Archive for the ‘ Music ’ Category

Dogs Rule! (part 32)

…and OK Go knows how to make a music video. Is this possible without cuts, edits and special effects, as is their wont?


My Divorce from Rolling Stone

Have you seen the latest cover of Rolling Stone magazine?

Must be that I’ve officially joined the “40 and over” crowd, but I enjoyed writing this email to Rolling Stone’s circulation department.

I have attempted to cancel my subscription for a while now, but you insist on sending me your magazine. How do I put it another way than “I don’t want it.”? I’ve done this online, via phone, stopped payment, yet you continue to send it to me. Please stop. Please, please stop.

You don’t need to send me a survey asking why, or a special discount offer to remain a subscriber. I will simply tell you why:

Your content is of no value to me. If I wanted to join the Lady Gaga fan club, I would’ve done so long ago. Ditto Katy Perry. There is nothing of use to me in your magazine, so please….make it go away. Furthermore, as a father of two young, impressionable children, I simply can’t have your magazine lying around the house. I hide it like a pervert hides porn. If the recent covers weren’t enough (naked Lady Gaga, near-naked Katy Perry, naked blood-drenched cast of True Blood), the contents would certainly do the trick (“effing a crucifix” is not the pull-quote I want my children to memorize).

So, by now, you’re getting a good chuckle at this prude who can’t handle a little edgy content. And you’re rightly conceding that, “then Rolling Stone is not for you!” I agree. Then why do you insist on sending it me? Please stop. Just make it go away. I know you want to boost your subscription numbers to sell advertising, but I have no interest in being a pawn in your deceptive media-planning game.

Please. Just make it go away.


For a little context, see here:

Jes Gru for Rick?

Jes Gru lives!

…or at least breathes another dying breath.

Check out Bubs revive a Jes Gru classic, Pictures of You, at a Rick Snyder campaign event:

I Just Discovered the Internets!

grumpy+old+manThis may seem profoundly mundane, but I think the Internet just might change everything.

No, it’s not 1993. And, no, I’m not 74 years old. But even recent developments have me rethinking just how far the Internet revolution will take us.

It’s not necessarily overly astute to observe that the Internet has become the great leveler, sanding off the playing field so that nearly everyone has equal access to information. On the flip side, the low cost barriers and ubiquity of free Web tools have allowed virtually anyone with the time and interest to become publishers of some kind.

You see this already with respect to news dissemination. As newspapers shrink and fold, blogs and alternative media grow and proliferate. There is very little cost prohibition when it comes to disseminating news and information as there was in years past. I don’t need a printing press, distribution network or employees to deliver information. So pretty much anyone can be a distributor of “news.”

Content communities, such as YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare, allow us all to publish video, photos and visual information. Social networks allow us to connect with others and spread information far more quickly and effectively than old-school word-of-mouth. Everyone has a Web site. Everyone is online. And everyone has either an opinion, an agenda, a passion, a cause or all of the above, just waiting to be broadcast.

So where does it all end? Or, where are we heading?

I envision a day in the not-too-distant future in which all third-party distribution channels are largely removed, and messages and products are delivered directly to the end-user. It’s not all that difficult to imagine; but it’s confounding to me why it’s not happening sooner.

Why do artists need music labels anymore? Will they ten years from now?

Why do authors need publishers anymore? Will they ten years from now?

Why do journalists need newspapers anymore? Will they ten years from now?

Take music, for example. It’s already happening, but pretty soon the physical medium will be a distant memory. CDs will have little relevance, as direct download will have taken their place completely. In such a reality, mass production costs are zero. Distribution can be as easy as publishing to iTunes, a convenience vanity labels such as CDBaby already afford independent artists. There are no printing costs; there are no duplication costs. No delivery. No stocking fees. No retailer fees. All that’s left is promotion and air play. As it stands today, indie artists can in no way compete with the labels in terms of promotion muscle. And the labels and radio stations are in bed together, it seems. But take an artist like Wilco — self-produced, self-published, self-promoted. They aren’t Britney Spears, and they don’t want to be, but they can get their music to their fans at a handsome profit, without the need for third-party muckety-mucks getting their hands in the cookie jar. Is this the wave of the future, only on a much broader scale? Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails are already there.

