Sunday, July 3, 2011

Shameless Self Promotion: When Does It Get To Be Too Much?

Hi all,

Well, first let me begin by letting you know that we did some more updating.  We added a couple new photos, some FAQs, and added my album, "Poet" in the merch section.  We will be adding link widgets to the digital releases in the Merch section in the near future as well.

That said, I wanted to write about something that has been burning at my brain ever since I got set up on MySpace a few years ago (back when it was 'the thing' to be on).  I'm sure everyone who has been on the social networking scene has been introduced at some point to the notorious 'friend collector.'  The friend collector comes in many shapes and sizes.  Some are your everyday average joes who like to play the popularity game for reasons only they know.  They don't really do anything extraordinary that needs to be promoted, they just like to rack up their friend count as much as they possibly can.  It's as though they attain some sort of self validation if they can get their friendcount of complete strangers over a certain amount.  They get a certain "OMG!  They added me!  They really like me!  Look at how many friends I have!" type of high.  They can then go about their day reassured of their cyber/virtual popularity.  They don't even necessarily plan to interact much (if at all) with those newfound "friends."  But their self esteem has been raised a few notches and thus they can now get through their day.  Who needs coffee, right?

Then there is the aspiring musician/band, filmmaker, etc who is trying to promote their work.  Now before people start to get all worked up (I can hear you all say, "but aren't you supposed to promote yourself and your work"), I will say that yes self promotion is an essential tool of being in the entertainment field.  In fact, SHAMELESS self promotion is an absolute necessity.  If you don't promote yourself, no one else will.  But, there is a certain finesse required to going about it.  There are certain rules and boundaries that MUST be respected, otherwise your whole campaign could fall apart and you end up doing yourself more harm than good. 

I know when I was on my myspace page more frequently, I would CONSTANTLY get bombarded with friends requests from other bands.  Some would even include messages saying, "You like Depeche Mode!  You HAVE to add us!" (uh, no...I don't have to do anything)  I would get messages and comments that included links to listen to and sometimes buy their music if they had a release (most of them did not) and telling me how I MUST come out to a show.  Now don't get me wrong.  I will clarify that I have no problem with supporting other bands, aspiring filmmakers, etc.  In fact, I'll gladly allow my friends to promote their projects on my pages (within reason).  What annoys the hell out of me (and many others I've talked to about the subject) is the self-entitlement and lack of boundaries that is often displayed.  Like the hapless non-artist friend collector, they get a certain sense of fullfillment in the fact that they have a new "fan."  They have been validated once more and their "fanbase" has grown.  They don't plan to network or interact with you at all except to flood your inbox and comments section with the same promotion spam over and over again.  It was due to this that I quit accepting friend requests from bands for a while on myspace.  While I felt bad about doing that, it was getting to be too much sorting through the spam to get to the messages from radio stations, reviewers, filmmakers, and other legitimate messages that I actually NEEDED to read and reply to.  In fact, there were a couple times when an important message that was sent to me ended up getting lost in the shuffle of spam and I would have the sender emailing me again wondering why they hadn't heard from me.  Not good.  All because said band/s just had to send out the same message about their gig at a  bar in buttfuck, ohio (or wherever else) about 10 times in one hour (no I am not exaggerating that number). 

Ok, I get it!  You want people to come to your show.  I can actually totally understand and empathize with that.  But really, 10 times in one hour???  All you did was turn me off to ever even checking out your stuff and leave me irritated that I need to waste precious time shuffling through your spam to get to the messages I actually NEED to read.  What is more, I'm certain that if you did it me, other people have recieved the spam treatment.  Thus, many probably ended up doing exactly what I ended up doing even though I felt a little bad about it:  blocking bands and musicians from sending friends requests (I've since lifted the ban, partially because I'm not on myspace as much anymore and because I do like to show love to others).  So there, you may have not only cost yourself some new fans, but also gave myself and other bands/musicians/filmmakers/etc who do our best to NOT spam a bad name thus costing us people who may have otherwise been into our music.  So congratulations.  Your brilliant business and promotion strategy paid off.  Way to go.

Another thing never ceased to irritate me was that when I would get messages practically demanding that I 'check them out' and 'become a fan' was that they would mention absolutely nada in acknowledgement to my work.  Nothing in regards to whether they checked it out, were planning to check it out, loved it, hated it, whatever.  Now looking at my page, MUSIC tracks are among the first things you see.  In fact, one of the songs automatically begins playing when one ventures onto the myspace page.  My bio, music, and acting credits are there too, so there is really no missing that I'm making music and acting and into artistic endeavors.  In demanding that I pay attention to you while you make no interest in interacting with me makes me feel used.  Like I'm just there as a pawn in your sophomoric popularity game.  This may not be your intention, but that is how it comes across.  Did you even bother to even skim my profile or were you just blindly sending out friends requests?

So how does one do the whole shameless self promotion thing without annoying the hell out of others and turning they off as a result?  Well, like I said there is a certain 'finesse' to it and while no one is perfect, abiding by these principles will save you from being an nuisance to others (and I'm sure you don't want to be viewed as a nuisance).

