While you’re busy trying to figure out how to save your business, doing things like launching apps and having rooftop concerts, you’re losing sight of the basics. You are often your (and your artists’) own worst enemy.
Many examples of this have been documented over the years. I’m not here to give you shit or tell you that you suck. I love music. I love musicians. I want to help you.
Within 5 minutes of trying to get more familiar with an artist – including purchasing tickets to an upcoming show – I ran into several obstacles. Here’s what happened:
I’ve been hearing about The Weeknd for a while, so:
1. I went to Facebook
It’s important for you to understand how music fans are looking for music and information about artists. They are not going to your artist’s website as a first stop, and they’re probably not going to Google first either. They are going to sites like Facebook, YouTube, Spotify, and Soundtracking. That means you need to make sure your artist’s presence on those sites is easy to find and comprehensive.
Facebook recently launched Graph Search. For the record, I hate it, but unfortunately 1.1 billion people on Facebook are stuck with it, including your artists.
When looking at search, you need to think about how people will search. Account for user error. The conversation goes:
“Have you heard of The Weekend?” or “I love The Weekend!” or “Are you going to see The Weekend at The Greek Theatre?”
Or, a radio DJ or blogger on Sirius XM’s Blog Radio will say something like, “That was the latest from The Weekend.”
What are people going to search for? Will they know it’s spelled “The Weeknd”? This is about artist discovery and during the discovery phase, fans will be less likely to know the unusual spelling of your band’s name. If you have an artist with a name like The Weeknd or CHVRCHES, then you need to look at how people will actually search for them. Do search optimization for the incorrect spelling as well, so people can easily find your artist. Have a way to direct people from the incorrect spelling to the correct spelling.
Here’s what happens now when you search for “The Weekend” (as someone just discovering the artist would search) on Facebook:
This is a new development. Before Graph Search launched, a first-time search for “The Weekend” on Facebook went like this: the artist’s official page is the FIRST result, after typing in only the first few letters (before the potential spelling error would ever take place).
You may say this is a Facebook problem – a flaw with their search. I agree. There are numerous flaws with Facebook – here’s one more we can add to the list. Unfortunately, as evidenced above, this is your problem as well.
Solution: Facebook and numerous media outlets issue alerts about new product developments and features well in advance of their launch. When this happens, your “digital person” should get on the phone with Facebook or fly to one of their offices and explore how this will impact your business.
The product is Search. That’s pretty important to your business and how people will find your artists on Facebook. You should have these conversations early and do everything you can to help avoid what’s happened in the case of The Weeknd.
As a larger business lesson: make sure you have strong relationships at every key social media site. Maintain these relationships. Have dinners and regular meetings. Don’t just call when you need something. Look to these businesses as partners and work with them consistently.
Since I couldn’t find The Weeknd on Facebook by doing a simple Facebook search, I went to a company that actually knows how to do search, Google. As expected, Google (even with an incorrect spelling) directed me to The Weeknd’s Facebook page. Once I got there, I saw they had a “Video” tab, so:
2. I tried to watch The Weeknd’s videos posted on Facebook
Here’s what happened:
Solution #1: If you aren’t actually going to make the videos available for viewing on Facebook, then don’t include a YouTube tab on your Facebook page.
Solution #2: Pull your head out of your ass.
Ok, as it turns out now – I am giving you shit. Few things piss me off as much as this. This is your artist, right? And these have been deemed as official videos/streams? I’m assuming so because they’re on your artist’s Facebook page (even though that’s fucking useless) and YouTube channel.
Why on earth would you make it so difficult for people who actually want to hear your artist’s music to listen to it through the official, LEGAL, channels? Stop bitching about file sharing sites until you stop doing shit like this.
3. I went to YouTube:
No problems here. A Google company, YouTube has efficient, easy, and effective search.
Why am I showing you a good example? So that you can maximize it. Understanding that you want people to be able to find your artists, put your money where search is most effective. Run ads on Google and YouTube, as Atlantic Records is doing for Portugal. The Man in the example above.
