May Book 2020 May 2020 - Page 17

viral (her own song ‘Settle Down’ has since surpassed 48 million views). FIND A NICHE AND PUSH IT In other cases, it may be the music itself that is unique enough to receive pick-up, especially if it comes with an intriguing band/song name. Take ‘Ffunny Friends’ by Unknown Mortal Orchestra (UMO). The odd spelling of the title and mysterious- seeming bandname was enough to get attention from online media, especially when the track turned out to be an odd mix of lo-fi indie music and funk put out by a then-anonymous musician. The track spread like wildfire and soon UMO had a record deal which led to a long, successful career. While every song can’t aspire to be groundbreakingly unique, there is a lot that can be done to draw an overseas audience in. The song ‘Young Blood’ by Naked and Famous was an undeniably catchy song that was always going to be popular. However, the band later reached beyond their indie rock following by also arranging a remix by hitmaking DJ, Tiesto (it appeared on his album, Club Life Vol.2, which reached No.14 on the US charts). The original song initially reached overseas fans via its beautiful music video, filmed in locations across Australia, LA, London, and New Zealand (in some cases, using footage shot by videographers who lived in these countries). This meant the video was impossible to place in one location and therefore had an international feel to it. This placeless quality also applies to the viral YouTube hits created by Princess Chelsea (‘Cigarette Duet’) and Jonathan Bree (‘You’re So Cool’) though in these cases the peculiar video concepts also helped push them to success. USE YOUR MONEY WISELY There are literally millions of music artists across the world trying to get a break, which has led to some unscrupulous operators in this market hoping to separate fools from their money. However, if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. One example is websites that offer the chance to send music directly to hot playlist curators and bloggers for a small fee (sometimes as little as US$1) or even for no cost at all. Often these sites will require you to listen to and subscribe to a number of playlists the website itself has set-up. Those who pay the fee may receive plays, but only from other artists who’ve been forced to listen to these playlists in exchange for a free sign-up. the right venues overseas while getting on radio and in the hottest magazines, until a groundswell of interest was created in your act. These days, it may be possible to do some of this heavy-lifting via the internet but you still need to know where your musical community gathers (online at least). In effect, it’s a complex form of pay-for- play. The key point is this – some of these schemes are a rip-off and your chances of going viral via these routes are close to zero. It is better to reach listeners in a way that is likely to create real fans, rather than just getting streams from people who were just listening to a playlist in order to get their own song heard. In many cases, it might actually be better to have a decent following within a strongly loyal musical community rather than having just one song go viral in isolation. An act who has ten songs with 200k streams may be in a better position than an act with a single song at a million streams, because it is more likely listeners will give each of their successive songs another 200k streams (and buy merch by the artist or come to their live shows). So where is the best place to spend money to promote one’s music? Firstly, you need to ask yourself where you and friends discover music. If you ask around and the same website name comes up repeatedly then that’s an obvious place to purchase advertising when the time is right (e.g., when you have a new release or tour coming up). New bands do sometimes try to promote themselves by spending up big on social media promotions for their first single, but it can be questionable if this really helps - ask yourself, if a random band appeared on your feed, what would tempt you to engage with it? Also look at the options in the backend of sites like Facebook. It’s possible to cater ads to a certain audience, so if you have an upcoming show in a particular city then your ad could focus on people there. Ads can be most useful when an act already has a decent amount of followers - this means their ad is just ensuring all their followers see a certain post. In this case, they’re just spending a small amount on advertising to promote new releases/tours/ etc to their existing fans. How does an act build up this kind of following in the first place? Let’s look at this next. TAP INTO THE WORLDWIDE MUSICAL COMMUNITY In the old days, connecting with like- minded music listeners overseas required touring and playing with the right bands in To achieve this, there’s no way around it but to research what’s happening in the community online and start connecting with people one-to-one. This might mean a lot of emails to small blogs or touching base with bands overseas at a similar level. As your network grows, the chance of each new single taking off increases. The algorithms used by streaming services and YouTube will pick up on a burst of activity for any new release and are likely to amplify it. To help move the alogorithm for services, encourage your fans to follow you or subscribe to your channels – a follow makes a much bigger dfference than an individual stream or view. The examples I’ve given above might seem like the artists just got lucky in being picked up out of the blue, but this isn’t the case. Benee was already signed to Republic Records (US) and had pick-up for her song ‘Soaked’; Ruban from UMO had the experience of taking The Mint Chicks to the US, so knew where he should send the first song by his new act; The Naked and Famous had already released two EPs, signed to a respected local management company, and played at industry showcases CMJ and SXSW. In the end, all these acts had done enough groundwork that once they had the right song, they were ready to take off. Having a viral hit might seem an easy way to success, but your best route to it might just be old- fashioned hard work. NZ MUSIC COMMISSION MAY BOOK 2020 • 17