Cyber PR’s 2014 SXSW Survival Guide

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Having attended every SXSW for the last 17 years, I’ve seen it all. The following are some tips on how to successfully navigate your through the most overwhelming music conference of them all.

Envision What You Want Before You Arrive

My first bit of advice: Arrive prepared. Know who will be attending and create some goals before you get there.

Attend at Least One Music Conference Each Year

I believe all serious musicians should make it part of their job to attend at least one conference a year.  They can be expensive to get to, but think abut it this way: music lessons and equipment were at one time expensive, and those things are also vital for your career. Conferences are the best place to meet people who work in and around the music industry, and conferences are a relaxed environment to connect with people in the industry who can change the course of your career.

Austin, Texas is a wonderful city, and its distractions are many. Keep in mind that this is not a vacation. It’s a work-related learning experience. With a little planning and foresight, you can have a million-dollar conference.

Before You Go, Get Connected!

SXSW Social Media:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/SXSWFestival
Twitter: www.twitter.com/SXSW
YouTube: www.youtube.com/SXSW
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/SXSW
Instagram: www.instagram.com/SXSW

Bring Business Cards & Postcards

Yes, you should have a business card, and your card should not just have your name and number.  It should have good information about what you or your band sounds like (your pitch) , your Twitter handle, Facebook URLS, and links to any other places people might be able to find you online. A photo of you or a band logo would also be highly recommended.

MooCards makes excellent business cards that are highly customizable, very inexpensive and look great! My whole team used the Facebook Cards MooCards which pulls your information from Facebook and uses the image you have in your Timeline banner as the background for the card.

Don’t Haul A Ton Of CDs

I do not recommend bringing a lot of CDs. People are overwhelmed with free CDs, and they won’t want to carry them home. It’s better to get people’s business cards and mail them a CD, or (better yet!) send your music digitally through Bandcamp or Soundcloud as a follow-up after you get home.

Talk To Strangers

Don’t be scared to take risks and meet people. Conferences are friendly places.  Just walk right up and ask “So, what brings you here?” You’ll have a new BFF in no time.

Attend Panels – You Will Learn Something

It’s tempting to blow the panels off and hit all of the free day parties, but I encourage you to make an effort to sit in on at least one or two panels per day. Choose any topic that interests you, and take notes.

Get Mentored!

Most conferences have amazing mentoring sessions where you can sign up to have one-on-one face time with the industry peeps. Some of the most important people in the music business will be sitting there ready to meet with you.

When you do go to a one-on-one mentoring panel, be prepared to meet these people. Make sure that you have done your research, and have specific questions to ask them.

Follow Up!

The moment you get home, make sure to send thank you notes or e-mails. Follow up with every single person that you met. If appropriate, add them to your e-mail list. Never send your pitch or talk about business in the initial e-mail. Get people to respond to your follow up by just being friendly. If you do not follow up, your trip and hard work will have been a waste of your time. So, don’t rip yourself off here!

Meet the Cyber PR® Team at SXSW 2014!

I unfortunately won’t be down in Austin for this year’s festivities, but Andrew Salmon, my Campaign Manager will be there and would love to meet up with you!

Andrew will be speaking on a panel with David Dufresne (Bandzoogle), Emily White (Whitesmith Ent.), Brian Felsen (formerly of CD Baby/ HostBaby) and Michael Schneider (Urturn):

Panel: Website Demolition Derby
Wednesday, March 12
3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Room: Austin Convention Center Ballroom E

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Connect with Andrew on Twitter!

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How to Expand Your Awareness from a Local to National Music Market

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As a band or artist it’s hugely important to build up a local fan base, get a following, and get the name out. But once this is achieved, some artists may find it hard to branch out of their local area to become noticed nationally. It’s likely to be true that there are bands/artists out there with bags of potential and talent that are stuck in their local areas with no knowledge of how to get out. Here are a few DIY tips on how to get out there:

Research

Do your research: look up different cities, the popular small venues and the promoters within. Once you have this information, there is knowledge of who to contact to get a gig. It is likely that if you are from another city that you won’t be offered the best slot of the night… Be patient with this, the promoter may not have heard of you, and may be sceptical about ticket sales so they’re giving you a fair chance, and hey… if you’re good, you’ll probably be invited back with a better slot. Promoters aren’t only useful for gaining a slot at one of their venues, but they also have a good contact list of the city of which they work. If you’re impressive, there’s no doubt that the promoter will spread the word and help you branch out around the area.