In the case of artists who have unique names, like The Weeknd or CHVRCHES, you should probably run ads on Facebook as well. This will help get your artists in front of fans who couldn’t find them through a simple search.
4. After YouTube, I went to Ticketmaster:
After all this, I was considering going to the show.
Ticketmaster has similar search issues to Facebook:
As it turns out, Ticketmaster’s search is better than Facebook’s though. If a user types in “The Week”, the appropriate artist will come up. Nonetheless, there is an even better solution.
Solution: On Ticketmaster, whether I search for “NIN” or “Nine Inch Nails”, I get the correct results for that artist. This leads me to believe it’s possible to optimize search for artists like The Weeknd and CHVRCHES on Ticketmaster as well.
Call Ticketmaster. Explore the option of having the correct results show up, whether somebody types “The Weeknd” or “The Weekend”; “CHVRCHES” or “Churches”.
In closing:Please pay attention – you CAN fix things like this, which will ultimately help you reach your objectives:
Increase an artist’s fan base
Generate advertising revenue (your YouTube video views will increase if you allow video embedding)
Perhaps even, sell music
I apologize for coming across angry, but this is important to me too. I’m tired of hearing about how the music business is failing. I want musicians to succeed and if you’re doing a good job supporting them, I want you to succeed as well.
Don’t lose sight of the basics:
Make sure people can quickly and easily find your artists on the sites that matter most.
Make your artist’s official content (videos, music) accessible. It’s a bit unfair to be going after fans on file sharing sites when you’re not allowing them to access the music legally, through your artist’s official channels.
Furthermore, be happy people are interested in your artists at all. We’re not on opposite sides of this. The people listening to your artist’s music – whether they’re paying for it or not – are the people you want on your team. Stop punishing people for caring about your bands. If you make music accessible, you will win.
July 8, 2013
Red Bull Sound Space
KROQ, Los Angeles
What better way to kick off the Monday following a long holiday weekend than with a free show by an amazing band.
Having been to several “radio shows” before, I was a bit skeptical – not of Portugal. The Man‘s performance (I have complete confidence in that), but of the venue and format of the show. Any concerns I had were eliminated instantly upon arriving at the Red Bull Sound Space at KROQ. Representatives from KROQ, as well as Red Bull, were friendly, inviting, and engaging. Rather than emitting the vibe “You’re so lucky to be here,” the team’s message to all who were there was: “We’re so happy you came. Thank you.”
Nobody has to tell you that you’re lucky to be at a show like this. The moment you enter Red Bull Sound Space, you feel it. The space is intimate, accommodating approximately 150 fans. The backdrop of the stage is like a music time capsule – it’s constructed of speakers, turntables, boomboxes, receivers, and an assortment of other equipment. Rather than being covered in corporate branding or advertising, there is only one element of the backdrop that is branded, and its view is sometimes obstructed by the band. We see the branding, we know it’s Red Bull and KROQ, but when the band walks on stage, it’s about music and nothing else. This is very refreshing.
The show began with a brief, informed, and entertaining interview. It became clear that KROQ’s Nicole Alvarez is truly a fan of the band. She was very familiar with Portugal. The Man’s vast catalog, spoke about her personal connection to the music, and asked relevant questions. I know all of this seems like it should be a given, but it’s not to be taken for granted. This is not something all interviewers do well.
The band’s sense of humor and wit contributed greatly to the interview, as did the way they chose to answer – or not answer – the questions. Not to be confused with selective hearing – John Gourley has an impressive skill: selective responding. Clearly listening to each multi-part question, Gourley zeroed in on aspects where he could provide enough insight, while maintaining some mystery.
When asked about the meaning of their latest album, Evil Friends, or whether or not there’s a theme when they record, Gourley focused on the writing and recording process. He described how the band comes together to write and record in a way that makes you feel like you’re there, in the studio, with them. He left the meaning of the album up to the listeners.
Zach Carothers took on answering some of the questions, as well as chiming in during Gourley’s stories. Each time Carothers answered, he infused humor, often leading to a burst of conversation and laughter among the entire band. During these moments the dynamic personalities, quick wit, and friendship among Portugal. The Man members was undeniable.
