In case you’re joining us late, I started managing a band at the end of last year and am trying to blog periodically about it here. The band is called Get Busy Committee and features Ryu (of Styles of Beyond and Fort Minor), Apathy (of Army of The Pharoahs), and Scoop Deville (producer known recently for producing tracks with Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, and others).
Short version of this post: In the spirit of releasing some new piece of content or major promotion each month, Get Busy Committee have just released a video directed by the fantastic Matt Lenski (remember the first Fall Out Boy video or the Mark Ronson “Stop Me” video? or maybe that Burger King commercial with the chickens who want to be fries?) with lots of post-production work from our friends at Lifelong Friendship Society. The song is “I Don’t Care About You” and so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The video looks pro but was made cheaply with the magic of computers. You can watch the video right here:
For the longer version of this post I’ll take a more circuitous route…
Back in 2006 I gave a presentation at the first BarCamp LA entitled “Media 2.0 Economics, er, Physics”. The basic premise was lifted wholesale from (and credited to) Umair Haque from his “Blockbuster vs. The Snowball” presentation and could be distilled as:
- Media 1.0 was a world of limited distribution (there were only so many channels on the dial, only so many choices on FM) and therefore attention abundance (CBS was not scared to lose us as customers 25 years ago)
- Media 2.0 is a world of unlimited distribution (any jackass can start a Web site — see FISTFULAYEN.com for an example) and therefore attention scarcity (our kids will not know about watching golf on sundays because “it’s the only thing on”)
As a result a ton of things are changing, but basically:
At a certain point you get diminishing returns spending more $$ on marketing, and what matters is relevance. If something is liked by many it can have success regardless of how much money was or wasn’t spent marketing it. And no amount of money will get something no one enjoys attention in this new economy.
While the aforementioned presentation is a full four years old, I think it mostly holds true. This is the fundamental physics of everything that’s changing in media, IMHO.
As such, the old method of releasing records every three years and starting your marketing from scratch each time become much less efficient. That cold-start, all-in strategy (the “blockbuster” Umair identified in his original presentation) is based on limited distribution choices (only needing to be better than what’s on that other channel, not what’s on everyone’s iPod), having access to the limited marketing channels (radio, MTV, press), and an ability to blitz those outlets when you need to with a mass-appeal product. Now that achieving mass marketing is hard and getting harder and technology allows direct (permission-based) relationships between artists and fans, a campaign which looks more like a snowball has a much better chance at showing a return on investment.
I’ve been trying to describe this simply and practically to artists, managers, and labels like so:
- Goal: Have more fans tomorrow than you had yesterday.
- Measure: Grow fan connections as well as dollars. Every day should mean more email address, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and MySpace friends (and whatever other way comes along tomorrow that fans can connect with artists and say “please talk to me”) and of course dollars (via direct sales, iTunes, Amazon, etc).
- Action: Do something small weekly, something big monthly.
I’ve found that last bit, “Action: Do something small weekly, something big monthly”, to be really helpful in getting artists to consider a simple, practical model for interacting regularly with their fans without sounding like they need to start reading TechCrunch and taking Twitter tips from MC Hammer (no offense to Hammer, thanks for the follow!). There’s a lot of discussion of the “not every artist wants to share their every move” / “what happened to the *mystery*?!” variety these days, and I understand why artists have an allergic reaction to communicating constantly. Which is why I didn’t say, “Do something all day long every day and tell everyone about it.” While for some personalities I definitely think there are advantages to letting down the wall and sharing real life moments and observations with your fans, I certainly don’t think it’s necessary for success. But I do think you need to keep your fans up to date with what’s happening more regularly than artists did in the past and supply them news they’ll be inspired to share with others if you’re going to keep that fan base growing on a weekly and monthly basis.
I haven’t found an artist yet who doesn’t have *some* bit of news on at least an almost-weekly basis (“was in the studio with so-and-so this week”, “tour dates just announced”, “check this live session from WABC”, “the european tour was a blast”, etc) and some bit of creative output on a monthly basis, though I’ve met plenty who don’t *think* they do and aren’t in the habit of sharing this regularly. It’s these artists I’m making this appeal to. Please, establish the channels (Twitter? Tumblr? Flickr? Say Now?), make it easy for you to manage, and get in the habit. Even if you’re using the “album-a-year” model it works: One month is the album, a couple months will be videos — only nine more months to worry about! How about a remix? Single? Collaboration with another artist? Video blog? If you, your bandmates, and your manager can’t come up with something creative on a monthly basis you might be in the wrong line of work.
These days it’s hard to imagine an artist making one great record a year and the more I know about the business the more difficult that seems. Which makes Bowie’s self-reinvention every year from 1969 to 1980 all the more incredible. Not to mention The Beatles thirteen full-length records between 1963 and 1970 or Stevie Wonder’s four albums between ’72 and ’74? Or, um, Zappa? Dayumn.
