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Surprise! Fake Fans Don't Come To Shows

Great article at Hypebot about an artist who bit the forbidden fruit of promotion. Writer Clyde Smith investigates BAKER, who has 5+ million views on his videos but can't get more than 30 people out to a show.

Note that he's from New York:
What you will find if you go back and check the stats for videos posted one to two years ago on BAKER's YouTube channel , such as the above stats for "All I'm Gonna Say," that his primary audience has been from the Phillipines, Malaysia and India with one video, "No No [Audio]," adding Australia.
Age-related demographics indicated that top viewers were:
  • Female, 13-17 years
  • Male, 35-44 years
  • Male, 45-54 years
One video, "Wonderall," has all female groups for top demographics.
While there are some plausible explanations for the odd dominance of certain age groups, the regional sources of viewers do raise the possibility of paid YouTube views. Otherwise the fact that his audience is dominated by an Asian audience would be newsworthy and would also help explain his lack of real world audience in New York. Though if he had a strong following among those nationalities on social media, he would also be likely to have a following among students and expats from those countries in the U.S. as well.
I suspect we won't hear much about this artist two years from now.


Three Years!

Glad you're still here. My goal is for you to find some ideas that save your band either money or sanity, so I hope you've found a few useful tidbits.

2012's big posts were about challenging assumptions about the industry.

Dare You Bite The Forbidden Fruit of Promotion?
This year we saw the rise of "Sockpuppets" (paid or fake comments / reviews) as a means of promotion. Don't give in to the temptation.

Is It Time To Trash "Support Local Music"?
I forgot how much fun it was to write the first half of the post as a free form poem. I might experiment with this form in the future.

Maybe You Shouldn't Tour
Real talk about the business and logistics of touring

Will "The Hunger" Consume You?
Sometimes the need for success / money gets to be too much and the artist collapses. Sad. To prevent this, I wrote the follow up posts When Should You Quit Your Job? (Part 1) (Part 2).

Electronic and Hip Hop Better Suited to The New Music Industry
This was a stark realization. The era of the "rock band" being the most profitible model seems to be fading in favor of newer art

If you like this blog, send a link to a musician friend who could use some advice, that's the best compliment you can give me. It's all about helping my fellow musicians.

Thanks for the support everyone.


Dan Ariely's Proposal for Reducing Piracy

Behavorial economics is the study of how psychology affects people's behavior in economic situations, and Dan Ariely is one of the discipline's susperstars.

Three days after releasing his new book, The Honest Truth about Dishonesty, he discovered it had already been illegally downloaded over 20,000 times. Being a scientist, his primary response was curiousity as to why people steal intellectual property.

He describes his process of understanding in this blog post:
My first insight came with a personal conversion. Before it was my book being illegally downloaded, I was more on the “Information wants to be free” end of the spectrum. The sudden, though predictable, shift in my feelings when I found my own work being downloaded for free was a jarring experience. Maybe Information finds complete freedom too threatening, I thought, and maybe it would rather be a bit more protected. It was a very clear example of how my own views of morality are biased – as are everybody’s — based on our immediate perspective.
Somehow I don't find it hard to believe that the more time, money, and effort you've spent on your album, the less likely you'd support giving it away for free.

He continues with another gem:
Once people start seeing a particular behavior—such as illegally downloading books, music, and movies—as a very common behavior, there is a chance that this sense of social proof will translate into a new understanding of what is right and wrong. Sometimes such social shifts might be desirable—for instance, being part of an interracial couple used to be considered illegal and immoral, but now we see such couples all around us and it helps shape our understanding of social approval. However, the behaviors we most often observe and notice are ones that are outside of the legitimate domain (e.g., doping in sports, infidelity by politicians, exaggerated resumes by CEOs) and in these cases the social proof can change things for the worse.
In other words, piracy is the new speeding on the highway.

So how does he propose we attempt to solve this sticky problem?