My favorite moment during the interview came when Alvarez noted that Portugal. The Man puts out a new album nearly every year. Alvarez added that it seems as though the band is always either touring or releasing an album; they don’t stop. “That’s what we set out to do,” Gourley responded, adding that the band’s chosen goal is to make and play music as much as possible.
Portugal. The Man is a band that understands what it truly means to be musicians – just keep playing music. It’s a simple concept, but it takes constant discipline and dedication, which is what makes it hard for many to achieve. In addition to their music, it’s easy to appreciate and admire Portugal. The Man’s work ethic and commitment.
Playing songs from their latest album, Evil Friends, Portugal. The Man took us on a journey. This is the most stripped-down I’ve seen the band. Even when they played The Troubadour several years ago, Portugal. The Man brought in some of their own “lights” (in quotes because it’s nowhere near the setup they have now). The absence of lights and fog allowed me to appreciate the show on an even deeper level.
It was fun to watch the band build the songs – all the layers, the harmonies, the bass, guitar, keys, percussion, and the timing. When you hear the music, it sounds great. When you see what it takes to create the sound live – the precision of it all – it allows you to appreciate it that much more.
I feel that way each time I see Portugal. The Man. No matter the venue, the lighting, the stage, or the setlist, I take away something new at every show. Their shows are expansive and dynamic. There’s always more to discover when Portugal. The Man plays. They are one of very few bands I see every time they’re in town.
After playing Creep In A T-Shirt, Evil Friends, Modern Jesus, and Sea of Air, Portugal. The Man announced the next song would be the last of this concise radio set. The audience let out a sigh of “Noooooooo….” that was audible until the band launched into “Purple, Yellow, Red, and Blue.” At that moment, the sighs became cheers.
When reviewing my pictures from this show, I was surprised to find this. It appears my camera captured “Purple. Yellow, Red, and Blue” in the midst of the show. That’s one hell of a photo bomb, PtM.
Portugal. The Man is on tour now. Get tickets before they sell out.
March 4, 2010
Rooftop parking lot
Downtown Los Angeles
Broken Bells Record Release Laser Light Show
If, when Broken Bells created this, they imagined how happy and grateful they could possibly make somebody feel, I feel even better than that. And by “created this” I mean: not only the Record Release Laser Light Show Drive-In, but the music, the art, and the experience of it all.
This is what music is
It’s an experience
That’s why people are going back to vinyl
They want to touch something
They miss the experience
It’s a community
They want to be part of something
At 8:00pm tonight Broken Bells took over a roof-top parking lot in downtown Los Angeles for a drive-in style laser light show, synchronized to their debut album. And it wasn’t just fancy shapes and pretty colors – it was an actual choreographed, scripted, 3D, laser light music video for each song, weaving several stories together into an album. It took time. It was thoughtful. It added meaning. It moved me. It gave me renewed hope for music. . .
Y’know, U2 has this whole “360” spaceship show. And it’s visually spectacular. But it feels like they did it just to be big, to do something nobody’s done before, to be larger than life. And that’s respectable, on its own. But it didn’t feel all that relevant to the music. It was just an awesome visual show. . . oh, and also. . . there was music. It’s costing $750,000/day to keep that tour going and the carbon impact can’t be good.
Don’t get upset – I’m not giving U2 shit (and this will come full-circle back to Broken Bells). I love U2. I like to get lost in Larry Mullen Jr.’s drumming. The drums in U2 songs are some of the best there are. I love that The Edge created a sound that is unmistakably his, and therefore, unmistakably the band’s. I love watching Adam Clayton swinging that bass around like it’s his dance partner. And Bono, your voice is great. . . So, you don’t need to go flying through the air on an illuminated neon megaphone. It doesn’t add anything to the music. In fact, if you re-read my review of that show (which I think is very complimentary), it doesn’t speak all that much about the music. It’s mostly about the visual aspect as a stand-alone experience. I already got my ticket for U2’s next spaceship 360 show in the LA area, but I’d rather see the show I just described.