Make the most of the trip

When travelling to another city to play a show, make the most of the trip and get yourself heard more than once! Perhaps arrange another show (depending on promoter terms) but there are other avenues to go down other than booking a show at another venue… Play an acoustic set in a record store, busk in the city centre with some CD’s ready to hand out, be imaginative! It may also be useful to think about taking along some merchandise, such as CD’s, badges/stickers and t-shirts etc. This will look professional and make people in the city remember you whilst also making some money!

There are other ways to get your voice heard in the city you’re heading to, again linking back to Research, find all the local radio stations and contact about a possible interview or play of your song whilst you’re in the city. This is great promotion for your act, people become aware of whom you are and may even come down to your show, pleasing the promoter too! The harder you work and the more promotion made, the more the city will want you back after your show. Engage with the audience and make them excited about your music!

Strong social media presence

Get your act a strong online presence by existing on as many social media platforms as you can (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MySpace Vine etc.) and show that you are excited to be playing the city you’re heading to. This will create a good image for your act as well as pleasing the promoter by pushing the show. If the promoter notices the effort put in to promoting the show, even if there is a low turn out they will consider you again. Be easy to work with – be polite, work hard and put in the effort! They will no doubt invite you back if so.

A strong social media presence will also give your new fans from the city a place to find you and keep updated. It keeps them interested, engaged and when you return they will probably be there. The bigger your online fan base, the bigger your act in popularity, so this will be hugely effective in continuing to branch out nationally. In this digital age its important to exist on as many online platforms as possible, if people are looking for your music or happen to come across you, they may tell their friends and help promote you further!

Be good! Be confident!

This may seem a little blunt and easier than it sounds, but the simple fact of the matter is you must be good. Be confident in your own material, if you feel it needs more time to nurture, stay in the practise room for a bit longer and then hit the other cities. Use your local town as a place to showcase yourself but at the same time a free practise to get honest criticism from people to help you improve. After all, if you’re not confident in your own material then who else will be? Wait until the right time; don’t show off your mistakes as sometimes you may have only one chance. When the time is right, contact the promoters and confirm your availability for as soon as possible. Get out there, show yourself off, and most importantly: have fun!

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This article has been written by Jamie Ford from Music Gateway – Connecting music professionals globally through targeted project opportunities.



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Musicians: Free Health Care Consultations Available Now!

HeadCountAre you and your team set up with ObamaCare yet?

Sure, it’s something we’ve been talking about ever since the launch of the initially problematic healthcare.gov website. However, if you are a musician or represent musicians, DO NOT stop reading. It could end up costing you.

For musicians, it’s a matter of getting in touch with the right people, asking the right questions, and getting the right advice to avoid the unnecessary expense. Enter: HeadCount.org

The organization has been running steady for 10 years, and started out as a platform to help register voters for the 2004 presidential election. Since then, they have successfully organized many socially conscious initiatives such as #SoundOff, a Twitter platform that allows anyone to tweet directly at Congress and create an open dialogue with lawmakers, nationally-broadcasted PSAs, and much more. Simply put, their mission is to promote participation and democracy through music.

“It’s all about keeping people informed, and harnessing the power of musicians,” co-chair Andy Bernstein states, who realizes the reach and the influence that musicians possess. It is this power that has helped the organization register over 300,000, and achieve much more.

With every cog of the industry represented in its board of directors, from artists, to managers, to promoters, to booking agents, to venues, to radio stations, multinational corporations and beyond, the resources at hand have helped propel the initiatives of this organization for well over a decade, and Health Care is next on the docket.


HOTLINE INFORMATION

PHONE: (919) 264-0418
EMAIL: HealthCare@HeadCount.org
HOURS OF OPERATION: 24 hours!


HeadCount.org has set up a hotline where anyone can call to get more information about the necessary steps needed to ensure coverage without penalty. Did you know that if you don’t have coverage before March 31st, you could get fined? It could be substantial depending on your particular situation, so it’s best to try to avoid any surprises.

Why is it best to contact HeadCount as opposed to just doing it yourself? You may not know what regulations are in place that might affect your situation as an artist, manager, promoter, etc. Simply getting on the phone with HeadCount will give you the necessary information and direct you to other organizations called “Navigators” who are trained by the government to assist you in making sure that your health care requirements are met. This is a resource that the government has implemented for your sake, and it’s HeadCount’s mission to inform and put people in touch with these resources.