He suspects it's about confession:
How can we stop such trends toward dishonesty (in this case, broader acceptance of illegal downloading)? The problem is that if someone has acquired 97% of their music illegally, why would they legally buy the next 1%?  Would they do it in order to be 4% legal?  It turns out that we view ourselves categorically as either good or bad, and moving from being 3% legal to being 4% legal is not a very compelling motivation.  This is where confession and amnesty can come into play.
What we find in our experiments is that once we start thinking of ourselves as polluted, there is not much incentive to behave well, and the trip down the slippery slope is likely.  This is the bad news.  The good news is that in such cases, confession, where we articulate what we have done wrong, is an incredibly effective mechanism for resetting our moral compass.  Importing this religious practice into civic life was effective in the Truth and Reconciliation Act in South Africa, where acknowledging the many abuses and violations of the apartheid government allowed the South Africans to forgive past sins, and start fresh.
While I applaud new ideas of anti-piracy that aren't "sue them into oblivion", I do see a few potential snags this method.

First, if there's not enough political capital to push through complete amnestry for those who admit to piracy, the actual policy that would pass could become a "temporary stay of prosecution" instead of full forgiveness. For example, Obama's pledge to not deport young immigrants for two years was described by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as "It is not immunity; it is not amnesty. It is an exercise of discretion."

A reversable immunity is a worthless immunity.

Second, this method would require pirates to register their personal information in a database. Given how closely piracy advocates align with privacy advocates, this will be a very tough sell. If you were a regular offender, would you want your name on an offical list?

As always, I must note that I DO NOT SUPPORT PIRACY. But, given that piracy has become the new speeding on the highway, I write to help your band understand how to live in the new music industry.



Practice, Record, Gig

Once again, Bob Lefsetz outlines the new music landscape.
Used to be you practiced in your parents’ garage, got gigs and eventually recorded. The recording was the icing on the cake.
Now it’s reversed.
Now you record first, and you may never ever play a gig. 
First and foremost because there’s nowhere to play.
Second, no one wants to pay.
Third, no one wants to hear you be lousy.
So today, if you want to make it, buy a Pro Tools rig and not only figure out how it works, spend endless hours perfecting your recordings (after taking endless hours to write your songs!)
This is the opposite of everything you’ve been told to do. Not only did you have to establish a live base, supposed professionals said they could hear through a demo, it didn’t need to be perfect. Now if the recording isn’t close to perfect, forget it.


Social Media Statistics Aren't Fans

Remember when we talked about how easy it is to buy 1,000 likes on Facebook and the rise of fake fans (aka Sockpuppets)?

Social media's connection to real people continues to become more and more tenuous.

Wired just covered a competition to make Twitter bots that pass as human so well that Twitter themselves can't tell the difference:
Hwang’s bots can be programmed to have different personalities at different times of the day. On midday Friday, TrazHuman is not a happy camper. 
“I feel angry and guilty about it,” says TrazHuman, an artificial intelligence and baseball fan who has been a bit of a bummer to follow these past few weeks. TrazHuman is programmed to alter emotional states between bored, angry, and excited, all the while pumping out about 100 Twitter messages per day. Not surprisingly, given his negativity, TrazHuman is near the bottom of the contest’s leaderboard.
...The contest’s winner, a business school graduate bot with a “strong interest in post-modern art theory,” racked up 14 followers and 15 re-tweets or replies from humans. The followers were worth one point each. A re-tweet or a comment was worth three points. Ecartomony scored 59.
That would be a pretty weak response for a Twitter consultant, but Hwang says that the experiment — and this his his second Socialbot Contest in two years — has proved that bots can both generate followers and conversations. “We definitely see that,” he says.
But looking through Twitter profiles of the bots, there is something else at work here. Almost none of Ecartomony’s followers are real people. They’re mostly corporate Twitter types that appear to follow just about anyone who follows them.
For more than half a century, the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence has been to create a program that is indistinguishable from a human. But the things that we do on Twitter and other social media have become so concise and so robotic that maybe it no longer takes the same effort to pass as a human.

Chasing social media numbers is a highly deceptive goal. Since the numbers are easy to track, it's easy to feel like you're "winning" if you keep seeing growth. But if the faces behind these numbers aren't committed humans, the numbers don't mean anything.

The only value of a social media follower is the Customer Lifetime Value. Investing in a real fan can net you purchases on the next show, a shirt, or even a personal recommendation for your music that results in another fan. Investing in a fake fan returns nothing more than "a possible chance to deceptively lure in a new fan".

