One True Fan – thoughts on Street Teams.

One of the most linked to blog posts in the last few months in the musical blogosphere is Kevin Kelly’s piece on 1000 True Fans – it’s a great piece of writing, and quite inspiring too.

However, I’d like to get away from the numbers for a moment and talk about this whole thing of connecting with and relating to ‘true fans’. Or ‘friends’ as I like to think of them.

I’ve commented before that I really like my audience. Not because they’re my audience, but because my music seems to draw in the kind of people I want to hang out with. That is a good thing. For sure.

What often happens is that ‘fans’ turn into ‘friends’ long before any level of ‘wow I’m getting to hang out with the guy on the CDs’ kicks in. This, on a human level is also a good thing, given that the ‘wow’ factor is BS anyway. It’s a great way to make money if you can make people think that you’re somehow special/elite/of more value than ‘normal’ people – they’re probably more likely to buy t-shirts and pay high dollar ticket prices (or stupid money ‘meet-and-greet prices) but it’s pretty much total bollocks. So the switch from fan to friend is a good one.

However, those new friends who dig your music are a VITAL part of the propagation and proliferation of your music around the world. They provide a few things that are integral to any marketing strategy, paid or otherwise – experience, enthusiasm, motivation, trust, social connection, the opportunity to acquire social capital through your music (what Hugh MacLeod likes to call A Social Object).

What’s also true is that most people don’t do that stuff on their own. When prompted, they often go ‘of course!’, but unless they are a) musicians doing it for themselves, b) work in marketing, or c) are just incredibly self-motivated and externally-aware, they are unlikely to take it on themselves to start promoting what you do. The chances are that most people who listen to your music aren’t aware that telling their friends about what you do is a vital part of your ongoing income stream, and perhaps, as a result, your ability to keep producing music that they love…

So you need a place where you can let them know about that stuff, and that’s were the idea of a ‘street team’ comes in.

Street Teams have been around for years. They’re an extension of the idea of fan clubs, where people who dig what you do are actively encouraged to – and given the tools to – tell other people about what you do. The name obviously comes from the idea of getting out there and handing out flyers and sticking up posters – and people who are willing to do that are worth their weight in gold to an indie – but more useful and immediate, and certainly a more accessible form of support and interaction for the ‘regular’ fan would be the idea of street team as social media team.

In our culture of attention, people need peer approval to find where the cool shit is on line. Most of my new music discovery these goes comes via links sent to me on twitter, facebook, email and IM. There are people who act as new music filters for me and send me the stuff they like. I do it for my friends all the time, currently through To The Left Of The Mainstream.

So creating a space where you can share ideas with those people, offer suggestions, keep track of actions carried out, and hopefully get some community happening is a good thing. And gives you the chance to reward people who help you out a lot.

I’ve had a street team for years. My street teamers have access to a whole load of MP3s unavailable elsewhere, and some of them have been able to get on the guestlist for sold out shows and such like. They get to order CDs earlier than everyone else, and in exchange, I ask them to spread the word.

Up until yesterday, my main point of contact with my street team was an email list, where I would send out all-too-sporadic emails asking them to do things. It got some stuff done, but gave no room for feedback and cross pollenation. I had a street teamers forum on my site too, but because of the mailing list, I neglected it, and so, largely did they…

So yesterday I sent out a message saying it was moving there permanently. I’m not going to send out the emails any more, and instead will interact with anyone who wants to help me out in the Street/Social Media Team forum on my site.

So, if you want to sign up, head over the forum on my site sign up for the forum, then send me a message via email or forum PM and tell me why you want to join. It’s not a cryptic question, it just stops the list from being an impersonal opt in.

The question here is not one of building 1000 true fans, but is about giving the people who like what I do but don’t think like marketers a space to explore how they can help me out. Ideas for spreading the word, and some insight into how it works. Not many people know that just by adding a blog post or website page to stumble upon, they can send upwards of 500 new people to see my site. If 10 people stumble it, it can have a massive impact. Same goes for fowarding pages to facebook an myspace friends, reTweeting information about new blog posts etc. on Twitter, and posting links to stuff on their own blogs.