Of course, for anyone who still suffers from healthcare.gov-phobia, sorting out your health care needs over the phone will help you avoid this step.


If you’re heading to SXSW: you can visit the workshop below to get one-on-one guidance regarding how to insure your band, whether or not you’ll have interstate coverage, and how to navigate this new Health Insurance Marketplace.

Artists + the Affordable Care Act: Get Answers, Get Covered
Thursday 3/13, 3:30p-6p
Austin Convention Center Room 8BC
Open to badge holders and artist wristband holders

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Conversion in a Box: Why ‘Website Visits’ Are a Worthless Metric for Musicians

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A few weeks ago, our good friend Wes Davenport put us on to a new service called ‘Conversion In a Box‘, which is a simple email-for-media form creator aimed at helping musicians to easily create a newsletter sign up form for their website that offers a download in exchange for an email address.

While most email services offer some sort of opt-in form, and many do also include an e-for-m option, it’s not always the easiest thing to set up / customize. For instance, Mail Chimp offers a great newsletter service but won’t allow you to upload a song directly to their server so if you are going to offer a song download in exchange for an email address, you’ll have to find somewhere else to actually host that song.

Conversion In a Box on the other hand will host your files, allow you to set up a highly customizable sign-up form in mere minutes that can be embedded to any website with ease. And for those of you who already have a newsletter set up through another service, the email addresses you collect here can be easily exported in .csv format and imported back into your newsletter service.

There is no doubt that Conversion In a Box serves a great purpose for all of you musicians going down the D.I.Y road so we asked founder Mark LaFay discuss the inspiration and genesis of his new platform below…


About 12 years ago, I was working furiously to break a young band from Carmel, Indiana called Haste the Day. We put songs up on MP3.com for people to stream and we were doing our own outreach to outlets like ThePRP.com and such.

It was 2002 and believe it or not, the Internet was still very much like the wild west. There weren’t a lot of rules, the spam act was coming down the congressional pipeline but wasn’t yet approved and for the most part, people were writing their own rules. The post-Napster concept of internet privacy wasn’t even a consideration yet. This was somewhat freeing for us because Schools posted student directories online and emails were easily scraped for use.

So scrape and spam we did!

We emailed 10’s of thousands of college students and asked them to listen to the band’s songs on MP3.com. Slowly the play count ticked up and we were filled with a feeling of accomplishment. The problem, though, is that we didn’t know who was listening and whether or not the spam email approach was effective.

Fast-forward to today, bands have several tools at their disposal that are useful tools for identifying, building, growing and harvesting their fan communities. With all of the intelligence available to musicians today, it’s still somewhat mind-blowing that the tactics of 2002 are still alive and well in 2014.

I don’t know if it’s ego, pride or naïvety but we, humans, tend to get distracted by vanity metrics. You know… numbers that don’t really matter but they tend to be the biggest— things like:

  • likes
  • follows
  • visits

Take the last one, visits to you website for an example. We all get enamored by the number of people that visit our website. But Why? What does that number really mean?

Visits to our website is like people walking past our merch-table at a show. We kind of know that they are interested in our music, but unless they buy something, or unless they sign-up for our fan mailing we really don’t know anything about them. And once they walk by without a connection or transaction of some sort they are gone forever. Just someone who happened to walk by.

When it comes to the web, this connection or transaction is called conversion and it is the single most important step in internet marketing and promotions today. And if you get nothing else out of this article, I hope you get that.

There is no arguing that the power of the internet, the pervasiveness of digital connectivity, and the promise of social media has totally transformed the music industry. The way we promote ourselves, sell our music, and connect with our fans is completely different than what it was just a few short years ago.

There is a revolution going on in the music industry, but unless we start the process by making a digital connection with our fans in identifying who they are then we also miss out on all of the spoils of this revolution.

Despite this, band after after band continues to begin the promotion of their new release by giving away songs online without asking for anything in return, happy with only a vanity metric of “downloads’” they miss out on the opportunity for “conversion.” Instead of simply putting their music online for people to stream anonymously, they should of qualified their audience by requiring them to give them their email in exchange for downloading the music.

It was this dilemma that was the genesis for a free and easy-to-use web tool called Conversion In a Box (CIAB). CIAB is focused on doing one thing and one thing only: make it easy for musicians to use their music to gather fan email addresses.

