Let It Spread: The Next Big Thing Music Blog

A Conversation with Martin Smit, the multi-platform guru behind Next Big Thing. (originally published on the Next Big Thing Music Blog)

When asked about the purpose of Next Big Thing, Martin Smit approaches it as a mission of broadening our horizons, “I guess my hope is to force the listener to overcome his or her prejudices… to make a country and western fan swoon over a perfectly formed hip-hop song and a metal-head become hopelessly devoted to a beautifully composed techno track.” While these are lofty ambitions, they’re fueled by a very genuine motive, as Smit merely wants listeners to “fall in love with music all over again.” The site started with a webspace – more a quirky web application than a website – and has evolved to thriving web 2.0 entity, complete with a blog, podcast, flickr site, and all the trimmings.

NBT covers all genres of music, perfect for the most adventurous of listeners. But there are obvious hurdles in promoting emerging bands, as Martin describes the power of the mainstream, “Their sole purpose is to get the guy out there in cyberspace to buy their product and only their product.” In mass media culture, being a curious, adventurous listener seems like a counterintuitive thing. “(Mainstream labels) know a lot of customers want what is only a few mouse clicks away and they also know that a lot of customers want, in fact NEED to be told what to buy and what is cool.” This observation paints a bleak landscape for any music broadcaster focusing on the obscure or emerging. This may not necessarily be the full story, however, as Smit became overjoyed when I inquired about, from his experience, how intelligent the average listener actually is when it comes to discovering new music? He replied, “Thankfully Way WAY more intelligent than the majors give them credit for.

Sure there are a thousand slackers who will go buy a single by the Fray just because they are always on the front page of MySpace, But more and more, there are kids and parents and grannies and truck drivers who want to discover for themselves what or who will be the next superstar band or performer.”Even though listeners are willing to deviate from the mainstream conveyer belt, some bands are still going unheard and at their own fault. “A Lot of bands are good at making great music but basically are AWFUL at promoting themselves. They don’t seem to get that creating the tune, the art, is only a tiny part of the process…the hardest part is getting that music heard and that it’s time consuming and difficult work.”

In Smit’s mind, a few bands have distinguished themselves, mainly through persistence. “Bands like Rotten Cheri from New York and Colour Cold in South Africa are good examples of acts that go that extra mile, they send music to website after website, they make music available for play and they don’t stop, they keep promoting and working and playing.” (Check out their URLs in the blog roll opposite), He continues, “What is amazing is I get SO many bands like this.” In 2008, expect NBT to continue its expansion, as Smit wants “to simply provide as many platforms as possible for all that brilliant music.” Check out more from Next Big Thing:

Podcast: The NBT Podcast

Blog: www.nbtmusic.wordpress.com

MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/martinnextbigthing

Homepage: www.nextbigthing.co.za

Visual Page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nbtvisual Thursday Night US Show: http://www.luver.com/nextbigthing.html

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Internet Marketing and Web 2.0 BootCamp for Musicians Wrap Up

This past Saturday September 15th I rolled out my Internet Marketing and Web 2.0 BootCamp for Musicians, which I co-presented at my office with Melanie Van Orden of Van Orden Media Consulting.I chose Melanie because of her long history utilizing Internet marketing to help businesses grow (something the music business barely knows a thing about).

She and her husband Jason Van Orden is one of the foremost experts in Podcasting and together they consult large and small businesses in Internet Marketing Mastery.

The BootCamp was jam backed with information including a full overview of Web 2.0 and a step by step guide on how to make yourself Web 2.0 friendly starting with the easiest applications in the social media realm and working up to the most technically difficult.

We went over:

How to make a musicians website an interactive and potential money making machine instead of a static portal that includes the same information every other musician included:

  • The nuts and Bolts of Web 2.0
  • Why every musician should start Twittering ASAP
  • Newsletters vs. email list and how to build them
  • The ins and outs of Blogging & Podcasting

and discussed a ton of cool websites that artists can utilize to help create evangelists that will spread the word about their music now just passive fans

I learned so much by just teaching the course about how indie musicians think about these emerging online trends which as a social media junkie I tend to feel more comfortable around and it was eye opening and wonderful to have them all participate.

We had 3 guest speakers who really added to the conversation by sharing their experiences. They were:

Rachel Barton Pine – Rachel is the first classical musician I have ever represented in my 12 years of doing music publicity! Rachel talked about her new Podcast and what she has noticed about her overall web presence through hosting her own Podcast and how she feels a direct correspondence to upping her Internet presence and going to # 12 on the Billboard charts

John Taglieri – A friend and client for many years who discussed how he identified his niche market and worked every angle to exploit it by using tactical strategies, goal setting and excellent customer service techniques that he learned at his varies day jobs (before he quit them to become a full time touring artist). He also shared how he figured out a way to tour the entire United States of America on someone else’s dime while building his own fan base and playing his original music for twice as long as he can play in any venue at home.