I love having this conversation with artists today. One of those “monthly” events could be something like this $1000 12″ promotion we did with Get Busy Committee. Or it could be the video blog follow-up to the “I went to lunch and Disneyland with a bunch of my fans” thing Josh Freese is working on now. Or anything, really; the medium is the massage and I love meeting artists who are inspired by the possibilities. It’s early and this change is just underway but I think we’ll start to see more artists take advantage of this freedom and start more of a creative dialog with their fans instead of delivering an album to them every three years followed by a tour followed by a vacation. Even larger artists can deliver this way; close to the topic at hand (Mike introduced me to Ryu and Apathy) consider what Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park is doing with his blog and their between-release releases — even though Transformers and a new, pre-album song/video for Haiti relief is on a different scale than most it’s clear they’re working hard to stay on the minds of their fans instead of disappearing between longer album cycles. There’s no shortage of places to look for lesser known artists who are always releasing a little something, check out My Name Is John Michael, who released a song a week for an entire year, or Mickey Factz, who parlayed weekly releases into notoriety and eventually a Honda ad and whose marketing company acts as an umbrella for releasing serial content. I’d be curious to know what artists you think are doing a great job here, please leave examples and links in the comments.
We haven’t done the best job of this as Get Busy Committee, in fact check Ryu bemoaning my request for regular updates from Get Busy Committee at the end of this video (around 3:30):
But these guys are prolific and understand the “just keep publishing” mentality inherently like a survival instinct. In fact the reason the group exists at all is because they made some tracks for fun and released them on YouTube to a positive response. One of the reasons I was interested in working with Get Busy Committee was because they were anxious to get the record out rather than shopping it so they could move on to finishing the second album, which was half written by the time they released the first. These are at least one-record-a-year kinda guys and that was part of the draw for me.
The component parts of this group are busier than you likely realize: in the time since I started working with them last September Ryu released a track with Rob Dyrdek and Bishop Lamont associated with an episode of Rob’s show, Apathy released a great solo album and toured Europe with Army of The Pharoahs, and Scoop produced and released tracks for Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, and others, all outside of what we’ve done with Get Busy Committee. With Get Busy Committee we started by leaking a couple of tracks, then released the album in a variety of formats (including an Uzi-shaped USB drive to get some buzz — we wouldn’t have been in Wired and Gizmodo if we’d have just made CDs), released photos from the release party, pushed the $1000 12″ promo, and now released a music video. We didn’t make enough noise in December, we were all busy around the holiday, but I’d argue we’re making good on the promise in general. We’re definitely trying. Next month we’ll have SXSW and beyond that a tour should start giving us more fodder. Hopefully I can get the group focused on this and it’ll happen naturally — I don’t really have time to help or even nag unfortunately (in other words, if it doesn’t happen blame them not me :)).
Everything we’ve made up to this point has been done for free or cheap, as I mentioned in the original post on this topic we spent a little money on Web design/dev and PR/marketing but not much and that’s it. We had inexpensive videos in our original budget but quickly realized we couldn’t afford it and decided we’d just have to figure out how to beg/borrow/steal one instead.
The reaction to “I Don’t Care About You” was strong enough early on we knew we’d have to make a video. But we didn’t know how we were going to get it done. The band has friends who they’ve worked with on gratis videos in the past (see this great video for Scoop’s track “Fresh Off The Top” shot by their friend Fredo Tovar) but they wanted to step outside a bit so we started asking around. We put feelers out to anyone and everyone we knew. My oldest friend in the world (nursery school, Goshen, Indiana) Nate Weaver was a top choice and hopefully we’ll get to work with him in the future, but my friend (and ex-girlfriend) Kim Howitt connected us with Matt Lenski, a friend she had sent the album to when I first shared it with her. Matt loved the album and “I Don’t Care About You” in particular; not to spill his biz but he had just ended a relationship and identified with the song’s declaration of sovereignty, if you know what I mean. Plus he understood the group’s aesthetic and had an idea for a video inspired by this, a page which exemplifies everything which is both great and terribly wrong about the Interwebz in less than a minute, which we loved. Finally and importantly, the budget could be minimal. As Matt put it, “We can have anything you’d have in any hip hop video. You want money falling from the sky? No problem. You want fancy cars and girls? Easy. They’re just all animated GIFs.”
The video was shot in a day against a green screen at Lifelong Friendship Society‘s (LFS) office with handheld video cameras. The LFS folks then spent many long nights in front of Apple computers (sorry, Bill) adding and animating graphics to make the final video. They did an incredible job IMHO, the video is unique, original, funny, and post-modern in its way (if you’ve read this far and haven’t watched the video yet you’re blowing it, click here to check out their handiwork).
When it was done they transferred a .mov file to me, I uploaded it to Topspin, YouTube, Vimeo, etc (even though I didn’t have the HD version; HD version getting uploaded tomorrow, Tuesday — and even though I didn’t have the edit; edited version for Yahoo!, AOL Music, etc coming soon), and we started sending Tweets and emailed the fan list. Now it’s Monday and we’ve had more than 10,000 plays total already on a holiday weekend. That may not be the 1.9M plays Bangs has had for his smash hit “Take You To The Movies” but when you can make a video with hand-held video cameras, edit something as crazy as what LFS did on computers, and release from your house on YouTube you have to admit we’re a long way from Media 1.0.
Thanks sincerely to Matt, Dexter, Brielle and the fine folks at Epoch, and Bridgette and all the talented people at Lifelong Friendship Society. Thanks for believing in Get Busy Committee, letting a bunch of hoodlums invade your space for a day, and for making an incredible video for almost no money. Dinner is on us, always, just don’t pick somewhere pricey. You know how we roll.
Thanks to you for reading this far. Hopefully I can follow my own advice and crank one of these out at least once a month for at least a couple more months… 😉