The approach is simple. Upload your song to CIAB, select what info you want to gather, customize an email message that gets sent to each subscriber, copy your form code and paste it on your website, blog or Facebook. Then you can promote your new music by driving people to your form.

Its time to for today’s band or musician to join in the revelation. And the first step is not just getting your song out there. Its conversion.

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7 Ways to Show Love To Your Fan Community

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Happy Valentines Day! While often reserved for lovers, V-Day is a great opportunity to share love of all kinds. Through social media, this love could be shared by spotlighting someone you look up to, reciprocating support through a #FollowFriday tweet, blogging about someone who’s done great work, etc.

This year, we’ve asked 7 friends to share their experience with showing love (or being shown love) through social media to help you come up with ways you feel most appropriately display the love you have for your own fan community.

Emily WhiteEmily White (@emwizzle)
Whitesmith Entertainment, Readymade Records & Dreamfuel

The best way to share social media love is to consistently get back to as many if not all fans as you can. Fans want to be heard and are more likely to come back if you acknowledge them. Overloaded and/or have too many fans to respond to yourself? Get an eager intern or friend or family member to help you in making sure the info is getting to each fan who asks something, and tag it [Team “Artist’s Name”] to keep your posts authentic and ensure no one is posting as you. Don’t just save it up for Valentine’s Day, share the love 365 days a year!


Megan MarcumMegan Marcum (@onstagesuccess)
Event Planner, Tom Jackson Productions

I always try to leave a meaningful comment or reply if possible. I want people to believe that they matter to us! For example if someone is brave enough to post a ‘selfie’ or photo of themselves I’m sure to comment on their true beauty with a genuine compliment. Or if someone replies to a post I will try to engage with them further, have an actual conversation about the topic.


b56eac6194ddaa3eda6884576850d5f8Jay Frank (@futurehitdna)
FuturehitDNA, Dig Sin

Always share love on social posts. Lots of data has shown that posts written in negative tones do worse than ones with positive tones. When you release positive energy to your fans, they usually respond in kind. Always reread before posting and make sure you are framing it as positively as you can.




4Eric Weiner (@thewildhoneypie)
The Wild Honey Pie

Oh, good old Valentine’s day! While I will personally be taking my lady out for a meal of aphrodisiacs, The Wild Honey Pie will have a date with any readers that decide to visit the site that evening instead of getting freaky. You asked for a love moment we had on social networks, it really does happen all the time. What’s most amazing about Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and beyond is that anyone can connect with anyone. The most rewarding moments we are ever able to have is when a reader or band thanks us. It really does mean the world to us when someone wants to tell us the music they discovered on our site or in our videos, mostly because we don’t have a store, we don’t get to interact in person with our readers and viewers (actually, that’s not completely true but we can only throw a limited number of events a year). Happy Valentine’s day everyone!



unnamedJo-Na A. Williams, Esq (@jwilliamsesq)
J.A. Williams Law – The Artist Empowerment Firm

Social Media is a huge part of my life but also my business and it’s a way that truly connects us all. I share lots of love through social media by posting content that I think musicians would love about being an entrepreneur, articles that will help them, or people I believe to be inspiring along their path. To me connecting is all about giving. Taking time out of your life to give to someone else is the greatest love that you can share. If we did this more in society we would definitely have a better world and I truly believe that social media is vehicle to imagine and create that which we want to see. – Jo-Na Williams, Esq.

madalyn_sklarMadalyn Sklar (@madalynsklar)
GoGirlsMusic

As the leader of GoGirlsMusic.com, a large online organization promoting, supporting & empowering women in music, part of my mission is sharing the love for others 24/7/365 and educating people how to do it for themselves. There are lots of ways to share the love. One of my favorites is posting a link that sends people to a promotional, pre-populated tweet. I do all the work ahead of time so all someone has to do is click a link which opens up a tweet that they then share. This tweet promotes me or anything that I want to promote. This makes it super fun and easy for them to tweet and share in the love.


mindy-about-imageMindy Gledhill (@mindygledhill)
Indie Singer/ Songwriter

The day I launched my PledgeMusic campaign, I was also in the thick of recording my new album. I was feeling particularly vulnerable and several things had gone awry with my launch day. I was just going in the sound booth to record my first vocal of the album when I got a notice that a fan had made a very generous donation to the campaign. I posted a picture to Instagram of me at the vocal mic in the sound booth and dedicated my first vocal of the album to him. He commented on the photo and told me that he keeps bees and had been playing my music to one of his hives. I replied and said: “You know what makes this even more awesome? The name of the song I just dedicated to you is called ‘Honey.'” Now, almost one year later, this fan who donated to my PledgeMusic campaign is now my manager.