Michael Gillboe – Is the programmer, producer and DJ for two wildly popular podcasts Next Big Hit which has 40,000 listeners and features a unique way of presenting Independent artists called “Dressed Up and Stripped Down” where he showcases artists by playing the studio versions of their albums, interviews them and then has them play the stripped down versions in his studio. Broadway Bullet is a theatre podcast, which presents the best of Broadway and Off Broadway. Michael shared tips on how to approach podcasters as independent artists that were invaluable and he really shed some light on what it looks like on the receiving end of the new media spectrum. Michael also gave many practical tips on how to simply get noticed.

Melanie and I are going to packaging this awesome BootCamp and selling it as an audio product so stay tuned…. It should be ready to go in a few weeks!

View The Flickr Gallery!

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10 Reasons Why Every Musician Should Join Twitter NOW

Overwhelmed with maintaining your MySpace page, blog, podcast, e-mail, website, tour updates and everything else online to promote yourself? Twitter is an ingenious solution that will give your fans more of you and it takes less than 3 minutes a day to stay on top of without your computer!

OK – so here’s why Twitter is important and imperative for you as an indie musician to join immediately:

1. It’s free & very easy to join!

2. It will help you build your brand almost instantly
& It’s much easier to stay current with than a blog because all you need to do is “tweet” small texts (the140 character limit ensures that you won’t blather on.)

3. Use it to stay in touch with fans, fellow musicians, and friends all at the same time.

4. Your fan base will feel more connected to you, like they are interacting directly with you. And, bonus…you don’t have to follow everyone who follows you ;)

5. Text message tweets to your entire list from your phone, so when you are on the road you can easily send updates to numerous people without a computer or an Internet connection.

6. You can tweet quirky or mundane things that happen to you in real-time… Take a photo of your lunch, create a tiny URL (http://www.tinyurl.com) and and before that burrito is finished you will be sharing it with your entire community.

7. It’s an amazing way to quickly connect with lots of people – it’s like people chips! What do I mean? OK, I love and respect a lot of podcasters and there are dozens of podcasts that I like to listen to but some weeks I don’t have enough free hours to listen to all of the updates – but I still feel like I am keeping up with everyone via their Tweets.

8. Twitter gives you customizable and cool “badges” which are widgets that you can drop onto your MySpace & Facebook pages as well as onto other websites so all of you fans can join and follow you from multiple platforms outside of Twitter.com. In other words: Update your websites every single day without paying your webmaster a dime ☺! That’s right – stick a Twitter badge on your site and tweet regularly – it will keep your fans coming back for more.

9. If you get overwhelmed with the tweets coming into your phone you can turn text messages off and use your phone to tweet out only. Catch up on your IM, Firefox browser (using Twitbin) or on your band homepage, MySpace, Facebook etc. only when you want to.

10. Web 2.0 is HERE NOW and its all about social networking and Twitter is the easiest of all of the current social netwoking apps to use because you don’t need to be in front of a computer to be part of the social networking revolution!

And here 2 great articles on it if you would like more convincing

Wired Magazine
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/magazine/15-07/st_thompson

The Guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/mar/15/media.newmedia

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A Newbie at Gnomedex

My trusted friend Corey Denis who I have deep roots with (we both started in the music business at What Are Records? ) back in the 90s…Corey is now the VP of Integrated Marketing at reapandsow and she has helped my company develop some new social networking trix and I call on her for all things digital.

I arrived in Seattle yesterday and was picked up by the delightful NOVA SHANK who worked at Ariel Publicity back in our Boulder CO days for 3 years and his business card actually said “Super Nova” and he is like a little brother to me. We dined on Oysters and local white wine and he took me to the awesome Experience Music Project, which is designed by the architect Frank Gehry whose museum I visited in Bilbao years ago. The EMP building did not seduce me the way the Guggenheim in Spain did but it was amazing in another way – it is like a living circus colorful and fun like a big mound of cotton candy from far away and it has a lot of cool textures glossy and metallic and steel and it stands behind a retro amusement park which added to the “funness” of it.

It is a museum of music history founded by Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and it is a totally interactive museum which much like the theme of Gnomedex is all about capturing peoples personal experiences about music using ever-changing exhibitions which are all explorations of American popular music, there are studios where you can video tape yourself performing or singing or telling your favorite music story and the footage plays as part of the museum. Music is such a personal experience for all of us and I found the interactive part totally magical and really cool. Just like in blogging you could add your comments all over the museum – its like a living blogosphere & social networking museum.

Corey and I met up and headed over to the opening party and the first person I run into is Adam Metz who I have been communicating with for over 10 years (and who has recorded with Jen Chapin, one of my artists who I have been proudly representing for six years). I have never met in person. Adam is not only a musician but also a social networking expert and it was like meeting a long lost friend… cause that’s exactly what he is… I like Gnomedex already. There are more iphones here that at an Apple store and many conversations I have are being twittered and blogged and texted in real time which is a little distracting but what did I expect it’s a blogging conference… we ended the evening at Kells Irish Pub listening to spirited Irish and Folk music and drinking with Sue, Schlomo, Brian, Corey, Kris, Scales, and Lee. Nice and mellow start to the conference.

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I Cant Wait To See What The Future Of Music Coalition is Going To Do!

