your content; so take the time to acknowledge this by responding, even if your response is short and sweet: “Thanks! Glad you liked the article.”

2. Be thorough in your responses. If someone asks you three questions based on your blog article, don’t just answer the first one and hit reply. To the commenter it’ll look like you didn’t care enough to read their whole comment.

3. Don’t be afraid to disagree. After all, disagreement is the spice of life. We often feel like we’re being rude when we disagree, and so we hold our tongues. But this is YOUR blog. It’s YOUR article. It’s YOUR ideas and personality. Feel free to have a healthy debate in your comments section. Just don’t cross the line into an argument. Which brings us to…

4. Let the trolls go hoarse. Haters gonna hate! Let ‘em. The funny thing about angry internet trolls is that they end up outing themselves with their weird rants. And if you delete posts by trolls, they just keep posting. Better to approve their comment, give them their moment to shine, and the world will see them for the dense black holes they are. Oh, and maybe with trolls you can ignore Rule #1 — unless you simply say, “Thanks for commenting.”

5. Use your comments to inspire further engagement. By responding to comments, you’re taking advantage of more opportunities to have your voice heard. You can deepen relationships with fans, customers, or readers. You can solicit the opinions of folks who are your biggest supporters. You can converse. You can point commenters to other useful articles or resources on your site. You can ask them to take some kind of action, follow you on social media, or make a purchase.

Hopefully these basic tips help you make the most out your blog, turning every comment into a true moment of engagement.

How do you manage your blog comments sections? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the  (—you guessed it!—) comments section below.

PC Pro: News: TV star busts AT&T bill with Twitter

PC Pro: News: TV star busts AT&T bill with Twitter.

So does this help us?  Does this tame AT&T into greater humanity?  Or, does this just reinforce that “Stars” can get away with anything?

Clearly, $11k for web surfing is extreme, but “forgiving” his bill doesn’t necessarily change their onerous billing practices.

Show Your Loyalties

In an ongoing theme from last month when we talked about bringing humanity into the music business, this month let’s talk a bit about loyalty.  Loyalty is a pretty basic concept and is really the heart of all good, long-term human relationships.  It is also the key to both personal and business success.  It’s a sadly lacking quality these days.  If we are to fix the music industry, we’re going to need more. 

 

In a study published last week, a California ethics institute surveyed approximately 30,000 high schoolers from across the United States and found that 65% admitted to having cheated on a test in the last year; 45% had plagiarized from the Internet; 35% had stolen physical items from a store!  The conclusion of the ethics institute was that Americans are being raised with too permissive an attitude toward ethics; they are less and less able to tell what is right or wrong; or they simply see no reason to care.  This mentality has a huge effect on what you’re up against as an Artist or music industry professional. 

 

Consider your role as an Artist or professional:  You too have to generate the goodwill and the connection to instill loyalty in your peeps. 

 

How do you treat your fans?  Giving them your work for free isn’t going to get you anywhere.  You’ll end up with fans that don’t regard your work as valuable.  Nothing free is worth much.  Do you respect them?  Do you give them something valuable?  Do you make sure that they pay for what they get, and really, really get what they pay for?  If free has no value, then Value is being so satisfied with something you paid for that you feel happy to have paid for it.  And you’d do it again.  That’s what you want your fans to feel.  They will be loyal to the end and they will spend more money to buy your music down the road.

 

Just as important is how the world sees you behaving toward others.  How do you show or “model” your loyalties?  Consider your street teamers, publicists, managers, and booking agents.  Sure, you pay them (you do, don’t you?) but you also know how hard they work for you.  Do you let your fans know who they are, what they do for you, how much you appreciate their efforts?  Does your web site, promo literature, EPK, album artwork feature them prominently and make it easy for fans and potential new clients to reach these professionals?  Showing your loyalty to these people will only endear you to them, make them work harder for you, and as you show your fans your loyalties – that you are a real, caring person – your fans’ attachment to you will grow too. 

 

I woke up to a local radio station PSA yesterday that said, “good music costs money”.  That was it – simple, probably inexpensive, and yet loyal to artists and to the business.  Here is a station taking action.  Frankly, a radio station doesn’t make any money from record sales.  Their motivation is simply promoting loyalty toward music in their audience.  Of course they know that a healthy music industry is good for them too, but they profit nothing directly from this announcement.  It’s just good business.

 

Consumers complain about “the big labels ruining music” to justify their own larcenous behavior which really robs artists of their livelihood.  Artists complain about the “shark pit” of the music industry and how hard it is to get by.  Certainly there is validity to both.  However, the real question is what are you doing about it?  As an Artist or a music professional, you can influence the future by bringing loyalty into our business and into our relationships with fans.  Think about what you can do this month to improve your loyalty and generate fan loyalty as well.

How Not To Get Ahead

As we think about values in the political arena for this approaching November, how so how about some plain-old Values for the Music Industry?  If getting ahead, making money, and becoming famous is all you’re about then this article and, indeed, the music business is no place for you.  Music is fundamentally about art, its connection to humanity, and the connections it fosters between people.

