Artist Promotions – Times They Are A Changing

dont-ever-let-someone-tell-you-that-you-cant-do-somethingRiding the metro in Los Angeles you see talent and some people who are just beggars.  Yes, there is a difference between an artist and a beggar.  An artist doesn’t have to say “we are coming around with a hat and dream” after a performance in public.  An artist does what is necessary to improve their art on a daily basis.  It is not about gaining fame, money, or validation, but about crafting their skill.

This past Tuesday, a violinist and a guitarist were playing on the redline.  From the looks of these two young (20-something) African-American men they had just been riding up and down the redline playing popular songs such as The Fray (How To Save A Life), Michelle Branch (Everywhere), The Beatles (Here Comes The Sun).  Their honesty, conviction, and dedication to their harmonies and musical stylings had the train clapping after each song and numerous train riders giving them donations in their beat-up guitar case.  They didn’t ask for donations after each song; they just continued to play consecutively throughout the 30 minutes I road from the North Hollywood station to the 7th Street Expo Line connection.  This on the ground marketing isn’t a new thing, in fact, it was something that was designed before marketing was even considered a job.

So what is it about artist promotions that really creates a superstar like Taylor Swift?  Selena Gomez?  Mandy Moore?  Travis Wall?  Is it timing?  Is it having talent?  Is it hard work and dedication?  Is it having the right branding, marketing or promotions team? Working in event marketing the last few years, I’ve learned that you need a mix of things to make magic happen.  Here are my top five tips to bring your promotions to the next level:

  1.  Advertise Without Advertising – This goes for everything you do as an individual and as a company.  If you are an individual artist you want to show people why they should watch and pay attention.  You shouldn’t need to give a speech before your performance.  Let your talent speak for itself and let the curiosity of the audience make the choice to stop.  If you are a company promoting an event it should be about the people associated with the event (the talent), the people who have attended and their experiences as well as the business relationships you have with sponsors.  Each of these aspects always draws more attendees because they feel like they are missing out, or a new business who sees their direct competition tearing into another market that they haven’t touch yet.  Fear of missing out is a strong promotional tool and it is vital to show that in an advertising campaign.
  2. Be Active On Your Social Media – Yes posting regularly on your social media is important, but when I say be active on your social media I’m talking about interaction.  Following people or businesses that could increase your promotions on other platforms or bring you to the next level as an artist.  Also, interacting with your followers from Q&As to comments to videos that ask what they want to see from you.  As the saying goes, give the people what they want.
  3. A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words – Lots of promotional photos and videos are important.  It helps to develop marketing strategies, strong branding, and a cohesive platform on who you are and what you do as an artist or company.  Sit down and figure out what you want to show and present to the world and how you want to be represented.  Set-up photo and video shoots to stage promotional materials and constantly have someone dedicated to social media at events to get live shots and reactions from the audience and participants.  This is what is going to develop that concept of “fear of missing out” to drive attendance in the future.   Think about Coachella, LalaPalooza, or any awards show.  Each event has live streaming/broadcasting, they are constantly posting about the people at the shows and the talent that is performing.  It is always about showing someone something that could be their experience.
  4. The Personal You – Society is obsessed with people’s personal drama.  Think about Keeping Up With the Kardashians or The Bachelor.  The one thing about these types of shows is they help you invest in the people as they are sharing personal aspects of their lives to the audience.  Granted all of it is not real and probably a lot of it is staged, but the point I’m trying to make is let people get to know who you are – what you like (i.e. music, films), your friends and family, your favorite places…etc.  People want to feel connected especially if they are investing time and/or money.  Show them more than just your talent.
  5. Attraction – This may sound a little crazy, but bear with me.  No, I’m not talking about how attractive you are as a person, but what individuals are drawn to.  Think about when you see someone saving an animal that is in danger.  You are attracted to someone’s kindness.  Think about a new headshot with colors that make your features pop.  You are attracted to someone’s beauty.  Think about a big open space with no one around but nature.  You are attracted to the freedom.  Promotions are all about attraction.  What makes your audience tick?  What will get them to see the next show?  What will get your next follower to commit to what you put out?  Your audience is comprised of all different people from all walks of life.  You have to know who your audience is to make the impact you are looking for in this world.

In the words of Chris Gardner (Will Smith’s character in the Pursuit of Happyness), “If you want something, go get it.  Period.”

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Scooter Braun – Artist Manager for the Next Generation

Ariana_Grande_&_Scooter_BraunHow do I explain Scooter (Scott) Braun in four words? He is the man! He is thirty-three years old, he was named one of TIME Magazine’s 2013 “100 Most Influential People in the World” as well as been on Billboard’s 2013 “40 Under 40” list. He is not only an artist manager, but a friend, confidant, and father figure to his developing young artists. In an interview with The Complex he says, “My job is not to be the all-star quarterback, but to be the coach.” In the music business, at least of past artists I have read about like The Runaways, the Backstreet Boys, and N’SYNC, many managers take advantage of their artists. From taking large management fee cuts (Lou Pearlman) to exposing young artists to situations like drugs and alcohol (Kim Fowley) instead protecting them and being more of an authoritative or parent figure. Scooter Braun seems to be the complete opposite – someone to look up to, to respect, and will put you in your place if you are doing something stupid.

He has high standards for himself, his employees at SB Projects, and for his artists. He invests time, money, and energy in people. Braun has broken more new music acts than any other music executive in the last decade including, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, PSY, Carly Rae Jepsen, and most recently, Tori Kelly. Braun started as a party promoter at nineteen where artists such as Brittany Spears and Ludicrious attended. At twenty, he became VP of marketing at So So Def Records while a sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta. He ultimately dropped out of college while at So So Def and was fired from the company due to a dispute over the direction of the label.

At twenty-four, he started SB Projects. His Company philosophy is that everyone is family. His artists share the same family values and everyone has to get along. He understands that in this business and when managing young people they are going to make mistakes, and since they are growing up in the public eye, those mistakes are more difficult to deal with because everyone has an opinion about it. In The Complex Interview he said, “I’m not interested in the mistakes that people make. I’m interested in how they react to them.” Everyone makes mistakes whether they are kids or adults, but without them we can’t learn and grow.

I think one of the great things about Braun is that he doesn’t put limits on his capabilities. When people tell him that something is impossible he pushes even harder to prove the nay sayers wrong. When he discovered Bieber nobody thought it was going to work because he didn’t have a Disney or Nickelodeon kid’s show backing him. Now, the reach of Bieber’s social networks like Facebook and Twitter can speak to millions of people. According to an article in The New Yorker, in marketing terms, his reach would cost ten million dollars to replicate through conventional advertising methods. Since Bieber’s reach is so high Braun has him communicate and support other artists through his networks. This helps with cross promotion of artists and allows Bieber to have another stream of revenue.

Braun believes in the power of numbers, and the more support, the more potential artists have to be successful. In Forbes Magazine, Braun states, “as a music industry if we remain in competition we die.”  That line is kind of perfect because society is constantly in competition from job hunting to being in line for Christmas to get the hot new toy.  Instead Braun’s approach is support, believing in people, and giving back to others less fortunate through charity with every project and artist he handles.   This business is about getting an artist to say yes, respecting the consumer, making a viable product, getting people to see it, and telling a story that connects with society.  If you have that, success will follow.