Hi campers …be aware – my favorite go to peeps at the FMC (Future Of Music Coalition) have something up their sleeves around an issue that has been near and dear to my heart for quite some time. As a publicist for indie artists, Internet radio acts as a critical componant for us in getting the word out about our artists. Its one of the last bastians of free speech left as well as a community filled with enthusiastic and engaged people who love music. The programmers we work with (over 600 and counting are some of the most enthusastic music lovers Iv’e met in my 15 year career as a music chick and in a vast majority of cases they PAY to support their own stations simply because they enjoy music so much. It has been unbearable to all of us at Ariel Publicity to even think about the fact that our friends and constant cheerleaders may be foreced out of business and then forced to pay back royalties for their hobbies. We love Internet Radio so much we even host our very own Internet Radio station on Live 365 – Ariel’s Artists Here is the email I just got from the unsinkable and brilliant Jenny Toomey:We don’t usually send you anything but newsletters or conference information. But occasionally, a situation comes along that is so outrageous, so patently unfair that we must take immediate action.

Given our work on radio deregulation, payola and other media issues over the years, you might not be surprised that the situation involves Clear Channel. The current issue is so important that we are dedicating an entire week’s worth of FMC blog posts to it starting this Monday, July 9. The coverage will culminate on Friday, July 13 with a special surprise for Clear Channel.

So, what has us so outraged? It’s very simple. Clear Channel, which was just investigated for payola by the FCC, is engaging in a new type of questionable practice: requiring indie artists to waive royalties for consideration to get airplay. We’ve sent out a press release and posted this blog entry documenting the situation, but Clear Channel still doesn’t seem to get it.

So please, if you care about the future of music and musicians, take a moment and click here to add our blog to your RSS feeds. And send this link to all your music-loving, music-making friends. You won’t want to miss a single word.

We’ll lay out the situation fully on Monday, but definitely tune in to cut through Clear Channel’s static. And most of all, don’t forget about the special surprise on Friday. We know Clear Channel won’t.

Sincerely, Jenny Toomey, Executive Director, Future of Music Coalition

So – follow along – this is bound to be GOOD. I’ll keep you updated here as well at Cyber PR

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The NYC Podcasters MeetUp – June 2007

Last night I hosted our monthly NYC podcasters meetup group at the Ariel Publicity Offices and we had 2 speakers – First my friend from my Boulder Colorado days Corey Denis led a discussion about the Savenetradio.org CRB Copyright royalty hearing on July 15, 2007. She smartly pointed out that if there is an unfavorable ruling passes that the fees might also retroactively apply to podcasters because it sets a bad precedent. There is no clear definition of whether or not an RSS feed is a public performance. So if you haven’t already signed the petition AND called your senators please do this now http://somafm.com/crb/ it will take 5 minutes and you will be counted.

Next up was a wonderful and lively discussion led by John C Havens about transparency – what exactly defines transparency and how it can affect public relations around almost anything. He cited a small blunder he himself admitted to making by over sharing on a PodCamp Google Group and what ensued from being overly enthusiastic and not thinking through what he had posted. All of a sudden he had a fire to put out and a deep lesson was learned. Here is Johns description of his presentation:

“I’m intrigued to see how people view transparency online, both in positive ways and not so positive. Meaning, we all want people to put the comment feature on their blog and open up about issues they normally didn’t before (think big corporate websites that don’t allow us to post our reactions). But we also don’t want trolls (unwanted, nasty commenting types) to turn off any new visitors to our site. How do we manage a good balance?”

As a publicist for the last 15 years, I have learned these lessons myself many a time through dealing with traditional media. An artist having a bad day on the road over shares a personal topic or opinion with a friendly writer during a phoner and all of a sudden all hell breaks loose…. John has posted a forum to discuss transparency if you would like to visit. Doug Kerston did the intros as usual and brought the snacks – Easy Cheese Baby! Since it was my birthday week I brought red wine, which we polished off, in a flash with the Sun Chips landing second place for most coveted snack on the table.

Roll Call: Bendrix started it – I rounded it out

1. John Havens (Our Speaker) http://blog.blogtalkradio.com

2. Mark Tafoya (Our Chef) http://gildedfork.com

3. Corey Denis (Our 1st Speaker & San Franciscan blogger and podcaster connection) http://www.notshocking.com

4. Fiona Bloom (Our A&R Whizocologist) http://thebloomeffect.com

5. Christopher Michael (Our Digital Media Strategist)

6. Bendrix (Our Portable Media Strategist) http://codedsignal.com

7. Doug Kerston (Our Captain) http://www.allbusiness.com/business-planning-structures/starting-a-business/3882-1.html

8. Ava (Our Web Host) http://www.avahosting.biz

9. Fabio (Our Italian) Who just moved from Rome 2 weeks ago

10. Kim Last (Our Recent College Grad)

11. Francisco Daum (Our Civil Servant) http://franciscodaum.com/

12. Greg Weinstein (Our Corporate Exec) On his real birthday no less – Happy Birthday Greg!

13. Yours Truly (Our Publicist) http://www.arielpublicity.com

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