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A Social Voting App Like You’ve Never Seen: Bedloo

***DISCLAIMER – Bedloo is a current client of Cyber PR***

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The foundation for any successful business is knowing the needs of their market. A thriving business has identified a target market, knows its needs, and has the bandwidth to accommodate their demands. Sometimes this isn’t so easy to pinpoint, or find the answers to. For instance, maybe a musician has a couple of ideas for his next T-shirt design, but can’t come to a decision. Maybe he’s been working on some new tracks for his upcoming album, but is having trouble on committing to a guitar tone that works for him. This is a perfect opportunity to let the fans into the creative process.

Bedloo is a new web and iOS app that allows musicians, or anyone for that matter, to ask a question within their network, and learn from their responses.

Now I know what you’re thinking… we’ve seen this concept before, and nobody paid any attention. Even Facebook tried it, and their plug-in was scrapped after just two years! Bedloo is different for three key reasons:

  • You are limited to two options to vote from, with no option to add your own answer. This gives the host more control over their poll and allows for much more focused data.
  • Bedloo allows you to add multimedia into the app in order to view your choice before you vote. A platform like Facebook is much more conducive to visual content, which means that these polls are more interactive and inviting.
  • These polls can be embedded, meaning that one Bedloo poll can be posted on multiple sites or blogs, and the data will be consolidated into one place.

HOW IT WORKS

Bedloo is a very intuitive app with a great user interface. When you create your poll, you pose the question that you want to ask your community, and you provide your two choices. Here’s the fun part: you get to contextualize your poll by adding in relative multimedia to each answer.

  • Thinking about a new exclusive T-shirt design for your 2014 tour? Whip up two separate designs, and add these mock-up images to your Bedloo.
  • Working on your next track? Post SoundCloud clips from your studio session and ask them which MIDI instrument you like better for that lead synth sound.
  • Playing pranks on your bandmates on the tour bus? Post YouTube or Vimeo links to your top two pranks, and let your fans duke it out in the polls!

DISCOVERY FEATURES

The app interface accommodates active and passive discovery methods. The current social networks incorporated into the app for sign-in and sharing are Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and they also provide you an embed code to post your poll on your blog or website. For SEO purposes, they also allow you to meta tag your poll to accommodate passive discovery among people who may find your Justin Bieber-related poll when they search his name in Google.


SERVE YOUR OWN PURPOSE

You can customize the time limit on your Bedloo, or you can keep your poll open indefinitely. This is great if you want to run a contest with your fans and offer up a grand prize to a lucky voter once the entry period expires. What’s the incentive for the host? The platform collects user analytics to break down your fan base’s age brackets, gender, and geographic location. Want to figure out where to tour next, and which demographics to market to? This could prove valuable!


AS A SOCIAL NETWORK

While it’s a great tool for brands to study up on their target market, it also acts as a social network, where you can follow your friends, brands, and other influencers on the platform. Just like any social platform, Bedloo displays a feed on your homepage that displays the polls that your network have posted recently. You can also sort your feed by category, and what’s trending worldwide. This feed can be accessed from both the web app and on iOS.


THE ROAD AHEAD

Like most online platforms, the wheels start to gain real traction once the user base has reached a point where businesses can attain significant data from their audience. If you are a musician (and yes, you are a business), here’s my advice to you: if you want significant data which you can extrapolate, do an AWESOME contest as a way to give your fans an incentive to vote. Picking a T-shirt design for a chance to win that T-shirt is a nice thought, but creativity is the musician’s forte! There are tons of things you can do to incentivize your fans.

The other factor that will help determine the app’s future is their ability to increase sign-ups. As it currently stands, users are allowed to vote as a visitor without having to create an account. Part of the reason why so many apps require you to sign in via a social network is to gain the ability to access your basic information (ie. age, gender, location). Once the app has figured out how to encourage social media or email sign-ups, I have a feeling that you will be seeing a lot more artists and companies using Bedloo.

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