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An Indie Musician's Guide to World Domination

TAKING THE "WORK" OUT OF NETWORKING

Artists and music industry professionals are busy people. Planning the logistics of touring; making complex business decisions; maintaining inventories and designing products; all these things take time. Oh yeah and top-selling albums don't write or record themselves. At least, not yet. (For a scary peek into the possible future of music composition, follow this link.)

Nowadays, artists are also expected to build and maintain a relationship with their fans through their websites, social media accounts and other online forums. The trouble is, building a following on ONE website takes a lot of time and effort; maintaining vibrant communities in a dozen different places requires full-time attention. Many musicians are discouraged and frustrated by the sheer amount of time they spend in front of their computers.

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Is this why we wanted to be musicians? To spend hours updating tour schedules, posting status updates and photos on every social network that pops up?

Enter ArtistData. Over the past few years, ArtistData has grown from a time-saving idea into an indispensable tool for more than 20,000 artists and industry pros. Using their system, artists can now update ONE account, and ArtistData syncs the relevant information with websites and social platforms all over the web, saving literally hours of mind-numbing, redundant grunt-work. Enter your tour date information in ArtistData, and it's synced with your Facebook, MySpace and iLike profiles. ArtistData even keeps your official website's data up-to-date!

ArtistData isn't just useful for keeping your tour dates organized, though. You can post status updates, photos, tour posters or flyers and see them distributed across your networks. You can quickly and easily create a tour book based on the data you've entered. You can even sync your event calendar with iCal or Google Calendar to help you stay organized. I have the Calendar app on my iPhone synced with our ArtistData account, which means I always have up-to-the-minute information about upcoming shows, and it's easy for me to see at a glance when and where we'll be playing, with no extra effort beyond allowing the app to access our ArtistData feed.

Brenden Mulligan, the president and founder of ArtistData, has done it all in the music business: he's helped organize festivals; he's worked as a road-manager on a national arena tour; he's even spent time working for record labels in Nashville. Brenden was kind enough to answer a few questions for me the other day. We talked about his company's mission, the future of the music industry and the importance of social media in cultivating strong artist/fan relationships.

BRIAN: Artists today have more tools than ever before to interact with fans and keep their audience up to date with the most current information and content. ArtistData is a great example of a website/service that utilizes technology to help artists stay organized and in touch with their fans regardless of the platform they choose to use. How does ArtistData help musicians build the artist/fan relationship? Do you think it's important for artists to cultivate a personal relationship with their fan base?

BRENDEN: I think forming a personal relationship with the fan base is more important than ever. Unfortunately, ArtistData doesn't directly do that (how's THAT for self-centred marketing?!). But what ArtistData does is remove hours of monotonous data management and free up a lot more time for artists to cultivate that relationship. I remember when we started, we used to say that by auto-updating MySpace, we're not saying "don't use myspace", we're saying "use myspace for valuable stuff, like actually talking with your fans, not boring copying and pasting". That's the philosophy we've had. ArtistData is a tool that gives artists more time to do what's important: create music and communicate with their fans about it.

BRIAN: How does ArtistData help musicians bring their careers to another level?

BRENDEN: ArtistData allows musicians to have a lot more time to do what's important. We take the monotonous data management and make it a breeze, giving them more time to spend talking with their fans and creating music.

BRIAN: Where did ArtistData come from? What was the motivation behind creating a social media aggregator?

BRENDEN: When I was at Aware Records, one of my main jobs was figuring out the digital music landscape and keeping artist profiles updated. In very little time, updating websites was an entire days work. It's was pretty clear from the start that there needed to be a tool to allow artists to update them all at once.

BRIAN: How important is the social media trend to an artist today? Will social platforms and the tools they provide artists eventually replace the traditional music industry as a whole, or can labels learn to exploit these new media and remain relevant?

BRENDEN: It all depends on the artist. Some artists are just better off on their own, and other really benefit from what labels can provide. I think what it's doing is giving artists choices. Artist's don't need to (and should never) start their career with the only goal to get signed. They'll be really disappointed. They should have the goal of slowly going a meaningful and committed fan base and if one day, certain relationships with labels, agencies, publishers, etc present themselves and are a good fit, fantastic! But artists have plenty of tools to do it on their own and should always start out with that in mind.

BRIAN: Do you think fans want/need a closer connection to the artists they admire? Is there a downside to stripping away the mystique, or does intimacy cultivate a more lasting interest in an artist's career?

BRENDEN: Again, it all depends on the artist. To generalize, a singer songwriter probably has a lot more to gain by really letting the fans into their lives, where a mega-rock band might benefit from being a few steps removed. I think it all depends how the band wants to be perceived, and that a lot of times is consistent with the music they play. Fans of bluegrass or americana, in my opinion, are naturally more interested in songwriting than fans of top 40 processed pop. So blogging, tweeting, etc about the songwriting process will probably be more effective in the bluegrass market than others.

BRIAN: Do you think the emphasis on "extra content" we see today will help bands to discourage illegal downloading of their albums? Is this a battle we should be fighting, or is our time better spent figuring out ways to reach the people who ARE getting our albums for free?

BRENDEN: As unpopular as it might sound, I think all this "extra content" is crap. People want the music, and you shouldn't try to trick them into buying the music to get extra footage. Sell them side by side and the fans who care will buy the extra content. But no one who would normally go steal the album is getting tricked into buying it because they get an extra video.

I also don't think we need to just assume no one will pay and give it all away for free. I am a big supporter of giving a song or two away for an email address, but bands should get paid for the work they do. The problem is pricing. I think people are still wrapped up in thinking that albums should still cost what they used to cost ($10-$18). Personally, I think the bands that take advantage of the fact that it doesn't cost NEARLY as much to manufacture, record, create, an album and sell the digital tracks for a lower price are the smarter ones. The marginal cost of selling 1 more album is almost nothing, so $5 is a pretty great profit, especially if you can make the people who would have tried to steal it think "well, it's only $5. I'll just buy it."

BRIAN: What does the music industry look like in five years? In ten?

BRENDEN: There will still be a LOT of musicians and a LOT of music fans. The musicians with the real talent will still succeed and tons of musicians who aren't good enough to really break through the noise will still be blaming their lack of success on external issues. There will still be tons of live music in cities around the world every night. And the happiest people in the industry will be those who are happy earning a decent living playing music or helping musicians. The unhappiest will still be those trying to get back "the good old days" and wondering why they can't travel by helicopter anymore.

BRIAN: Is there a great online tool for artists that you think is largely overlooked?

BRENDEN: I think the most important tool could be facebook, but facebook needs to give artists a better way to form a true presence there.

BRIAN: Agreed the access is there, but the tools haven't caught up just yet. And finally: what is the one piece of advice you'd give an independent artist looking to find an audience in today's music industry?

BRENDEN: Take time to make the music amazing. Co-write. Get mentored. Take lessons. Because the better the music is, the easier every other thing they do is.

BRIAN: Great advice! Thanks a lot Brenden, and here's hoping more artists discover all the ways ArtistData helps them to work smarter, letting them spend more time on the important stuff: writing, recording and performing great music!

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Posted in Music Post Date 03/06/2017


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