House abducted by spaceship
What Danger Mouse and The Shins‘ James Mercer (aka Broken Bells) created tonight added something to the music. What Nine Inch Nails creates adds something to the music. What Portugal. The Man creates adds something to the music. What Radiohead creates adds something to the music. What The Soundtrack of Our Lives creates adds something to the music. There are Artists doing it every day (including U2 – I just don’t think the current tour is the best example of it). And it’s great. I only mention these other Artists within a Broken Bells review to illustrate that there are many paths to creating an exceptional experience. Not right or wrong. Some more about the music than others. From one of the biggest bands in the world, to a brand new concept, to a band you may not have heard of but you will know them when you see them. . .
It's too late to change your mind
Danger Mouse gets it. He does it every time. He knows what’s happening. He knows where we’re headed. He’s a little ahead of the game, so not everyone is going to get it at first.
Tonight’s event left me feeling like Broken Bells created this as part of the music; that they originally set out to do exactly this. It wasn’t just an afterthought; it’s more than simply a cool way to promote something. They didn’t want to just make a record – they wanted to create a mutil-sensory experience. I’d love to know more. Perhaps an interview at SXSW?
Broken Bells 03-09-10
On March 9, 2010 (that’s Tuesday), we really should buy the Broken Bells album. Some of us can buy extras for those who can’t afford to buy one, but everybody should have one.
PS – The Broken Bells Laserium glasses are the gift that keep on giving. And they didn’t even exploit the opportunity to paste some marketing message on them — they knew I’d remember where I got them.
Perhaps it’s time to return to Coachella afterall:
FRIDAY APRIL 16: Jay-Z, LCD Soundsystem, Them Crooked Vultures, Vampire Weekend, Deadmau5, Public Image Limited, The Specials, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, Echo and the Bunnymen, Benny Benassi, Fever Ray, Grace Jones, She & Him, Erol Alkan, The Avett Brothers, Calle 13, The Whitest Boy Alive, The Cribs, La Roux, Yeasayer, Lucero, DJ Lance Rock, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Proxy, Ra Ra Riot, Deer Tick, Wolfgang Gartner, Aeroplane, Iglu & Hartly, Sleigh Bells, P.O.S., Baroness, Hockey, Little Dragon, White Rabbits, Wale, Kate Miller-Heidke, As Tall as Lions, Jets Overhead, Alana Grace, Pablo Hassan.
SATURDAY, APRIL 17: Muse, Faith No More, Tiësto, MGMT, David Guetta, The Dead Weather, Hot Chip, Devo, Coheed and Cambria, Kaskade, 2Many DJ’s, Major Lazer, Dirty Projectors, Gossip, Z-Trip, The xx, John Waters, Les Claypool, The Raveonettes, Mew, Sia, Camera Obscura, Tokyo Police Club, Porcupine Tree, Old Crow Medicine Show, Aterciopalados, Bassnectar, Frightened Rabbit, Dirty South, Flying Lotus, Corinne Bailey Rae, Pretty Lights, Shooter Jennings, RX Bandits, The Almighty Defenders, Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros, Craze & Klever, Zoe, The Temper Trap, Portugal. The Man, Band of Skulls, Girls, Beach House, Steel Train, Frank Turner.
SUNDAY, APRIL 18: Gorillaz, Pavement, Thom Yorke????, Phoenix, Orbital, Spoon, Sly and the Family Stone, De La Soul, Julian Casablancas, Plastikman, Gary Numan, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sunny Day Real Estate, Yo La Tengo, MUTEMATH, Deerhunter, Infected Mushroom, Club 75, Matt & Kim, The Big Pink, Gil Scott-Heron, King Khan and the Shrines, Florence and the Machine, Yann Tiersen, Little Boots, Miike Snow, Talvin Singh, Ceu, B.o.B., Babasonicos, Owen Pallett, The Glitch Mob, Mayer Hawthorne, Local Natives, Rusko, The Middle East, Hadouken!, The Soft Pack, Kevin Devine, Paparazzi, Delphic, One EskimO.
If I could sit next to one person on a long flight, it would be Nick Hornby. That is, of course, assuming he’s always in a good mood and likes flying. I’m sure I could think of other people I’d like to travel with if I really put my mind to it, but I don’t have time for that kind of thinking at the moment – I’m on my way out to another event.