Next up: books. Vanity presses used to be quaint and all, but they generally didn’t translate into broad-scale success. It was near impossible to get anyone to review them, and you couldn’t get mass distribution for your work. Along comes Kindle. Self-publishing has found new life, as distribution barriers have been removed. If you can get Amazon to pick up your title on Kindle, all that’s left is, once again, promotion. And media reviewers no longer treat self-publishers as pariahs, so if you can create a big enough stir for your work, they just might have to take notice.

It’s exciting to see if this thing knows any bounds. Even movies like The Blair Witch Project and the more recent Paranormal Activity show how successful the independent artist can be with very little overhead costs and and very clever self-promotion.

What makes this so exciting for me, as a failed musician of the 1990s, is the potential this has to deliver broader access to better art, unfiltered and un-watered-down by the know-it-all suits at publishing outfits…not to mention the direct connection between artist and fan that seems more natural in a self-published, self-marketing environment. I wish I was a budding artist today, and had all of this technology and social ubiquity at my disposal. Maybe then I wouldn’t be one of those aforementioned suits.

I don’t know about you, but I’m really starting to believe in these here Internets!

Steve Perry’s Magical Journey

What does former Journey frontman Steve Perry have to do with marketing? Well, here…let Mitch Joel explain:

Bands are brands. Among the many things they have in common is the cult of personality. In many cases, people are brand ambassadors. Microsoft is known for Bill Gates; Apple for Steve Jobs. Pearl Jam for Eddie Vedder; the Police for Sting. This is just another example of the branding lessons we can glean from rock and roll marketing.

Mitch joins a powerhouse cast of presenters at BrandCamp University 2009. They’re lucky to have him.

11 Things a Failed Music Career Taught Me About PR

It might be hard to believe looking at me now, but a full-time music career and pursuit of rock-and-roll stardom preceded my foray into marketing and public relations. That’s me in the center down there…looking too cool for school.


But what I learned as a starving artist back in the early 90s taught me the basics of nearly everything I do today as a marcom professional. In order for us to survive, it was all about promotion…and I mean, literally, “survive.” Here, then, are the 11 lessons I look back on and draw upon even today (musicians always “go to 11”):

1.) Video killed the radio star. The birth of MTV in the early 80s totally reshaped the music industry. Video gave adoring fans instant access to the personalities behind the music, and labels had to rethink the way they packaged their artists. It was not enough to sound good anymore, you had to visually appeal to your fans, and give them a side of you the music couldn’t otherwise convey. Brands and B2B marketers need to do the same. Video conveys personality, passion and persona far better than the written word, yet many businesses are slow to leverage the power of what can be extremely affordable video communications.

2.) Nothing travels faster than word of mouth. Good or bad, word of mouth will travel faster than your ability to control the message. If your band had a lousy live performance, people would scorch you. If you rocked live, your following would quickly grow. The same goes for social media today. People are talking about brands all day on social media. Are you listening? Are you engaging with the conversants? Are you keeping up with word of mouth?

3.) Publicity is platinum. Record reviews, live show write-ups and artist profiles were invaluable to the indie artist (in an era before the emergence of social media). Get your band in the press, and you would gain instant credibility and raised recognition. No one needed to know that you as the artist peddled your CD around with free pizzas to get access to the reporter…and no one needs to know a PR firm is behind the scenes generating your company’s publicity today.

4.) Constant contact. Third-party and indirect communications are clever and vital, and all…but never discard the power of direct communications. Back then, it was the periodic mailing with upcoming tour dates, sent via postcard to our database. Today, this can take many forms, from e-blasts and newsletters to compelling print communications artfully designed and packaged…all of which will serve to keep your company top-of-mind among current and prospective customers.

5.) You’re nothing without a database. Pursuant to the above, you simply MUST maintain a current database of vital contacts, including customers, prospects, referral sources, vendors, associates and friends of the firm. It sounds simple and self-evident, but you’d be shocked how many companies we talk to who have absolutely no database established. This is like planning a concert and not telling anyone about it. Or sending out a show announcement without mailing labels. (I would know…my keyboardist tried it once.)

6.) Advertising works. That is, if you have a measurable call to action. (Image advertising also works, but is a lot more difficult to measure.) The grunt work of being in a band performing at college towns in the early 90s included the exhaustive process of “flyering the gig.” This meant illegally adorning every tree, streetlight, kiosk and powerline pole on campus with flyers promoting the gig at the local bar. How did we know they work? On the flyers, we asked people to mention the “free shots” at the bar upon arrival. The bar owner didn’t care much for the tactic, but we knew the flyers were working.