As well as all the more traditional street team stuff such as sticking up posters, emailing radio stations and magazines, handing out flyers and bringing friends to gigs.

I’m thinking later this year of doing a Street-Team only gig in London… will have to see how that pans out.

A blog like this one, or even Twitter can act as an informal Social Media Team suggestion place, where your listeners and friends can get links to click, or can forward posts like my post about the two free albums to their friends, but it’s definitely a good idea to provide a space for clearer discussion about actual promotion…

All four solo albums now on Amazon.com downloads

I’ve just seen that all four of my ‘proper’ release solo albums are now up on Amazon.com download store – here they are –

And Nothing But The Bass – $7.92
Not Dancing For Chicken – $8.99
Grace And Gratitude – $8.99
Behind Every Word – $8.99

that’s a pretty damn cheap way to get hold of them – and you can listen to all of them before buying over on last.fm.

The reason my stuff is now available on amazon is because it’s put there by CDbaby – if you sign up for digital distribution with then (a non-exclusive deal, BTW), they’ll ship your stuff to 50-odd digital stores. Most of them won’t sell a thing, cos they got no passing traffic, but because some of those stores include the iTunes stores worldwide, emusic, napster, amazon and a couple of others that actually shift stuff, it’s the best possible way for an indie kid like me to get his music out there. It’s cheap to set up (less than $40 per album), and they take a pretty small percentage. CDbaby are the ultimate indie long-tail company. lead the market, get everyone signed up, get a little bit of cash from tens of thousands of musicians, and make millions. We’re happy cos we get it cheap, they have leverage because they represent so many artists and labels, and everybody wins.

Seriously, if you’re indie, and you’re not with CDbaby, you’re missing out. Do it.

New Steve Lawson and Lobelia EP to download

You may remember back in December, Lobelia and I put out a limited edition CDR release of our live in Nebraska EP – 5 tracks taken from our forthcoming live album (release date TBC!)

Well, it’s now avaliable for download from the online store here – for &3.50

It’s over half an hour long, and the track list is

happy 7:34
mmfsog 4:09
i’m lost 5:11
rain 9:14
jimmy james 6:51

and it’s fab – if you go to my myspace page you can hear the first song from it.

anyway, you can get it as a download, it’s fab, you’ll love it, I’m sure. :o)

It’s worth noting that in general, I still sell way more CDs from the online store than I do downloads. I sell more downloads from itunes than I do here, though probably the highest volume of track sales is from emusic, though the unit price is much lower… I’m guessing, I’ve said before, that is at least partly because as a solo bassist/jazz/ambient/whatever artist, my core audience is that bit older, and not comprised of the digital natives in the 15-25 age-group that seem to dominate so much of the discussion around online music. I have a number of listeners who would be unhappy even with 198kbps MP3s (the new ones are 256k VBR), and so still want CD for the quality… I think the next full album will come out on high res MP3 and flac… I may do what Trent Reznor and Saul Williams did and put out a free low-res version, and a paid download much higher res version… we’ll see…

Facebook have added more band stuff….

Facebook have now added the option to have band pages, and I’ve got one up there.

If you’re on facebook, please click here to add yourself as a fan – would be lovely to have your support over there.

As they add more resources for musicians, it could become a really cool thing.

And if you want to add my music to your facebook profile, you can do so via the Reverb Nation Facebook plug-in – it’s a great tool that allows you to add music to your page, and spread the word! It’d help me out loads if you did, and give your facebook page a cool soundtrack too. :o)

If you’ve got a band and want a facebook thing, it’s all about the pages click here for more, and once you’ve created your page, come and add a link to it here in the comments…

Statistics relating to the website redesign…

Just a quick observation on the redesign of my main website – whil the number of visitors to the site is pretty much the same now as it was before the redesign, those visitors are sticking around for longer and looking at more pages than before… That’s good news! :o)

As for the blog, a heck of a lot of the traffic to my blog now comes from the front page of stevelawson.net, though the number of visitors is in general lower than it was a couple of years ago… maybe people preferred it when I was blogging about cats and european elections. :o)

Stats break over – back to whatever it was you were doing before…