That’s not to say I’m picking Hornby because I’m in a hurry. Quite the opposite actually. Hornby is one of my favorite writers and he also happens to love music (possibly more than writing). So we have at least two fundamental things in common. Though the topic of music was discussed tonight, we didn’t even scratch the surface of where we could go during a good eight-hour flight. “I wish I brought my iPod with me. It makes it a lot easier to answer that question,” Hornby said when I asked him what new artists he’s excited about. “I really like that Elvis Perkins record.”
“No, no. . . But I’ll check them out. Their names are easy enough to remember,” Hornby replied with a laugh.
So this is why I’d like to be on a long flight with Hornby – so we could discuss music at length; so that we could trade iPods for an hour and introduce each other to new music; so that I could subliminally (or perhaps overtly) encourage him to write more than one book every two to three years; but mostly so we could talk about music.
Music is an integral part of several of Hornby’s books. Music is the device utilized to unveil Rob Fleming’s stories of love and loss in High Fidelity. Music is the reason Will Freeman has never had to work a day in his life in About a Boy. Songbook is a non-fiction work by Hornby that is dedicated to discussing pop music and the ways in which it moves us. And, Hornby’s latest release, Juliet, Naked is about the connection between a couple and a rockstar who underwent a self-imposed early retirement.
Hornby doesn’t just use music to set the scene of his stories. He uses music to help define his characters. In some cases he uses music primarily to define his characters. We learn about their neurosis, fears, losses, and perception of love based on the music the characters choose to listen to. . . or choose not to listen to. When reading Hornby’s books, music adds another layer of emotional connection and understanding. We all remember the songs we broke up to, songs we made love to, the first concert we went to, our favorite mix tapes and who gave them to us (well, not everybody remembers the days of cassette tapes, but I do). . . so when Hornby references similar experiences in his stories, you don’t just read about them, you actually feel them.
Tonight’s free event at Skirball Cultural Center included a reading and Q & A session with Hornby. I’ve never been to a book reading before. Typically, I choose books (like Hornby’s) that are written so that I can hear the character’s voices in my head. I don’t need the voice of somebody reading to me cluttering my mind. Thankfully, Hornby read the characters exactly as I hear them which means he’s either a really good reader or a really good writer. The evidence seems to prove he’s both.
Following the reading, Hornby answered several questions from the audience. I was happy to learn that Hornby is as quick-witted in person as one might expect given his body of written work. For those of you who haven’t read Hornby, that last sentence is another way of saying he’s extraordinarily funny (as are his books).
Hornby answered questions about his influences, characters, story locations, and favorite music. About his writing process Hornby said he has an office that’s approximately a 10 minute walk from his home. “The office started mostly because of kids – just having a place they couldn’t mess up,” Hornby began. “I enjoy the walk to the office. I don’t work weekends or nights. I don’t bring my work home with me. I do a day’s work . . . which equates to about 43 minutes of writing per day. I dream of that 43 minutes happening at the beginning of the day and then I could leave, but that never happens.” Hornby went on to explain that he typically answers emails, hunts for new music online, gets a burst of inspiration and writes what he can (which generally lasts just a few minutes) and then he goes back to looking for new music online.
“You know, if you commit to writing 500 words per day – which isn’t really that much – then you should be able to write a book in under a year,” Hornby calculated. “But books seem to come out every two to three years. Something seems to have gone wrong. There’s a lack of productivity,” Hornby laughed with the crowd.
Hornby went on to to discuss some recent collaborations, including an album he’s working on with Ben Folds which they hope to put out in the Spring. Hornby sends Folds the words and Folds sends back the songs. I look forward to hearing that album.
In the spirit of High Fidelity, somebody put Hornby on the spot and asked him to name his “Top 5 Acts of all time.”
“Live? Or Recorded?” Hornby asked for clarification, also in the vein of High Fidelity.
“Whatever you want,” the man replied.
