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Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Your gig posters don't have to literally sing to rock

As 2012 begins to slowly wind down, the Almost Famous team got all reflective on some of the cooler things we've seen over the year.

One of the more interesting innovations to come out of SXSW this year,was The Listening Post, an interactive 'paper app' with printed circuits that enable it to play song files.

Along with postcards produced in much the same way, this really caught my attention as a potentially a great way to promote live music.

Imagine if (or perhaps when) such technology becomes affordable to the masses, being able to print up posters for your next gig, and allow passers-by to actually hear tunes by those bands on the bill, turning curious parties into ticket-buying fans and maybe even catching the ear of others in the vicinity of said audio-poster. A good idea, right?

This technology has benefits for others besides musicians too. Authors could record short passages from their books to include in printed materials, conferences could include brief exerts from speakers, the possibilities are pretty endless, though that's another post for another time on another blog entirely.

In the same week that I first heard of this new app, two other things also happened.

The first was that, in sorting some upcoming content for the Wigan Music Reviews Archive, I read a couple of old interviews I'd conducted with bands back in 2005. I noted with interest how many of them had enthused so passionately about Myspace, this revolutionary new tool in music promotion and how it was so beneficial they just couldn't possibly imagine life without it.

The joys of the Digital Age

Myspace may no longer be king of the social realm, but this did get me thinking about the role technology and new media plays in all aspects of marketing, though particularly when it comes to promoting live music. These days, it seems to be almost a given that if you have a show coming up, you create a Facebook event, add it to your ReverbNation list, tweet it and update your Facebook status.

That's just the basic stuff. Many artists, labels, venues and promoters are finding all kinds of interesting ways to promote themselves via the web (this post from Jem Bahaijoub on Derrick N. Ashong's One Million Downloads campaign being just one great example), some sublimely simple, some rather wonderfully complicated and all with varying degrees of success.

Of course, the whole Almost Famous team are big fans of social media and the seemingly never-ending stream of new apps, sites and services which seek to improve our lives. Great things can be -indeed, have been- done thanks to the new digital age (another great example being indie filmmaker Ad Lane's inspirational campaign to fan-fund his debut feature through Twitter), and we're all for embracing such tools.

That said, I'm an even bigger fan of the philosophy that we should always use the right tools for the job, and that sometimes, the web actually isn't the best tool.

Know your audience

Which brings me to the second thing which happened that week; a special Irish-themed gig by a young band called Colour Me Blind who were managed by us even before we became Almost Famous.

I'm not going to lie and pretend that we completely ignored social media. Yes, a Facebook event was set up. Yes, tweets were sent, and yes, the event was even added to ReverbNation, but again, that's just basic stuff and was done more as a matter of routine than anything else. After all, it would be silly to ignore those channels.

Yet there was one reason we didn't pursue those channels more aggressively; we knew our audience. The mission here was to promote a show much different from CMB's usual live experience in that the band would only be performing cover versions of traditional Irish songs and popular Irish bands.

The audience for such a show wasn't going to be tech-savvy tweeters, hip, young things with a Facebook addiction or music geeks who spend much time on niche sites.

The audience we were expecting, and specifically wanted to target, were the kind of people who would get excited when the band struck up a cover of U2's In the Name of Love, who would know all the words and sing along to Fields of Athenry, and who would feel comfortable enjoying that music in a venue which, though perfectly lovely, attracts an older crowd.

I'm not suggesting that anyone over the age of 20 isn't interested in social media since you and I both know that not to be true, but the point is that we already knew the kind of audience such a show would likely attract, and from past experience in the venue, knew that a heavy social media campaign wasn't going to be the way forward.

Back to basics

So it was back to much more traditional methods. A very simple poster was produced which, whilst it didn't sing or do much of anything, did get the message across about the show. Once produced, said poster was placed not only in the venue, but at specific locations which knew were popular with our target audience, and where they would likely see them.

With that done, a basic story was drafted, sent to the press and published in one of the free weeklies several days before the show. Again, knowing that the paper's demographic was roughly the same as our target audience was a big help.

At a time when so much technology is available to us, printing a poster and writing to the newspaper might seem like an incredibly basic -perhaps even primitive- way to promote a show, but it worked.

The venue was packed, the show went down a storm and the audience who made it such a memorable evening was made up less of tweeters and Facebookers and more of those who'd seen a poster or read about the show in paper.

The point I hope comes across here is that whilst social media is awesome, it's not the only option available to you and it pays to figure out the best way to connect with your target audience. Sometimes that may mean going back to basics which, whilst not necessarily always making you look cool or innovative, can certainly be effective.

Still, singing posters do sound pretty awesome.

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