If you make an excellent album and market well, social media numbers will go up as a consequence. Music is the goal, not numbers.


Nickleback is Richer Than You (Why do you play music?)

Bloomberg Businessweek delves into the Nickelback money-printing machine::
As of May 2011, the rock-star-cum-business-mogul was earning $9.7 million a year from his various ventures, according to court records filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. He has a vacation home with friends in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a 20-acre farm with stables in British Columbia, and his own home recording studio. Chad Kroeger is not just a drunken rock god: He’s a kingmaker.
In an age of declining music industry profits, Chad is one of the few musicians who still lives "The Rockstar Lifestyle" as portrayed in the media. At the same time, they're one of the most maligned musicians today, especially by fellow musicians.
In 2010 skeptics set up a Facebook (FB) group that purposely misspelled the band’s name: “Can This Pickle Get More Fans Than Nickleback?” The pickle rallied about 1.5 million people in the single month it was live. Last Thanksgiving, an online petition to prevent the band from playing during halftime at a Detroit Lions game drew 50,000 signatures. In the fall, when Chicago’s teachers went on strike, a pro-union protester attacked the mayor with what was meant to be a devastating sign: “Rahm Emanuel likes Nickelback.” The mayor quickly denied the charge.

How is this possible?

It's about differing strategies and motivations towards the music industry.


Why do you play music?

Your answer to this question has profound ramifications on your band's ideal strategy.

Lets think through some answers to get an idea for how this will effect your goals.

Be Nickelback-rich?
This is the major label game.

You'll need to play music with a very wide appeal. Your live show needs to be excellent. Your image will be groomed. You're going to be a performer, not a musician.

Read my previous guide on How to Sell Out Properly for a more in-depth treatment.

Be highly regarded among the music community?
This is a different, smaller clientele than the music listening public. Be aware of the nuances and limitations of this different market.

And you should probably be practicing while reading this post, too.
Be famous?
Making amazing music is the obvious method here, but there's a million different paths to this achieving this goal. It's about attention.

If you have video or choreography skills you could build a massive following through videos like OkGo did with that sweet treadmill video. Make music so out-there that you develop a cult following like Sunn O))).. You could even join The 27 Club (not advised).

Play music and have financial security?
This would be an argument for keeping a day job. Freedom for your art and you don't have to survive on ramen alone.

Play music for a living (no day job)?
Play a lot. Probably in a few different bands to diversify your income streams and ensure that you don't over-play a market. Network. Build up savings and get your costs down (rent, car, food, etc.)

Be attractive?
Let's be real here. Some of us only play to look good. If this is all you care about, invest in good photographers and videographers as a top priority.

Go on a world tour?
Start befriending larger bands in every location you'd want to hit. Look into finding fans in each city that would be willing to host you and help promote. Get everyone in the band's schedules and business straightened out. Figure out the math to make it profitable, or at least break even. 

Disgust and assault your fans?
GG Allin, you naaaaasty.


This is only a cursory glance at all the reasons we play music. The list is effectively endless, but it's important to figure out what motivates you to keep pushing forward.

By the way, do you know why your bandmates play music?

You should.


Artists Screw Major Labels Too

It goes both ways.

There's a reason many major labels need so much control and resources. Sometimes it's the artists who totally take advantage of the deal.

As Lefsetz puts it:
That’s what you’ve got to know about artists. They’re desperate. They’ve only got one chance, one career, if they screw it up, they’re toast. Just ask Billy Squier… 
Recently, Pitchfork darlings The Death Grips recently were dropped from Epic Records after releasing their new album NO LOVE DEEP WEB for free download online, without any consent from Epic. The Death Grips even went so far as to post the legal takedown notices sent from Epic on Facebook, along with a string of vulgar taunts.

What do you think the chances are of another label offering to help pay for their next release? Considering how well-connected most labels are within the industry, it's also quite possible that burning this bridge will close quite a few doors with venues, promoters and managers as well.

"Sticking it to The Man" like The Death Grips did only increases the necessity of labels acting like "The Man".

Remember, labels are venture capitalists. The more "risky" their investments in bands, the more money they have to charge and restrict every band.