No question that social media has, to some degree, replaced in-person communication as a means of interaction. You hear stories all the time about first-love couples who get married after reconnecting on Facebook. Frighteningly, there are well documented cases of people who have left spouses and children behind for “lovers” that they met on Second Life. And certainly Craig’s List and other sites like it are filled with ads for people looking to meet others, for profit and otherwise.
Maybe social media has replaced the bar as the hook-up spot of choice.
But has social media replaced the bar as the means by which new music is exposed?
In the music biz, the story has been pretty much the same for over forty years.
You start a band, write some songs, and hit the road. You tour relentlessly in bars and pubs. And with each passing gig, three things happen:
1. You get better at your craft. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in “Outliers”, The Beatles got pretty damn good by playing for eight hours a night, seven nights a week, in Hamburg bars.
2. You develop more fans. Playing in front of 100 people for 200 nights a week puts you in front of 20,000 fans. That’s like playing The Staples Center in LA once. You won’t ever play there for real without having a fan base.
3. You increase the odds of being noticed by someone who can make a difference. Bands who play live in bars night after night develop a “buzz”, and a buzz gets noticed by the music industry.
But the times have changed, and Adam Young knows it.
Adam lives in Owatonna, Minnesota, a city of 25,000 people in Southwestern Minnesota. It is not the center of the entertainment universe. And Adam hasn’t toured town to town across America playing bars. Yet his song just reached #1.
Adam’s song is called “Fireflies” by Owl City. Owl City is the name Adam gave to his musical project. It isn’t really a band, since Adam makes his music electronically.
In 2007 – that’s two years ago – Adam created Owl City and recorded an album of songs he created on his own while battling insomnia in his parent’s basement. He posted the music on his MySpace page. Over the course of a few months, the song “Hello Seattle” generated buzz. In fact, it has been streamed over 6 million times on his MySpace page.
Two years after putting the project together, Adam released a major-label album through Universal Music. But the marketing strategy remained grassroots. The album was released on-line. The video was released on his MySpace page but “leaked” to sites like YouTube. The song was available for free as the soundtrack to the iPhone/iPod Touch app game “Tap Tap Revenge 3“, which exposed the song to millions of potential fans.
The song is now the most downloaded song on iTunes and the #1 song in the US, Canada, and is being touted as the fastest-selling electronica/alternative song ever.
Only now can you see Owl City on tour, and he won’t just be playing smoke-filled bars downtown. Upcoming Christmas season shows have Owl City playing the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN and the War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, TN.
The marketing landscape for your industry is probably shifting just as fast as the music business. How can you tap into the power of social media to engage your customers?
Here are three lessons learned from the story of Owl City’s Adam Young:
1. Adam wisely gave some of his music away, essentially for free. You could listen to his songs on MySpace or on “Tap Tap Revenge 3″. If you liked it, you could buy the album right there on-line. What can you give away for free in order to create an appetite for what you offer?
2. Adam created a community of music fans using MySpace and Twitter. Thanks to that network, he became friends with people who could help expose his music to influential people in the music industry. He also developed alliances with other artists who have collaborated on his new music. Are you using social media to create a community of like-minded people? Don’t sell them anything. Just interact.
3. At some point, you become your own story. Adam’s rise from the family basement to the top of the charts is a great story that generates additional interest in the artist and his music. What great story do you have to tell that will engage people and get them talking and thinking about your product? Almost every business has a story hidden somewhere, waiting to be told. We are storytelling creatures and crave the drama of a good story. Let your story become your marketing.