“This is really hard. . . Well, I guess in terms of lifetime plays: Springsteen, Dylan, Marvin Gaye, J. Geils Band, and. . .” Then, Hornby went on to explain that he used to listen to J. Geils Band all the time as a kid. “I used to think if I could be anyone, I’d want to be Peter Wolf,” Hornby added. “The thing is, sometimes your favorite music isn’t what gets the most plays. Sometimes, it sits on a shelf and you just know it’s there. . . that’s what makes this so hard. . . I like the new Elvis Perkins – I’ve been listening to that a lot.”
“What I really like is finding new music. That’s why I’m a writer. . . because you have all day.”
Hornby is currently on tour, promoting his latest release, Juliet, Naked. If you like music, or if you like to read or laugh, then try to go see Hornby during his remaining tour dates. If you don’t like music, reading, or laughing, then I’m not sure why you’re here.
John Baldwin Gourley, Jason Sechrist, Ryan Neighbors, and Zachary Scott Carothers – they call themselves Portugal. The Man but they may want to consider calling themselves Portugal. The Man!!!
Now I know what everybody’s been talking about. . .
Well, let me clarify – not everybody is talking yet. The show was sold-out, not a celebrity (that I’m aware of) in sight. The Troubadour was packed with actual die-hard, screaming, chanting, singing, moshing, fans. Give it time – this band is sure to become a Hollywood favorite, and before you know it Drew Barrymore will be rocking right alongside you.
Not that there’s anything wrong with Drew – she actually likes music and enjoys the shows. It’s the “celebrities” that arrive 37 minutes late and then give you dirty looks because they can’t hear their cell phone conversation over your cheering. . . let’s not tell them about Portugal. The Man, ok? Because they will want to be there. Everybody is going to want to be there when they find out what they’ve been missing. The show was epic and it’s only a matter of time until the masses find out, but for now, Portugal. The Man is the best-kept secret around.
They’re not a secret to everyone. Once you get inside you realize you’re being introduced to something that others have known about for some time. People greet you with looks that communicate: “Oh good. You finally made it.” and “Get ready. You’re in for something. . .” and “Where have you been?! You must be an idiot for not knowing about these guys sooner, but I’m glad you’re here now.” And rightfully so. . .
John Baldwin Gourley
There’s something that overtakes you the moment these guys hit the stage. You become part of this Portugal. The Man experience. You can’t stop moving, dancing, clapping, screaming. And we’re talking about LA – a city I love, but one whose residents (myself included) are so spoiled by the access they have to great entertainment that often times they just stand (or worse yet, sit) at a show, never more than a nod of a head and a polite clap. I’ve seen it happen to some of the biggest and best bands in the world. Well, that’s not happening to Portugal. The Man.
Zachary Scott Carothers
Gourley plays guitar masterfully and sings with considerable range and uncompromised passion. So you’re tempted to just want to stand there and watch him, but you can’t ignore the bass line Carothers throws down and you can’t believe he can play bass while practically doing a full back-bend. Then Neighbors takes a break from the keys and brings
further force to the music, with additional percussion. All the while Sechrist grounds the songs and the experience as he takes command of the drums. The lights are synced to the beat of the music (which is important to note if you have any hope of capturing a decent photograph of the band while they’re playing) and the crowd can’t contain themselves. Needless to say, if you wanted to just stand there and watch, there would be plenty to hold your attention. But I don’t think it’s possible to stand still at a Portugal. The Man show, and I can’t imagine that you’d want to.
Transforming The Troubadour
If you’ve heard their music and you haven’t seen them live, go see them. Travel to another city if you need to. If you haven’t heard their music, it doesn’t matter – go see Portugal. The Man – you won’t regret it. Here are their tour dates – you have no excuse.
P.TM - a religious experience
Some people will describe a show as a “religious experience”. I’ve been to a lot of mind-blowing, extraordinary shows, but I’ve yet to describe one as “religious.” Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t raised with much religion and those who were don’t speak very highly of it. . . But assuming a “religious experience” is a good thing, that it’s transformative, that it overtakes you, that you forget where you are, that you forget who you are, that for a moment nothing else matters – well, then seeing Portugal. The Man live is a religious experience.