I’m Casey Stewart, the Online Marketing Coordinator for Cowbell Digital Music. I’m sure you have read some of the regular posts by Shayne Locke (CEO of Cowbell) offering his thoughts on the label side of the business and the establishment of a new digital music platform with a focus on the music community and industry insights.

In my position at Cowbell, I take care of our online presence and assist artists in establishing a presence for themselves online. Sometimes they are ahead of the game, spread across the Internet, posting regular Youtube videos etc, while some are not even aware of the power behind social platforms like Twitter. I also source relevant information for independent artists to provide them with the necessary tools to remain relevant, present and engaging with the people that matter the most – their fans.

I came across this video over the weekend from the latest Tech Crunch conference, DISRUPT, in New York. The title of the video alone peaked my interest, “Success Strategies for Musicians in the Digital Era.”

Hmmm, what magical formula will they suggest? This is probably just another ‘social media expert’ with their run-of-the-mill ‘tips and tricks’. Well actually, I was wrong…

The two speakers are Troy Carter, Founder & CEO, Coalition Media Group and worldwide Manager for Lady Gaga and Scooter Braun, Founder & Chair, SB Projects and worldwide Manager for Justin Bieber … only the two biggest stars of the current music world … and incidentaly, the two artists that have indeed successfully harnessed online strategies to their advantage.

Here is the video link.

And here is a quick run down on the main points of the video, what I personally derived from the discussion and how that may relate to the independent artist.

1. Youtube is one of the main places that artists are now ‘discovered’ by both labels, managers and most importantly … fans.

A lot of people think they already know this, but:

* How many Youtube videos have you uploaded?
* How often do you provide Youtube content?
* Are you using a variety of techniques on Youtube? (i.e are you speaking to your fans, with your fans, about your fans … as opposed to posting a new music clip every now and then).

Justin Bieber, while a unique case, did not automatically have hundreds of millions of Youtube views. Even he had to build that (with the help, strategy and knowledge of his manager and team).
At Cowbell Digital Music, we are looking to introduce Cowbell TV so that the artists on our platform have a ready-made audience and can be promoted effectively but your own Youtube channel is important to make that connection with your fans.

2. The speakers were quite reluctant to discuss the monetization of Youtube, though it is a difficult topic to side-step with such huge names. They did however, stress the importance of treating social media as a communication device, not a ‘tool’. Whether it is true or not, their argument lies in the fact that both Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga like to interact with their fans on a personal level. The catch? The artist has to want to be engaged. You may be wondering what that even means – in a practical sense. An example from the video is that Justin Bieber spends 2 hours a day on Twitter. If you don’t have two hours to spend on twitter, spend one hour, or even 30 minutes, simply engaging with people online and  watch as your fan base builds.

3. There is a balance between using social media to a ‘business advantage’ and engaging with people on a relatable and personal level.

Some people just don’t know how to use social media. They aren’t sure what they can say, when they can say it, or are worried about how it may come across. Do not worry about this! Write what you want to write, when you feel like writing it (within reason!). This is expected across social media. Fans, followers and facebook ‘likers’ know that you have something to sell, they know that you will tell them about your upcoming show or ask them to buy the album or single BUT they also expect something in return … and that is to get to know who you are.

4. Activity on Twitter is essential if only for the immediacy it provides and the personal relationship that it can potentially build.

Twitter is an amazing platform for the immediacy it provides. If you start talking with someone on Twitter, it’s not hard work (140 characters!) an the chances that they will follow back are high because you have shown an interest. If you have no interest, don’t talk to people on twitter; but also be prepared to have no followers!

5. In the “new music economy,” music has to become a multimedia business.

While you still have to engage the traditional channels – as Scooter states – “It’s hard work … you still have to pay homage to radio and kiss a lot of butt,” it is essential to embrace all forms of media, (including – or I should say, especially – social media) to succeed and build a fanbase that will turn up to the ‘main game’ (touring) and build a network that will support you and buy your merchandise when you are at that stage.

6. I think the final point is still important and that is “if you’re promoting shit, it’s still shit.” The indie artist should be sure to produce the best product possible and let it speak for itself … with (of course) some assistance from Youtube, Facebook, Myspace, Twitter…….

Go and upload a Youtube video engaging with your fans and send it through for us to check out!

Casey Stewart

Online Marketing Coordinator, Cowbell Digital Music

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