Here are some key principles I've found worked for me and other friends of mine in the entertainment field:

1.)  TAKE THE TIME TO LEARN OF YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE.  I know, I can hear it now, "but my music/film/style appeals to everyone!"  I have news for you.  No it doesn't.  No one's style appeals to "everyone."  There is always going to be someone who doesn't like or get what you do.  The nice thing about many music and media promotion sites (Reverbnation, Jango Airplay, and the like) is that many offer statistics so you can see who is into what you do from the general age range to the area.  Also, I'm sure you have influences.  Take a look at your influences and see who the general fanbase there is.  When you then get a general idea, instead of blindly sending out friends requests, how about taking the time to find those within your target and zero in on them.  A metal band would get alot furthur targeting Metallica fans then sending a blind request to someone who would typically listen to Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift and vice versa.  Maybe join a Metallica fan forum and instead of just instantly posting things about your band, make an effort to make friends in there.  Get to know everyone, start conversations, join conversations, etc while mentioning very little (if anything) about your band.  Once people have accepted you as a legtimate member of the forum, maybe find ways to subtly begin to work your band into the converstions (and the key word is SUBTLE).  Eventually, people would have already accepted you as a member of the forum they'll actually WANT to check out what you do.  See how that works?  Yes, it'll take more time but in the long run will pay off instead just going in there and posting screaming advertisements about your band.  Now will your fans surprise you sometimes?  Absolutely.  Last week my music was popular with Lady Gaga and Rihanna fans on Jango Airplay.  I also recently had a young girl who was a huge Justin Bieber fan join my 'Like' page on Facebook.  So yes, sometimes you will be surprised at who finds you and enjoys what you do.  But that doesn't mean you should just blindly send out mass requests to anyone with a social networking profile.  One very important thing to remember:  Building a fanbase takes time.  Time and alot of patience.

2.)  ONCE YOU HAVE FOUND YOUR GENERAL TARGET AUDIENCE, GET TO KNOW THEM.  I was reading an interview one time with filmmakers JimmyO and April Burril, creators of the popular "Chainsaw Sally" film and webseries and founders of Forbidden Pictures.  While the entire interview was good, one thing that really stood out for me was when JimmyO mentioned that he and April make it a point to make their fans their friends.  Ever since then, that is a principle that (other than the occaisonal nutjob) I do try to practice.  For some reason, fans within the indie field crave a real connection with their favorite band, actor, filmmaker, etc.  Perhaps it is because indie artists seem more attainable than the Hollywood superstar.  But whatever the reason may be, indie fans almost expect their favorite indie celeb to make themselves available and interact with them.  Despite that though, there are those in the indie field that still try and keep their fans at an arm's length.  I suppose such an action is fine if you're Steven Speilberg or Katy Perry, but I think one reason why indie fans are drawn to the indie world is because it's a chance for them to feel like they matter to the artist.  They're not just a number like they would be amongst a Hollywood celebrity.  But some do still try and maintain a 'rockstar mystique.'  Well guess what.  You don't impress anyone with that.  No one is going to believe that you're Ron Howard or Brad Pitt, so stop acting as though you are.  Take the time to talk to your fans online and answer their emails, comments, etc.  As your fanbase grows, will you get to everyone right away?  Of course not.  That would be unrealistic.  But setting aside a certain amount of time each day to interact with people will go a long way in the end.  As long as you make that effort, people will notice and appreciate even if you can't get to everyone right away.  People will be much more willing to support someone that way as opposed to someone who just sends out a mass spammail demanding that you add them and check out their stuff.  "But that's alot of work," I hear you say.  My reply is "ummm...yeah..."  Be prepared to do ALOT of work.  Be prepared for the longhaul.  If you don't want to do the work, you won't get anywhere.  Period.

3.)  CHOOSE YOUR ADVERTISEMENTS WISELY.  Remember how I mentioned the band that sent out 10 spammails of the same message in one hour?  Well, in case you can't tell yet, that is an example of what NOT to do. Building an entertainment career is alot of trial and error and eventually, you do get a groove for what works and what doesn't.  But what you can do is look at things from the perspective of the consumer.  Do you like spams cramming your inbox and homepage?  Do you really want to hear about a gig in buttfuck, ohio 20 times or more a day (especially when you live nowhere near the area of the gig)?  Do you like being demanded at being orded to "add someone"?  Do you like screaming spam flooding your favorite fan forum?  Me neither.  Instead, learn about press releases whenever you have a tour, new release, etc.  Post links to those press releases on your site and send out no more than THREE bulletins in an entire day (although ONE usually suffices beautifully).  Send out a list of tourdates once a month to your mailing list and post links on your site and social networks as opposed to sending out 10 of the same spammail in one hour.  Sometimes less is more.  Remember "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?"  That should also apply to your artist to fan relationships.

Bottom line is, no one likes a spammer.  No one likes to be ordered around.  No one likes to be told that they "HAVE to add someone."  Even the most shameless self-promotion requires a certain amount of finesse.  A career in the entertainment field requires alot of time and patience as does building a fanbase.  Fans aren't going to flock to someone who appears desparate and a nuisance.  They will, however, flock to someone who is willing to treat them like a human being and with appreciation instead of just another number on their social network.  The odds of Tommy Mottola and Sony Music or Paramount Pictures coming knocking at your door because they see you managed to rack up over 5,000 "fans" on your social network site is highly unlikely.  So think about this.  Which would you prefer?  5,000 people who could care less about what you do and probably only added you either out of pity or because you managed to hound them enough or a few hundred honest to goodness fans who care about what you and enjoy it and are willing to share you with their friends thus making your TRUE fanbase grow...


Rick said...

This is one of the most well written and truthful blogs that I have ever read.

Tiffany Apan said...

Thanks Rick!