 

Selling this art is the business of music – and we can see how well that’s been going lately.  The music business, if it is to be reformed, improved and resurrected needs to ground itself in its core value once again.  A good place to start is with the values of its practitioners.

 

As I write this article I believe there is a particularly nasty PR stunt being perpetrated by a notable and vocal attorney, who I will not name.  He is known for being iconoclastic and publishes an email newsletter, like I do, and a blog.  At present he is writing a scathing series about CDBaby.com.  He is way off the mark in his facts, but more importantly, he is serving no purpose other than his own self-aggrandizement.

 

As you probably know, CDBaby.com was founded by Derek Sivers in the late 90s as a portal for independent artists to sell their CDs to fans.  Since it’s inception, CDBaby.com has sold millions of copies of CDs and provided revenue to artists in multiple millions.  The service expanded mid-2000s to include aggregation to download sites like iTunes Music Store.  CDBaby.com truly paved the way for many of its competitors; many of whose CEO were quoted in this attorney’s article.  CDBaby.com has recently been sold to DiscMakers amid some controversy about Sivers’ management style.

 

It is despicable that this attorney is using Sivers’ retirement and the grumblings of a few former employees to make hay.  His criticisms have ranged from issues of management style: this multimillion dollar business that thrived during the worst history of the music business was somehow started and run by a “too hands-off” boss; to the business model which, now as time has past, might seem in need of updating. 

 

None of these issues merit Sivers’ public flogging   Whatever Sivers has accomplished should not be diminished by the sale of the company or its circumstances, nor by the march of time and expectations.  It is now up to DiscMakers to move forward, bring value, and satisfy their customers. 

 

So what to make of the muck-raking?  This is the key point.  There is no good in intentionally harming the reputation of a good person, there is no good in tearing down another’s accomplishments.  There is even less good in trying to build yourself up by raking up this muck. This attorney’s rant, in the thin guise of “education”, is really vituperrious and damaging.  It has no place in our world.

 

It is my contention that constructive actions build careers better.  It also helps to reverse the public sentiment that our business is all about sharks.  If we want Artists to trust us as practitioners of art and business, we have to behave well and be supportive of each other.  If we want music consumers to support our livelihood by purchasing our hard work, we need to give them every reason to remember that we are people, that our work matters, and their support matters. 

The Importance of Follow Up

Follow up is hard, but its importance can’t be stressed enough.  Many artists send me demo packages, but few ever follow up.  The same is true with EPKs or any other sort of submission.  Let’s look at why follow up is so important and why it’s so hard.

 

Follow up is important because the goal is to get your submission noticed.  It does you no good to send a package but never have it listened to, or even opened.  The people that you are sending to are the people that you, and everyone else, want to notice you.  Assume that they are blasted with material.  What’s going to get you in the door?  Follow up. 

 

Try to make a personal connection.  Email is just plain lousy for this.  It is quick and easy, but fundamentally impersonal and too ignorable.  The telephone is much better for personal contact and is why most artists avoid it, and most industry folk hide from it.  You gotta do it.  Furthermore, it is important to use a means of contact other than whatever you used initially.  If you sent a kit by mail or email, it might have been lost.  Using the phone will overcome that problem.

 

So why don’t artists usually do their follow up?  Well, much like castor oil, it’s yucky.  It takes time, and makes you feel vulnerable.  You are opening yourself up to being told you’re not good enough.  It’s understandable.  However, your rejection is nearly certain if you don’t do it.  So, pluck yourself up and make the call.  The alternative reason for not doing follow up is plain old laziness.  You can imagine that no one in this difficult industry wants to work with someone like that.

 

Make sure you send the right material for that person.  If you are contacting a press agent or newspaper, you’ll want to send clippings, your CD, and gig schedule, as well as basic stuff like a photo (color, please), bio and onesheet.  (If you don’t know what’s on a onesheet, email me).  For someone like me, I don’t want press clippings, it’s just a waste of paper that tells me you didn’t make the package for me.  Furthermore, as a producer, bands that send  me finished CDs just tell me that they’re broke and don’t understand what I do (or can do for them).  A demo is what I want.  Further, I’m very interested in your past as well as future shows.  Especially for EPK submissions, keep those up to date. 

 

Imagine, if you will, my desk piled high with demos.  I am often overwhelmed as I look at that pile.  I try to get through them all.  As you know, unlike so many others in this industry, I try to listen to all the songs, all the way through.  That makes listening all the more daunting a task.  So what do you think happens when some nice, chipper, friendly musician calls me to inquiry whether I’ve listened to their demo?  Do you think I get pissed and burn it?  No, I usually haven’t yet, and tell them to call me back in a week or so.  Most often I find that I immediately pull their package from the pile, open it, and listen to it.  Surprised?!  The simple act of following up, got that artist out of the endless pile and into the player.  Now, if they don’t suck, we’re in business.  But, of course, you don’t suck, do you?  So, put away your fears, I really don’t bite.  Neither do most of my colleagues in this industry.  Pick up the phone.