7.) Your fans will do your bidding for you. If truly engaged, your fans become your greatest asset. They aren’t afraid to tell their friends how awesome your band is, but you might be. Brands, by the same token, need to empower their “fans.” Give them a place to gather (social media communities like Facebook and LinkedIn), let them engage with you so that they feel like part of a movement (Twitter and other social media), give them tools to spread the word on your behalf (sharable content on your Web site and public content communities such as SlideShare, YouTube and Flickr). Most small companies today ignore social media as a marketing strategy. Big mistake.

8.) If you can’t get signed, put out your own CD. The barrier to entry for a local band was the ever-elusive record contract. Without it, no one could get to the music, at least not on a large scale. So many local bands simply recorded their own CDs, distributed them independently, and grew their followings organically. Today, companies perceive a barrier to mass communications being the difficulty in engaging a mass media outlet to spread the word about an event or other news story. But content communities like YouTube, Flickr…and the sheer breadth of the Internet’s reach allow any brand to be a mass communicator. They have the option of simply creating the content themselves and using the available online channels to spread the word. Like the local indie artists, nothing is stopping them but their own imaginations, budgets and level of commitment.

9.) Not all bands should toot horns. All of the marketing in the world won’t work if you’re not honest about what you’re selling. Marketing is often spin, but it can’t be spun out of control. Social media is keeping brands more and more honest these days. Keep that in mind when you’re communicating your product’s or service’s strengths to your key audiences. It’s like the band that uses studio tricks and effects to make their album sound masterfully polished…but then can’t pull it off live. You WILL get found out.

10.) Grow your hair out and wear second-hand clothes. Brands need to be known for something—big brands and small businesses alike. In music-artist terms, you need to have an “image.” Do some in-depth soul searching to discover what yours is—and what you want it to be—then carefully craft that message for all to behold. Preach that message internally, and live it always externally. Be consistent, and be recognizable.

11.) Have fun. Life’s too short to sweat the small stuff. In other words, “Rock on!”

(For those who are interested, and for those who don’t believe me, see more about the band that was here, here, here and here.)

Michael Jackson Media Coverage

This is what they were thinking of when they coined the term “wall-to-wall media coverage.” Egads, it’s everywhere.

But what I find truly interesting is how the media is covering this story, in addition to how much. Some recent observations I’ve read and heard:

  • The media coverage seems more like a eulogy than journalism.
  • Princess Di and Mother Teresa died right around the same time. Which got more media coverage?
  • Which has been covered more, the passing of Michael Jackson or the passing of recent American presidents? Follow-up: Which should be covered more, and which is more relevant/important?
  • Even Sean Hannity, who proudly proclaimed last night that he would NOT be devoting wall-to-wall coverage of the Jackson funeral on last night’s show, spent the first two segments of his television program on solely that.
  • It’s disrespectful to the dead to bring up his sordid recent past. I wonder if Elvis and Jim Morrison were afforded that same respect.

The first observation perhaps captures all of these sentiments. When did journalism en toto become People magazine, or journalism lite? Journalism used to mean covering all sides of a story, unearthing and reporting on all relevant facts and information. They way the mainstream media has conveniently elided the less flattering syllables in the MJ story is striking. Perhaps they are afraid of accusations of racism (which Rev. Al Sharpton threw out anyway). Perhaps we all are.

We need to be fair, they retort. We need to be respectful during a time of a family’s mourning. Hmm. Funny how that same standard of fairness and respect for privacy is not applied to the living…especially if that living person’s name is Sarah Palin.

You see, the media picks winners and losers. It shouldn’t. It didn’t used to. But it does. And they walk lock-step with one another, each stepping over the next to be more laudatory of their favorite children (Obama, Michael Jackson, Madonna) and more derogatory toward their designated pariahs (Palin, Bush, e.g.).

You call for fairness, mainstream media? Fine. Let’s just have that standard applied across the board. Enough with the agendas. Look again at your numbers. They’re flagging. You are a dying breed. There are many reasons, but this is certainly among them—chief among them: unapologetic bias and agenda engineering.

As for the throngs that apparently thirst for this wall-to-wall coverage: stop craning your necks long enough to keep driving past the proverbial car wreck. There is real news happening out there. You’re missing it. Stuff that truly will affect your day-to-day lives. On this, silence. You don’t care. You don’t act. You don’t pay attention.

But why would you? When things go badly, the media will simply prop up another villain for you to throw tomatoes at. Whether you have all of the facts to justify your vitriol will be up to you, these days—not the mainstream press. Those days are long gone.